1818
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

[Literary Fund Address for 1818.]

The New Times (8 May 1818).

William Thomas Fitzgerald


William Thomas Fitzgerald's annual Literary Fund addresses (of which this seems to be the twenty-second) resembled laureat odes in presenting a patriotic review of current events, commenting here on the death of Princess Charlotte and peace negotiations in Europe. Fitzgerald follows the usual praises of Britain's success in literature with some pointed remarks about the dangers of political libel, which the Fund might circumvent by assisting impecunious authors. Spenser was not one to be tempted by poverty; writing "'Twas Heaven's great Gift! — to meliorate and save, | Freedom's first Cradle! — and perhaps her Grave! | To starve with CAMOENS, or with SPENSER pine, | Were better than to write one servile Line | To flatter Vice."

Headnote: "The health of the King followed the singing of Non Nobis, after which, 'His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, Patron of the Society,' was drank with enthusiastic warmth; the healths of the Queen and female branches of the Royal Family were crowned with an original glee composed by Shield; and those of the Dukes of Kent and Sussex were received with three times three. 'Prosperity to the Literary Fund' was then drank with acclamations. Mr. Fitzgerald, in conformity with the Committee's express request, composed and recited with good effect the following, being his twenty-second 'Address for the Anniversary of the Literary Fund.' ... The health of Mr. Fitz-Gerald was immediately drank, with thanks for the Address, and his delivery of the same."

Robert Shelton Mackenzie: "At the annual dinner of the Literary Fund, in London, he used to mount on one of the tables and recite verses of his own composing, greatly to the amusement of all who heard him. In the Rejected Addresses written by Horace and James Smith, there is an excellent parody of one of these compositions" Noctes Ambrosianae, ed. Mackenzie (1854) 1:23n.



When Thunders ceased, and Tempests raged no more,
Still did the swelling Billows lash the Shore;
For though tremendous Hurricanes subside,
Time must elapse to calm the angry tide;
And when, at last, The Dove of Peace had rest
To plume the ruffled feathers on her Breast,
O'er CLAREMONT'S Bowers she mourned with tremb'ling wings,
The wish'd-for Mother of a Line of Kings!
She saw THE ROSE or ENGLAND fade away,
Blighted in Bud — sweet Vision of a Day!
One common sorrow, and one general tear,
From three great Nations hallowed Charlotte's bier;
Long shall her virtue be the Theme of All,
When Tombs decay, and mouldering Temples fall!

Then let the Bard another subject chuse
More cheering, but not dearer to his Muse;
Let him, uncharged with Vanity, impart
The honest Pride that warms a Patriot heart,
To see each Nation's eager eyes appear,
In Friendship, or in Envy, center'd here:
Where Great Britannia, clad in Honour's Robe,
Stands, Laurel-crowned, THE UMPIRE OF THE GLOBE!
In Europe's Battle, foremost of The Van;
In Peace, The Advocate of suffering Man;
Content, with native Majesty, she shines;
Her Conquests, for the general good, resigns;
And for her Triumphs on the Land, or Wave,
Only demands his Freedom for THE SLAVE!

With her no Muse can ever plead in vain
For secret Sorrow, Poverty, and Pain;—
Go seek where pining Want and Misery swell,
The Debtor's Prison, or The Felon's Cell;
The last Abode of Anguish, and Despair;
And BRITISH CHARITY'S conspicuous there!
His debts discharged, she bids Th' Insolvent go,
And robs e'en Death itself of half its woe;
For when stern Law demands The Culprit's Life,
She finds a Refuge for his Child and Wife:
And while The Felon yields his forfeit Breath,
Brings comfort to him, in the Hour of Death.

But of all Wants, with which Mankind is curst,
Th' accomplish'd SCHOLAR'S are, by far, the worst!
For generous Pride compels him to control
And hide The Worm, that gnaws his very Soul;
Though Fortune, in her gifts to him, is blind,
Nature bestows Nobility of Mind,
That makes him rather endless ills endure,
Than seek from Meanness a degraded Cure!
Yet from his unrequited Labours flow
Half we enjoy, and almost all we know;
All that ennobles an enlightened Age,
And marks, at once, The Savage, from The Sage.

The studious Man directs more active Souls
To steer th' adventurous Vessel to The Poles;
T' explore the Regions of Eternal Frost,
Where, Ages passed, a Peopled Land was lost;
By Realms of Ice to Polar Skies confined,
Four hundred Winters banished from Mankind!
Yet there may Hope anticipate, and trace,
Perhaps, a happy and a hardy Race,
That neither Poverty, nor Splendour know,
Exempt from EUROPE'S Luxury and Woe.

In War what Science, or in Peace what Art,
In which The Sons of Genius bear no part?
And COMMERCE, with her "busy hum of Men,"
Owes to The Sword, less homage than THE PEN;
That powerful Engine of The Mighty Mind,
As used — the Bane, or Blessing of Mankind!
Freedom's main Spring! The Tyrant's deadly hate!
Shield of The Poor! and Bulwark of the State!
Ne'er may it be, in some malignant hour,
By Factions tainted, or oppressed by Power;
Nor, dipped in Malice, aid the Assassin's blow,
And prove to Liberty her bitterest Foe:
'Twas Heaven's great Gift! — to meliorate and save,
Freedom's first Cradle! — and perhaps her Grave!
To starve with CAMOENS, or with SPENSER pine,
Were better than to write one servile Line
To flatter Vice — or what is still more base,
To wound, in secret, those we dare not face:
For Vice and Virtue, with the PEN and PRESS,
Have Power to torture, or have Power to bless!
Thus the pure Stream for Man, impartial, springs,
For Rich, and Poor; for Subjects, and for Kings;
But if dark Nightshade mingles as it flows,
The Source of Health becomes the Sink of Woes:
Yet, as the Spots that in The Sun appear,
Viewed with alarm, are magnified by fear,
So, may the Bard's forebodings all be vain,
Nor ENGLAND'S GRAND PALLADIUM PROVE HER BANE!
Yours be the Task to foster, and protect
Genius in Rags, and Learning from Neglect;
Morals improved, will soon reward your care,
For LIBEL'S WANT engendered by Despair!
And half the LICENSE which The Good deplore,
Distress relieved, would plague Mankind no more!

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