1758 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Brown

Horace Walpole to George Montague, 4 May 1758; in Letters, ed. Cunningham (1906) 3:134-25.



The history promised you of Dr. Brown is this. Sir Charles [Hanbury] Williams had written an answer to his silly volume of the Estimate, chiefly before he came over, but finished while he was confined at Kensington. Brown had lately lodged in the same house, not mad now, though he has been so formerly. The landlady told Sir Charles, and offered to make affidavit that Dr. Brown was the most profane curser and swearer that ever came into her house. Before I proceed in my history, I will tell you another anecdote of this great performer: one of his antipathies is the Opera, yet the only time I ever saw him was in last Passion-week, singing the Romish Stabat mater with the Mingotti behind a harpsichord at a great concert at my Lady Carlisle's. Well — in a great apprehension of Sir Charles divulging the story of his swearing, Brown went to Dodsley in a most scurrilous and hectoring manner, threatening Dodsley if he should publish anything personal against him; abusing Sir Charles for a coward and most abandoned man, and bidding Dodsley tell the latter that he had a cousin in the army who would call Sir Charles to account for any reflections on him, Brown. Stay; this Christian message from a divine, who by the way has a chapter in his book against duelling, is not all: Dodsley refused to carry any such message, unless in writing. The Doctor, enough in his senses to know the consequences of this, refused; and at last a short verbal message, more decently worded, was agreed on. To this Sir Charles made Dodsley write down this answer: "that he could not but be surprised at Brown's message, after that he, Sir Charles, had at Ranby's desire sent Brown a written assurance that he intended to say nothing personal of him — nay, nor should yet, unless Brown's impertinence made it necessary." This proper reply Dodsley sent: Brown wrote back, that he should send an answer to Sir Charles himself; but bid Dodsley take notice, that printing the works of a supposed lunatic might be imputed to the printer himself, and which he, the said Doctor, should "chastise." Dodsley, after notifying this new and unprovoked insolence to me, Fox, and Garrick, the one, friend of Sir Charles, the other of Brown, returned a very proper, decent, yet firm answer, with assurances of "repaying chastisement" of any sort. Is it credible? this audacious man sent only a card back, saying, "Footman's language I never return, J. Brown." You know how decent, humble, inoffensive a creature Dodsley is; how little apt to forget or disguise his having been a footman: but there is no exaggerating this behaviour by reflections. On the same card he tells Dodsley that he cannot now accept, but returns the present of the two last volumes of his Collection of Poems, and assures him that they are not soiled by the reading. But the best picture of him is his own second volume, which beats all the Scaligers and Scioppius's for vanity and insolent impertinence. What is delightful; in the first volume he had deified Warburton, but the success of that trumpery has made Warburton jealous, and occasioned a coolness — but enough of this jackanapes.