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IN PROSE AND VERSE, TO MRS. BUNBURY.1
MADAM: I read your letter with all that allowance which critical candour could require, but after all find so much to object to, and so much to raise my indignation, that I cannot help giving it a serious answer. I am not so ignorant, Madam, as not to see there are many sarcasms contained in it, and solecisms also, (solecism is a word that comes from the town of Soleis in Attica among the Greeks, built by Solon, and applied as we use the word Kidderminster for curtains from a town also of that name; but this is learning you have no taste for.)—I say, Madam, there are sarcasms in it and solecisms also. But, not to seem an illnatured critic, I'll take leave to quote your own words, and give you my remarks upon them as they occur. You begin as follows:
“I hope, my good Doctor, you soon will be here, And your spring velvet coat very smart will appear, To open our ball the first day in the year." Pray, Madam, where did you ever find the
1 See note 1, p. 152. An invitation from Mr. and Mrs. Bunbury, in a rhyming and jocular strain, to spend some time with them at their seat at Barton in Suffolk, brought from the Poet the above reply, printed for the first time in 1837 by Messrs. Prior and Wright, though written in 1772. P. C.
epithet “good” applied to the title of Doctor ? Had you called me learned Doctor, or grave Doctor, or noble Doctor, it might be allowable, because they belong to the profession. But, not to cavil at trifles, you talk of my spring velvet coat, and advise me to wear it the first day in the year, that is in the middle of winter ;-a spring velvet in the middle of winter !!! That would be a solecism indeed; and yet, to increase the inconsistence, in another part of your letter you call me a beau: now, on one side or other, you must be wrong. If I am a beau, I can never think of wearing a spring velvet in winter; and if I am not a beau— why—then—that explains itself. But let me go on to your two next strange lines :
“And bring with you a wig that is modish and gay,
The absurdity of making hay at Christmas you yourself seem sensible of; you say your sister will laugh, and so indeed she well may. The Latins have an expression for a contemptuous sort of laughter, Naso contemnere adunco; that is, to laugh with a crooked nose; she may laugh at you in the manner of the ancients if she thinks fit.—But now I am come to the most extraordinary of all extraordinary propositions, which is, to take your
and your sister's advice in playing at loo. The presumption of the offer raises my indignation beyond the bounds of prose; it inspires
me at once with verse and resentment. I take advice! And from whom? You shall hear.
First let me suppose, what may shortly be true, The company set and the word to be-loo; All smirking and pleasant and big with adventure, And ogling the stake which is fixed in the centre. Round and round go the cards, while I inwardly
be bolder than I; Yet still they sit snug; not a creature will aim, By losing their money, to venture at fame. 'Tis in vain that at niggardly caution I scold, 'Tis in vain that I flatter the brave and the bold; All play their own way, and they think me an ass; What does Mrs. Bunbury? I, Sir? I pass. Pray what does Miss Horneck ? Take courage,
come, do! Who, I?
Let me see, Sir; why I must pass too. Mrs. Bunbury frets, and I fret like the Devil, To see them so cowardly, lucky, and civil; Yet still I sit snug, and continue to sigh on, Till made by my losses as bold as a lion. I venture at all; while my avarice regards The whole pool as my own. Come, give me five
Well done! cry the ladies; ah! Doctor, that's good,
before Fielding; For giving advice that is not worth a straw, May well be called picking of pockets in law; And picking of pockets with which I now charge
ye, Is by Quinto Elizabeth, death without clergy. What justice, when both to the Old Bailey brought! By the gods I'll enjoy it, tho' 'tis but in thought ! Both are placed at the bar with all proper decorum, With bunches of fennel and nosegays before 'em; Both cover their faces with mobs and all that, But the Judge bids them angrily take off their hat. When uncover'd, a buzz of inquiry goes round, Pray what are their crimes ? They've been pil
fering found. But, pray whom have they pilferd ? A Doctor,
What, yon solemn-faced odd-looking man that
stands near ? The same.
What a pity! How does it surprise
Two handsomer culprits I never set eyes on! Then their friends all come round me with cring
ing and leering, To melt me to pity and soften my swearing. First Sir Charles advances with phrases well
strung, Consider, dear Doctor, the girls are but young. The younger
worse, I return him again, It shows that their habits are all dyed in grain; But then they're so handsome, one's bosom it
grieves : What signifies handsome when people are thieves ! But where is your justice? Their cases are hard ; What signifies justice ?- I want the reward.
There's the parish of Edmonton offers forty pounds—There's the parish of St. Leonard, Shoreditch, offers forty pounds—There's the parish of Tyburn, from the Hog in the Pound to St. Giles's Watchhouse, offers forty pounds—I shall have all that if I convict them.
But consider their case, it may yet be your own, And see how they kneel ; is your heart made of
stone ? This moves; so at last I agree to relent, For ten pounds in hand and ten pounds to be spent.