1765 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Samuel Johnson

Anonymous, "Candour, Pens, Ink, and Paper. A Fable" St. James's Chronicle (5 December 1765).



SIR,
The Editor of the Gentleman's Magazine, published this Morning, having exhibited a most egregious Instance of his pretended Candour, in his Remarks on Mr. Kenrick's Review of Dr. Johnson's Shakespeare; you will please to present him and the Publick with the following Verses on the Occasion.
December 2, 1765.

When Ghosts appear, at Dead of Night,
Lo! Candour, cloathed all in White,
Stalk'd up to my 'Scrutore:
The Papers shrunk beneath her Hand;
The Ink turn'd pale within the Stand,
Though black as Jet before.

The trembling Goose-quills, in a Fright,
(Their Feathers standing bolt upright)
Like Hamlet, in the Play,
Cry'd "Art thou — speak — a Sp'rit of Health,
Or Goblin damn'd, that com'st by Stealth?
And — what hast thou to say?"

"I come, said she, from St. John's Gate,
And with me bring the Book of Fate,
The Ge'mman's Magazine;
Here mighty Johnson's Name behold,
In Fame's bright List is seen.

"Repeatedly engross'd you see
The same, by ***********, L.L.D.
At Lambeth dubb'd a Doctor!
He, who so learned in the Laws!
Had practis'd, had he found a Cause,
A Client, or a Proctor!

"How dare ye then, ye Miscreants base!
This Register of theirs deface,
In Manner so uncivil?
And thou, vile Instrument of Wit,
Whose Ears are cropt and Nose is slit,
Thou'rt mark'd out for the Devil.

"A carping, curst, un-candid Crew!
Your Masters' full as bad as you,
With Envy pufft, and Pride!"—
Provok'd at this outrageous Fib,
The Pen turn'd short upon its Nib,
And, bristling up, reply'd.

"Sure, Madam, you your Name forget,
Or else have ta'en your Evening's Whet!
Can Candour be so rude?
Were not he snug in Bed, though I
Have hardly yet had Time to dry,
We'd maul you for a Prude.

"Sam. Johnson! Madam, don't you know
That he was peach'd some Time ago;
Full fifteen Years and more?
When he and Lauder link'd together,
Robb'd Milton of the Cap and Feather,
We forc'd them to restore.

"When Shakespeare was assassinated,
You frankly vow'd, such Crimes you hated,
And wish'd th' Assassin noos'd:
And yet no sooner is he taken,
Then you, to save the Culprit's Bacon,
Complain he's hardly us'd.

"At Tyburn, thus with Hearts so tender,
Ev'n when the oldest, worst Offender,
The Mob hath just harangu'd;
The Wenches sniveling cry, 'in Truth,
The Prisoner was a hopeful Youth,
'Tis Pity that he's hang'd.'

"But know, that Shakespeare, soon or late,
Shall fully be aveng'd by Fate,
Without your gracious Leave;
Nor should e'en Garrick, though in Worth,
His Representative on Earth,
Get Johnson a Reprieve."