1814 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Dennis

Charles Lamb, in "On the Melancholy of Tailors" The Champion (4 December 1814); Works of Charles Lamb, ed. Lucas (1903-05) 1:175.



In Dr. Norris's famous narrative of the frenzy of Mr. John Dennis [by Pope], the patient, being questioned as to the occasion of the swelling in his legs, replies that it came "by criticism;" to which the learned doctor seeming to demur, as to a distemper which he had never read of, Dennis (who appears not to have been mad upon all subjects) rejoins with some wrath, that it was no distemper, but a noble art! that he had sat fourteen hours a day at it: and that the other was a pretty doctor not to know that there was a communication between the brain and the legs. When we consider that this sitting for fourteen hours continuously, which the critic probably practised only while he was writing his "remarks," is no more than what the tailor, in the ordinary pursuance of his art, submits to daily (Sundays excepted) throughout the year, shall we wonder to find the brain affected, and in a manner over-clouded, from the indissoluble sympathy between the noble and less noble parts of the body, which Dennis hints at?