1750 ca. ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Alexander Oldys

William Oldys, "Anecdote of Alexander Oldys" Gentleman's Magazine 54 (March 1784) 161.



MR. URBAN,

As your correspondent E. in your Magazine for January, p. 32, thinks some information concerning the family of William Oldys would be acceptable to your readers, I therefore inform them, that Birch MS. No. 4240. contains an account of that family, drawn up by W. Oldys himself. It is too long for your limits, and will not bear an abridgement: I shall therefore, for the present, refer them to the MS. itself in the British Museum. In the last leaf I find this anagram:

W. O.
In word and WILL I AM a friend to you,
And one friend OLD IS worth an hundred new.

Anecdote of Alexander Oldys, called The Little Poet, and sometimes The English Scarron, and the noted Bully Dawson, or Dorson (as Ned Ward, author of "the London Spy," told it me).

"Ned Ward had printed the heroic life of this valiant and renowned captain, but the writing of it was fathered in common conversation upon little Oldys, the initial letters of his name being prefixed to it, and a commendatory poem on his gigantic soul in its dwarfish receptacle (his many brave-fought duels proving his high stoutness in his low stature). The bully meets him, and expostulates the matter in the warmest terms at swords length, while the whole crowd of people gathered about Salisbury court and Fleet-street looked every minute when that hector would chop his little antagonist even smaller than he was, for degrading his honour, deriding his conduct, and ascribing many shifting tricks to him, but just as it was expected the little poet would fall a sacrifice to his wrath, he had a lucky thought that saved him; for lifting up his hands, he cried to the mob, 'O judge me, countrymen! whether my honour is not more degraded, and my conduct more ridiculed, in being reputed the author of such a paltry performance, than his in being made the subject of it?' The humour so took the mob, that resolving to rescue his lordship, they drove the bully away, and left him conqueror of the field."

S. A.