1800 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Gifford

Anonymous, "Literary Fracas" The Morning Post (19 August 1800).



In consequence of a series of mutual abuse, Peter Pindar yesterday, between three and four o'clock, went into the shop of Mr. Wright, the Bookseller, in Piccadilly, where Mr. Giffard, the author of the Baeviad, &c. was sitting reading the newspapers; and saying, "Your name is Giffard," immediately struck him with a large stick. He repeated the blow two or three times; but Peter is not a strong man, and he made little impression. Neither is Mr. Giffard a strong man; he is as little and thin as the other is corpulent; but he wrenched the stick from Peter's hands, and became in his turn the assailant, giving Peter several severe blows on the head. All this happened in a few seconds, before the gentlemen in the shop had time to recollect themselves. Mr. Wright, who is Mr. Giffard's particular friend, as soon as possible thrust Peter out of the shop, and locked the door on him, and Peter found himself in the midst of a mob in the streets, his head bleeding, having lost his hat and stick. He remained at the door a few minutes, and then retired. The whole transaction did not take up a longer time than the reader has occupied in perusing this article. No words but those stated passed between the parties.

Peter Pindar seems to have been stimulated to this step by the foulest and falsest libels, on the part of Mr. Giffard, that ever issued from the English press. Mr. Giffard charged a crime upon Peter, from a suspicion of what the world never altogether exempts those who charge it. The whole of a long and most scurrilous attack in a pamphlet might have been palliated by the previous attacks of Peter; but no provocation on earth can palliate so infamous a calumny as that alluded to; and Mr. Giffard will probably feel the effects of it throughout life, since no man of prudence and character can be safe in the company of one who falsely makes such charges. Mr. Giffard has had provocation. Peter Pindar first attacked him in a very unmanly manner. What have the world to do with the obscurity and humbleness of Mr. Giffard's early life? These gentlemen would have acted wisely had they fought by deputy, and sent their Muses alone into the field of battle. They might have expected that a combat of private character would but bespatter both, by holding both up to the derision of the world. We have never read their mutual abuse, and we believe it has not engaged the attention of the public. It does neither of them honour; and, what is worse, it tends to dishonour literature. It is strange that poets cannot so far feel for the honour of poetry, as not to degrade those who devote themselves to it; it is remarkable that two men, who have not been sparing of their satire, cannot themselves bear attack.