1856 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Combe

Samuel Rogers, in Table Talk (1856) 112-14.



Combe, author of The Diaboliad, of Lord Lyttleton's Letters, and, more recently, of Dr. Syntax's Three Tours, was a most extraordinary person. During a very long life he had seen much of the world — its ups and downs. He was certainly well connected. Fitzpatrick recollected him at Douay College. He moved once in the highest society, and was very intimate with the Duke of Bedford. Twenty thousand pounds were unexpectedly bequeathed to him by an old gentleman, who said "he ought to have been Combe's father" (that is, he had been on the point of marrying Combe's mother), and who therefore left him that large sum. Combe contrived to get rid of the money in an incredibly short time.

Combe was staying at the house of Uvedale Price; and the Honourable Mr. St. John (author of Mary Queen of Scots) was there also. The latter, one morning, missed some bank-notes. Price, strongly suspecting who had taken them, mentioned the circumstance to Combe, and added, "Perhaps it would be as well if you cut short your visit here." — "Oh, certainly," replied Combe with the greatest coolness; "and allow me just to ask, whether henceforth we are able to be friends or acquaintances?" — "Acquaintances, if you please," said Price. — Long after this had happened, I was passing through Leicester Square with Price, when we met Combe: we both spoke to him; but from that hour he always avoided me.