1816
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

"The Talents;" or, The Old Shoes. A Parody on "The Passions."

The Morning Post (27 June 1816).

John Taylor Esq.


A burlesque of William Collins's Ode on the Passions signed "T." The occasion for this political satire was the meeting held to replace the Opposition leader Samuel Whitbread (1764-1815) who had died a suicide. The candidates compete to fill the "Old Shoes" left by Whitbread (old shoes were a traditional theme for satire). Various speakers compete in the oratorical contest, which is eventually won by the reformer Henry Brougham (1778-1868). The ode concludes with an apostrophe to impudence, in which the Morning Post gets in a dig at its rival, the Morning Chronicle: "Rise, Impudence! in BROUGHAM be seen, | As erst, impetuous, turgid, mean! | When toiling England to destroy, | He fill'd the Chronicle with joy." "The Talents" may have been composed in response to "Elegy in St. Stephen's Chapel" published in the Morning Chronicle for 30 May, which handles the Tory party in equivalent terms. The "Talents" was the denomination used by the Post to abuse the Liberal party, after the short-lived Grenville administration of 1806-07.

The signature "T." was sometimes used by John Taylor, who would become a regular contributor to The Morning Post.

Walter Scott: "If, however, there were any simple enough to expect to hail Freedom restored by the victorious arms of Buonaparte, their mistake (had Lord Wellington not saved them from its consequences) would have resembled that of poor Slender, who, rushing to the embraces of Anne Page, found himself unexpectedly in the gripe of a lubberly post-master's boy. But probably no one was foolish enough to nourish such hopes, though there are some — their number is few — whose general opinions concerning the policy of Europe are so closely and habitually linked with their party prejudices at home, that they see in the victory of Waterloo only the triumph of Lord Castlereagh; and could the event have been reversed, would have thought rather of the possible change of seats in St. Stephen's, than of the probable subjugation of Europe" Review of Byron, Childe Harold, Canto III; Quarterly Review 16 (October 1816) 194.

Robert Shelton Mackenzie: "Samuel Whitbread, son and successor of an extensive brewer in London, sat in parliament for the borough of Bedford, for many years, and was one of the most vigorous opponents of Lord Pitt. He was one of the leaders of the Whig party, and conducted the impeachment of Lord Melville, in 1805. He was married to Lord Grey's sister. He was an active member of the Committee under whose superintendence Drury Lane Theatre was rebuilt, after its destruction by fire. In 1815 he died by his own hand" Noctes Ambrosianae, ed. Mackenzie (1854) 3:145n.

Rowland E. Prothero: "Samuel Whitbread (1758-1815) married, in 1789, Elizabeth, daughter of General Sir Charles Grey, created (1806) Earl Grey, and sister of the second Earl Grey, of Reform Bill fame. The son of a wealthy brewer, whose fortune he inherited, he entered Parliament as M.P. for Bedford in 1790" Byron, Letters and Journals (1898-1901) 2:153n.



When WHITBREAD'S star in death had set,
Ere yet the Commons' House had met,
"The Talents" all, to fill his seat,
Throng'd around St. Margaret's street,
Runting, snuffling, squeaking, yelling,
Disturb'd, beyond the Muse's telling:
By turns, wild doubts their hopes of place
Extinguish, raise, renew, efface:
Till, it is said, when all were gay,
Fill'd with Claret, Port, Tokay,
From the supporting nails or screws
They snatch'd their Champion's old shoes,
And, as they oft had seen before
How well an Orator they bore,
Each, for all were half-seas gone,
Would prove he ought to put them on.

First WILLIAM SMITH, his foot to try,
Straight to the Shoes serenely stalk'd,
But back was sent, he knew not why,
Ev'n laugh'd at while his hopes were baulk'd.

Next TIERNEY rush'd; his lowering eye,
In silence spoke his secret stings,
Fast on he strove the prize to tie,
But burst with hurried hand the strings.

With funny squeak, WYNN tried at speech,
In treble sound, bid Fear lie still,
A solemn, strange, and mingled screech,
'Twas hoarse by fits, by starts 'twas shrill.

But PARNELL, thou, with drawl so queer,
What was thy inspir'd oration?
Still it nam'd "Emancipation,"
And bade the shoes-pay-rigamarole the best.
Still would his tongue prolong the note,
And on the Tithes, Corn Laws, and Test,
He read (none else e'er did), the books he wrote
At his best best theme — the Papists' woes,
An aspiration harsh was heard at every close,
And NEWPORT trimm'd his tail, and snuffled "hear, hear, hear!"

'Till doomsday had he spoke — but with a frown,
Sir JOHN impatient rose;
He vow'd Lord CASTLEREAGH he'd soon put down,
And with a withering look,
To his thin nasal trumpet took,
And blew a blast both loud and dull,
No cannon's roar e'er made so many go;
And ever and anon he beat
The treble, in outrageous heat.

And thou, sometimes, while stammering for a word,
Dejected GRATTAN by his side,
"Sit down, you Devil!" softly cried—
Still he kept on, unheeded, oft unheard,
While each strain'd ball of sight seem'd bursting from his skull.

Thy posing, POSONBY, no meaning bore,
Sad mark of Age's drowsy gloom!
On different themes it mumbled, as of yore,
And now he talk'd of France, and now of Rome.
With eyes uprais'd, like one inspir'd,
Sat JAMIE MACKINTOSH, retir'd:
He now display'd the Publicist's vast store,
From notes which he had well conn'd o'er,
Prov'd PUFFENDORF he well knew how to scan;
And spreading wonder all around,
(Babbling BENNET caught the sound),
Through France and Spain his rapid periods ran,
On Elba's isle they paus'd with fond delay,
Vain regret around it throwing,
Then with NAP to Paris going,
At St. Helena died away.

But O! how different was the sprightlier brogue,
When blundering FLOOD, of "nate" allusions full,
Himself presenting to succeed the chief,
His speech adorn'd with many a bull,
Gave all Joe Miller's jokes new life in compass brief;
The Chicken and the red hair'd sage
Taylor and Milton there engage,
Filling their common place book's page.
Bluff CREEVEY winking sped his jeers,
And deaf Lord ARCHY prick'd up both his ears.

Last came BROUGHAM'S ecstatic trial:
He, quite out of breath seem'd panting,
First, modestly to touch the shoes he pressed,
But soon he swore he would take no denial,
His own entrancing voice he lov'd the best;
Those near might think, while there he bawl'd,
They heard in Guildhall clumsy FAVELL'S grunt,
Join'd to the roar of Bristol H—T,
On Parliament's Reform descanting.
While on he ran, prov'd up to ev'ry rig,
BRAND danc'd with PRESTON a fantastic round,
"Look at our chief," they cry'd — Poor HORNER frown'd,
And BROUGHAM, half check'd his lengthen'd say,
Bowing, such valu'd homage to repay,
Shook lots of powder from his curling wig.

O Impudence! all potent jade,
Friend of Quack'ry, "Talent's" aid.
Why, Goddess, why to us denied,
Was e'er thy favourite laid aside?
As since that day, when he, poor soul,
Got to the bottom of the Poll,
Thy votaries, O nymph! can tell,
None justice did, thy cause so well;
None had his tranquill brazen face,
Devoid of meaning, feeling, grace,
Rise, Impudence! in BROUGHAM be seen,
As erst, impetuous, turgid, mean!
When toiling England to destroy,
He fill'd the Chronicle with joy.
'Tis said, and I believe the tale,
His speech did more than Burton ale;
Breath'd more intoxicating hate
Than all which charm'd the mob of late;
Ev'n when BURDETT attempts to awe
Saint Stephen's mingled world of jaw.
O bid our vain enjoyments cease,
Revive our woe — abuse the Peace;
Return in all thy former state!
Prompt BROUGHAM in W—'S shoes to prate.

[unpaginated]