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Henry Austin Dobson

(18 January 1840 – 2 September 1921 / Plymouth)

A Familiar Epistle


DEAR COSMOPOLITAN,—I know
I should address you a Rondeau,
Or else announce what I ’ve to say
At least en Ballade fratriseé
But No: for once I leave Gymnasticks,
And take to simple Hudibrasticks,
Why should I choose another Way,
When this was good enough for GAY?

You love, my FRIEND, with me I think,
That Age of Lustre and of Link;
Of Chelsea China and long “s”es,
Of Bag-wigs and of flowered Dresses;
That Age of Folly and of Cards,
Of Hackney Chairs and Hackney Bards;
—No H-LTS, no K-G-N P-LS were then
Dispensing Competence to Men;
The gentle Trade was left to Churls,
Your frowsy TONSONS and your CURLLS;
Mere Wolves in Ambush to attack
The AUTHOR in a Sheep-skin Back;
Then SAVAGE and his Brother-Sinners
In Porridge Island div’d for Dinners;
Or doz’d on Covent Garden Bulks,
And liken’d Letters to the Hulks;—
You know that by-gone Time, I say,
That aimless easy-moral’d Day,
When rosy Morn found MADAM still
Wrangling at Ombre or Quadrille,
When good SIR JOHN reel’d Home to Bed,
From Pontack’s or the Shakespeare's’s Head;
When TRIP convey’d his Master’s Cloaths,
And took his Titles and his Oaths;
While BETTY, in a cast Brocade,
Ogled MY LORD at Masquerade;
When GARRICK play’d the guilty Richard,
Or mouth’d Macbeth with Mrs. PRITCHARD;
When FOOTE grimaced his snarling Wit;
When CHURCHILL bullied in the Pit;
When the CUZZONI sang—
But there!
The further Catalogue I spare,
Having no Purpose to eclipse
That tedious Tale of HOMER’S Ships;—
This is the MAN that drew it all
From Pannier Alley to the Mall,
Then turn’d and drew it once again
From Bird-Cage-Walk to Lewknor’s Lane;—
Its Rakes and Fools, its Rogues and Sots;
Its brawling Quacks, its starveling Scots;
Its Ups and Downs, its Rags and Garters,
Its HENLEYS, LOVATS, MALCOLMS, CHARTRES,
Its Splendor, Squalor, Shame, Disease;
Its quicquid agunt Homines;—
Nor yet omitted to pourtray
Furens quid possit Foemina;—
In short, held up to ev’ry Class
NATURE’S unflatt’ring looking-Glass;
And, from his Canvas, spoke to All
The Message of a JUVENAL.

Take Him. His Merits most aver:
His weak Point is—his Chronicler!

Submitted: Wednesday, April 14, 2010

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