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In Chesteron's play Magic a character often uses a phrase such as “as old Buffle used to say” or variations thereof. Is this, or used it to be, a common phrase? Does it have a specific meaning or is it just a foible of that character (the Duke)? The only connection I seem to find is with a character in Dickens's “Mrs. Lirriper's Legacy”, a Mr Buffle.

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  • ...why the downvote?
    – DaG
    Aug 20, 2012 at 8:52

2 Answers 2

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I believe the Duke, an amiable fathead if ever there was one, is referring to Georges Leclerc, comte de Buffon (usually called Buffon in English), a noted biologist. See, for example, this citation:

Title New Aspects of Evolution. The new theories of Buffon, Dr. Erasmus Darwin and Lamarck, as compared with that of Charles Darwin. A summary and review.

Publisher Extracted from The University Magazine, 1879.

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    Exactly. And the opening of Bernard Shaw's Preface to Back to Methuselah: One day early in the eighteen hundred and sixties, I, being then a small boy, was with my nurse, buying something in the shop of a petty newsagent, bookseller, and stationer in Camden Street, Dublin, when there entered an elderly man, weighty and solemn, who advanced to the counter, and said pompously, 'Have you the works of the celebrated Buffoon?' My own works were at that time unwritten, or it is possible that the shop assistant might have misunderstood me so far as to produce a copy of Man and Superman. Aug 19, 2012 at 15:11
  • Thanks a lot to both of you, and thanks for Shaw's quotation as well. Do you have some source, or some rationale, to believe that “Buffle” refers to Buffon in Chesterton's case?
    – DaG
    Aug 20, 2012 at 10:11
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In What I saw in America, Chesterton mentions a Buffle as an Oxford's Don and an English Type. Couldn't we see Old Buffle as the embodiment of the upper Class common sense for the poor Duke? It would make more sense than the Buffon's connection.

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