1781 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Melmoth

Mrs. Hayley to William Hayley, 18 February 1781; Memoir of William Hayley (1823) 1:229-30.



Indeed, at present it [writing verses for Lady Miller's urn at Bath-Easton] is a very elegant and a very agreeable amusement, as I said to Mr. Melmoth when I requested him to give me some verses for the vase; but he at first declined it, pleading himself too old, and said "apply to Mr. Hayley." Upon which I observed that no one could be too old to write upon "Content." But after many entreaties, he at last said he could not write; and if he could, he should be ashamed to have his verses appear in such company. I then began the defence of it, observing, that if you mix with the world you must associate with trifling company; and appealed to Dodsley's Collection, Foundling Hospital for Wit, &c. &c., where you see the most brilliant compositions by the first of writers, next to the most insignificant; and that Mr. Anstey, I found, had frequently honoured the vase. "Very possibly," (in a tone rather above the natural key), and "Mr. Anstey may hold my sentiments very cheap." "No!" I replied, "I dare say Mr. A. and every other person of feeling, has a great deference for your opinions." Then we got upon the institution, and the absurdity of so trifling and expensive an amusement, and the folly and inutility of it.