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An Epistle to Dr. Shebbeare : To which is added, an Ode to Sör
Fletcher Norton, in 'Imitation of Horace, Ode VIII. Book IV. By Malcolm Macgreggor, of Knightsbridge, Esq; Author of the Heroic Epistle to Sir Wm. Chambers, &c. 4to.
4to. 6d. Almon.
If this Epistle was really written by the author of the celebrated Heroic Epistle to Sir Wm. Chambers (and we have no internal or external proof to the contrary), we can but join issue, with the writer, in lamenting the many recent examples of modern poets rhiming themselves down. Not that we think it yet quite so bad with 'Squire Macgreggor as he humourously affects to describe. Observing, by the way, however, that there is many a truth spoke in jest, we shall subinit the case, as set forth in the exordium of the present epiftle, to our readers.
" O for a thousand tongues! and every tongue
Like Johnson's, arm'd with words of fix feet long,
In multitudinous vociferation
To panegyricize this glorious nation,
Whose liberty results from her taxation.
O, for that passive, pensionary spirit,
That by its prostitution proves its merit!
That rests on RIGHT DIVINE, all regal claims,
And gives to George, whate'er it gave to James :
Then should my Tory, numbers, old Shebbeare,
Tickle the tatter'd fragment of thy car!
Then all that once was virtuous, wise, or brave,
That quelld a tyrant, that abhorr'd a slave,
Then Sydney's, Ruflel's patriot fame should fall,
Belineard with mire, like black Dalrymple's gall,
Then, like thy prose, should my
Tear each immortal plume from Naffau's hearse,
That modern monarchs, in that plumage gay,
Might stare and strut, the peacocks of a day,
But I, like Anity, feel myself unfit
To run, with hollow speed, two heats of wit.
He, at first starting, won both fame and money,
The betts ran high on Bladud's Cicerone;
Since distanc'd quite, like a gall’d jade he winces,
And lashes unknown priests, and praises well-known princes.
So I, when first I tun'd th’ heroic lay,
Gain's Pownall's praise, as well as Almon's pay.
In me the nation plac'd its tuneful hope,
Its second Churchill, or at least its Pope:
Proudly I prick'd along, Sir William's squire,
Bade kings recite my itrains, and queens admire;
Chaste maids of honour prais’d my stout endeavour,
Sir Thomas (wore “ The fellow was damnd clever."
But popularity, alas! has wings,
And fits as soon from poets as from kings.
My pompous Postscript found itself disdain'd
As much as Milton's Paradise Regain'da
And when I dar'd the Patent Snuffers handle,
To trim, with Pinchy's aid, Old England's candle,
The lyric muse, fo lame was her condition,
Could hardly hop beyond a third edition.
Yes, 'tis a general truth, and strange as true,
(Kenrick shall prove it in his next Review)
That no one bard, in these degenerate days,
Can write two works deserving equal praise.” As this humourous epiftolizer seems modestly to fubmit his judgement ( as every author ought) to the London Reviewers, and to depend on the sanction of our editor in confirmation of his assertions, we mutt frankly confess there is but too much truth in his observation. We shall not, however, tax either the critical acumen or logical fubtlety of Dr. Kenrick, to adduce the formal proof of it. If Mr. Macgreggor is willing to abide by the evidence of facts, and be judged by his own example, the proof is apparent; he stands felf-condemned: the present epiftle being by no means equal, either in wit, humour, or satire, to his former epiftle, addressed to Sir Win. Chambers. And yet we do not, therefore, deduce so general a conclufion as doth our author. We do not say, he may not hereafter produce another of equal merit; so shall not pursue his hint of a philosophical enquiry into the cause of his present failure;
« Whether the matter of which ininds are made
Be grown of late, mephitic, and decay'd,
Or wants phlogiston, I forbear to say,
The problem's more in Doctor Priestley's way.” Without supposing the effect fo general, there are moral, as well as physical causes, by which such particular phænoinena may be accounted for. 'In the first place, there is nothing more fatal to modern geniuses than the flattering success of first productions. It intoxicates the brain, fires the head with conceit, fills the heart with pride, and lulls the little wit, a man has, into a lethargy, in which he wakes only by fits and starts from dreaming of his own importance. According to the proverb, “ He that once a good name gets”—It is a little homely, fo let it pass : but certainly our author had not his former wits about him, when he descended to such scurrility as disgraces the epistle before us. It is true that he may plead his subject, the example of the writer he addresses, and stand up for the propriety of treating every man in his own way. And this suggests another reason for the poet's not having out-done
his usual out-doings: the want of a proper subject ; that of his Epistle to Sir Wm. Chambers being a most happy one, and as happily handled. A new and lucky subject has set up, and a bad one cast down, inore poets than people are aware of. What was his poinpous Poitscript that it Thould not be treated like Paradise Regained ? Were they not both but second parts of the same tune. And though he was pert enough on poor Pinchy and his candle-snuffer; was such a pitiful implement worth handling, or the booby inventor to be called in to snuff the expiring wick of English liberty? It is no wonder the Lyric Mufe should hop, under such fardels, through no more than three editions. By the way, however, the poet or his printer must fib a little: if we believe the public papers,
the laine duck has limped to a fifth, under all her disadvantages. But to the point : we charge this celebrated Epiftolizer, whose strains, he tells us, even kings recite and queens admire, with having descended in the present instance to downright scurrility. Let the reader judge.
“ Enough of fouls, unless we waste a line,
Shebbeare! to pay a compliment to thine:
Which forg’d, of old, of strong Hibernian brass,
Shines through the Paris plaister of thy face,
And bronzes it, secure from shame, or sense,
To the flat glare of finish'a impudence.
Wretch! that from Slander's filth art ever gleaning,
Spite without spirit, malice without meaning:
The fame abusive, base, abandon'd thing,
When pilloried, or penfion'd by a King.
Old as thou art, methinks, 'were fage advice,
That N--th should call thee off from hunting Price.
Some younger blood-hound of his bawling pack
Might forer gall his presbyterian back.
Thy toothless jaws should free thee from the fight;
Thou canst but mumble, when thou mean'st to bite." Does the reader find, in the above lines, any thing of that pleasant ironical turn of wit and satire, for which the Heroic Epiftle was so much adınired ? Nay, is it any thing better than the abuse, it abuses ?- The whole piece, however, is not so bad as the above; although it is more out of regard to the celebrity of the writer than to the merit of the verses, that we quote any more of them. To gratify the curiosity of our readers, founded on that celebrity, we add to the exordium the conclusion.
“ Come, then, Shebbeare! and hear thy bard deliver
Unpaid-for praises to thy penfion-giver.
Hear me, like T--k-r, swear, “ to help me, muse!"
I write not for preferment's golden views.
But hold—'tis on thy province to intrude:
I would be loyal, but would not be rude.
To thee, my veteran, I his fame confign;
Take thou St. James's, be St. Stephen's mine.
Hail, genial hotbed! whose prolific foil
So well repays all North's perennial toil,
Whence he can raise, if want or whim inclines,
A crop of votes, as plentiful as pines.
Wet-nurse of tavern-waiters and Nabobs,
That empties first, and after fills their fobs :
(As Pringle, to procure a fane secretion,
Purges the primæ viæ of repletion.)
What scale of metaphor shall Fancy raise,
To climb the heights of thy ftupendous praise?
Thrice has the sun commenc'd his annual ride,
Since, full of years and praise, thy mother died,
'Twas then I saw thee, with exulting eyes,
A second phenix, from her ashes rile;
Mark'd all the graces of thy loyal crest,
Sweet with the perfume of its parent neit.
Rare chick! How worthy of all court caresses,
How soft, how echo-like, it chirp'd addresses.
Proceed, I cry'd, thy full-fledg'd plumes unfold,
Each true-blue feather shall be tipt with gold;
Ordain'd thy race of future fame to run,
To do, whate'er thy mother left undone.
In all her smooth, obsequious paths proceed,
For, know, poor Opposition wants a head.
With horn and hound her truant schoolboys roam,
And for a fox-chace quit St. Stephen's dome,
Forgetful of their grandfire Nimrod's plan,
“ A mighty hunter, but his prey was man."
The rest, at crouded Almack's, nightly bett,
To stretch their own beyond the nation's debt.
Vote then secure; the needful millions raise,
That fill the privy-purse with means and ways.
And do it quickly too, to fhew your breeding,
The weazel Scots are hungry, and want feeding,
Nor need ye wait for that more plenteous season,
When mad America is brought to reason.
Obfequious Ireland, at her fifter's claim,
(Sister or step-dame, call her either name)
Shall pour profusely her Pactolian tide,
Nor leave her native patriots unfupply'd.
Earl N.---t sung, while yer but limple Clare,
That wretched Ireland had no gold to spare.
How couldst thau, fimple Clare! that ifle abuse,
Which prompts and pays thy linsey-woolsey muset
Mistaken peer! Her treasures ne'er can cease,
Did she not long pay Viry for our peace?
Say, did she not, till rang the royal knell,
Irradiate veltal Majesty at Zell ?
Sure then she might atford, to my poor thinking,
One golden tumbler, for Queen Charlotte's drinking.
I care not, if her hinds on tens and rocks
Ne'er roast one shoulder of their fatted flocks,
Shall Irish hinds to mutton make pretensions?
Be theirs potatoes, and be ours their penfions.
If they reture, great North, by me advis'd,
Enact, that each potatoe be excis'd.
Ah! hadít thou, North, adopted this sage plan,
And scorn'd to tax each British serving-man,
Thy friend Macgreggor, when he came to town,
(As poets should do) in his chaise and one,
Had seen his foot-boy Sawney, once his pride,
On stunt Scotch poney trotting by his fide,
With frock of fuitian, and with cape of red,
Nor grudg'd the guinea tax'd upon his head.
But tush, heed not-for my country's good
I'll pay it--it will purchase Yankee blood
And well I ween, for this heroic lay,
Almon will give me wherewithal to pay.
Tax then, ye greedy ministers, your fill:
No matter, if with ignorance or skill.
Be ours to pay, and that's an easy task,
In these blest times to have is but to alk.
Ye know, whate'er is from the public prest,
Will sevenfold sink into your private chest.
For he, the nursing father, that receives,
Full freely though he takes, as freely gives,
So when great Cox, at his mechanic call,
Bids orient pearls from golden dragons fall,
Each litile dragonct, with brazen grin,
Gapes for the precious prize, and guips it in.
Yet when we peep behind the magic scene,
One maler wheel directs the whole machine :
The felt-fame pearls, in nice gradation, all
Around one common centre, rise and fail.
Tous may our llate museum long surprise;
And what is funk by votes in bribes arile;
Till mock'd and jaded with the pupper-play,
Old England's genius turns with Tcorn away,
Ascends his facred bark, the fails unfurld,
And steers his state to the wide western world :
High on the helm majestic Freedom stands,
In act of cold contempt she waves her hands.
Take, Naves, she cries, the realms that I disown,
Renounce your birth-right, and destroy my throne."
We hope Mr. Macgreggor will not follow the example of
the Rev. Mr. Mason, and prosecute us for literary piracy; as