1751
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

[Scribleriad: The Cave of Rumour.]

The Scribleriad: an Heroic Poem in Six Books.

Richard Owen Cambridge


Julius Nicholas Hook, "Eighteenth-Century Imitations of Spenser" (1941) sees an imitation of Spenser in the description of Rumour's grotto. Not seen.

Edward Gardner: "The reason why this exquisitely finished piece is not so generally known as the poems of Pope, or Hayley, proceeds from its being adapted only to the studious. A performance which does not contain frequent allusions to the popular topics, and to the reigning fashions of the day, or does not detail the history of the passions, has no prospect of becoming a favourite with the public" Miscellanies, in Prose and Verse (1798) 1:106.

Thomas Green: "Read Cambridge's Scribleriad. The mock heroic is well sustained throughout; but the Poem is deficient in broad humour: — it shakes no laughter out of one; and failing here, it is the 'attempt without the deed'" 20 November 1799; Extracts from the Diary of a Lover of Literature (1810) 174.

Francis Jeffrey: "The Scribleriad was read, at one time, by all the polite scholars in the country, but never found its way to popularity, and is now almost entirely forgotten. It is a continuation of the adventures of Scriblerus, in the form of a mock heroic poem, and is written throughout with great learning, elegance, and judgement. The subject, however, is by no means interesting; and the composition has a certain uniform mediocrity of merit, that is usually found to sink faster in the stream of time, than substances of a more unequal contexture" in Review of Richard Owen Cambridge, Works; Edinburgh Review 3 (October 1803) 57.

Samuel Austin Allibone: "Richard Owen Cambridge, 1717-1802, was entered a gentleman commoner of St. John's College, Oxford, in 1734; became a member of Lincoln's Inn, 1737, and in 1741 was married to Miss Trenchard. About 1750 he removed to Twickenham, where he resided in his beautiful villa for the remainder of his life. The Scribleriad; an heroic Poem, in six books, Lond., 1751, 4to. The parodies in the poem upon well-known passages of Virgil and other classical poets have been much admired. False taste and pretended science are freely exposed" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 329.

Richmond P. Bond: "Richard Owen Cambridge wrote a mock-heroic poem satirical of false science, The Scriberliad, 1751. He took his task seriously, in fact more seriously than the general public has since taken his poem, a weird, heavy, learned performance.... The hero of Cambridge's poem, Scriblerus, is adopted from Pope's Memoirs, so that the author is able to plunge into the middle of things in true epic fashion" English Burlesque Poetry (1932) 51-53.



Haply I strayed, where mids't the cavern'd cells
Of vocal cliffs, fantastic Echo dwells.
My way through serpent windings I pursu'd
While deep within the hollow'd rocks were hew'd.
The walls, inclining with an inward slope,
End in a narrow groove and join at top.
From side to side reverberate, they bear
The quick vibrations of the trembling air;
Hence weakest sound the vaulted cavern shake,
And whispers deaf'ning on the senses break.
The cave of Rumour. O'er a specious vent
With head reclin'd, her list'ning priestess bent.
(The Pythian thus imbib'd th' inspiring stream;
Thus gave Trophonius the prophetic dream.)
Swift from her seat, at my approach, she sprung,
And thus she spake with more than mortal tongue.
"Thrice welcome, wand'rer, to this happy land,
The work and glory of its sov'reign's hand.
Our queen, with kind compassion, all receives,
But the first honours to the stranger gives:
Herself a stranger once, tho' here she reigns:
A distant exile from her native plains.
Northward as far beyond the torrid zone,
Her husband held an indisputed throne.
Till restless faction, big with murd'rous strife,
Depriv'd th' unguarded monarch of his life,
Dread and despair the drooping queen affright:
Grief wastes the day, and ghastly dreams the night.
Before her eyes her husband stood confest;
Rear'd his pale face, and bar'd his bleeding breast.
At length advis'd her flight, but first reveal'd
Where all his choicest treasures lay conceal'd.
A chosen band the sacred stores convey
O'er the rude waves; a woman leads the way.
This isle she chose, her growing empire's seat;
Here she enjoys an undisturb'd retreat:
Here, where no ptichy keels pollute the sea,
Nor restless commerce ploughs the wat'ry way.
The priestess thus my longing bosom fir'd—
I left the tale unfinish'd and retir'd.
Soon I descry'd where, near a cypress wood,
A dome, upheld by stately columns, stood:
Where brass and variegated marbles join
Their mingled beams to grace the splendid shrine.
Here glitt'ring ores their native charms unfold;
Three yellow mundic shrines like burnish'd gold.
Sulphurs and marcasites their beams display,
And lucid crystals rival Titan's ray.
Rang'd as a cornice, various fossils stand,
The mimic sport of Nature's wanton hand.
Mitre and turban-forms the work adorn,
Triton's huge trump, and Ammon's boasted horn.
Here fibrous plants with many a branching vein,
And there the curious texture of the brain.
But how, O! how shall fancy's pow'r recall
The forms that breath'd along the pictur'd wall!
Where, in mosaic wrought, the shells surpass
The pencil'd canvass or the sculptur'd brass.
Dearest to Nature first are seen a race
Who bear the marks of her peculiar grace.
Here griffons, harpies, dragons mix in flight,
Here wild Chimera rears her triple height.
In glowing colours mighty Griffon stands,
And bold Briareus wields his hundred hands. . . .

[Book iii; Chalmers (1810) 18:261-62]