1779 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Robert Potter

Susan Burney to Frances Burney, 1 August 1779; The Early Diary of Frances Burney (1889) 2:257-58.



Dr. Johnson interrupted Mrs. Thrale by telling my father Mrs. Thrale had desired Mr. Potter to translate some verses for him, which he, (Dr. J.) had before undertaken to do. "How so?" said my father. "Why Mr. Potter?" "Nay, Sir, I don't know. It was Mrs. Thrale's fancy." Mrs. Thrale said she would go and fetch them....

Then came back Mrs. Thrale, with the verses, which she had been copying out. I rose, and took a seat next Miss Thrale. However, she made me return to that next Dr. Johnson, that "he might hear what I had to say." "But, if I have nothing to say, Ma'am?" said I. — "Oh, never fear," said she, laughing, "I'll warrant you'll find something to talk about." The verses were then given to my father. After he had read the first stanza, "Why, these are none of Potter's!" said he, "these are worse than Potter. They beat him at his own weapons." Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Thrale laugh'd very much, and the verses proved to be the former's, and were composed, in a comical humour, the evening before, in derision of Potter. They are admirable, you will see them at Streatham, and perhaps procure a copy, which my father could not do. Dr. Johnson is afraid of having them spread about as some other verses were he wrote in the same way to redicule poor Dr. Percy; but Mrs. Thrale advised my father to make you attack Dr. Johnson about them, "for she can do what she pleases with him."