1763
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Dialogue between the Author and his Friend.

St. James's Magazine 1 (February 1763) 373-84. [Robert Lloyd, ed.]

Robert Lloyd


A verse dialogue in the Horatian manner, not signed. Robert Lloyd's chatty remarks open with a discussion of his career as a magazine poet, continue with swips at scholarly pedants, and include a remark on imitation as a means of literary succession: "Authors, as DRYDEN'S maxim runs, | Have what he calls poetic sons. | Thus MILTON, more correctly wild, | Was richer SPENSER'S lawful child. | And CHURCHILL, got on all the nine, | Is DRYDEN'S heir in ev'ry line" p. 380. The reference is to Dryden's remark in the preface to Fables (1700) that "Milton was the Poetical Son of Spencer, and Mr. Waller of Fairfax; for we have our Lineal Descents and Clans, as well as other Families." The dialogue concludes with an assertion by the poet that he will soldier on with the St. James's Magazine: "with the helps which they shall give, | I and the Magazine shall live" p. 384. Both Lloyd and the magazine had less than two years to live The poet was a close friend of the satirist Charles Churchill (1731-64).

William Tooke: "The first piece by which he distinguished himself was the Actor, an admirable poem, in which he manifested a peculiar vein of humour combined with great justness of criticism and facility of versification. Thus, deservedly high in reputation, the road to honours and preferment seemed opening to his view, and promised much of happiness and fame; but an utter disregard for prudence and economy blasted all these brilliant expectations, and deeply involved him in a series of calamities. An eccentric disposition, and an unbounded liberality, the too frequent concomitants of a lively imagination, proved his destruction. Under these circumstances did our author's intimacy with Lloyd recommence, and, urged by the same motive, a restless inquietude of mind, they together hurried into scenes of dissipated conviviality" Poetical Works of Charles Churchill (1804) 1:xvi-xvii.

Robert Southey: "Happy had it been for Robert Lloyd, if, with the playful wit, the cheerful disposition, and the amiable temper of his father, he had inherited his wisdom and his virtue. He distinguished himself at Cambridge by his talents, but not in a way to procure for himself any academical honours or advantages" Life and Works of Cowper (1835-37) 1:62.



FRIEND.
You say, "it hurts you to the soul
To brook confinement or controul."
And yet will voluntary run
To that confinement you would shun,
Content to drudge along the track,
With bells and harness on your back.
Alas! what genius can admit
A monthly tax on spendthrift wit,
Which often flings whole stores away,
And oft has not a doit to pay!
—Give us a work, indeed — of length—
Something which speaks poetic strength;
Is sluggish fancy at a stand?
No scheme of consequence in hand?
I, nor your plan, nor book condemn,
But why your name, and why A M?

AUTHOR.
Yes — it stands forth to public view,
Within, without, on white, on blue,
In proper, tall, gigantic Letters,
Not dash'd — emvowell'd — like my betters.
And though it stares me in the face,
Reflects no shame, hints no disgrace.
While these unlaboured trifles please,
Familiar chains are worn with ease.
—Behold! to yours and my surprize,
These trifles to a VOLUME rise.
Thus will you see me, as I go,
Still gath'ring bulk like balls of snow,
Steal by degrees upon your shelf,
And grow a giant from an elf.
The current studies of the day,
Can rarely reach beyond a PLAY:
A PAMPHLET may deserve a look,
But Heav'n defend us from a BOOK!
A LIBEL flies on Scandal's wings,
But works of length are heavy things.
—Not one in twenty will succeed—
Consider, sir, how few can read.

FRIEND.
I mean a work of merit—

AUTHOR.
True.

FRIEND.
A man of Taste MUST buy.

AUTHOR.
Yes; — You;
And half a dozen more, my friend,
Whom your good Taste shall recommend.
Experience will by facts prevail,
When argument and reason fail;
The NUPTIALS now—

FRIEND.
Whose nuptials, sir?—

AUTHOR.
A Poet's — did that poem stir?
No — fixt — tho' thousand readers pass,
It still looks through its pane of glass,
And seems indignant to exclaim
Pass on ye SONS of TASTE, for shame!

While duly each revolving moon,
Which often comes, God knows, too soon,
Continual plagues my soul molest,
And Magazines disturb my rest,
While scarce a night I steal to bed,
Without a couplet in my head,
And in the morning, when I stir,
Pop comes a Devil, "Copy sir."
I cannot strive with daring flight
To reach the bold Parnassian HEIGHT;
But at its foot, content to stray,
In easy unambitious way,
Pick up those flowers the muses send,
To make a nosegay for my friend.
In short, I lay no idle claim
To genius strong, and noisy fame.
But with a hope and wish to please,
I write, as I would live, with ease.

FRIEND.
But you must have a fund, a mine,
Prose, poems, letters

AUTHOR.
Not a line.
And here, my friend, I rest secure;
He can't lose much, who's always poor.
And if, as now, thro' numbers five,
This work with pleasure kept alive,
Can still its currency afford,
Nor fear the breaking of its hoard,
Can pay you, as at sundry times,
For self per Mag, two thousand Rhimes,
From whence should apprehension grow,
That self should fail, with richer Co?

No doer of a monthly grub,
Myself alone a learned club,
I ask my readers to no treat
Of scientifick hash'd-up meat,
Nor seek to please theatric friends
With scraps of plays, and odds and ends.—

FRIEND.
Your method, sir, is plain enough;
And all the world has read your PUFF.
Th' allusion's neat, expression clean,
About your travelling MACHINE,
But yet — it is a Magazine.

AUTHOR.
Why let it be, and wherefore shame?
As JULIET says, what's in a name?
Besides it is the way of trade,
Through which all science is convey'd,
Thus knowledge parcels out her shares;
The COURT has hers, the LAWYERS theirs.
Something to SCHOLARS sure is due,—
Why not one MAGAZINE for YOU?

FRIEND.
That's an Herculean task, my friend,
You toil and labour — to offend.
Part of your scheme — a free translation,
To SCHOLARS is a profanation;
What! break up Latin! pull down Greek!
(Peace to the soul of sir JOHN CHEEKE!
And shall the gen'rous liquor run,
Broach'd from the rich FALERNIAN tun?
Will you pour out to English swine,
Neat as imported, old GREEK wine?
Alas! such beverage only fits
Collegiate tastes, and classic wits.

AUTHOR.
I seek not, with satyric stroke,
To strip the pedant of his cloak;
No — let him cull and spout quotations,
And call the jabber, demonstrations;
Be his the great concern to shew,
If Roman gowns were tied or no;
Whether the Grecians took a slice
Four times a-day, or only twice,
Still let him work about his hole,
Poor, busy, blind, laborious mole;
Still let him puzzle, read, explain,
Oppugn, remark, and read again.

Such, though they waste the midnight oil
In dull, minute, perplexing toil,
Not understanding, do no good,
Nor can do harm, not understood.

By scholars, apprehend me right,
I mean the learned, and polite,
Whose knowledge unaffected flows,
And sits as easy as their cloaths;
Who care not though an "ac" or "sed"
Misplac'd, endanger PRISCIAN'S head;
Nor think his wit a grain the worse,
Who cannot frame a Latin verse,
Or give the Roman PROPER word
To things the ROMANS never heard.

'Tis true, except among the Great,
Letters are rather out of date,
And quacking genius more discerning,
Scoffs at your regulars in learning.
—PEDANTS, indeed, are learning's curse,
But IGNORANCE is something worse:
All are not blest with reputation,
Built on the WANT of EDUCATION,
And some, to letters duly bred,
Mayn't write the worse, because they've read.
Though books had better be unknown,
Than not one thought appear our own;
As some can never speak themselves,
But through the authors on their shelves,
Whose writing smacks too much of reading,
As affectation spoils good breeding.

FRIEND.
True; but that fault is seldom known,
Save in your bookish college drone,
Who, constant (as I've heard them say)
Study their fourteen hours a-day,
And squatting close, with dull attention,
Read themselves out of apprehension;
Who scarce can wash their hands or face,
For fear of losing time, or place,
And give one hour to meat and drink,
But never half a one to THINK.

AUTHOR.
Lord! I have seen a thousand such,
Who read, or seem to read, too much.
So have I known, in that rare place,
Where Classics always breed disgrace,
A wight, upon discoveries hot,
As whether flames have heat or not,
Study himself, poor sceptic dunce,
Into the very fire at once,
And clear the philosophic doubt,
By burning all ideas out.
With such, eternal books successive
Lead to no sciences progressive,
While each dull fit of study past,
Just like a wedge drives out the last.

From these I ground no expectation
Of genuine wit, or free translation;
But you mistake me, friend. Suppose,
(Translations are but modern cloaths)
I dress my boy — (for instance sake
Maintain these children, which I make)
I give him coat and breeches—

FRIEND.
True—
But not a bib and apron too!
You would not let your child be seen,
But drest consistent, neat, and clean.

AUTHOR.
So would I cloath a free translation,
Or as POPE calls it, imitation;
Not pull down authors from my shelf,
To spoil their wit, and plague myself,
My learning studious to display,
And lose their spirit by the way.

FRIEND.
Your HORACE now — e'en borrow thence
His easy wit, his manly sense,
But let the Moralist convey
Things in the manners of to-day,
Rather than that old garb assume,
Which only suits a man at Rome.

AUTHOR.
Originals will always please,
And copies too, if done with ease.
Would not old PLAUTUS wish to wear,
Turn'd English host, an English air,
If THORNTON, rich in native wit,
Would make the modes and diction fit?
Or, as I know you hate to roam,
To fetch an instance nearer home;
Though in an idiom most unlike,
A similarity must strike,
Where both of simple nature fond,
In art and genius correspond;
And naive both (allow the phrase
Which no one English word conveys)
Wrapt up their stories neat and clean,
Easy as—


FRIEND.
DENIS'S you mean.
—The very man — not mere translation,
But LA FONTAINE by transmigration.

AUTHOR.
Authors, as DRYDEN'S maxim runs,
Have what he calls poetic sons.
Thus MILTON, more correctly wild,
Was richer SPENSER'S lawful child.
And CHURCHILL, got on all the nine,
Is DRYDEN'S heir in ev'ry line.
Thus DENIS proves his parents plain,
The child of EASE, and LA FONTAINE.

FRIEND.
His muse, indeed, the work secures,
And asks our praise as much as yours;
For, if delighted, readers too
May pay their thanks, as well as you.

But YOU, my friend (so folks complain)
For ever in this easy vein,
This prose in verse, this measur'd talk,
This pace, that's neither trot nor walk,
Aim at no flights, nor strive to give
A real poem fit to live.

AUTHOR.
(To critics no offence, I hope)
PRIOR shall live as long as POPE,
Each in his manner sure to please,
While both have strength, and both have ease;
Yet though their various beauties strike,
Their ease, their strength is not alike.
Both with consummate horseman's skill,
Ride as they list, about the hill;
But take, peculiar in their mode,
Their favourite horse, and favourite road.

For me, once fond of author-fame,
Now forc'd to bear its weight and shame,
I have no time to run a race,
A traveller's my only pace.
They, whom their steeds unjaded bear
Around Hyde-park, to take the air,
May frisk and prance, and ride their fill,
And go all paces which they will;
We, hackney tits — nay, never smile,
Who trot our stage of thirty mile,
Must travel in a constant plan,
And run our journey, as we can.

FRIEND.
A critic says, upon whose sleeve
Some pin more faith than you'll believe,
That writings which as easy please,
Are not the writings wrote with ease.
From whence the inference is plain,
Your friend MAT PRIOR wrote with pain.

AUTHOR.
With pain perhaps he might correct,
With care supply each loose defect,
Yet sure, if rhime, which seems to flow,
Whether its master will or no,
If humour, not by study sought,
But rising from immediate thought,
Are proofs of ease, what hardy name
Shall e'er dispute a PRIOR'S claim!

But still your critic's observation
Strikes at no POET'S reputation,
His keen reflection only hits
Your rhiming fops, and pedling wits.
As some take stiffness for a grace,
And walk a dancing-master's pace,
And others, for familiar air
Mistake the slouching of a bear;
So some will finically trim,
And dress their lady-muse too prim,
Others, mere slovens in their pen
(The mob of Lords and Gentlemen)
Fancy they write with ease and pleasure,
By rambling out of rhime and measure.
And, on your critic's judgment, these
Write easily, and not with EASE.

There are, indeed, whose wish pursues,
And inclination courts the muse;
Who, happy in a partial fame,
A while possess a poet's name,
But read their works, examine fair,
—Shew me invention, fancy there,
Taste I allow; but is the flow
Of genius in them? Surely, no.
'Tis labour from the classic brain.
Read your own ADDISON'S CAMPAIGN.

E'en he, nay, think me not severe,
A critic fine, of Latin ear,
Who toss'd his classic thoughts around
With elegance on Roman ground,
Just simmering with the muse's flame
Woos but a cool and sober dame;
And all his English rhimes express
But beggar-thoughts in royal dress.
In verse his genius seldom glows,
A POET only in his prose,
Which rolls luxuriant, rich, and chaste,
Improved by Fancy, Wit, and Taste.

FRIEND.
I task you for yourself, my friend,
A subject you can ne'er defend,
And you cajole me all the while
With dissertations upon stile.
Leave others wits and works alone,
And think a little of your own,
For FAME, when all is said and done,
Tho' a coy mistress, may be won;
And half the thought, and pains, and time,
You take to jingle easy rhime,
Would make an ODE, would make a PLAY,
Done into English, MALLOCH'S way,
—Stretch out your more Heroic feet,
And write an ELEGY complete.
Or, not a more laborious task,
Could not you pen a Classic MASQUE?

AUTHOR.
With will at large, and unclogg'd wings,
I durst not soar to such high things.
For I, who have more phlegm than fire,
Must understand, or not admire,
But when I read with admiration,
Perhaps I'll write in IMITATION.

FRIEND.
But business of this monthly kind,
Need that alone engross your mind.
Assistance must pour in a-pace,
New passengers will take a place,
And then your friends—

AUTHOR.
Aye, they indeed,
Might make a better work succeed,
And with the helps which they shall give,
I and the Magazine shall live.

FRIEND.
Yes, live, and eat, and nothing more.

AUTHOR.
I'll live as — Authors did before.

[pp. 373-84]