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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895.

Austin Dobson 1840–1921

A Familiar Epistle



I should address you a Rondeau,

Or else announce what I ’ve to say

At least en Ballade fratriseé

But No: for once I leave Gymnasticks,

And take to simple Hudibrasticks,

Why should I choose another Way,

When this was good enough for GAY?

You love, my FRIEND, with me I think,

That Age of Lustre and of Link;

Of Chelsea China and long “s”es,

Of Bag-wigs and of flowered Dresses;

That Age of Folly and of Cards,

Of Hackney Chairs and Hackney Bards;

—No H-LTS, no K-G-N P-LS were then

Dispensing Competence to Men;

The gentle Trade was left to Churls,

Your frowsy TONSONS and your CURLLS;

Mere Wolves in Ambush to attack

The AUTHOR in a Sheep-skin Back;

Then SAVAGE and his Brother-Sinners

In Porridge Island div’d for Dinners;

Or doz’d on Covent Garden Bulks,

And liken’d Letters to the Hulks;—

You know that by-gone Time, I say,

That aimless easy-moral’d Day,

When rosy Morn found MADAM still

Wrangling at Ombre or Quadrille,

When good SIR JOHN reel’d Home to Bed,

From Pontack’s or the Shakespear’s Head;

When TRIP convey’d his Master’s Cloaths,

And took his Titles and his Oaths;

While BETTY, in a cast Brocade,

Ogled MY LORD at Masquerade;

When GARRICK play’d the guilty Richard,

Or mouth’d Macbeth with Mrs. PRITCHARD;

When FOOTE grimaced his snarling Wit;

When CHURCHILL bullied in the Pit;

When the CUZZONI sang—

But there!

The further Catalogue I spare,

Having no Purpose to eclipse

That tedious Tale of HOMER’S Ships;—

This is the MAN that drew it all

From Pannier Alley to the Mall,

Then turn’d and drew it once again

From Bird-Cage-Walk to Lewknor’s Lane;

Its Rakes and Fools, its Rogues and Sots;

Its brawling Quacks, its starveling Scots;

Its Ups and Downs, its Rags and Garters,


Its Splendor, Squalor, Shame, Disease;

Its quicquid agunt Homines;

Nor yet omitted to pourtray

Furens quid possit Foemina;

In short, held up to ev’ry Class

NATURE’S unflatt’ring looking-Glass;

And, from his Canvas, spoke to All

The Message of a JUVENAL.

Take Him. His Merits most aver:

His weak Point is—his Chronicler!