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The Poetical Works of the late Christopher Anstey

With Some Account of the Life and Writings of the Author, By his son, John Anstey
1 occurrence of Once more, O! ye Muses, from Pindus descend, And bid all the Graces your Footsteps attend, Who oft at Elections are wont to prolong
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1 occurrence of Once more, O! ye Muses, from Pindus descend, And bid all the Graces your Footsteps attend, Who oft at Elections are wont to prolong
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204

AN ELECTION BALL, IN POETICAL LETTERS

FROM MR. INKLE, A FREEMAN OF BATH, TO HIS WIFE AT GLOCESTER.


205

LETTER I. Mr. Inkle to his Wife Mrs. Dinah Inkle, at Glocester

CONTAINING

Mr. Inkle's Motives for writing Verse—His Panegyric upon Discipline— female Accomplishments—Preparations for the Ball—Absurdity of former Ages in Point of Dress and Manners.

And so, as I told thee before, my dear wife,
I'll go to the ball tho' it cost me my life—
—Must I be shut up, till, like poor neighbour Snarler,
I be smok'd like a joss in mine own little parlour?
No—I'd have thee to know I can walk pretty stout,
Since I've found an infallible cure for the gout,

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For the doctor I've tried has, with wedges and pegs,
So stretch'd out my sinews, and hammer'd my legs,
So suppled the joint, by tormenting the tendon,
My heel I can raise, and my toe I can bend down,
And, by Jove, I'm resolv'd to get out of the bilboes,
And shake at the ball both my legs and my elbows.—
Moreover, dear wife, when I'm absent from you,
I'd fain with the Muses my friendship renew,
And send you a pretty poetic narration,
The result of my deep and profound penetration;
And since such a number of poets, it seems,
Must daily be quaffing of Helicon's streams,
(While Phœbus looks on with so placid an eye,)
I'd fain take a drop, ere her channels be dry;
I too would relume my poetical fire,
And take down my worm-eaten rusty old lyre,
Suspended, ere since the fond rapturous days,
Yourself first inspir'd, and approv'd of my lays;
Then tell me no more of your great cousin Sim;
You may find me no less entertaining than him,
My numbers perhaps may be full as sublime,
And I think I've as easy a knack at a rhyme;

207

Like him to enliven my musical vein
A few Latin fragments I still may retain,
Which Dr. Orbilius, (whose form to this day
If chance indigestion my spirits dismay,
In ill-boding wig, rusty cassock array'd
Still is wont in dire visions my rest to invade)
Such pains to inculcate, such fondness did shew
To imprint in my childhood—The world shall all know
These learned posteriors still boast of the scars,
So early they bore in my classical wars;
Oh Goddess! who rul'st with omnipotent sway,
Whose empire the realms of fair learning obey,
Whate'er be thy name who with awful command
Bear'st ferules and rods in thy merciless hand,
How well thy true kindness, thy judgment appears
In guiding our tender and innocent years!
With frowns on thy visage, with wrath in thy breast,
With taunts, loud reproaches, and heart-galling jest,
Compelling meek childhood's first dawn to explore
The regions of gloomy grammatical lore,
Thou driv'st all thy pupils to Pindus at once,
Ne'er casting one pitying look at a dunce;

208

To thee do we owe, to thy fostering aid
Such numbers that woo the poetical trade,
Who, tho' very oft' they be left in the lurch
With respect to preferment in state, or in church,
By vast application at length have been able
To procure some employment in Phœbus's stable,
To curry his nag, and whenever it suits
May polish his stirrups, and liquor his boots,
Or under the Muses get pretty good places,
By cleaning their slippers, and vamping their bases,
And turn out at last very musical fellows
By blowing their organ, and mending the bellows,
An honour, most critics, I'm sure, will agree
May be justly confer'd both on Simkin and me,
Tho' none of your Blunderhead cousins you'll find,
Who like me knows the world, and have studied mankind:
How in judgment, experience, and taste, I excel
The following letter, dear Dinah, may tell.
You may talk what you will of your old-fashioned feast
That would last for a month, or a fortnight at least,

209

Where aldermen's wives, and their daughters would guttle,
And the husbands get drunk oer a pipe and a bottle,
You may boast, if you please, that your county of Glo'ster
Will be drunk for a twelvemonth, whatever it cost her,
I think our good member is far more polite
To give us an elegant dance for the night,
And invite at the Low Rooms the nobles to supper,
While folks of no fashion drink tea at the Upper;
And since I am held in such vast estimation
To be courted by all the great men of the nation,
I think it the best entertainment of all,
To taste the sweet cream of a quality ball,
And thither I'll go, tho' I stump upon crutches,
To hear the bon mots of a duke or a dutchess.
Our Margery too, who's a girl of discretion,
And known to most persons of rank and condition,
Is out of all patience, if chance you admire
Th' indelicate feast of an old country 'Squire,
She says, there is something so vulgar and nasty,
In greasing your mouth with a hot venison pasty,

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Which the freemen of Bath all expected to feast on
With their generous friend the good 'Squire at Batheaston:
In pudding there's something so clumsy and clunch,
And something so filthy, so stinking in punch;
Nay she vows 'twould be strange, and exceed all belief,
Should a freeman of Bath love a surloin of beef;
And as far as I judge from our eating and drinking—
Our Members are much of the same way of thinking.
And now I must tell thee, dear Wife, how thy daughter
Makes a progress in all the fine things thou hast taught her:
Not like thy old grandmother Dorothy Distoff,
Who'd spin half a day without taking her fist off;
She'll dance a cotilion—make verses—draw faces—
Read novels—sing catches—and study the Graces;
She has many a pretty French word at command,
That sounds vastly sweet, yet I can't understand,
For French is a language so very genteel,
That a few little words will imply a great deal,
So very concise, and so given to vary,
'Tis in vain to apply to your vocabulary—

211

Savoir vivre—bon ton—that's as much as to say
We grow more polite, and improve ev'ry day,
That for eating and drinking we know the best rules,
And our fathers and mothers were blockheads and fools,
That dress, cards, and dancing, alone should engage
This far more enlighten'd and delicate age.
You must know too, that Madge has a wonderful passion
To appear like a lady of very high fashion,
So I'll tell thee, dear Dinah, how well she contriv'd
The very first moment her ticket arriv'd;
She was pleas'd to be sure—but (as often I've bid her
In weighty concerns) she took time to consider,
Then with presence of mind flying up to the garret,
Brought down my old wig, that's as red as a carrot,
And to it she went, dear, ingenious sweet soul,
Drawing up the old caul till it fitted her pole,
Then with dripping and flour did so baste it and frizzle,
The hairs all became of a beautiful grizzle;
Those curls which a barber would view with despair,
She did coax, twist, and twine, with such skill, and such care,

212

With combs, pins, and paste, make such frequent attacks on,
She triumph'd at length—and subdu'd the old caxon;
Which done, she the front in a cushion did wrap,
Till the foretop stood up like a grenadier's cap,
On which all her jewels at once she display'd
Bought of Solomon Smouchwho was leaving off trade;
What a bargain was there for so trifling a sum!
Not a diamond or pearl that was less than my thumb!
Then deck'd with fair fruits, and gay flow'rets, all twin'd
In a posie as thick as a besom behind,
The merry old bob gave his ringlets to flow,
And dangle like sausages all in a row.
What now would'st thou think could remain to be done,
To make out dear Madge more completely the ton?
Fast asleep on my couch, and of thee, my dear, dreaming,
On a sudden I heard a most horrible screaming,
Thought I, “sure these barbarous strains in the attic
“Are the voice of one yelling in ditty chromatic,
“I'll listen awhile,—very likely they may—
“For I know Madge's master is coming to day,

213

“If so, my dear child, I'll be with thee anon,
“And hear how your musical lecture goes on.”
But good lack-a-day! when aloft I did clamber,
What a wonderful sight did I see in her chamber!
As sure as I live there was Madge in her smock,
Laying hard at the tail of our old dunghill cock!
She pluck'd it—and pull'd it—and tore from the stump
All the feathers that cloth'd his unfortunate rump,
And away to her toilet, her image to view,
On the wings of impatience and rapture she flew,
While Susan behind, with a simper and leer,
Unmov'd heard the clamours of poor chanticleer,
One hand o'er his drum-stick held lawless dominion,
T'other mutton fist tyranniz'd under his pinion,
While envious grimalkin her whiskers display'd,
In death-boding murmurs the hero dismay'd,
And with fire-darting eye ball expanding her claws,
Wreath'd her tail with fell transport, and cruel applause:
He knowing 'twas vain to contend with the foe,
Would fain have march'd off like the great Broglio;
And deeming a tame and an abject submission
Unworthy a cock of his rank and condition,

214

Kept struggling with many stout efforts and twitches
To compound for his life—with the loss of his breeches;
But Madge with more pride her atchievement survey'd,
His piping-hot plumage more gladly display'd
Than fam'd Africanus from Carthage of yore
His trophies to Jove Capitolian bore,
Or he, (whom as gentle, as gallant we view'd
Triumphant return from Manilla subdu'd,)
In Henry's proud temple suspending his spoils
Gave Learning's fair mansion to boast of his toils—
But alas! to his fortune, his interest blind,
How blam'd by the sensible part of mankind!
In a land so remote, in that barbarous ground,
When Victory spread her glad ensigns around,
To sheath the fell sword; in a ransom engage!
So unlike many other great chiefs of the age,—
To feel for the helpless!—to hear the fond pray'r
Of widows and orphans,—to conquer, and spare!—
From foolish compassion to hazard that gain,
Which others by fair, lawful plunder obtain!

215

As for those happy spoils, which as lawful and fair,
Madge had plunder'd, and left the poor garrison bare,
Thou ne'er can'st conceive, thou dear wife of my bosom,
How cunning, how feat, she did cut and dispose 'em;
But to fit a description to folk at a distance,
Requires supernatural aid and assistance,
I never can make it quite handsome and clever,
Unless the kind Muses will grant me a favour,
Which freemen and poets should claim at their pleasure,
Whenever they choose it—to alter their measure:
To a cap like a bat
(Which was once my cravat)
Part gracefully platted and pinn'd is,
Part stuck upon gauze
Resembles mackaws
And all the fine birds of the Indies.
But above all the rest
A bold Amazon's crest
Waves nodding from shoulder to shoulder,

216

At once to surprise
And to ravish all eyes,
To frighten and charm the beholder:
In short, head and feather
And wig altogether
With wonder and joy would delight ye,
Like the picture I've seen
Of th' adorable queen
Of beautiful, blest Otaheitee,
Who gave such a ball,
To our merry men all,
And there did so frisk it and dance it,
Some thought her as fine,—
And some did opine,
'Twas Venus herself in her Transit:
While the black maids of honour
That waited upon her,
(The sight so uncommon and odd is)

217

Brought philosopher's eyes,
From the orbs in the skies,
To gaze at their heavenly bodies.
But Madge at the Rooms,
Must beware of her plumes,
For if Vulcan her feather embraces,
Like poor Lady Laycock,
She'll burn like a haycock,
And roast all the Loves and the Graces.
Oh! I wish you could see, my dear spouse, all this while
How she copies your sweet irresistible smile!
How she simpers, and prinks, while the glass is before her,
And calls all the Cupids around to adore her;
With a grace and an air, so genteel and becoming,
Signiora Squallina's new minuet humming,
Now backwards she moves, now her steps doth advance,
With the same winning ogle, the same killing glance,
Which beam'd from your eyes, with such lustre divine,
They thaw'd all my ice, in the year thirty-nine,

218

And made me at once so my senses forget,
I fear I have hardly recover'd them yet,
For why ye must stucco, and whitewash your faces,
(A fashion which Madge with such rapture embraces)
Then ruddle them over like sheep for the market,
I must own, my dear wife, I am quite in the dark yet;
But I've no kind of doubt, she is quite in the right
As the world all allows—'tis extremely polite,
As your fine travel'd ladies, old madam Van-Crone,
And Lady Rouge-Dragon declare 'tis the Ton;
A Ton, which I needs must approve in the main,—
As I never shall see an old woman again;
For every perfumer I find will engage,
To remove the most desperate symptom of age,
For lotions cosmetic consults the opinions
Of Turks, Jews, Circassians, Chinese, and Armenians,
Boast drugs which lost features at once will renew,
And restore an old face to its juvenile hue;
Will teach the fair Hebe in washes to lurk,
And Cupid his head from a gallipot perk,
E'en pimples and freckles to beauties improve,
And make ev'ry wrinkle the outline of love:—

219

“Oh land of refinement! Oh nation how blest!”
Are things then so dear? are the people distrest?
No, no! my dear Dinah, I'll prove to the state,
Youth and Beauty are sold at so easy a rate,
I can buy you for six-pence, as much as you please,
At Jolly's, at Dawson's, or Mrs. Purdie's.
Lack-a-day! how her throat doth our Margery raise,
How shove up her bosom, and shove down her stays?
For to make a young lady a true polite figure
You must cramp up her sides that her breast may look bigger,
And her's tho' a chicken as yet, my dear Dinah,
Stand forth full as plump, and as jolly as thine are;
And why should ye leave any charm for conjecture.
Like the figure you see in your grandmother's picture,
With her neck in a ruff, and her waist in a girdle,
And her throat like a ram's that is caught in a hurdle,
Her head like the Baptist's when plac'd in a charger—
I'm sure, my dear wife, you have long'd to enlarge her,
You never as yet did those beauties conceal,
Which Nature intended your sex to reveal;

220

And I'm happy that Madge has acquir'd such a spice
Of your excellent manners, and wholesome advice,
Has the spirit, the taste, the good nature, and sense,
To treat all mankind at so small an expence;
And whilst I instruct her that path to pursue,
So well pointed out, so well trodden by you,
I'm sure, my dear Dinah, you never can think ill,
Of your ever sincere, and affectionate INKLE.
Bath, Dec. 4, 1775.
 

King's College Chapel, at Cambridge.

Perfumers at Bath.


221

LETTER II. Mr. Inkle to Mrs. Dinah Inkle, at Glocester

CONSISTING OF

Similes—Easy Postures of modern fine Ladies—Well-bred Speeches—High Life at the Ball—Sudden Arrival of an old Acquaintance.

 Once more, O! ye Muses, from Pindus descend,
And bid all the Graces your footsteps attend,
Who oft at elections are wont to prolong 
The keen-pointed epigram, ballad, or song,
With your own odoriferous water to sprinkle
The posie I twine for my dear Mrs. Inkle.
Not launch'd with more glory, more splendour and pride,
The new-tackled bark skims adown the brisk tide,
Her streamers display'd, and the wind in her poop,
Than Madge sallied forth in her feather and hoop;
But how great her surprize, when the men in despair
First look'd at her topsail, and then at their chair,

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Half grumbling, half sneering, did seem quite unwilling,
Till the Goddess of Wisdom in shape of a shilling,
While Madge was attempting her rigging to push in,
With fingers invisible whipt out the cushion;
And then, like a pistol too big for the holster,
Half in and half out; or an obstinate bolster,
(Which I think I have seen you attempting, my dear,
In vain to cram into a small pillowbeer,)
Thrice did she endeavour her head in to pop,
And thrice did her feather catch hold of the top;
At length, poor dear soul, very ill at her ease,
She sat with her head almost jamm'd to her knees;
I never did yet any vessel discern
So high in her bowsprit, and low in her stern;
To conceive how she look'd, you must call to your mind
The lady you've seen in a lobster confin'd,
Or a pagod in some little corner inshrin'd,
Where with knees both erected, and squat on his breech,
Unhappy divinity sticks in a nitch;
But ne'er did I see such a comical motion,
Nor ever, dear Wife, canst thou form any notion,

223

How crampt in this posture
They wriggl'd and tost her,
While every step that they trod,
Her foretop and nose
Beat time to their toes,
And her feather went—niddity—nod.
Meanwhile pretty brisk, and uncommonly strong,
I tott'ring on two sticks went hobbling along;
Tho' I very much fear that she thought me a fogram,
All stuck out in satins, and I in my grogram;
Yet I'd have her to know, in my Sunday surtout,
Silk hose—new peruke—frill—and ruffles to boot,
I claim'd such respect, did such favours receive,
I ne'er shall forget them as long as I live;
For thou know'st, my dear wife, I esteem it delicious
To appear in high life, and am vastly ambitious
To be squeez'd, as I was, by my Lord Perrywinkle,
With—“your servant, good sir,—“how d'y'do, Mr. Inkle,
“What joy, my dear friend, all the world are you giving,
“To see you once more in the land of the living!

224

“So chearful and brisk, too, I'd venture a million
“If you laid down your cane, you could dance a cotillion—
“Your Lady looks charming, I burn to accost her,
My dear Lord, says I,—“Mrs. Inkle's at Glocester—
“Lack-a-day,” he replies, “then 'twas Lady Killwrinkle,
“Who, I think, is exceedingly like Mrs. Inkle;—
“Mrs. Inkle not here! this is no ball without her—
“She has carried away all the Graces about her—
“Your Lady at Glocester!—and pray do you hear,
“Mr. Inkle, how matters are jogging on there?
“I've a friend, my dear sir, at th' ensuing Election,
“Who pants to receive your advice and protection—
“I wish you'd”—says I, “my dear Lord, say no more,
“Your wish is enough, your commands I adore,
“And I'm sure Mrs. Inkle will think it an honour
“If your Lordship will lay your kind orders upon her,
“'Tis true I've no vote—but I'll use my endeavour,
“I've interest much at your service, however,
“For I'm promis'd, my Lord—but (I beg and desire,
“I beseech as an alms, you won't let it transpire)
“Give me leave just to whisper a word in your ear,—
“Let us step to the card-room—there's nobody there,—

225

—“I am promis'd, my Lord, by old Humphry Potwobbler
“The votes of three taylors—two smiths—and a cobler,—
“At this quite transported, one hand did he put on
“My shoulder, with t'other caught hold of my button,
“Mr. Inkle, says he, (and he shook it a little)
“I profess you have hit this affair to a tittle,
“And since with such kindness, such friendship you meant it,
“Depend upon't, Sir, you shall never repent it.”—
I thought this account, my dear Dinah, would please ye,
(And the Irish Establishment now is so easy)
The least I expect if things properly fadge,
Is a pension for me—and a husband for Madge;—
Thus with nods, winks, and simpers each other delighting,
And poking our heads out, like game-cocks a fighting,
We stuck out our rumps with respect most profound,
And parted like cart-whips bent down to the ground.
Lady D'Oily Palavre, at very first sight
Was indeed above all kind of measure polite,
Mr. Inkle, says she, “you do well to come out,
“A ball is an excellent cure for the gout,
“Miss Madge is so happy, and you are so hearty,
“Come, come, you shall both drink your tea in our party;

226

“Here are some queerish figures, it must be confest,
“But your daughter, Miss Inkle, I vow, and protest,
“Is what I call—prettily—modestly—drest;
“Young ladies are often so awkward and raw
“At their first coming out, but I never yet saw
“Before so polite an assembly as this is,
“An easier, better-bred creature than Miss is,
“Quite a woman of fashion—now don't you think so,
“Pray speak the plain truth, my dear Gorge De Crapau?
Madam Gorge De Crapau cries,—Wee, Ma'am, oh! qu'wee
Van sharmangest paerson, I aever vas see—
But Madge I'm afraid at the end of the chapter
Will find little cause for such transport and rapture,
And tho' my good lady's politeness is such,
I fear I have sweated my carcase too much;
And who at the ball on that night did appear,
Who danc'd in the van, and who limp'd in the rear,
What dukes, and what drapers, what barbers, and peers,
What marquises, earls, and what knights of the shears,
What cook, and what countess, what nymphs of the brooms,
What mop-scepter'd queens, came that night to the Rooms,

227

What dashers of ink, pettifoggers, musicians,
With a new and correct list of all the physicians,
I ne'er can in suitable numbers explain,
Nor learned Batheaston's more musical train,
Tho' whilst the fair virgin at CLIO'S command,
Is dipping for rhymes with her lilly-white hand,
E'en PHŒBUS himself in support of the cause,
Should pop out his head from the Tusculan vase.
Alas! my dear wife, I can never describe
Bath's beautiful nymphs, that adorable tribe,
Who like Mexican queens in the picture which you may
Have seen of the court of the great Montezuma,
Sat in solemn array, and diversified plume,
That shed o'er their charms its delectable gloom;
But at what time they heard the horns echoing bellow,
The hautboy's shrill twang, the brisk fiddle, the mellow
Bassoon, and the sweet-grumbling violoncello,

228

At what time they heard the men puff and belabour
With mouth, stick, and fist, the gay pipe and the tabor,
At once they did scuddle, did flutter, and run,
And take wing like wild-geese alarm'd with a gun,
In a moment came bustling and rustling between one,
Some coupl'd like rabbits, a fat and a lean one,
Some pranc'd up before, some did backward rebound,
While some more in earnest, with looks more profound,
And sweat-bedew'd foretops, did lard the lean ground;
But others more neat, on the pastern arose,
Like the figure of Pan, whom you've seen, I suppose,
Just saluting the turf with the tips of his toes:
And as nothing, I think, can more please and engage
Than a contrast of stature, complexion, and age,
Miss Curd with a partner as black as Omiah,
Kitty Tit shook her heels with old Doctor Goliah,
And little John Crop, like a poney just nickt,
With long Dolly Loaderhead scamper'd and kickt,—
Ah! sweet Dolly Loaderhead—who can believe
Who for truth such reports of bright beauty receive?
Yet I hear—tho' perfum'd you such odours display,
And breathe in December the fragrance of May,

229

If your head were well open'd by louse-piercing Dunn
We should all be convinc'd, by more senses than one,
Tho' so powder'd and plumag'd it came to the feast,
It had ne'er tasted small-comb this twelvemonth at least.
As for Madge, tho' young Squirt had been promis'd the honour
Billy Dasher stept forth, and at once seiz'd upon her;
His air was so pleasing, so soft were his speeches,
Not to mention his new sattin flesh-colour'd breeches,
With a shoe like a sauce-boat, and steeple-clock'd hose,
And a silken soubise, that bob'd up to his nose,
With a watch in each pocket, one lent by his mother,
To prove that one leg should keep time with the other,
With a club like a coach-horse's tail in a strap,
And his coat like his beaver curtail'd of its flap,
With a sleeve you'd have sworn had been sew'd to his arm,—
No wonder, dear Wife, Billy Dasher should charm;
While with flames that keen jealousy's rage did improve,
Poor Squirt felt the heart-rending passion of love,—
—But soft—my dear Wife, I'm oblig'd to give o'er,—
What means that astonishing rap at the door?

230

It must be some person of Figure, no doubt,
And very high breeding, that makes such a rout,
Whoever it be, the true thanks he deserves
Of all who have tender, and delicate nerves—
Sure mine eyes must deceive me, or else I could swear
'Twas your own nephew Sim, getting out of the chair—
Quite a new-fashioned, flea-colour'd coat!—'tis—I'm sure
'Tis Sir Simkin himself, just arriv'd from his tour,
Pretty tender, I find, from a climate so warm,
As he takes at a breeze such a sudden alarm;
One hand, I perceive, tho' the wind's in the south,
Keeps thrusting his handkerchief up to his mouth,
While t'other, on which his camayeus appear,
Holds a thing call'd a chapeau de bras at his ear,—
Well—he comes in good time to improve and refine us—
Tam valdè ridiculus, et peregrinus,—
The meaning of that is in English, my dear,
I'm rejoic'd above measure, and wish you were here,
As his dress, and his manners you needs must applaud,
So much he's improv'd by his travels abroad:—

231

But I hasten to pay the respect that is due
To a friend so esteem'd, and connected with you:
With the truest reluctance I lay down my pen,
And am yours till I've time to resume it agen,
--- INKLE.
 

Mr. Inkle alludes to an elegant antique Vase, which is supposed to have formerly belonged to M.T. Cicero, having been dug up at his celebrated Tusculan Villa near Rome; it is now in the possession of Mrs. Miller, and is appropriated to the reception of the several Poetical Pieces which are contributed by the fashionable company frequenting her Coterie at Batheaston. The Vase is fancifully decorated with festoons of laurel, and the compositions are taken out of it by some young lady to be read by one of the company.

Fragment: vet: Poet:


232

LETTER III. Mr. Inkle to Mrs. Dinah Inkle, at Glocester

CONTAINING

A slight Sketch of a travel'd Man—Continuation of the Ball—An Affair of Honour —and a doleful Disaster.

A thousand times hug'd with outlandish grimace,
Saluted as oft' on both sides of my face,
Distress'd with fine speeches, some Italiano,
And some en Frangois, with a smack of Germano,
Perform'd by Sir Simkin, who'd fain have it known,
He has studied all tongues, and forgotten his own,
In his sweet vis à vis almost poison'd to day
While he gap'd, and complain'd he was tout ennuyè,
(A disease, which, if chance a young man it befal,
Will make him, I find—good for nothing at all)
Now admiring a picture he call'd a Madònna,
Then kissing a lap-dog he brought from Bologna—

233

(Tho' I ne'er till this moment knew what it did mean,)
I think I have felt a small touch of the Spleen,
And with you, my dear Wife, I'll my spirits regale,
And catch one sweet breeze from the Aonian vale—
Ah! fain I Sir Simkin's exploits would relate
From the time that he came to his rank and estate,
Tell the sights he hath seen, to what courts he is known,
What treasures brought home—in exchange for his own—
But the Muse bids me now the transactions recall
Of that famous night which I spent at the Ball,
On which, I profess, both your husband and daughter,
Met a deal of respect, entertainment, and laughter,
For wherever we went, you've no reason to doubt us,
We carried a pow'r of good humour about us:
But alas! my dear Dinah, I fain would conceal
What truth and sincerity bid me reveal,
What with hair all dishevell'd, and tear-blubber'd cheek,
Melpomene trembling commands me to speak,
Commands me to tell thee, the dismalest story,
That ever befel a poor nymph in her glory,

234

The dance was just o'er, and I burnt to employ
My time on more solid, more rational joy,
Life's truest delights were prepar'd to begin,—
For the supper, my dearest, was just carried in,
And the worthy good Dr. Abdomen and I
Had just found a crow in a perigord pie,
And (what I accounted exceedingly pleasant)
Cut up an old fowl stuck with tail of a pheasant,
When Squirt, who had long been attempting in vain
The pangs of resentment and love to restrain,
At length lost all patience; his heart fell a throbbing,
When he saw Billy Dasher with Madge hob-a-nobbing,
And thought he might better give vent to his pain,
Than add to his heat by the soupe à la reine,
So to please his revenge, he pretended to stoop,
And on poor Billy Dasher dispos'd of his soup,
And soupe à la reine so exceedingly rich is,
It fasten'd like glue to his flesh-colour'd breeches;
At once he did roar, kick, and scamper, and swear,
In vain like old Hercules striving to tear
The gift so tenacious, which Squirt with a grin
Protested and vow'd was ne'er meant for his skin;

235

Billy tug'd at his sattins till all in a fright,
The Misses scream'd out at so shocking a sight,
And the dæmon of Discord with menaces loud,
And revenge at his heels had assembl'd a crowd:
Alas! how my soul was prophetic of evil!
(Oh! I wish that old Barnaby Buzz at the devil)
He, forsooth, of all others, must needs interpose,
As in quarrels for ever he's thrusting his nose;
And like some great quacks, who instead of assuaging
The gout in one toe, set the other a raging,
Or what is more dreadful, oft banish the pain
By a nostrum that drives the disease to the brain,
Two words he repeated an hundred times o'er,
Which inflam'd both the heroes' resentment the more,
Satisfaction and honour—which terms I would fain
Beg the favour of some wiser head to explain—
But Barnaby Buzz such an ignorant dolt is
He clapt on a caustic, instead of a poultice,
And talk'd with such infinite vociferation,
And us'd such immoderate gesticulation,
As sure as you live, that conceited old prig
The candle knock'd down on poor Margery's wig;

236

At once the fierce deity seiz'd on her plume,
Made all her combustible noddle to fume,
And whilst my old carroty caxon was singeing,
Some call'd out for Gulliver—some for the engine—
But, what I esteem much politer and kinder,
A well-behav'd gentleman stepping behind her,
To prevent all misfortunes proceeding from fire,
As his wife and his sister were sitting just by her,
(Like an honest, good man, who employs all his labours,
To save his own house—by destroying his neighbour's)
In spite of old Vulcan caught hold of the cawl,
And away flew wig, feathers, and posy and all;
Then as if all the devils in hell meant to plague us,
(Ah! pies take that filthy, vile punch and the negus)
Spite of all that I said in my former epistle—
Madge had taken a drop, just to moisten her whistle,
Prescrib'd her, she tells me, by young Mr. Squirt,
Who vow'd—and protested—'twould do her no hurt,
(Tho' punch, you well know, if it chance to oppress us,
In the very best company's apt to distress us)
Alas! she who lately Bath's beauties among,
Shone foremost and fairest of all the gay throng,

237

Now wigless, unfeather'd, with eyes of despair,
That star'd like a jack-daw's when caught in a snare,
With locks standing up in the front like a teasel,
Behind, sticking out like the tail of a weasel,
With sack, hoop, and stay, pinch'd, and sweated to death,
Stood and gasp'd like a turtle that's panting for breath:
So for fear I should hear some d—n'd rhymer remarking
The fate of my wig and the tail of the Darking,
Tho' at dinner I'd made but a slender repast,
(As before a great feast one may venture to fast,)
I e'en hobbled off, and without any supper,
Was forc'd to go home to unlace and unhoop her.
But if ever again at these balls I appear,
(Tho' a ball without thee, will be no ball, my dear,)
Do, pray, let us banish these new-fangled ways,
And give Madge a little more room in her stays;
For as to the modes of your folk in high life,
I fear we are all in the wrong, my dear wife;
As to eating—I swear in the very first instance,
I'll fall aboard something that makes a resistance,
I think it a sin and a scandal to waste
My time and my teeth upon outlandish paste,

238

Fill'd with truffles, morelles, and such d—n'd nasty stuff,
That agrees with our modern fine youth well enough,
And no doubt our good member pays full enough for it,
But the world shall all know I detest and abhor it;
And tho' Mrs. Madge it exceeds your belief,
I'll take a good slice of old English roast beef;
Let me, my dear, quaff my beer, smouze and carouze,
And you'll find me your ever affectionate spouse
— INKLE.
Bath, Dec. 6, 1775,