Christopher Anstey (1724-1805 / England)
SCENE--London, a Bookseller's Shop.
Enter Author, smiling and rubbing his Hands.
Well, Slider!--and how d'ye go on with my book?
I knew it would answer the trouble I took.
I hope that you like my collection of rhymes;--
Don't you think 'tis a neat little touch on the times?
Run, boy--can't you see that Miss Barbara Slop,
And my Lady Bonton, are come into the shop?
The copies I sent were but eighty--five score,
And I took it for granted you wanted some more:
So I call'd, Mr. Slider, on that supposition,
Before I came out with my second edition.
And another great wit is arriv'd, I declare,
Mr. Tightboot is just stepping out of his chair.
Enter Lady Bonton, Miss Barbara Slop, and the Hon. Mr. Tightboot.
Mr. Slider, you've nothing that's clever, I doubt;
No book that's engaging and pretty come out.
What an age of barbarians! there's nothing, G---d knows,
That's worth one's attention, in verse or in prose.
AUTHOR, to himself.
Now I wonder that blockheadly fellow won't mention
My book, which, I'm sure, would engage her attention.
How happy, how snug, should I sit here alone,
And feel such delight as few authors have known!
To be read and admir'd by the wits of the age,
And view 'em with raptures turn over my page!
I'm quite cast away, my dear Lady Bonton,
I'm afraid I must pass all this ev'ning alone:
I wish on some pretty short thing I could light,
I'd give it a thorough perusal to--night.
Well! I own there is nothing I meet with too long,
That's manly and spirited, nervous and strong;
Yet tender and delicate joys can impart,
And with sweet sensibility touches my heart.
Then, Madam, here's something will please the peruser,
``A Pindaric Epistle address'd to a Bruiser.''
O for shame, Mr. Slider! you'll make us quite sick;
Mr. Tightboot condemn'd all that trash to Old Nick.
What a vulgar performance! what Bear--garden writing!
--I protest it has set all my children a--fighting.
Why, egad, if to wit there be any pretension,
I swear it is far above my comprehension.
What damn'd unaccountable lies has he told,
Of dragons, and lions, and jockies of old!
I'm sure that he rode but a bitter bad horse,
For he flogg'd him most d--mn--bly over the course.
Pray where is his moral? or what was his object,
In chusing that horrible wretch for his subject?
A scoundrel like that is a scandal to ink--
The subject's as good as the verse, Sir, I think:
Besides, he don't give us the least intimations,
What he means by his impudent insinuations.
No--I wish that I knew who the person implied is,
In a certain account that he gives of Alcides:
I've try'd--but I can't make the least application
To any one man that I know in the nation.
Ma'am, the thing of all others he gives me the spleen in,
Is, the bringing in Pollux,--without any meaning.
Racks! tortures! damnation! death! hell! and confusion!
They have no kind of taste for a classic allusion!
Come--pray, Mr. Tightboot, find out something, do--
And give us your thoughts on a work of virtù.
No--my time is too precious this morning, I swear,
I've not the tenth part of a moment to spare:
My Lord Whistlejacket so deep in my debt is,
And Jemmy Blackancle so apt to forget is,
I must seek them at Almack's, at Arthur's, or Betty's.
Oh! pray, Mr. Tightboot, first give us a sight
Of the sweet pretty thing, that you shew'd me last night.
No--I beg you'd excuse me; you know very well
What I shew'd you last night was a mere bagatelle--
A small jeu d'esprit--
Nay, you promis'd you'd give it;
Tho' I put my hand into your pocket, I'll have it.
Ah do, my dear creature--do put your hand in, do--
Never mind that impertinent man at the window.
MISS BAB. Well! I vow I have found it! I've got it at length!--
Look here, my dear Madam!--here's spirit and strength!
What tender, what delicate thoughts it conveys!
What manly, what sensible taste it displays!
Oh heavens!--such measure!--
Cupid, god of gentle training,
Venus, queen of rapid fires,
Time, old Time, new wings obtaining,
Spurs my keen and strong desires.
Oh! then, if you're in the dark yet
Why the verdant turf I shun;
Why no more I court Newmarket,
Where such glorious palms I won;
Ask not me, but ask the Graces,
Which with fair Cornelia dwell;
Ask her free, her fond embraces,
They alone the cause can tell.
Fly then, fly, suspicious Hymen,
Loose your vain, connubial ties;
What your envious laws deny men,
Love, unbridled Love supplies.
Oh! that now we were together
On the boist'rous waves at rest!
I should fear nor wind nor weather,
In her snowy arms embrac'd.
Sporting Cupids round us hovering,
Am'rous Nereids round us play;
All with azure mantles covering,
To the Cyprian shore convey.
Neptune will rejoice in joining
Two congenial souls in one;
Ev'ry tender thought combining,
Who without her is undone.
Now by all that's poetical, tender, and witty,
'Tis charmingly moving, pathetic, and pretty!
The subject's so pleasing!
My dear, very true!
And of excellent sense, and morality too!
Take a copy, dear Bab--as for you, Mr. Slider,
I am sorry to say, you're a wretched provider,
Quite a pauvre genie!--now I take it for granted,
You never have sent me the books that I wanted!
Yes, indeed, my good Madam!--indeed, you must know,
I sent all your Ladyship's books long ago.
(Whispers his Journeyman.
Mr. Brusher, pray pack up The Lives of the Actors,
With the Birth and Exploits of the nine Malefactors,
The Punch--Bowl, the Love--Match, the Lucky Escape,
An Appeal to the Public from Miss Kitty Trape,
And the last Sessions--Paper, containing a rape.
Don't forget all the Trials, and Pleas for Divorces;
And send Mr. Tightboot, Pond's book upon horses.
Be sure you dispatch 'em before they get there,
Directed to Lady Bonton, in the Square.
[Exeunt Wits, Critics, and Brusher. Manent Author and Slider.
I'm sorry to find you've no more complaisance, Sir,
Do you make all your authors thus wait for an answer?
Can't you speak? Don't you see I'm impatient to go?
Will you have any copies of Buckhorse, or no?
Why, how can you ask if I'd have any copies,
When you see that your book a disgrace to my shop is?
Only look at that corner! egad, it is fact,
There they stand, ev'ry one, in a bundle unpack'd!
[Author turns pale. Why, Sir, I perceive you're a little dejected--
AUTHOR, biting his lips.
Not at all--not at all--I'm surpriz'd you suspect it!
Not the least disappointed my book won't go down--
I'm only concern'd for the taste of the town.
Yet still let me perish by critical laws,
If I suffer damnation, do, tell me the cause.
Why, then, to be plain, if you must know the reason,
You've writ neither blasphemy, bawdy, nor treason:
We hop'd you had something that's vendible for us,
But we find it is nothing but Pindar and Horace!
A mere compilation!--
Ye Gods! grant me patience,
Sufficient to answer such pressing occasions!
Sure the law would not hang me for taking the pains
To knock out an ill--judging bookseller's brains!
Besides, to explain the whole truth of the matter,
You've not the least notion of personal satire.
Why, how do you think that I go thro' the year,
And keep such a table, when things are so dear?
One day a good joint, and the next day a hash?
Not by Greek and by Latin, and such kind of trash.
No--I safely can swear, that I've got by one libel
More than ever I lost by the notes on the bible!
Would you write a sarcastical thing that is pleasing?
A good deal of acid 'tis proper to squeeze in.
You should scribble away without fear or control,
And feel no remorse, or compunction of soul.
'Tis your daggering stuff, my good friend, you will find,
That hits the malevolent taste of mankind.
Go boldly to work, and with freedom assail,
Not give us a wild allegorical tale,
For which by both parties you stand reprehended,
For political meanings to neither intended:
The ladies, you see, very justly remark,
That a reader should never be left in the dark;
And for that very reason some critics have said,
``You must be forgotten as soon as you're read.''
AUTHOR. Mr. Slider, I'm under a thorough conviction,
Most authors fulfil that unhappy prediction;
And am glad the republic of letters think fit
To choose such respectable judges of wit,
Who, no doubt, have a licence to hang, draw and quarter,
But never should put a poor bard to the torture:
For many an author, no doubt, they will find,
Who'll hear his dead warrant, compos'd and resign'd
Yet still may with justice and reason complain,
If his sense and his meaning they torture and strain:
And others may think it as hard to atone
For meaning and sense, when perhaps they have none.
Now, to me 'tis a matter of very great wonder,
That learned society made such a blunder,
As to tell all the world that my poor dedication
Had to party or politics any relation:
No, no--put my Pegasus into the pound,
If ever he treads on political ground;
And take up my Muse to beat hemp in the Fleet,
If you once catch her walking in Parliament--street.
Lord Buckhorse, 'tis true, in these patriot days,
Seem'd to me no contemptible topic of praise:
Besides, he's the only great man in the nation
To whom I acknowledge the least obligation;
He's my friend and my patron, and is it not hard,
When the Muses have paid him the justest regard,
That any great person should claim for his own,
The praise that is due to his Lordship alone?
I'm surpris'd men of sense such a meaning invent
For a thing, which a mere dedication was meant
To a much better work, and of larger extent:
But since I have met with such cursed success,
The flames shall receive it instead of the press.
Come, come--you should think of explaining your hints,
Or adding a few little humorous prints;
If you top it and tail it by Grignion and Wale,
You may still have a chance of promoting the sale.
Gad! I'll venture to give you five pound for the copy!
What mortal e'er saw such an impudent puppy?
Come--I'll go something further, and stand to all hazards
Of selling your leggers and clicks on the mazzards--
I'll make it six pieces; and, as I'm a sinner,
Can give nothing more but a family dinner:
If you're quite disengaged, you are welcome to stay,
I've some very good company dine here to day;
There's a pastoral poet from Leadenhall--street,
And a liberty--writer just come from the Fleet;
With a clever young fellow, that's making an index,
Who, perhaps, may assist you to write an Appendix;
And a taylor, up three pair of stairs in the Mews,
Who does the political jobs for the news,
And works now and then for the critic reviews.
AUTHOR. (in a passion.)
O ye Gods! if to punish some damnable sin,
Ye had steep'd me in poverty up to the chin;
Condemn'd me to wander, distress'd and forlorn,
'Mid penury, nakedness, hunger, and scorn;
If to purchase a dinner one sixpence was able,
Where the knives and the forks are chain'd down to the table;
With joy to the garret aloft would I go,
Or dive down as deep to the cellar below,
But with pride, with due pride, I'd your offer disdain,
And ne'er on such terms, would a dinner obtain!
Mr. Slider, farewell!--other authors employ,
And long may you live better taste to enjoy!
As for me, I shall full as good company meet
At the Bull, or the Dragon, in Bishopgate--street;
And as soon as Aurora first gladdens the sky,
To Granta's embraces once more will I fly.
SCENE changes to the Black Bull, in Bishopgate--street.
Author solus, in a thoughtful posture.
--Mr. Tightboot's reflection was poignant and hurting--
Tho' he look'd like a damnable fool, that is certain!--
I am laugh'd at by women, and vile poetasters--
But that is the smallest of all my disasters.
Alas! what a change, since my pamphlet has flown!
Ah! there is the rub!--all my hopes are undone!--
All chance of the Toadland preferment is gone!
The paths of ambition no more I'll pursue--
Ye flattering dreams, gay illusions, adieu!
Other cares, other pleasures, my thoughts shall employ,
Intellectual pleasures, that never can cloy.
Hail, heavenly Science! I kneel at thy shrine,
Thou source of all treasures! thou goddess divine!
You cherish in youth, you delight in old age,
In ev'ry condition thy beauties engage:
'Tis you that to riches true splendor bestow,
Our comfort in want, and our refuge in woe;
Abroad if we wander, at home if we stay,
In town and in country, by night and by day,
'Tis thine, sacred Science! new charms to display.
How much I rejoice thou hast chosen thy seat
In Granta's delightful and quiet retreat!
Where men of such piety, learning, and sense,
Distribute thy gifts at so small an expence,
And season the minds of well--disciplin'd youth,
With patriot maxims of freedom and truth;
Regardless of changes in church or in state,
They ne'er court the favours and smiles of the great,
But with eyes unretorted preferment can view,
Thro' the calm walk of virtue life's journey pursue;
For candour, for softness of manners, renown'd,
Shed the blessings of peace and contentment around;
And, far from malignity, faction, and noise,
With dignity seek philosophical joys;
Yes--there, with example and precept supply'd,
To Wisdom's bright altar my steps will I guide;
O genius of Athens! with thee will I rove
In the shade of your charming Pierian grove:
Where the learned old Cam, on his echoing shore,
Remurmurs sweet sounds of Socratical lore,
Replete with deep knowledge, his slow way pursues,
And pays his rich tribute to murmuring Ouze,
As clear as Ilyssus, who lav'd the green wood
Of fair Academus, great Plato's abode,
And told his wise tale to Callirrhoe's flood:
There take me, in all thy chaste beauties array'd,
O blest Independence! adorable maid!
Fair virtue, fair science, acknowledge thy reign,
Health, ease, and tranquillity, sport in thy train!
Where'er with mild lustre, you gild the calm scene,
Stern pedantry, churlishness, envy, and spleen,
All fly, gentle nymph! at thy presence serene;
All wing their foul way from the peaceable cell,
Where thou condescendest, bright virgin! to dwell:
For thee, of fresh flowrets a chaplet I'll weave,
So grant me thy blessings once more to receive,
So teach me, in peace to my fortune resign'd
No longer to flatter or censure mankind,
In error's vain mazes bewilder'd and blind.
Comments about this poem (Appendix: Containing by Christopher Anstey )
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