1763 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Bp. Richard Hurd

Mellifont, "Classicus, a Literary Character" St. James's Chronicle (27 January 1763).



In Classicus we always see
An Author of Celebrity,
Master of Arts — of Learning too,
In Literature excell'd by few;
But wants one Art — the Art to hide
Th' Emotions of scholastic Pride,
Which make him with contemptuous Frown
On Half the letter'd World look down.

When Classicus, with all his Might,
Dogmatic as the Stagyrite,
In Conversation over-bears,
And puts on self-sufficient Airs,
His literary Lustre fades;
For Pride the brightest Parts degrades.

By frequent Disappointments sour'd,
And acrimonious Thoughts devour'd,
With much Acerbity he writes,
And in keen Satire most delights.
O'er all his Views of Life he throws
A Gloom, and dwells upon its Woes:
We therefore from his Works arise,
Too smartly tax'd for being wise;
For, while we to his Truths assent,
We pay — what most we want — Content.

On serious Themes he chiefly shines,
And happily his Words combines;
With proper Pomp his Periods roll,
And his Sense penetrates the Soul;
But on a hum'rous Subject — there
You see the Gambols of a Bear.

Sometimes, with Periods of a Mile,
He apes the Ciceronian Style;
But often fails by that to please,
For want of Tully's graceful Ease.

In general, his Diction's good,
And generally understood;
But sometimes five-feet Words offend
Ears, which to Harmony attend;
And Readers of the softer Sex,
With their enormous Length perplex.
For Instance now — Con-ca-te-na-tion
Gives many a pretty Mouth Vexation,
Which can, with Ease, a Chain express,
As well as any Part of Dress.

However, Classicus, with all
His Faults, is an Original;
And has, the wicked Wits must own,
In spite of all their Wagg'ry, shown,
In various Parts of Composition,
Genius, Taste, Fire, and Erudition.