1789
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Elegy, written in Soho-Square, on seeing Mrs. Cornely's House in Ruins.

Morning Chronicle (? May 1789).

John Williams


Nine, later twelve, later thirty irregular Spenserians (ababcC) signed "Anthony Pasquin," the satirist, slanderer, and would-be rival of "Peter Pindar." Williams moralizes the ruins of a once-popular salon at a rate of one allegorical abstraction per line: "The rout is o'er, the revelry is done, | And irresistless Fate has clouded Folly's sun!" Theresa Cornelys (1723-1797) was a singer who in the 1760s hosted subscriptions balls and masquerades at her house in Soho-Square before her bankruptcy in 1772; she died in the Fleet prison. Williams, a literary adventurer who emigrated to America about 1797, likewise died in obscurity after a few brief years in the public eye. Not seen.

The poem was expanded and collected the following year for Pasquin's A Postscript to the New Bath Guide. Like the original New Bath Guide by Christopher Anstey, the Postscript consists of verse epistles, with this Elegy the sole venture into stanzas. While it lacks archaisms (save a stray "jocund"), the acerbic tone and allegorical characters probably indicate that it was intended as a Spenserian satire on corruption.

A much longer, thirty stanza version of the Elegy was later printed in the Monthly Mirror 4 (November 1797) 305-10, presented as "original poetry."

Samuel Austin Allibone: "John Williams, alias Anthony Pasquin, rendered memorable by William Gifford and Lord Erskine: adjudged by Lord Kenyon in 1797 'a common libeller'; stigmatized by Dr. Watt (Bibl. Brit.) as 'a literary character of the lowest description'; and more tersely than politely characterised by Lord Macaulay as 'a malignant and filthy baboon' (Edin. Rev., lxxiv. 250) and a 'polecat,' (ibid, lxxvi. 537); emigrated to the United States ('Alas! my country!') where he became editor of a Democratic newspaper, and where, having long survived his literary progeny, he died" Critical Dictionary of English Literature (1858-71; 1882) 3:2741-42.



Hither ye lowly, insolent, and vain,
Whose frantic deeds give Meditation food;
Ye varied tribes, who circle Pleasure's fane,
Ye jocund prodigals of social good:
The fallen fragments of this pile survey,
Then yield to MEMORY'S toils the residue of day.

Here civil Phrenzy was approv'd and known,
Here Fashion's tainted stream was taught to flow;
Here Reason left her elevated throne,
To scatter frolickly the seeds of Woe:
The cares of state, the props of general weal,
Sunk 'neath the rapid pressure of the dancer's heel.

Here BEAUTY rov'd triumphant in her charms,
To bear the diadem of Pride away;
Here gallant FRAUD assail'd her with his arms,
Waken'd her senses, and embrac'd his prey;
Touch'd by the barb of Grief, the victim fell,
While Desperation's minions rung her virgin knell!

Here many a heart, for godlike efforts brac'd,
Was riv'd and sully'd by Pollution's breath:
Their generous atoms were by Vice disgrac'd,
They found, alas! the truth of Life — in Death:
Thus hinds are led, when shut from Cynthia's ray,
By brilliant, faithless gleams, through Ruin's miry way.

Here calm PHILOSOPHY to maniacs bow'd,
Here RUMOUR'S progeny upheld her reign;
Here SCIENCE mingled with the babbling crowd,
Whom Rapture beckon'd 'mid Delusion's train;
And Bacchus' goblet with his gifts o'erflow'd,
'Till the nectareous juice bestain'd the chequer'd road.

Here oft' the spendthrift of unvalued hours
Survey'd, with apathy, the ills of Time,
Who, Heav'n-directed, circumscrib'd his powers,
And smote his being ere he knew his prime;
'Till all his honours flitted like a dream,
Melted by recreant GUILT'S intolerable beam.

Ah! whither are those myriads TASTE combin'd,
Who leagu'd the moral canons to destroy?
And where those lawless tumults of the mind,
That WIT call'd madness, and the madd'ning, joy?
All, all are vanish'd from th' astonish'd sight,
Sunk beneath HOPE'S bright smile, and shrouded by the night.

Those walls which echo'd with a lover's sighs,
And gave responsive many an ideot's tale;
Those gaudy scenes which dazzled magic eyes,
Those pregnant sounds which harmoniz'd the gale;
Are all dismember'd, driven, crush'd, and torn,
Like worthless, weightless chaff, o'er Hyrcan desarts borne.

Voluptuousness no more shall chasten Thought,
Phoebus no more shall on their vigils peep;
Who mis-beheld those ecstasies they sought,
Who violated Peace, who murder'd Sleep.
The route is o'er, the revelry is done,
And irresistless FATE has clouded FOLLY'S sun.

[Bath Chronicle (28 May 1789)]