A prose allegory addressed by Joseph Warton to his sister while he was a student at Winchester College. Jane Warton, who would have been about twelve years old at the time, is solemnly warned against the folly of adopting the hoop petticoat in an essay modeled on similar things in The Tatler and The Spectator. The poet, accompanied by his Good Genius, pays a call on the Goddess of Vanity: "She was attended by great numbers, who surrounded her on all sides, the majority of which I observed were of the female sex, and most of them French ladies; though it was with no small concern that I observed several English also, who seemed highly delighted with the favour of being maids of honour to the goddess." In a scene that appears to be modeled on Spenser's Masque of Cupid, the Dreamer beholds his sister in the Goddess's train; he is about to interfere when h e is awakened by the "six o'clock peal" to discover himself summoned to his duties at school.
John Wooll: "During his Wykehamical education, he, in conjunction with his friend Collins and another boy, sent to the Gentleman's Magazine three poetical pieces of such sterling value as called forth a most flattering critique from Johnson; and I have seen, though in too imperfect a state to warrant insertion, a genuinely humorous poem penned by him when a Praepositor, and spoken by one of his pupils from the rostrum, then usually introduced into the school. Nor can I pass over in silence the following letter, from a boy not fifteen, to his sister; a pleasant and playful specimen, it must be allowed, of good-humoured raillery and lively imagination.... The style of wit and humour, however, was not always that in which he addressed his sister. His goodness of heart and quickness of understanding discovered themselves in the most anxious enquiries and affectionate advice — 'Tell me,' says one of his letters, 'of your improvements, what you are learning, and that you are acquiring every useful and elegant accomplishment (you will, I particularly hope, excel in music). Remember you are now laying a foundation for all the comforts and pleasures of your life; remember this is worthy your good parents — worthy you — and the hearty desire of your affectionate brother'" pp. 5, 7..
European Magazine: "Dr. Warton was entered early in life on the foundation of Winchester College; where he made the most rapid progress in his studies, and was an honour to the society, and to the instructions of his excellent master, Dr. Burton. It was in his early age, at Winchester College, that he commenced a strict friendship with his school-fellow Collins, the poet, which lasted till the death of that ingenious but unfortunate man" "Joseph Warton" 37 (May 1800) 349.
Since my amusements by day would not be greatly relished by a young lady, if I could give an account of them, I shall tell you in the following medley an imaginary entertainment by night.
Methought I was conducted by my good genius (a constant attendant on all such occasions) through a perfumed grove to the palace of the Goddess of Vanity. It would be endless to describe the superfluous ornaments which decked the outside of the building, or the glittering furniture within. This I observed, that it was all very shewy, yet nothing was truly noble. While I was surveying the glare of this palace, and wishing to see the mistress of so extraordinary a seat, my ears were suddenly grated by the sound of hinges, on which a large pair of folding doors opened, and discovered, seated on a most magnificent and radiant throne, the Goddess herself! She was attended by great numbers, who surrounded her on all sides, the majority of which I observed were of the female sex, and most of them French ladies; though it was with no small concern that I observed several English also, who seemed highly delighted with the favour of being maids of honour to the goddess. It will be too tedious to particularize every piece of furniture of this state room; I must just however take notice, that amongst her votaries I could distinguish Mrs. and Miss —, and Mrs. Vanett with the pattern of the new-fashioned steel machine of the hoop petticoat in her hand. After the goddess had granted several of the petitioners' suits, on a sudden, at the sound of a trumpet, a great concourse approached, who cried, Hail! thrice, in a loud shout to a lady, who, by the picture I had before seen, and by the whispers of the company, I found to be this same Mrs. Vanett, holding in her hand what had the appearance of a mathematical instrument of steel, as above mentioned, and the use of which, to a lady, I could not conceive: it had indeed the appearance of a mystery. At length the goddess descended from her throne, and desired her votaries to prefer their prayers; which they did, desiring they might be favoured with new decorations for their persons. She, without the least hesitation, smiled a pleasing assent, and distributed an amazing quantity of ribands, gauzes, feathers, rouge, and tinsel frippery in abundance. I had almost discovered myself (for I was all the time incog.) by a loud laugh, to see what ridiculous figures the goddess had made of her votaries; as, old hags with painted faces, and young girls patched and powdered and enclosed in their vast steel machines; and fell soon after into a long contemplation how that sex whom Nature has so lavishly indulged with all her graces, could thus, by disguising their persons with false ornaments, instead of beautifying themselves (as they think), entirely destroy their greatest beauties: for, be assured, the studied fopperies of art can impart no real elegance. In the midst of these contemplations, amongst the other favourers of the goddess, I caught sight of you. Moved with indignation, I was, in the heat of anger, going to reprove you, and tear off your false ornaments; when the six o'clock peal awoke me, and changed the scene from glittering palaces, tinsel frippery, feathers, rouge, flounces and furbelows, to black gowns, dirty juniors, and a lonely college.
Your affectionate brother,