1807
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

To Lancelot Langstaff, Esq.

Salmagundi; or, the Whim-Whams and Opinions of Launcelot Langstaff, Esq. No. 2 (4 February 1807) 35-37.

James Kirke Paulding


In the second number of Salmagundi, James Kirke Paulding — Washington Irving's old-fashioned, Francophobic "cousin Pindar Cockloft" — offers his services to the new publication: "Oh, 'twould do your heart good, Launce, to see my mill grind | Old stuff into verses, and poems refined;— | Dan Spenser, Dan Chaucer, those poets of old, | Though covered with dust, are yet sterling gold" pp. 36-37. The poem is introduced with a prose character by Irving: the antiquary "had taken taken a genuine Cockloft prejudice against every thing French ... he groaned at Ca Ira, and the Marseilles Hymn had much the same effect upon him, that sharpening a knife on a dry whetstone has upon some people" Works of Irving (1859) 24 — an allusion being to George Canning's notorious "Needy Knife-Grinder" parody of Robert Southey. Both essay and poem are modeled on similar things written half a century earlier by Robert Lloyd and George Colman the Elder — complaining about just the kind of verse which Cockloft offers to compose. The Spenserian-Miltonic odes that Colman and Lloyd had mocked in the 1750s had since been been revived by the Della Cruscan poets.

Monthly Register, Magazine, and Review [New York]: "The design of this publication is to ridicule the follies, and laugh at the prevailing absurdities, literary, political, and personal, of our good citizens, and their worthy wives, daughters, sisters, mothers, and grand-mothers. This design is executed with so much spirit, wit, genius, elegance, and humour, as to place the Salmagundi on the same height of excellence with the effusions of Rabelais, of Swift, of Addison, and Voltaire" 3 (August 1807) 148.

Richard Henry Dana: "Though its wit is sometimes forced, and its serious style sometimes false, upon looking it over we have found it full of entertainment, with an infinite variety of characters, and circumstances, and with that amiable, good-natured wit and pathos, which shows that the heart has not grown hard while making merry of the world" North American Review 9 (1819) 344.

European Magazine: "He [Irving] is conversant with ancient literature; but his writings are seldom or never interlarded with quotations from the dead languages; a practice which he avoids probably as savouring of affectation. He is deeply read in the sterling old English writers, and no doubt it is from that source he has derived much of the raciness of language and a vividness of ideas, which diffuse such a charm over his style" "Memoir of Irving" 87 (March 1825) 200.

William Cullen Bryant: "Salmagundi satirized the follies and ridiculed the humors of the time with great prodigality of wit and no less exuberance of good nature. In form it resembles the Tatler, and that numerous brood of periodical papers to which the success of the Tatler gave birth; but it is no sense an imitation. Its gayety is its own; its style of humor is not that of Addison nor of Goldsmith, though it has all the genial spirit of theirs; nor is it borrowed from any other writer. It is far more frolicsome and joyous, yet tempered by a native gracefulness. Salmagundi was manifestly written without the fear of criticism before the eyes of the authors, and to this sense of perfect freedom in the exercise of their genius is probably owing he charm and delight with which we still read it. Irving never seemed to place much value on the part he contributed to this work, yet I doubt whether he ever excelled some of those papers in Salmagundi which bear the most evident marks of his style; and Paulding, though he has since acquired a reputation by his other writings, can hardly be said to have written anything better than the best of those which are ascribed to his pen" "Washington Irving" (1860) in Prose Works (1884) 1:341.

W. Davenport Adams: "James Kirk Paulding, an American author (b. 1779, d. 1860), was associated with Washington Irving in Salmagundi (1809), and wrote, among other works, The Lay of a Scotch Fiddle (1813), The Diverting History of John Bull and Brother Jonathan (1816), Letters from the South (1817), A Sketch of Old England (1822), and The Dutchman's Fireside (1831). A Life, by his son, was published in 1867, when his Select Works appeared" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 461.

Charles F. Richardson: "The little paper called Salmagundi, written by Washington Irving and James Kirke Paulding, was simply Addison's great ghost, transferred to New York and transformed into a censor of Knickerbocker society. Its Launcelot Langstaff, William Wizard, and Anthony Evergreen, its essays on men and things of the day, and its occasional sharp thrusts of wit, made their shivery sensations in provincial New York, and were duly forgotten" American Literature 1607-1885 (1887) 1:264.



DEAR LAUNCE,

As I find you have taken the quill,
To put our gay town, and its fair under drill,
I offer my hopes for success to your cause,
And sent you unvarnish'd my mite of applause.

Ah, Launce, this poor town has been woefully fashed;
Has long been be-frenchman'd, be-cockney'd, be-trashed;
And our ladies be-devil'd, bewilder'd astray,
From the rules of their grandames have wander'd away.
No longer that modest demeanor we meet,
Which whilom the eyes of our fathers did greet;
No longer be-mobbled, be-ruffled, be-quill'd,
Be-powder'd, be-hooded, be-patch'd and be-frill'd;—
No longer our fair ones their grograms display,
And stiff in brocade, strut "like castles" away.

Oh, how fondly my soul forms departed has traced,
When our ladies in stays, and in boddice well laced,
When bishop'd, and cushion'd, and hoop'd to the chin,
Well callash'd without, and well bolster'd within;
All eased in their buckrams, from crown down to tail,
Like O'Brallagan's mistress, were shaped like a pail.

Well — peace to those fashions — the joy of our eyes—
"Tempora mutantur," — new follies will rise;
Yet, "like joys that are past," they still crowd on the mind,
In moments of thought, as the soul looks behind.

Sweet days of our boyhood, gone by, my dear Launce,
Like the shadows of night, or the forms in a trance:
Yet oft we retrace those bright visions again,
"Nos mutamur," tis true — but those visions remain.
I recal with delight, how my bosom would creep;
When some delicate foot from its chamber would peep,
And when I a neat stocking'd ankle could spy,
—By the sages of old, I was rapt to the sky!
All then was retiring — was modest — discreet;—
The beauties, all shrouded, were left to conceit;
To the visions which fancy would form in her eye,
Of graces that snug in soft ambush would lie.
And the heart, like the poets, in thought would pursue
The elysium of bliss, which was veil'd from its view.

We are old fashion'd fellows, our nieces all say:
Old fashion'd, indeed, coz — and swear it they may—
For I freely confess that it yields me no pride,
To see them all blaze what their mothers would hide;
To see them, all shiv'ring, some cold winter's day,
So lavish their beauties and graces display,
And give to each foppling that offers his hand,
Like Moses from Pisgah — a peep at the land.

But a truce with complaining: — the object in view,
Is to offer my help in the work you pursue;
And as your effusions and labors sublime,
May need, now and then, a few touches of rhyme,
I humbly solicit, as cousin and friend,
A quiddity, quirk, or remonstrance to send:
Or should you a Laureat want in your plan,
By the muff of my grandmother, I am your man!

You must know I have got a poetical mill,
Which with odd lines, and couplets, and triplets I fill;
And a poem I grind, as from rags white and blue
The paper mill yields you a sheet fair and new.
I can grind down an ode, or an epic that's long,
Into sonnet, acrostic, conundrum or song:
As to dull Hudibrastic, so boasted of late,
The doggrel discharge of some muddle brain'd pate,
I can grind it by wholesale—and give it its point,
With billingsgate dish'd up in rhymes out of joint.

I have read all the poets—and got them by heart,
Can slit them, and twist them, and take them apart;
Can cook up an ode out of patches and shreds,
To muddle my readers, and bother their heads.
Old Homer, and Virgil, and Ovid I scan,
Anacreon, and Sappho, (who changed to a swan;)
Iambicks and sapphicks I grind at my will,
And with ditties of love every noddle can fill.

Oh, 'twould do your heart good, Launce, to see my mill grind
Old stuff into verses, and poems refined;—
Dan Spencer, Dan Chaucer, those poets of old,
Though cover'd with dust, are yet true sterling gold;
I can grind off their tarnish, and bring them to view,
New model'd, new mill'd, and improved in their hue.

But I promise no more — only give me the place,
And I warrant I'll fill it with credit and grace;
By the living! I'll figure and cut you a dash
—As bold as Will Wizard, or 'SBIDLIKENS-FLASH!

PINDAR COCKLOFT.

[pp. 35-37]