A village boss, who imagines himself the "Magnus Apollo" of his neighbours. The word occurs in Foote's farrago of nonsense which he composed to test old Macklin, who said he had brought his memory to such perfection that he could remember anything by reading it over once. There is more than one version of the test passage; the following is as well authenticated as any:-
So she went into the garden to cut a cabbage-leaf to make an apple-pie, and at the same time a great she-bear came running up the street and popped its head into the shop. "What! No soap?" So he died and she - very imprudently- married the barber. And there were present the Picninnnies, the Joblillies, the Garyulies, and the Grand Panjandrum, himself with the little red button a-top, and they all fell to playing the game of catch-as-catch-can til the gunpowder ran out at the heels of their boots.
It is said that Macklin was so indignant at this nonsense that he refused to repeat a word of it.
Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 1963, p. 676
Led here by by this entry on Soap. Which is why this book is addictive.
How are you off for soap?
A common street-saying of the mid-19th century, of indeterminate meaning. It may mean "What are you good for?" in the way of cash, or anything else; and it was often just a general piece of cheek. Cp. "What! No soap?" in Foote's nonsense passage (see PANJANDRUM.)
Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 1963, p.842