John Hookham Frere

Ant. Jacob., "Canto Pre-Preliminary" Morning Chronicle (17, 23 July 1817).



As a very interesting Poem, written by my late friend Mr. William Whistlecraft, relating to King Arthur and his Round Table, has just made its appearance, the world must regret that the advice of injudicious friends has so long deprived us of such a treat. The late Mr. William did me the honour of consulting me, and I beg to state in my own justification, that I earnestly urged the immediate publication of these happy effusions; but as I did not "carry arms quarterly," Mr. William, whose head was full of battles and retreats, disregarded my suggestions. I have, Sir, to regret that his surviving brother, Robert, has omitted a Pre-preliminary Canto: as, however, I have it pretty accurately by heart, I shall favour you with a part of it which is indeed in his best stile, and perhaps hereafter give you more.

I am, Sir, your constant reader,


I'm going to write verse in homely manner,
Just as two country gossips chat together:
All shall be rough as hides sent to the tanner,
Not like to patent or to high-dress'd leather.
I'll list myself beneath a foreign banner,
And deck my bonnet with a borrowed feather,
By phrase familiar on folks favour gaining,
I hope to be extremely entertaining.

When customers do call like TOM, the waiter,
My ready service is at their command;
I go on errands, or I cull and cater,
And fishes fry within a foreign land.
And that my song may live a little later,
On Hypocrenes fair banks I angling stand;
And while the sportive fancies rise, I hook 'em,
Freeer in my stile to be, and then I book 'em.

To regions I might hie renowned for soap,
And whiskers that do scorn it, proud Castile!
Famed for Guerillos faithful to the Pope,
And liquorice that coughs and colds can heal.
And I might drop quaint figure and wild trope,
And give to rhyme the honest prose I feel,
How unsuspecting I was nearly taken,
And what a bore it is to run to save one's bacon.

And to oblige my publisher, John Murray,
Who will insist upon a full disclosure,
Tell of my sudden fright, and flight and flurry,
No time for etiquette 'midst discomposure,
How all the wiseacres went hurry scurry,
A scatter'd flock, without a guide and crosier,
And as my urgent bookseller must hear,
Own the sad laxative effects of fear.

Yes! 'twas a scene to make a porker sick!
The hunted Hunto scampering for shelter,
The choice was to go dead, or to go quick,
And better than to welter, 'tis to swelter:
Mules, and more mulish corps diplomatique,
Spies, Friars, Dons, all sweating helter skelter,
And by a curious chance, tho' fools may scoff,
While I bade Moore come on, myself came off....



I am happy to remark that the Pre-preliminary Canto of my friend William Whistlecraft has met with so much approbation. He was, 'tis true, a serious man; he made horse-collars, but did not chuse to grin through them. He was partial to every thing Spanish. He had read Don Quixotte, and wore a Barcelona handkerchief, and, therefore, if it had so pleased those who have the choice of men, was well qualified for any mission to that quarter, whether of Omission or Commission. I favour you with a few more Stanzas of that invaluable Canto.

Your constant Reader,


I must assert, though not a bard who wrangles,
'Tis better to exalt than to debase,
ADDISON "sunk," he liken'd stars to spangles,
(A sky-blue firmament won't mend the case),
A Poet "rose," to celebrate triangles,
And amongst favour'd Minstrels "got a place."
But such a bard would not be such a ninny,
As "dip" for half-a-crown or half-a-guinea.

If I could etch and hotch, and "bite" like HOLLAR,
To ev'ry "crooked line" give strength and shade,
I would not make uneasy for a dollar
One simple man for wits unclean parade.
But let not such grow testy and in choler,
With me a "collar-maker" to my trade.
Let them take back with interest the blessing;
I deem a good calf-skin well worth the dressing.

We term a ragged wight tatterdemallion,
So my patch'd poetry some may asperse,
I strive not for a wealth-stored Spanish galleon,
An humble prize befits an humble verse.
But if I say I imitate Italian,
The folks will "bravo" cry, and call it terse,
And if some numskulls fail to find the joke,
Let the fools gaze and gape, I wear a "cloak."

Talking of "cloaks," I'm back again to Spain,
Though "Spanish leather" is not quite my whim,
An Harness-maker I must still remain,
The "measure of a fool" is not my trim.
WELLESLEY did shape and cut, and not in vain;
But I was not co-partner, mark, with him;
Unharnessed he, in curricle or tandem,
Drove on to glory as he pleased at random....