1800 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. John Wolcot

Anonymous, "Peter Pindar and the Author of the Baviad" European Magazine 38 (August 1800) 86-88.



The rencontre which has lately taken place between these Gentlemen being liable to misrepresentation, we think it the duty of a literary journal to insert only such accounts of it as appear with the marks of authority, without any comment whatever.

The Morning Chronicle of Tuesday, the 19th of August, states the affair in the following manner:

"A rencontre took place yesterday in the shop of Mr. Wright, the bookseller, between the celebrated Peter Pindar and Mr. Giffard, author of the Baviad. We need not inform our literary readers that in reply to the many sarcasms thrown out by Peter Pindar against the Author of the Baviad and other poems, Mr. Giffard lately published a severe and keen satire against Peter. In a second edition, an allusion is made of a kind too gross for decency to record. This literary combat yesterday produced blows. Dr. Wolcot went into the shop of Mr. Wright, where Mr. Giffard was seated reading a newspaper, he asked him if his name was not Giffard? He replied in the affirmative. Upon which the Dr. aimed a blow at his brother poet with a cane, which Mr. Giffard dexterously warded off, wrested the cane from Peter, and in an instant broke the head of his assailant with his own stick. M. Peltier and another gentleman, who were present, intervened, and Peter, with a bloody sconce, was thrust into the street, where a mob collected, to whom he made his appeal. He had lost his hat in the affray, which was thrown out to him; but the poet of the Baviad kept possession of the cane, as a trophy of his triumph. Peter having thus failed wreaking his vengeance by blows, means to attack his enemy with the weapon at which he is more dexterous. He has announced what he calls A Cut at the Cobler."

In the same paper, of Saturday, the 23d of August, is inserted the following detail by Mr. Wolcot:

"Determined to punish R—, that dared propagate a report the most atrocious, the most unnatural, and the most unfounded, I repaired to Wright's shop in Piccadilly, to catch him, as I understood that he paid frequent visits to his worthy friend and publisher. On opening the shop door, I saw several people, and, among the rest, as I thought, Giffard. I immediately asked him if his name was Giffard? Upon his reply in the affirmative, without any further ceremony, I began to cane him. Wright and his customers, and his shopmen, immediately surrounded me, and wrested the cane from my hand; I then had recourse to the fist — and really was doing ample and easy justice to my cause — when I found my hands all on a sudden confined behind me, particularly by a tall Frenchman. Upon this, Giffard had time to turn round, and, with his own stick — a large one too — struck me several blows on the head. I was then hustled out of the shop, and the door was locked against me. I entreated them to let me in, but in vain. Upon a tall Frenchman coming out of the shop, I told him, that he was one of the fellows that held my hands — I have been since informed that his name was Peltier.

"Before I quitted the door, I contrived to get admission for the following letter, written before the action, directed to Mr. Giffard:

'MR. WILLIAM GIFFARD,

As there are certain expressions that require only a little of the severity of satire by way of corrective, so there are others of so malignant a nature as to demand a horsewhip instead of words. Had you possessed something more of the human form, I should have treated you as a man: but as things are, you must be contented to be whipped as a malicious monkey.'

J. WOLCOT.

Aug. 18, 1800.'

"I then retired to the house of a friend for about an hour, and returned to Wright's shop to finish the affair; but the door was still locked, and Giffard, I believe, in the house. Some of the shopmen came forward and told me that I should not enter; upon which I desired them to inform Giffard, that wherever I met him, he might depend on every castigation due to his calumny — that society ought to be purged of such a dangerous pest, which, if possible, in spite of his noble supporters, I would try to accomplish.

"Giffard has given out, as a matter of triumph, that he possesses my cane, and that he means to preserve it as a trophy. Let me recommend an inscription for it — 'The Cane of Justice, with which I, William Giffard, late Cobler of Ashburton, have been soundly drubbed for my infamy.'"

In answer to this narrative, THE TRUE BRITON of Monday, August 25, has the following reply:

"MR. WRIGHT to the TRUE BRITON.

"Whoever is acquainted with the miscreant, calling himself PETER PINDAR, needs not be informed, that his disregard and hatred to truth are habitual. He will not, therefore, be surprised to learn, that the account this PETER has published in a Morning Paper called The Oracle, of the affair of the 18th instant, is a shameless tissue of falsehoods from beginning to end.

"I was not in the shop, nor indeed in London, when it happened; but I am authorised by the only two Gentlemen who were witnesses of it, to lay before the public the following statement, of which every part can be attested on oath:

"Mr. Gifford was sitting by the window, with a newspaper in his hand, when Peter Pindar came into the shop, and saying, 'Is not your name Giffard?' without waiting for an answer, raised a stick he had brought for the purpose, and levelled a blow at his head with all his force. Mr. Giffard fortunately caught the stick in his left hand, and, quitting his chair, wrested it instantly from the cowardly assassin, and give him two severe blows with it; one of which made a dreadful impression on Peter's scull. Mr. Giffard had raised the stick to strike him a third time, but seeing one of the Gentlemen present about to collar the wretch, he desisted, and coolly said, 'Turn him out of the shop.'

"This was literally and truly ALL that passed; and this, as the Morning Chronicle (which has given a very fair and candid account of the transaction) observes, 'was the work of an instant.'

"Such is the narrative delivered to me verbatim, by the only witnesses of what passed. After this, let the reader peruse the clumsy jumble of impudence and falsehood, signed with the baffled miscreant's name, in the paper above-mentioned, and form his own conclusions.

"I may add — that Peter came forth with an intent, I will not say to murder, but to maim and disable, Mr. Giffard. This will shew the papers (among which I am sorry to rank the Morning Chronicle), that their wit on the battle, as they are pleased to term it, is misplaced. Mr. Giffard sought no battle; he merely defended his life against a base and cowardly assailant.

"After Peter was turned into the street, the spectacle of his bleeding head attracted a mob of hackney coachmen, watermen, paviours, &c. to whom he told his lamentable case; and then, with a troop of boys at his heels, proceeded to a Surgeon's in St. James's Street, to have his wound examined; after which he slunk home

With his crack'd pate be-plaster'd and be-patch'd,

Like an old paper lantern.

J. WRIGHT,
Piccadilly, August 22, 1800."