1834 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Harrison Ainsworth

William Maginn, "Gallery of Literary Characters: W. H. Ainsworth, Esq." Fraser's Magazine 10 (July 1834) 48.



We have not the pleasure of being acquainted with Mrs. Ainsworth, but we are sincerely sorry for her — we deeply commiserate her case. You see what a pretty fellow THE young Novelist of the Season is; how exactly, in fact, he resembles one of the most classically handsome and brilliant of the established lady-killers — the only darling of the day — except Cradock, alias Caradoc — whose charms have been equally fatal among the nymphs of the Seine and the Thames. No Truefit, anxious to set off his Brutus, could have devised a more neatly-cut countenance; no unstricken Stultze need ask a more dashing outline of back, hip, thigh, leg, &c. &c. &c., for the exhibition of toggery. We may, without swagger, apply to Ainsworth what Theodore Hook has sung of D'Orsay le beau:

See him, gallant and gay,
With the chest of Apollo, the waist of a gnat;

but then comes the rub for Mrs. A., as well as the rhyme for "gay:" "The delight of the ball, the assembly, the play!" Alas! it were well if "balls, assemblies, and plays" were all: there are also such things, not undreamt-of in the philosophy of the Mayfair fair ones, as boudoirs and tete-a-tetes; and the best we can say for this Turpin of the cabriolet, whose prancer will never masticate a beef-steak, is, that if he escapes scot-free during the first month of the blaze of his romance, he is a lucky as well as a well-grown lad. Of this all concerned may be only too sure, that many a dove as well as crow will, on the present occasion, "Make wing to the Rooky-wood." Well, Heaven send him a good deliverance! But when we see how even whey-faced, spindle-shanked, musk-smelling baboons, get on occasionally among feathers and furbelows, when once they have attached any thing like a rag of notoriety to their names, we own we regard with fear and trepidation the fiery furnace of flattering sighs, through which this strapping A-Bed-Nego must endeavour to bring his jolly whiskers unsinged.

Of the previous history of Walker Hederic Ainsworth, we believe all that the general reader has any concern in may be told in a couple of sentences. He is the grandson, or great-grandson, of the celebrated Latin lexicographer, who was at school with Tom Hill, somewhere about the middle of the reign of George Il.; while, by the other side of the house, he is connected with the lineage of the illustrious John Bee. His father was a flourishing gentleman, i.e. solicitor, at Manchester; and the old boy spared no pains to train up his child in the way he should engross. But love and genius will out; and here he is, two hundred miles from the Babylon of spinning-jennies, murdering right and left before and behind the scenes of the Opera — writing Vau-devils for Yates — Inter-lewds for Bunn — and after having had to do, more or less, with we know not how many little pieces of the Olympic, now at length astonishing London and Croesufying Bentley by a real dashing display of the long-buried inspiration of romance!

May he turn out many novels better, none worse than Rookwood; may the Adelphi in the mean time do justice to his Highwayman; and may he, as far as is consistent with the frailty of humanity, penetrate puffery. and avoid the three insatiables of Solomon, king of Israel! Amen. O. Y.

P.S. — I perceive old Yorke has left me room to add my view of the subject in sounding rhyme. Here goes:

Enjoy thy prime of glory, Master Walker,
With moderation: be a cogent talker
In quiet corners — ever, Master Hederic,
Making sheer sense the [Greek characters] of thy rhetoric;
Thus, saying sunk in doing, Master Ainsworth,
I promise thee in measure full thy pains' worth
Mid the sweet world of intellectual creatures,
Whose bathycolpic forms and dazzling features
May, brass on brass, in tempting file be seen,
Fit FRONTISPIECES all for the COURT MAGAZINE. — M. O'D.