1818
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

[Verses by Odoherty.]

Blackwood's Magazine 3 (April 1818) 54.

Thomas Hamilton


The "Spenserian rhymer" mentioned in thirteen doggerel stanzas by "Ensign Odoherty" on taste and Bohemian life in Edinburgh is doubtless Lord Byron. Although this piece was reprinted as by William Maginn, Alan Lang Stout has since ascribed it to Thomas Hamilton (1789-1842), author of Cyril Thornton (1827). There is also an allusion to Spenser's catalogues of rivers in William Maginn's "The King's Landing in Ireland" (1821). See Stout, "Blunders about Blackwood" Notes and Queries 202 (June 1957) 263. Not seen.

John Wilson: "ODOHERTY. Byron seldom or never made verses equal, qua verses, to the like of these. When he did, it was by a strict imitation of something his ear had caught in the versification of some preceding poet. As for the Spenserian, you well know that whenever his sweep of stanza did not vividly recall Thomson or old Edmund himself, the stanza was execrably hard, husky, and unswallowable" Blackwood's Magazine (June 1824) in Noctes Ambrosianae, ed. Mackenzie (1854) 1:442.

Robert Shelton Mackenzie: "Ensign and Adjutant Morgan Odoherty was the well-known Dr. William Maginn, who contributed largely to Blackwood, from 1818 to 1830, and from that time to his death, in 1842, was the leading contributor to Fraser's Magazine. He was introduced to the Tent by anticipation, as he did not visit Scotland until June, 1821. Maginn was one of the most versatile and fertile writers of modern times" Noctes Ambrosianae, ed. Mackenzie (1854) 1:3n.

Mary Wilson Gordon: "The very titles of the serial articles indicated uncommon fertility of invention, and a terrible faculty for calling names. There were articles on 'The Cockney School of Poetry,' on 'The Pluckless School of Politics,' on 'The Gourmandizing School of Eloquence.' There were letters to literary characters by Timothy Tickler, by Frederick Baron von Lauerwinkel, by Dr. Olinthus Petre, T. C. D., by Ensign O'Doherty, by Mordecai Mullion, and a host of others too numerous to mention. The variety and mystification thus produced undoubtedly gave great additional zest to the writing; and this apparently multitudinous host of contributors danced about the victims of their satire with a vivacity and gleefulness which the public could not but relish even when it condemned" Christopher North (1862; 1894) 188-89.

W. Davenport Adams: "William Maginn, LL.D., journalist and miscellaneous writer (b. 1794, d. 1842), wrote Shakepeare Papers, Homeric Ballads, and numerous contributions to Blackwood's Magazine, The Representative, John Bull, The Standard, and Fraser's Magazine" Dictionary of English Literature (1878) 370.

Oliver Elton: "One of the most lively and incessant of the free-lances in this age, a man of genuine but squandered with and scholarship, was William Maginn (1793-1842), who is now remembered less for anything he achieved than as the sitter for Thackeray's portrait of Captain Shandon. Maginn was for many years, from 1819 to about 1830, one of the lights of Blackwood's; he wrote sprightly verse and foaming prose in the Noctes Ambrosianae; he created a drunken, bragging, facetious rhyming personage, Ensign Odoherty, on whom he fathered memoirs, maxims, anecdotes, and verses; mostly in a transient and crackling style of humour. He wrote parodies of Coleridge and a review of Adonais, each more disgusting than the other. He fired off all manner of burlesques, pasquinades, and indescribable tipsy sallies. He turned off Latin and Greek verse, chiefly by way of translation, with surprising facility, often vulgarising the originals. He produced a number of 'Homeric Ballads,' translation from the Greek in ballad rhyme, which are hard to bear although Matthew Arnold praised them, and a few verses of which show something of a poet spoilt" Survey of English Literature 1780-1830 (1912) 1:415.



Life's a dull dusty desert, waste and drear,
With now and then an oasis between,
Where palm-trees rise, and fountains gushing clear
Burst neath the shelter of that leafy screen;
Haste not your parting steps, when such appear,
Repose, ye weary travellers, on the green.
Horace and Milton, Dante, Burns and Schiller,
Dined at a tavern — then they had "the siller."

And ne'er did poet, epical or tragical,
At Florence, London, Weimar, Rome, Maybole,
See time's dark lanthern glow with hues more magical
Than I have witnessed in the Coffin-hole.
Praise of antiquity a bam and fudge I call,
Ne'er past the present let my wishes roll;
A fig for all comparing, croaking grumblers,
Hear me, dear dimpling Billy, bring the tumblers.

Let blank verse hero, or Spenserian rhymer,
Treat Donna Musa with chateau-margout,
Chateau-la-filte, Johannisberg, Hocheimer,
In tall outlandish glasses, green and blue,
Thanks to my stars, myself, a doggrel-chimer,
Have nothing with such costly tastes to do;
My muse is always kindest when I court her
O'er whisky-punch, gin-twist, strong beer, and porter....

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