BETA

The Novel—A Satire.

One night the Poet—(for in these dull times,1
Each fool becomes a poet when he rhymes)—2
Feasted his friend, yet gave no feast more fine3
Than plain boil’d beef, a pudding, and old wine.4
In gentle converse pass’d the hours away,5
Kings mix’d with grouse, and politics with hay ;6
Each in, soft chair luxuriously reclined,7
Each pleased with each, and every care resign’d ;8
Strong and more strong the stream of friendship flow’d ;9
Bright and more bright their wit and glances glow’d,10
Till the pleased Squire on many a mingled pile11
Of tales and statues cast approving smile12
On Bowles and Blackstone fix’d his softest looks,13
And, though the scene was Suffolk, talk’d of books.14

THE SQUIRE.

Thank Heaven, which many comforts round me placed,15
Gave health, ease, freedom, and denied me taste16
No critic I, discerning or severe,17
To find a beauty there, a blemish here ;18
One equal rapture fills me as I stray :19
Through Scott’s bright song, or Shiel’s uproarious play20
I own each fancy fine, each image just,21
And read Leigh Hunt himself—without disgust !22

POET.

Ah ! blest your fate, who thus a charm can find23
Where scorn and anger vex another’s mind ;24
Whose spell-bound eyes, with Oberon’s plant o’erspread,25
See sense or beauty in an ass’s head ;26
Whose chemic mind, by reason uncontroll’d,27
Can turn the dross of dulness into gold.28
Alas! some demon, when I read, presides,29
Reveals each fault, and every beauty hides ;30
Bids idiot pathos in each sentence whine,31
And vulgar folly flaunt in every line.32
Bards bold and true no more on earth are found33
To stir our hearts “ as with a trumpet’s sound,”34
But loud-tongued nonsense wakes the turgid strain,35
And impious weakness grovels in her train36
Creation’s glories fill the soul of Ball,37
And Milton’s muse awakes at Cox’s call,38
Bœtian owls round hell’s vast confines croak,39
And Satan dies—o’ercome by Gummery’s smoke.40

SQUIRE.

These I disclaim ; with scorn I turn away41
From each dull driveller’s sanctimonious lay,42
Whose pompous rhymes Religion’s self degrade,43
Make Prayer a farce, and Piety a trade44
Yet surely genius in our land is strong,45
Though now no longer it breaks forth in song46
To other themes our bards have turn’d their might ;47
And, lo ! the Novel rises on the sight.48

POET.

Granted, that some remain, whose muse of fire,49
Though wing’d no longer, still escapes the mire ;50
Whose Pegasus no more in Cloudland glows,51
But drags Life’s chariot through the realms of prose ;52
Yet fiery still, scarce half subdued to earth,53
Th’ ethereal courser shews a heav’nly birth.54
But, lo ! what creatures follow in their track !55
What tottering limbs betray each long-ear’d hack !56
What hideous discord marks each jocund bray,57
As with vain toil they labour to be gay !58

SQUIRE.

Oh, hard to please ! to wit’s best flashes blind !59
Do force and humour fail to soothe your mind ?60
Does Fashion’s self describe her glittering train,61
And ope the secrets of her halls in vain ?62
Can high-born damsels write, yet fail to please,63
Nor letter’d lords your critic rage appease ?64
Can titled a unrequited tell,65
How princes talk, how wisely, and how well ?66

POET.

Titled indeed! Miladi shews her skill67
In wondrous wit, and sense more wondrous still68
Travels or Tales, whiche’er engage her mind,69
Shew the same spirit and deep thought combined,70
The virtuous wish, the pure and patriot heart,71
And the meek woman’s unassuming part.72
All these she shews; and flaunts before our eyes,73
A thing to elevate, instruct, surprise,74
The soul of whim, too meteor-like to fix,75
The chief in fashion, and in politics.76
Yet strong suspicions oft unbidden rise,77
That the fair lady is more fair than wise,78
That fancy still in all her statements blends,79
But revels chiefly in her list of friends,—80
That the dear dukes of whom she fondly sings81
Owe rank-and title to Utopian kings,—82
That her Romances scarce her facts outdo,83
And that her facts are all Romances too.—84
And fashion ? —Are there two of all the tribe85
Of would-be wits, who know what they describe ? —86
Lo ! the fair laundress, perch’d in high St Giles,87
Paints to one dimple how the Countess smiles ;88
While Prince and Peer their wit and wisdom owe89
To pilfering valets housed in Rottenrow.90
Footmen discharged draw statesmen out of place ;91
And cooks first pillage, and then paint his Grace.92
And Love, young Love, thou universal theme93
O’er fashion’s scribblers first, last, best, supreme !94
Whether in Grosvenor Square thou takest thy rise,95
Where Weippert’s madd’ning bow resistless flies,96
Or in the country’s sentimental shades97
Attack’st patrician youths and noble maids,98
Thy fate’s the same, unceasing doom’d to stray99
Mid ball and rout, drums, opera, park, and play :100
The scoundrel friend deceives, the uncle dies,101
Pure, happy scenes to bless each charmer rise ;102
And thou, immortal Love ! so strong thy root,103
Surviv’st a duel and a Chancery suit !104
Then flows such wealth as Lowther never knew,105
Then ope the stores of Stafford and Buccleuch ;106
Then shirtless scribes bestow whole counties’ rents,107
Exhaust the mint, and rob the four per cents,—108
And senseless heroes thus our praise secure109
Their lordships may be fools, but shan’t be poor. —110
And oh! what language marks each titled dame,111
How high each lord ranks Lindley Murray’s fame !112
Indignant wit on prudish grammar frowns,113
While singular verbs coquette with plural nouns,114
And Ton exults in similes like these,115
As fine as tenpence,” and “ as thick as pease.”116
Proverbs from loveliest lips unnumber’d fly,117
And Lieven’s self “ has other fish to fry.”118
Austria’s gay princess who so blind as miss119
In “ dat, mi lor’, mit, vat, madear, and dis ? ” *120
Such foreign graces every heart must melt121
Alas! they’re only foreign while they’re spelt.122

SQUIRE.

What only while they’re spelt ? —oh wise and sage !123
Why, real French fills half of every page124

POET.

And why ? —You can’t suppose that English wives125
Talk such a piebald babel all their lives ;126
That English daughters spoil their native grace127
With grin, and exclamation, and grimace ;128
End with bad English what worse French began,129
And speak upon the Hamiltonian plan130
That English sons in every sentence shew131
Italian, French, and English in a row ;132
Swear with Dutch boors, or drink with Spanish friars133
Poor polyglott editions of their sires.134
Believe it not; pure English undefiled,135
Such as of old was spoke when Wortley smiled,136
Such still is spoke—and surely far more dear137
Is good plain English to an English ear,138
Than lisp’d-out phrases stol’n from every clime,139
And strangely alter’d—to conceal the crime.140

SQUIRE.

Yet, without French, how dull the page would look ;141
Must no Italics mark when speaks a Duke ?142
Must peers and beauties flirt in common print ;143
And no small letters aid a statesman’s hint ?144

POET.

Yes! let them write; let cook and scullion scrawl ;145
Let Colburn or Minerva print them all !146

* Vid. The Exclusives.
If lively Betty in her book transfer147
To Lady Jane, what Thomas sighs to her ;148
If the old Earl’s the coachman in disguise,149
And if the Duchess Dolly’s place supplies ;150
If John, ennobled, holds a high debauch,151
And breaks the head of Priscian and the watch,152
What is’t to me? The tale’s a pleasing tale,153
And murdering nature scarce deserves the jail.154
Flourish ye vulgar drivellings of the vain,155
The fill’d with folly, and the void of brain !156
Ye Tales of Ton shine on for countless years,157
Proud of your idiot squires and witless peers !158
Tales of High Life, in endless beauty bloom159
Mirrors of grandeur in the butler’s room !160
And ye, in servants’ hall for aye be seen,161
Obscure Blue Stockings, Davenels, and D’Erbine !162
Yet Sympathy her gentle woes may add,163
Where sorry authors made their readers sad ;164
The thoughtful student well may sigh to know165
That mortal dulness ever sank so low ;166
The pensive tear may innocently fall167
On scenes where simple Folly rules o’er all.—168
Not so, when Ribaldry, ’ neath Fiction’s name,169
Shews equal dulness with a deadlier aim ;170
Paints not Almack’s to bid the kitchen stare,171
Nor fills the pantry with St James’s air ;172
But soars to crime, and strives to gain the art,173
To sap the morals, and corrupt the heart.—174
See where Ecarté’s prurient scenes betray175
The madd’ning reign of beauty and of play ;176
Seeming to guard against the bait they throw,177
Seeming to hide what most they mean to shew.178
Tempting, like Spartan maids, by half revealing,179
And tempting more, perhaps, by half concealing.180
Where’er we move, some yielding beauty woos,181
Rich in the sensual graces of the stews ;182
While warm descriptions every charm define,183
And all the brothel breathes from every line,184
Nor pass the Roué in this list of shame,185
Whose equal faults an equal scorn may claim,—186
Where Drury Lane her morals deigns to teach,187
And Covent Garden yields her flow’rs of speech ;188
Where heroes, witty, graceful, gay, polite,189
Act like Count Fathom, and like Egan write ; *190
Describe such scenes as Harriet might disgrace,191
Or call a blush on pimpled Hazlitt’s face !192
Ingenious authors! who so closely shape193
Your course betwixt seduction and a rape,194
That wondering readers catch the pleasing hope,195
To see your heroes dangling from a rope,196
Think ye the “ morals” ye draw forth at last,197
Shall shield, like penitence, your actions past ;198
Even though your rake, by one unchanging rule,199
Is tamed and married to a flirt or fool ?200
Or, harder fate, if harder fate you know,201
Dies e’er his pen has traced the last huge O ! !!†202
Think ye two ribald volumes are forgiven,203
Provided in the third he talks of heaven ?204

* The comparison here is only to the “slang,” not to the vivacity of that ingenious
Historiographer of the Ring.
† The Roué concludes with this very appalling exclamation.
As if, dull rogues ! our scorn ye could assuage,205
For Berkeley’s youth by Zachary’s old age !206
Nature, which all things righteously ordains,207
Gives rascals malice, but denies them brains ;208
So to some puppy fill’d-with fear and spite,209
She gives the wish—without the power—to bite ;210
So to Sir Roger, scarce released from school,*211
She gives obsceneness—but proclaims him fool.212

But turn we now where other scenes invite,213
Where sense and pathos, wit and mirth, unite.214
Lo, in some dell, far hid amidst the wild,215
In virtue’s sunshine, blooms the cottage child ;216
No charm she borrows from appalling deeds,217
No spectres rise, no dark-eyed rival bleeds ;218
Yet in bleak vale, lone moor, or heath-clad hill,219
The awaken’d heart attends and loves her still.220
And near the poor man’s couch what thoughts arise221
’Mid tearful prayers, as yon grey Elder dies !222
How rock and cliff resound the shepherd’s lays !223
How earth seems vocal with her Maker’s praise !224
Whether with Hannah Lee we wander slow,225
Through the thick midnight and the drifting snow ;226
Or with lone Margaret every pang endure,227
Which makes her own pure heart more heavenly pure ;228
In smiles or tears, in storm or calm, we find,229
How thrills the touch of Genius through the mind !230
And Nature holds her sway as Lockhart tells,231
How dark the grief that with the guilty dwells ;232
How various passions through the bosom move,233
Dalton’s high hope, and Ellen’s sinless love.234
Creative fancy gives a lovelier green235
To Godstowe’s glade ; and hallows all the scene236
Where Love’s low whisper sooth’d their wildest fears,237
Till Joy grew voiceless and flow’d forth in tears.238
But wherefore idly thus proceed to shew239
Where wit, truth, nature, mix in genial glow ?240
Galt’s humorous pow’r, Hogg’s tale to nature true,241
And her rich pencil who Clan Albin drew ?242
Smith—though a model seems before him still,243
And all his art seems imitative skill,—244
Though still the mimic in each step he shews,245
Like Davy “ majorin” in Bradwardine’s clothes,—246
Smith yet has wit, has humour, fancy, fire,247
And what the devil more can one desire ?248
De Vere and t’other Dromio—nice Tremaine,249
Well-bred, good dressers, sensible and vain ;250
Judges of wit, teas, beoks, and pantaloons,251
Are “ spoons” indeed, but then—they’re polish’d “ spoons.”252
Yet in this catalogue of glorious names,253
From Anastasius Hope, to Darnley James,254
First, best of all, oh, never be forgot——255

SQUIRE.

Stop.  Not a single word of Walter Scott.256
I listen’d long impatient for a close,257
But still one name and then another rose ;258
I sigh’d, cough’d, yawn’d, and snored in very spite259
I’ve had a pleasant sleep, and now—good-night.260

* This blockhead has published a novel called Sir Thomas Gasteneys, a minor ; of
which the less that is said the better.