1781
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

The Scribbler. No. VII. [The Temple of Fashion.]

Gentleman's Magazine 51 (August 1781) 355-56.

Samuel Rogers


Juvenilia by Samuel Rogers, who as "The Scribbler" contributed a series of eight brief essays to the Gentleman's Magazine in 1781. The seventh is a prose allegory in which the Dreamer is "suddenly transported into a magnificent temple, in the centre of which, elevated on a pedestal, stood a female of very light, capricious air, attended by numbers of both

sexes, who were burning incense on her altar." While Rogers was hardly a Spenserian poet, the theme of mutability was a favorite Spenserian topic. The fifth essay, "translated from the Erse" is a fragmentary romance in which the hero is "Edwin," doubtless taken from Beattie's The Minstrel, of which young Rogers was very fond.

Abraham Hayward: "The to all agreeable, to many intoxicating, sensation of first seeing oneself in print, was experienced by Rogers in 1781, when he contributed eight numbers, under the title of The Scribbler, to The Gentleman's Magazine, — the same which, under the editorship of Sylvanus Urban (Cave), was the repository of the earliest efforts of Johnson in the same walk. 'He told me,' says Boswell, 'that when he first saw St. John's Gate, the place where that deservedly popular miscellany was originally printed, he beheld it with reverence.' Probably it was Johnsonian influence that gave their peculiar form to Rogers's first attempts at authorship; for the great lexicographer was amongst the idols of his youth.... All are commonplace enough in point of thought and conception, nor would it be difficult to specify the very 'Ramblers' or 'Idlers' which the writer had in his mind's eye whilst composing them; but the one on 'Fashion' is written with a freedom and rhythmical flow which are rarely found in essayists of eighteen" Edinburgh Review 103 (July 1856) 41.

P. W. Clayden: "His first printed efforts were not in verse. They consisted of a brief series of papers published in successive numbers of the Gentleman's Magazine. Like most early efforts these essays are imitations; and as might be expected Dr. Johnson is the model" The Early Life of Samuel Rogers (1887) 52.




Reflecting the other evening on the influence of Fashion, I insensibly fell asleep, and imagined myself suddenly transported into a magnificent temple, in the centre of which, elevated on a pedestal, stood a female of very light, capricious air, attended by numbers of both
sexes, who were burning incense on her altar. But what astonished me most was that the scene
experienced a perpetual change. When she waved her hand the columns of the temple, which
were first of the Ionic, became of the Corinthian order, the stucco wall appeared hung with the
richest tapestry, the fretted ceiling swelled into a dome, and the marble pavement assumed a
carpet of the brightest tints. These, after innumerable transformations, were revived, once
more to pass through the same revolutions.
Whether she heightened with a pencil the vermilion of her cheeks or clothed her limbs with a
close or flowing vest; whether she collected her ringlets in a knot or suffered them to hang
negligently on her shoulders; whether she shook the dice, waked the lyre, or filled the sparkling
glass; she was imitated by her votaries, who vied with each other in obsequiousness and
reverence. All united in presenting their oblations — either their health, their fortunes or their
integrity. Though numbers incessantly disappeared, the assembly receiving continual supplies
preserved its grandeur and brilliancy. At the entrance I observed Vanity fantastically crowned
with flowers and feathers, to whom the fickle deity committed the initiation of her votaries.
These having fluttered as gaily as their predecessors, in a few moments vanished and were
succeeded by others. All who rejected the solicitations of Vanity were compelled to enter by
Ridicule, whose shafts were universally dreaded. Even Literature, Science, and Philosophy were
obliged to comply. Those only escaped who were concealed beneath the veil of Obscurity. As I
gazed on this glittering scene, having declined the invitation of Vanity, Ridicule shot an arrow
from her bow which pierced my heart; I fainted, and in the violence of my agitation, awaked.

[pp. 355-56]