Dr. Hugh Downman

A. B. to Hugh Downman, 14 February 1793; in Polwhele, Traditions and Recollections (1826) 1:328-30.

London, Feb. 14, 1793.


As I was reading the paper a few evenings since at the Turk's-head Coffee-house, my attention was taken up by the conversation of two gentlemen in the adjoining box, upon the subject of literary publications. After mentioning the works of several authors, one of them said, "I see the Monthly Review gives a great character to some plays of Downman's of Exeter." "Does it?" said the other — "have you met with them yourself?" "No." "If you do, kick them out of your way, or ********** with them; for **** me, if ever the man wrote a line of poetry in his life. There are a parcel of mud-headed fellows down in that country, who write the **** things ever were read, which they have the impudence to call poems. There is a little spitting toad of a parson, and a blustering son of Mars, who write and review their own nonsense. Downman and several of them have got hold of Williams, and they are likewise intimate with that old Scotch son of a **** in Fleet-street; but their career is almost over. A new society of Reviewers will soon make their appearance, and will lay all their impositions before the publick. I intend giving them a lash or two on reviewing their own works. There is one devilish clever fellow, however, among them, who has more genius and understanding than all the rest put together — I mean Kendal. He is the son of an architect at Exeter. Take out him and Polwhele, and the others are fit to be ***** upon." — Here I was called out of the room, by a friend, on business. I do not recollect having ever seen either of these gentlemen before. One of them was a thin man, of a pale complexion, about forty. The other, who seemed to condemn every thing without mercy, was a set fat man [Polwhele's note: John Wolcot], of a dark complexion, who appeared to be five or six and fifty, or more. He swore most abominably. Understanding you to be a man of character in your profession, and having received some pleasure in reading your poem on Infancy, I think it proper to put you on your guard, though I can scarcely think that any author of reputation can condescend to such a pitiful meanness, as this gentleman asserted.

Yours, &c.

A. B.