1782
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

An Archaeological Epistle.

An Archaeological Epistle to the Reverend and Worshipful Jeremiah Milles, D.D. Dean of Exeter, President of the Society of Antiquaries, and Editor of a superb Edition of the Poems of Thomas Rowley, Priest. To which is annexed a Glossary, extracted from that of the learned Dean.

Rev. William Mason


21 irregular Spenserians (ababcC), an anonymously-published attack on Jeremiah Milles (1714-84), Dean of Exeter, president of the Society of Antiquaries, and believer in the antiquity of Chatterton's Rowley forgeries. Milles "o'er the realms of sense | Hast spread that murky antiquarian cloud, | Which blots out truth, eclipses evidence, | And taste and judgement veils in sable shroud" p. 16. The poem itself is titled "Epistelle to Doctoure Mylles."

The first part, written in what Mason calls the "archaeological" manner, ironically snubs Warton, Percy, and Tyrwhitt for rejecting the Chatterton forgeries, lauds Mason and Gray for admiring them, and gently criticizes Walpole ("Warpool") for neglecting them. The remainder, reverting to English diction, attacks Milles (an Oxford man) and the ministry for their venality, Tory politics, and conduct of the American war. William Markham (1719-1807) was archbishop of York and a privy councilor. The pseudo-archaisms are copiously glossed at the foot of the pages.

Preface: "let not any rash reader presume to say, that I imitate Rowley; for then another will as peremptorily answer, that I imitate Chatterton. And if, on the contrary, he asserts that I emulate Chatterton, the learned personage, whom I address, will be in gratitude bound to prove, that I emulate Rowley; which I own, indeed, I should like best, because then I should run a fair chance of excelling Homer, Theocritus, and the best poets of antiquity. But, be this as it may, I only say of myself simply and modestly, that I write Archaelogically; and, as a most profound etymologist has lately proved that a writer must know his own meaning (a comfortable truth to know, in an age, in which so many authors write without any meaning) resting on his great authority, and taking for granted that I do know my own meaning, I profess only to write in common plain English first, and afterwards to unspell it, and unanglicize it, by means of that elaborate glossary, which Dr. Milles has fabricated for the use of the readers of my original. . ." pp. 4-5.

St. James's Chronicle: "The whole is a happy Piece of of Ridicule, and can only be equalled by the Heroic Epistle to Sir William Chambers, which indeed we suspect to have been an Offspring of the same Muse" (2 April 1782).

Samuel Badcock: "The Epistelle to Doctoure Milles, (as the second title gives it) is a most successful imitation of Chatterton's mode of disguising modern poetry, to make it bear the appearance of antiquity; and if its merit is to be estimated in proportion to the number of obsolete terms and quaint phrases which may be found in it, the boy of Bristol is, we think, fairly foiled on his own ground, and with his own weapons too!. . . From the spirit and style of this little piece we should be inclined to attribute it to the author of the Heroic Epistle to Sir William Chambers. It discovers the same freedom in political principles; the same acute and spirited irony; and may in some respects vie with that admired poem in pointedness of expression, and facility of numbers" Monthly Review 66 (1782) 296, 298.

Critical Review: "What have we here? Herod our-heroded! It is very true: Chatterton has no chance with this archaelogical hero; the words are longer, have more consonants, and the old words are more numerous in the 'modern ruin' than in any of the lucubrations of the celebrated Rowley" 54 (July 1782) 19.

Gentleman's Magazine: "The writer of this ... saw this, and some other of the satirical productions of Mr. Mason, in the progress of composition, and has copies of them all presented to him by their author ... Why no name was affixed the writer of this does not at this time recollect; but believes it was done merely for the pleasure of misleading the publick, and enjoying their contrariety of sentiment as to the author of it.... It is very remarkable that the publick in general should so long remain ignorant of the author of these works, while the author himself at the time took little pains to conceal it; for more than twenty of his friends, of whom the writer of this was one, were well acquainted with it, on whom no secrecy was imposed, and who made no scruple of conversing on the subject without reserve, and of whom several are still living" 86 (June 1816) 489.

Richard Polwhele: "It is Chatterton's misfortune to be convicted of forgery, not only by himself, but by his friends.... the Archaeological Epistle was almost a death blow to the Dean" Biographical Sketches in Cornwall (1831) 2:10-11.

John Mitford: "Mason was much governed in his opinions and judgments by his strong political feelings. He hated a Tory, and this must have been the chief cause of his dislike of his Diocesan, which he too openly showed, both in conduct and in correspondence; but the manner in which he speaks, in a letter I possess, of two ladies whose recent loss society is now lamenting, and whose varied attainments formed only one part of the fascinations they possessed, must have arisen, I think, from their having superseded him in the friendship of the master of Strawberry Hill. Mason's satirical powers were dormant at no period of his life. The world only knew them as they appeared from him 'iam senior Peleus;' but they burst out when he was yet at the university, 'nec adhuc maturus Achilles,' and continued in various flashes through his whole life" Correspondence of Thomas Gray and William Mason, ed. John Mitford (1853) xii.

Compare George Hardinge, "To the Dynge Reader" in Rowley and Chatterton in the Shades (1782).



As whanne a gronfer with arduous glowe,
Han from the mees liche sweltrie sun arist,
The lordynge toade awhaped creepethe slowe,
To hilte his groted weam in mokie kiste;
Owlettes yblente alyche dooe flizze awaie,
In ivye-wympled shade to glomb in depe dismaie.

So dynge Deane Mylles, whanne as thie wytte so rare
Han Rowley's amenused fame chevysed,
His foemenne alle forlette theyre groffish gare,
Whyche in theyre houton sprytes theie han devysed,
Whanne thee theie ken wythe poyntel in thie honde,
Enroned lyche anlace fell, or lyche a burly-bronde.

Thomas of Oxenford, whose teeming brayne
Three bawsin rolles of olde rhyme historie
Ymaken hanne wythe mickle teen and payne,
Nete kennethe he of Archaeologie,
Whoe pyghtes hys knowlachynge to preve echeone
Of Rowley's fetive lynes were pennede bie Chattertone.

Hie thee, poore Thomas, hie thee to thie celle,
Ne mo wythe auntyante vearse astounde thy wytte;
Of seemlikeenly rhym thou nete maie spelle,
For herehaughtree, or prose thou botte arte fytte:
Vearse for thie rede is too grete mysterie;
Ne e'er shalle Loverde North a Canynge proove to thee.

Deane Percy, albeyette thou bee a Deane,
O whatte arte thou whanne pheered with dygne Deane Mylle?
Nete botte a groffyle Acolythe I weene;
Inne auntyante barganette lyes alle thie skylle.
Deane Percy, Sabalus will hanne thy soughle,
Giff mo thou doest amate grete Rowley's yellowe rolle.

Tyrwhytte, thoughe clergyonned in Geoffroie's leare,
Yette scalle yat leare stonde thee in drybblet stedde.
Geoffroie wythe Rowley how maiest thoue comphere?
Rowley hanne mottes, yat ne manne ever redde,
Ne couthe bewrynne inne anie syngle tyme,
Yet reynneythe echeone mole, in newe and swotie ryme.

And yerfore, faitour, in ashrewed houre
From Rowley's poyntel thou the lode dydst take.
Botte lo! our Deane scalle wythe forweltryne shuir
Thy wytte as pynant as thie bowke ymake;
And plonce thee inne Archaeologic mudde,
As thou ydreinted were in Severne's mokie fludde.

So have I seen, in Edinborrowe-towne,
A ladie faire in wympled paramente
Abbrodden goe, whanne on her powrethe downe
A mollock hepe, from opper oryal sente;
Who, whanne shee lookethe on her unswote geare,
Han liefer ben beshet thanne in thilke steynct aumere.

"Spryte of mie Graie," the minstrelle Maisonne cries,
"Some cherisaunie 'tys to mie sadde harte
That thou, whose fetive poesie I pryze,
Wythe Pyndarre kynge of mynstrells lethlen arte.
Else nowe thie wytte to dernie roin han come,
For havynge protoslene grete Rowley's hie renome.

"Yette, giff thou sojourned in this earthly vale,
Johnson atte thee had broched no neder stynge;
Hee, cravent, the ystorven dothe assyle,
Butte atte the quyck ne dares hys venome flynge.
Quyck or ystorven, giff I kenne aryghte,
Ne Johnson, ne Deane Mylle, scalle e'er agrose thie spryte."

Butte, minstrelle Maisonne, blyn thie chyrckeynge dynne;
On thee scalle be bewrecked grete Rowley's wronge;
Thou wythe thie compheere Graie dydee first begynne
To speke inne deignous denwere offe hys songe,
And, wythe enstroted Warpool, deemed hys laies
Freshe as newe rhymes ydropte inne ladie Myller's vase.

Oh Warpool, ne dydde thatte borne vase conteyne
Thilke swotie excremonte of poete's leare;
Encaled was thie hearte as carnes ybene,
Soe to asterte hys sweft-kerved scryvennere:
Thy synne doe Loverde Advocate's surpasse,
Starvation bee thou nempte, thou broder of Dundasse.

Enough of thilke adrames, and strains like these;
Speckled wythe uncouth words like leopard's skin;
Yet bright as Avon gliding o'er her mees,
And soft as ermine robe that wraps a king;
Here, furste of wiseggers, I quit thy gloss,
Nor more with Gothic terms my modern lays emboss.

For vearse lyche thysse been as a puddynge fayre,
At Hocktyde feaste by gouler cooke besprente
Wythe scanty plumbes, yet shemmer heere and there,
Like estells in the eve-merk fermamente,
So that a schoolboie maie with plaie, not paine,
Pycke echeone plumbe awaie, and leave the puddynge playne.

Yet still each line shall flow as sweet and clear,
As Rowley's self had writ them in his roll;
So they, perchance, may sooth thy sapient ear,
If aught but obsolete can touch thy soul.
Polish'd so pure by my poetic hand,
That kings themselves may read, and courtiers understand.

O mighty Milles, who o'er the realms of sense
Hast spread that murky antiquarian cloud,
Which blots out truth, eclipses evidence,
And taste and judgement veils in sable shroud;
Which makes a beardless boy a monkish priest,
Makes Homer string his lyre, and Milton ape his jest;

Expand that cloud still broader, wond'rous Dean!
In pity to thy poor Britannia's fate;
Spread it her past and present state between,
Hide from her memory that she e'er was great,
That e'er her trident aw'd the subject sea,
Or e'er bid Gallia bow the proud reluctant knee.

Tell her, for thou hast more than Mulgrave's wit,
That France has long her naval strength surpast,
That Sandwich and Germaine alone are fit
To shield her from the desolating blast;
And prove the fact, as Rowley's being, clear,
That loans on loans and loans her empty purse will bear.

Bid all her lords, obsequious to command,
As lords that best befit a land like this,
Take valiant Viscount Sackville by the hand,
Bid Bishops greet him with a holy kiss,
For forming plans to quell the rebel-tribe,
Whose execution foil'd all bravery, and all bribe.

Teach her, two British armies both subdued,
That still the free American will yield;
Like Macbeth's Witch, bid her "Spill much more blood,"
And stain with brethren's gore the flooded field;
Nor sheath the sword, till o'er one little isle
In snug domestic pomp her king shall reign and smile.

So from a Dearn'ry "rising in thy trade,"
And puff'd with lawn by Byshoppe-millanere,
Ev'n glommed York, of thy amede afraid,
At Lollard's Tower with spyring eye shall peer,
Where thou, like Aella's spryte, shalt glare on high,
The triple crown to seize, if old Cornwallis die.

[pp. 11-18]