In the late spring or early summer of 1813, Byron and Moore supped on bread and cheese with Rogers. Their host had just received from Lord Thurlow a copy of his Poems on Several Occasions (1813), and, in spite of protests by Rogers, Byron and Moore, in wild spirits, hunted through the volume to find absurdities. Byron lighted upon some lines to Rogers himself, "On the Poem of Mr. Rogers entitled 'An Epistle to a Friend.'" The first stanza ran thus—
When Rogers o'er this labour bent,
Their purest fire the Muses lent,
T' illustrate this sweet argument.
But when he began to read them aloud, he could not, for laughing, get beyond the first two words. Two or three times he tried, but always broke down, till he was joined by Moore in a fit of laughter which at last infected Rogers himself. The three were, as Moore tells the story, "in such a state of inextinguishable laughter, that, "had the author himself been of the party, I question much whether "he could have resisted the infection." A day or two afterwards, Byron sent Moore the lines given in Letter 295. On the same day he again returned to the subject, with the following additional lines, in which the last stanza of the same poem is the text:—
"Then, thus, to form Apollo's crown,
(Let ev'ry other bring his own,)
I lay my branch of laurel down."
To LORD THURLOW.
"I lay my branch of laurel down."
Thou "lay thy branch of laurel down!"
Why, what thou'st stole is not enow;
And, were it lawfully thine own,
Does Rogers want it most, or thou?
Keep to thyself thy wither'd bough,
Or send it back to Dr. Donne—
Were justice done to both, I trow,
He'd have but little, and thou — none.
"Then thus to form Apollo's crown."
A crown! why, twist it how you will,
Thy chaplet must be foolscap still.
When next you visit Delphi's town,
Inquire amongst your fellow-lodgers,
They'll tell you Phoebus gave his crown,
Some years before your birth, to Rogers.
"Let every other bring his own."
When coals to Newcastle are carried,
And owls sent to Athens as wonders,
From his spouse when the Regent's unmarried,
Or Liverpool weeps o'er his blunders;
When Tories and Whigs cease to quarrel,
When Castlereagh's wife has an heir,
Then Rogers shall ask us for laurel,
And thou shalt have plenty to spare.
Edward Hovell (1781-1829) succeeded his uncle in 1806 as second Baron Thurlow. He published several volumes of poetry: Poems on Several Occasions (1812); Ariadne, a Poem (1814); Carmen Britannicum, or the Song of Britain: written in honour of the Prince Regent (1814); Moonlight, a Poem (1814); The Sonnets of Edward, Lord Thurlow (privately printed, 1821); Angelica, or the Rape of Proteus, a Poem (1822).