L O I T E R E R.
"Speak of us as we are."
PRINTED FOR THE AUTHOR,
And sold by C. S. RANN, OXFORD;
Mess. EGERTONS, Whitehall, LONDON; Mess. PEARSON
And ROLLASON, BIRMINGHAM; Mr. W. MEYLER, Grove,
BATH; AND Mess. COWSLADE and SMART, READING.
L O I T E R E R.
SATURDAY, September 19, 1789.
Non quivis videt immodulata poemata Judex.
NO sooner does a Man become eminent in the World, than his opinion is of consequence not only to his own immediate connections, but often to the Community at large. It is with peculiar satisfaction that I begin to feel symptoms of this in myself. I have lately had so many advertisements of every species sent to me, that was I to consult either my own interest, or that of Mr. Rann my Bookseller, I might very soon become a formidable Rival to the Daily Papers. The whole body of Wine Merchants have both conjunctly, and individually, given me general invitations to spend the evening with them, and have requested me to bring my friend Dr. Philpot in my hand, each being anxious, I suppose, to have a favourable sentence passed on the flavour of his grand Panacea. I have letters by me, which declare that my health has been druith in a bumper, with three times three, by every Club of Tradesmen in the City, who since the publication of my twenty-fourth paper, consider me as their professed friend, and advocate; No less indeed than fifteen have actually made very handsome offers to accept me as a Member; which I have been hitherto able only to decline by observing, that there are no more than six nights in a the week, in which a clergyman can with strict propriety be seen at the Tavern. But an arch fellow, President of the * * * * * * * Society, has started an odd sort of ecclesiastical Idea of its being possible to serve two or more Taverns in one Evening. In short, such is the satisfaction and approbation of, which the public express of my conduct, that I expect my interest will be of considerable consequence at the next general Election.
But these are all very trifling circumstances, when compared with the effect, which my thirteenth Paper has produced. The freedom, with which I have there spoken on the subject of Reviews, has brought me in such a multiplicity of Essays, Poems, and critical Defences, that I am well nigh ruined with the Postage; the Poets in particular (and I would not too severely scrutinize their motives) forgetting my request, that they would frank their Epistles. Was Ito pay attention to every one of these Gentlemen, the Loiterer would soon become little better than a Hospital for Incurables. But it makes me exceedingly unhappy to find my friend Dick Distich in the last Class. Dick has unfortunately published an Epic Poem, which during twelve months have been running the Gauntlet through the different Reviews. The Reviewers, those literary Despots as he calls them, have regularly either once a month given him a touch of the Gout in the Stomach, a fit of the Cholic, or a nervous Fever. Had they all made their attack at once, he thinks he could have borne up against them with the true fortitude of an Author, pronouncing them all a set of ignorant Blockheads. Then there would have been an end of the matter at once; and in time it would have blown over, and been forgotten. But now, no sooner has he recovered from one shock, than he is obliged to prepare for and submit to another: Each takes him on turn, and giving him a twirl with his finger and thumb, tortures him for a month together upon the point of his pen. One dashes him off on the first of April with half a line in the Monthly Catalogue. In June he is damned with faint praise, and the only exceptionable part of his work quoted as a Sample. In July he feels something like a momentary respite, being allowed a sort of negative praise, “not entirely destitute of Merit.” What Sensations must this excite in the breast of a Candidate for immortal fame! To me, however, he writes in full confidence of meeting with redress, and already anticipates the charms of a Critical, and friendly enquiry into his merits in the Loiterer. So that I may be fairly said to be drawn into a premunire; and feel myself exceedingly unhappy, and absolutely at a loss how I shall act, so as once to preserve the reputation of my paper, and the esteem of my old and valuable friend, whose kind Offices have been in some measure coeval with my existence. Twenty times did I set down, and attempt something like and Apology; but in vain: I therefore determined last week, (having many other weighty affairs on my hands, particularly an Investigation of the Transparent Té'te) to hasten my Journey to London, that I might wait on him in person, and in the softest, and gentlest manner inform him, that such Criticisms do not come within the extent of my Plan.
I shall pass over the account of my Journey till some other opportunity, that I may be able the more immediately to introduce my Readers to quondam Companion. Alas! Poor Distich! Early smitten with the charms of the Muses, and of one terrestrial Beauty, rich only in the bounties of Nature! Such imprudent and unwarrantable attachments producing their wonted effect on the mercantile mind of a rich, and industrious Father, were the causes of his being cut off with a shilling at that particular period, when he could boast of the jus trium liberorum; and he had been endeavouring ever since with difficulty to support himself and his family by various expedients; in the number of which I am sorry to add, that an unhappy and unsuccessful attachment to the Muses still forms a considerable share.
It was not till I had mounted the third pair of stairs, that I was informed the Door of Mr. Distich’ s Lodgings was on the next landing place; where, after one more effort, I arrived safe, and stopping to take a little breath, had time to meditate with a heavy heart on the very elevated situation of my friend. Before I knocked at the door, I had an opportunity of observing that some Minister of Darkness had marked the lintel with a number of portentous parallel lines, which whether creta an carbone notanda I must leave my Classical Readers to determine. No sooner had I knocked, than Mrs. Distich very circumspectly opened the door a few inches, still however maintaining her guard; but recognizing my person, down went the chain, and in a moment the door was widely and confidently extended. Oh! Mr. Loiterer, said she, how rejoiced will my husband be to see You. He has expected You every Saturday with the utmost impatience. Poor innocent Soul! little did she think the errand on which I was come, or the trifling reason for her husband’s anxious expectations of the Loiterer! He is now, said she, in the back room, where he is given positive orders, that he is to be denied to all the World, and must not be disturbed. Me, Mrs. Distich, I think I may venture to say he will except; therefore, taking the liberty to steal gently upon him, I found him sitting in part of an elbow chair; with the collar of his shirt, and the knees of his breeches loose, a tarnished velvet Cap was on his head, and the remains of a Tartan Night-Gown, which had once been lined with green silk, carelessly flung upon his shoulders. He appeared to be lost in a fine frenzy of thought, his eye darting from Heaven to Earth, from Earth to Heaven; in his right hand was that dangerous little instrument a pen, worn to the stump; the nail of his left thumb was that moment grinding betwixt the dentes incisores; whilst the back of my last letter was spread before him; the superscription of which was now so blotted, so interlineated, so filled with erasements, and restorations, that the greatest part of it was absolutely unintelligible to every person in the world, except himself. But how did my heart smite me, when I read in the first line, which alone was legible, that out of this chaos of interlineations and confusion, was to issue all the correctness, the order, the harmony of a Sonnet in praise of the GEPIDÆ, or Loiterers, For my own part, I have always been very well satisfied to deduce my origin from the Bickerstaffes, and Ironsides of Queen Anne’s Reign; but my friend, who loves the appearance at least of learning, has gone far deeper into Antiquity; and taking a wider range, has discovered, that in that memorable emigration of the Ostro, and the Visi Goths from Sweden and Scandinavia, there was one vessel, which lagged behind the others, but whose Crew afterwards became a great and Respectable Nation; and from this circumstance, obtained the Appellation of the GEPIDÆ, or the Loiterers, Hence my friend was furnished with a just and applicable Simile, the life and soul of Poetry; and drawing it to a conclusion, was just declaring, with epigrammatic keenness, that all other Writers were merely Ostro Goths and Visi Goths, when compared to the Loiterer. It was in the midst of this happy thought, that casting his eyes around he saw me in propriâ personâ standing before him. My Readers will better conceive, than I can either express or describe the figure he made, as he rose to receive me. One hand was instantly stretched out to give me a cordial shake, whilst the other with much embarrassment was hastening to convey a little, dirty tagged, and rumpled Octavo out of my sight.
I shall pass over the kind enquiries, the many pleasing recollections, which for a full hour took place between us, before I touched on the subject nearest his heart. At last, not without much difficulty and hesitation, I ventured to inform him, that the taste of the Public was totally vitiated; so much Ribaldry and Nonsense, such torrents of scandal and abuse were now the favourite publications, that the chaste and classical effusions of the real Poet would not bear to be mentioned with Applause. Drawing my chair a little nearer, and taking his hand again into mine, I observed that a few select friends had commissioned me to present him with a bank note as a small mark of esteem for the pleasure, which his writings had given them, and for the high opinion, which they entertained of the Virtues of the Author. The big tear glistened in his eye, I felt a sympathetic effusion in my own, and (wondering how any man in such a situation, with so severe a lampoon as three lines of a Milk-Woman’s score on the lintel of his door, could think of sitting down to write Sonnets for the Loiterer) without waiting for a reply, I hastened to give a turn to the conversation, and tried to rally my friend upon the care, which he had taken to secret some new poem, begging, if there was no impropriety, that I might be permitted to peruse it. — This request at any other period would have kindled a pleasant smile on his countenance, which now, notwithstanding the seasonable relief I had brought, still continued clouded with melancholy. “What! Said he, will not my last poem bear to be mentioned with applause, “et tu Brute,” and does the Loiterer say so? then indeed it is time to bid adieu to the dreams of Immortality. There, said he flinging down the pamphlet, never more will I hunt thee from beginning to end.”
My Curiosity being now greatly excited, I picked up the rejected Volume which I confess, till that moment I had never seen, neither could I have believed it possible for such a work to have entered into the mind of Man to compose Poeta nascitur non fit is an axiom, which, I believe, has never once been disputed. But henceforth, thought I, it will certainly be reversed, non nascitur sed fit Poeta. For whether the divine furor shall lead to the Enigma, or the Rebus, to the Cento, the Acrostic, or the Anagram; whether the ambition of the future bard shall incline him to excel in the lyric or the pastoral, the elegiac or the satyric, the dramatic or the epic; the true Rhymster must find every want supplied in the “poetic endings” of Dr. Trusler. In this valuable work it may truly be said, that the embryo of every future poem is comprised. In short, it is difficult to determine whether the Poetical, or the Clerical World is most indebted to this voluminous Author.
But to return to the subject before me; taking leave of my friend with a promise to see him again very soon, I beckoned Mrs. Distich to the landing place, and slipping a small present into her hand also, whispered that it might be of use in rubbing the Chalks from the Lintel of her Door. “ Oh! Mr. Loiterer, said she, You have such a way with You. Would my dear husband but cease to write verses, there would still be various methods for us to earn a decent subsistence; but of this I despair.” I endeavoured to comfort her by an assurance, that there would soon be a reformation. For here, Madam, said I, holding up Dr. Trusler, here, I believe, I have completely eradicated the evil, “Ah! Sir, said she, how little do You know of Mr. Distich! I once put Dr. Trusler up the chimney myself for a whole week; and what do You think, Sir, was the consequence? Before Saturday night, Mr. Distich, now no longer shackled by rhyme, had completed the first book of an Epic Poem in blank verse.”
And here, Gentle Reader, every objection to the above-mentioned axiom fell to the ground. I was compelled to acknowledge nascitur Poeta.
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