1795
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Samuel Rogers Esq., Author of the Pleasures of Memory, on his ordering a short Great Coat called a Spenser.

Whitehall Evening Post (5 May 1795).

William Parsons


Three Spenserians signed "P., Monday Morning, March 9, 1795." Perhaps "P" stands for punster, "Spencer" being a word for overcoat. This ode borrows a conceit from Collins's Ode on the Poetical Character, suggesting that, like Florimel's girdle, the spencer can only be worn by a true poet. Samuel Rogers's popular Pleasures of Memory, which had appeared in 1792, is written in the manner of Goldsmith, nor is there any obvious connection between Rogers and Spenser. The first stanza alludes to two Spenser-imitators who had taken Memory as their theme: the bard of the Leasowes is William Shenstone; "Humber's Bard" is William Mason. Both had written Odes to Memory. The Whitehall Evening Post published some occasional verses by Rogers under the signature of the "Poet of Memory." Rogers was a close friend of the Della Cruscan poet William Parsons, who is probably the "P" in question — Rogers refers to him as "P" in his correspondence when describing their stay together at Brighton in 1797.

Compare Samuel Taylor Coleridge's epigram from the Watchman No. 4 (1796): "Said William [Pitt] to Edmund [Burke] I can't guess the reason | Why [Earl] Spencers abound in this bleak wintry season. | Quoth Edmund to William, I perceive you're no Solon— | Men may purchase a half-coat when they cannot a whole-one" The Watchman, ed. Lewis Patton (1970) 145.

Rogers was for many decades a focal point of literary society in London. His biographer, P. W. Clayden, wrote: "In the beautiful house overlooking the Green Park, small parties of men and women were always gathering to meet great authors, or artists, to talk of the last new book, to criticise a poem of Byrons, or Wordsworth's, or Southey's, or Campbell's, or Crabbe's, to roam at will all literature, sucking the sweets, as bees from flowers, and to enjoy the good stories of one, the epigrams of another, and the cynical wit of a third. It is curious to reflect that in the same house, and under the same host, this intercourse went on for nearly two generations, in spite of wars, and revolutions, and reforms, and the changes made by death. Men came and went, but the stream of happy, brilliant talk flowed on, and the troubles and triumphs of the outer world only cast their shadows or their sunshine on its waves" Rogers and his Contemporaries (1889) 1:295-96.



SAM ROGERS, having long possess'd
Old Edmund Spenser's witt,
With garment call'd a Spenser now
He doth himself befitt.

O precious Impe of Fame! Sam Rogers hight!
Who chauntest Memorie in dulcett straine,
Filling our eares and harts with such delight
Entraunc'd we live past pleasaunce o'er againe;
This amplest theme, by other's minc'd in vaine,
Was by the sacred sisters nyne with held
Immortal guerdon for thy browes to gaine.
Certes, old Humber's bard, and he who dwel'd
Whylome in daintie Leasowes, are by thee excell'd!

In amice boldlie then thyselfe aguize
Withouten bases, bearing aye the name
Of him who did on Mulla's bankes surprize
The listening worlde with Gloriana's fame!
Ne Lord, ne Ladie, christen'd hath the same,
He soares aloft who did so queintlie sing,
And Lords and Ladies crouchen low with shame
When they unequal competition bring
To Poets — greater farre than Kesar or than King!

And could thilk Kirtle none but Poets weare,
How few sich peerlesse garment mought invest,
Should it like Florimel's coye belt so rare
Start from unworthie sides, "ungirt, unblest!"
But Spenser's genius is by thee possess'd!
So, as in holie writt yrapt we read
The Prophet's robe did with Elisha rest,
Of cloth, or frieze, a Spenser made with speed,
And to Spenser's high renowne eftsoones succeed!

[unpaginated]