1759 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. William Wilkie

Alexander Carlyle, 1759; in Autobiography of Dr. Alexander Carlyle (1910) 516-18.



He was unlucky, however, in one of his topics; for, Wilkie having begun to open, Parr, addressing himself to him, said something rude about the professors of St. Andrews (of which university Wilkie had very recently been chosen a member), and wished they would keep their students and professors within their walls, for that his corps had lately enlisted one of them, who was not only the most awkward beast, but the most debauched rascal that ever wore a red coat. Wilkie, who was indignant on this attack, and a very great master of horse-play raillery, and in scolding feared neither man nor woman, replied with witty and successful tartness, which, however, did not silence the Colonel; when the company took sides, and there ensued a brawling conversation, which lasted too long. Mr. Townsend had interposed, with an intention to support Wilkie against his countryman; but Wilkie, being heated, mistook him, and after two or three brushes on each side, silenced him as he had done the Colonel; and the report afterwards went that Wilkie had completely foiled the English champion at his own weapons — wit and raillery. But this was a mistake, for Mr. Townsend had not the least desire to enter the lists with Wilkie, but whispered to me, who sat next to him, that as Wilkie grew brutal, he would put an end to the contest by making no answer. A silence ensued, which Cardonnel, one of the beast toast-masters, took advantage of by giving us three bumpers in less than two minutes; all contest for victory was at an end, and the company united again. Townsend said to me afterwards, when he came to take his carriage at my house, that he had never met with a man who approached so near the two extremes of a god and a brute as Wilkie did.