1737 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Lyttelton

X., "A Familiar Epistle to the no less Politick than Witty, G—e L—tl—n, Esq." Daily Gazetteer (28 October 1737).



While You, Sir, sustain all the wonderful Cares
Of Foreign Transactions, Domestick Affairs,
When with Patriot Schemes Britain's State to amend,
With Ballads adorn, and with Journals defend;
'Gainst the Good of Nation a Crime 'twould appear,
To desire you'd attend to a long Gazetteer;
Yet to read this Epistle familiarly deign,
—Then return to your Journals and Ballads again—

O Youth, from whom Wit and such Humour does flow,
What Heart with a Patriot Warmth must not glow,
When with Zeal in your Head, and with Pen in your Hand,
In your Country's Defence to make a bold Stand,
Thus profoundly you argue? — "In any one Age,
Did Ministers ever such Blockheads engage,
To defend all their Measures, of their Conducts to write?—
—Such Blockheads, too dull Common Sense to indite.—
Hence the Patriot's Sense and great Wisdom is shown;
For no Sense or Wit is now wrote, — but our own.
And our own well the Want of all other supplies,
For in Prose we are merry, in Ryme we are wise.
In Epigrams, Treatises, Songs, and Essays,
How keen is our Satire, how smart are our Lays?
How plain is our Meaning? Yet how safely we cloak
In Tales, Stories and Fables, the palpable Joke,
While our Jests so sever the dull Ministry traces?
—Our Jests we will have, — but then they have the Places.—
—Zoons! — O Times! — O Manners! — How comes it about,
Such Fools are still in, and we Wits are still out?"

Prithee hark, G—ge and learn; — for although we admit
All the Flowers of your Rhetorick, all your Trophies of Wit,
Shou'd we own the Court Writers, as boldly you vapour,
Are as dull Set of Rogues as e'er set Pen to Paper,
What then my young Patriot? What's prov'd my Logician?
—That a Rymer and Wit may be no Politician.—
For YOU who in Journals are so quaint and so witty,
Are, you know, a dull Dolt in Debate at Committee;
And when you wou'd thunder a Speech with Eclat,
For your Sense and your Wit must still peep in your Hat:
Till like some dull Blockhead at Eton we find you,
Who blundering on, want a Prompter behind you.

Hence, G—e, 'tis a Proof, and a Proof past debate,
That a Journalist Wit mayn't be fit for the State:
But none as a Consequence, sure will admit,
Vice Versa, a Statesman can ne'er prove a Wit:
For let Walpole but speak, and his Wit is confest:
After all your smart Jesting, — Yourselves prove the Jest:
So strong his Replies are; and his Reasons so clear,
That ye lose in one Hour, the whole Wit of a Year.

O ye Patriots of Humour and Wit, ne'er give o'er,
But of Dullness in Courtiers still write more and more,
And still 'gainst the Ministry quaintly laugh on,
For such kind, merry Foes, they'll ne'er have when you're gone;
Who show by their Jokes for the State, how they're fitted,
And demonstrate their Wit, by their being outwitted.