1850 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. John Wolcot

John Britton, in Autobiography (1850) 1:218n.



The Poems of this once noted and powerful satirist were extensively read at the end of the last century. They were, however, very dear to the purchaser, being printed in thin quarto pamphlets at 2s. 6d. each, and containing only a very small portion of letter-press. His first attacks, in 1782, were on the Royal Academicians, some of whom he assailed with bitter satire, sarcasm, and irony. King George the Third was next vituperated, in a poem called The Lousiad, descriptive of the circumstance of an animal, unnameable to "ears polite," being seen on the plate of the monarch at a royal dinner. For some years the author continued to publish his philippics against artists, royal and noble personages, and also on some authors; one of whom, Wm. Gifford, who had written the Baviad and Maeviad, a poem, in which many of the authors of the time were severely castigated, also wielded his galled pen against the morals and poetry of Dr. Wolcot. This castigation was so stringent and caustic that the Doctor was provoked to seek his lampooner in the shop of Mr. Wright, a political publisher, of Piccadilly. Thither Peter repaired, with a stout cudgel in hand, determined to inflict a summary and severe chastisement on his literary opponent. Gifford was a small and weak person; Wolcot was large, and strengthened by passion, but he was a coward, and after a short person struggle was turned into the street by two or three persons, then in the shop. Gifford afterwards wrote and printed an Epistle to Peter Pindar, with an Introduction and Postscript, 1800, in which he dealt out a most virulent and unqualified tirade upon the Doctor. It acquired great popularity, and in a few weeks attained a third edition.