1788 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Smith of Covent Garden

Francis Godolphin Waldron?; "Mr. Smith" Gentleman's Magazine 58 (September 1788) 769-70.



May 20.

Mr. Urban,

If the following anecdotes are not of too light a nature for the Gentleman's Magazine, they are at your service.

When Mr. Smith, the actor, who has very lately quitted the stage, was at Eton school, Dr. Sumner was master thereof, and a severe disciplinarian. — At that period a silly, illiterate servant belonging to the college, called Taffy Woodward, used, when any stranger came to see the library, previous to the entrance of the librarian, to arrogate the explanation of the curiosities therein, saying, "This is Kikero, the poet; this is Novid, the Orator; but who THIS is, neither I, or the Fellows, nor Provost, can tell." This man being dead, his corpse lay for some time for the public view of the scholars, &c. when young Smith wrote upon the coffin-lid,

Here lies the remains of Taffy Woodward!
But whether his soul's in heaven or hell,
Neither I, nor the Fellows, nor Provost, can tell.

For which parody on Taffy's customary phrase, the embryo wit was severely flogged.

At another time Smith and other Etonians were at play, when the Dr. being observed approaching, they all dispersed, crying, "Away, away! here's Sumner!" The Doctor was within hearing, and reached the spot time enough to retain young Smith with a "Harkye, Sir! is that a proper mode of mentioning me? here's Sumner! When you speak of me, Sir, it will become you to say Doctor Sumner." Smith submissively assured him, that there was not the most distant idea of inattention or disrespect; "for Sir," added he, "when the Romans saw Caesar approaching, they did not say, here comes IMPERATOR CAESAR, but CAESAR comes." He was, maugre the felicity of his reply, consigned to the lash!

The above was related by Mr. Smith very recently to a room full of company, among whom was your constant reader,

F. W.