1763 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Thomas Newcomb

Anonymous, "On a Bookseller who refused to print a Poem, because the Subject was too moral and religious" St. James's Chronicle (9 April 1763).



Says D[odsley] to Newcomb your Piece I have read;
But how came the Fancy and Whim in your Head,
To dream or imagine your Poem should hit
The Taste of the Town without Scandal or Wit?
Had the Sheets which you sent been a little prophane,
They had much better pleas'd a gay Murray and Vane;
The Vestals of Drury, and Nymphs of Whitehall,
Would have fled to my Shop, and have purchas'd them all.
If the News of a Hell to St. James's you carry,
One Lady will faint, and another miscarry.
One Half would laugh out, and the other would stare,
If they view in your Volume a Creed or a Pray'r.
You would throw the whole Circle at Cards into Fits,
Who would swear you were crazy and out of your Wits;
Lords, Viscounts, and Dukes, would your Maggots arraign,
And vote you a little disturb'd in your Brain.

Had your Poem been garnish'd with modish Chit-Chat,
How Fanny said this, and how Chloe said that;
Lac'd with Baudry and Smut, had you publish'd a Play,
I could sell of two Thousand, at least, the first Day.
By the Belles of Great Britain, and Madams of France,
A Bible's less priz'd than a Play or Romance.
If e'er you expect that your Poems should hit,
Pray, less of your Morals, and more of your Wit.
Some merry Lampoons, or some frolicksome Airs,
But none of your Collects, your Anthems, and Prayers:
For whate'er you may fancy, you live in an Age
When the Church does not pay half so well as the Stage.

On my Shelves 'tis gay Humour and Genius that shines,
I ne'er got a Groat by your solemn Divines;
Their Sermons how barren, their Credit how small!
One St. John is found much too hard for them all!
A Text from their Pulpit may gracefully drop,
Which would sound very odd in a Bookseller's Shop.

Dear Doctor, tho' skill'd both in Hebrew and Greek,
You had much better preach for Five Shillings a Week,
Than publish such Verse — for, whatever is in't,
If serious, it ne'er pays for Paper and Print.
Tho' your Learning is great, and your Knowledge profound,
Morality sells but at Three-pence a Pound.
With your Grocer then treat, he will give you the Price
Of your Poem, to wrap up his Ginger and Rice;
Or if your write on, I advise you to go,
Ere your Madness increases, and talk with Monroe.