1815 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. John Wolcot

William Henry Ireland, in Scribbleomania (1815) 91-95 & n.



Years back, in his zenith, arch Walcot or Pindar
Scorch'd feelings of Majesty up to a cinder;
When handling the topic of creeper on plate,
That headlong was hurl'd from the cook's curly pate.
Nor did he with feelings of Monarch less grapple,
On the subject of paste, when enclosing an apple.
Great Banks, dubb'd Sir Joseph, alike felt his satire,
Who, prating of fleas, knew no jot of the matter:
For, after conjectures and all that was said,
Fleas boil'd prov'd no lobsters, not changing to red.
To these add whole volumes to purge wits turn'd sad;
Nor least worthy praise the renown'd Rolliad:
All proving, at one time, that Walcot was fit
To wield with effect the keen weapon of wit.
But further to show that the Muses combin'd
To nurture each gem in our Doctor's warm mind,
Leave satire, and fly on the wings of the dove,
You'll find him as well vers'd in feeling and love.
In fine, he in gall could the iron point wreak,
With oil'd silver nib moisten Sympathy's cheek;
While in honey of Hybla he lav'd golden pen,
To teach what love should be with children of men.
If wise, he from Pegasus then had dismounted,
Nor deeds of the Cornish-man ever recounted:
But such is, alas! the known frailty of man,
He pursues still the race, tho' his vigour is wan.
So all closing flights to his mind best appear,
Tho' the public exclaims — What a falling off here!
Great Pindar, I grant all the praises thy due;
But henceforth forget Love and Poetry too:
For age long has clos'd on thee Venus's bowers,
And brandy in vain wou'd awake Poet's powers.
On those laurels acquir'd in thy zenith now rest,
Till the fever of life is extinct in thy breast.
I love thee, O Walcot! and thus close my metre—
If parted on earth, may we meet above — Peter.

The satirical effusions of Doctor Walcot have been so long before the public, and so universally read, that it would be needless to descant upon their sterling merits, which are universally acknowledged. That some flights are superior to others must be allowed; yet the tout en semble prove the writer to have possessed a fund of humour, and the most felicitous and flowing style of versification. He that wields the satiric pen, however, sometimes plays with edge tools: an assertion which was rendered conspicuous some few years back in a bookseller's shop in Piccadilly, when a dreadful rencontre took place between the Doctor and Mr. Gifford, of equal literary lashing celebrity; upon which occasion, the argumentum baculinum was manfully resorted to, and as vigorously repelled. The countenances of our satiric combatants were doubtless of no pleasant cast upon this occasion; wherefore I shall annex an anecdote respecting Doctor Warburton, which may, perhaps, tend to give the reader some faint idea of the looks of Messrs. Walcot and Gifford, upon the meeting in question. Doctor Warburton being one day in conversation with his bookseller, Churchill happened to come into the shop, and silently observed the right reverend prelate. When he departed, Churchill asked what was the name of the clergyman who had just gone out; and on being told that he was Doctor Warburton, the bishop of Gloucester! Why, he looks as if he would say to the Apostle Paul if he should meet him, D—n you, hold my horse!!!