1847 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Richard Cumberland

Horace Smith, in "A Graybeard's Gossip about his Literary Acquaintance" New Monthly Magazine 79 (March 1847) 41-43.



Of his occasional happiness in malicious pleasantry, I remember another instance. While residing at Ramsgate, he had two sister neighbours, whose censorious tongues had rendered them rather unpopular. At some public meeting, he happened to be seated next to one of them, and, on her rising to depart, offered to put on her shawl, observing, at the same time, for he rarely lost an opportunity of paying a compliment, that it was almost a sin to hide such shoulders.

"Oh, said the lady, with a smirk, "my sister and I, you know, are famous for the beauty of our backs."

"Ha! that is the reason, I suppose, why your friends are always so glad to see them," sneered the dramatist, as soon as the party was out of earshot"....

Of his occasional sarcasms, proof has been afforded in the present paper, but as his blandness and adulation were rather the result of courtly and diplomatic habits than of any intentional hypocrisy, so do I firmly believe that his bitterness — I would rather call it his malicious pleasantry — was indulged rather to point a jest than to vent any splenetic feeling; an offence only amounting to the old charge against men of with, that they are apt to love their joke better than their friend. That he was capable of a sincere, firm, and disinterested attachment, I myself can testify; and for my own part, whether I contemplate Richard Cumberland as a scholar and an eminent man of letters, as a gentleman, and as a friend whose good offices were unremitted from the time of our first acquaintance until the day of his death, I can never recall his name without a feeling of almost filial regard and reverence.