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any one read William Cobbett nowadays? If so, let him compare what
follows with the recorded specimens of Cobbett's public speaking: -

"Most thinking People, - When persons address an audience from the stage,
it is usual, either in words or gesture, to say, 'Ladies and gentlemen,
your servant.' If I were base enough, mean enough, paltry enough, and
_brute beast_ enough to follow that fashion, I should tell two lies in a
breath. In the first place, you are not ladies and gentlemen, but, I
hope, something better - that is to say, honest men and women; and, in
the next place, if you were ever so much ladies, and ever so much
gentlemen, I am not, _nor ever will be_, your humble servant."

With Dr. Johnson's style - supposing we had ever forgotten its masculine
force and its balanced antitheses - we have been made again familiar by
the erudite labours of Dr. Birkbeck Hill and Mr. Augustine Birrell. But
even those learned critics might, I think, have mistaken a copy for an
original if in some collection of old speeches they had lighted on the
ensuing address: -

"That which was organized by the moral ability of one has been executed
by the physical efforts of many, and DRURY LANE THEATRE is now complete.
Of that part behind the curtain, which has not yet been destined to glow
beneath the brush of the varnisher or vibrate to the hammer of the
carpenter, little is thought by the public, and little need be said by
the Committee. Truth, however, is not to be sacrificed to the
accommodation of either, and he who should pronounce that our edifice
has received its final embellishment would be disseminating falsehood
without incurring favour, and risking the disgrace of detection without
participating the advantage of success."

An excellent morsel of Johnsonese prose belongs to a more recent date.
It became current about the time when the scheme of Dr. Murray's
Dictionary of the English Language was first made public. It took the
form of a dialogue between Dr. Johnson and Boswell: -

"_Boswell_. Pray, sir, what would you say if you were told that the next
dictionary of the English language would be written by a Scotsman and a
Presbyterian domiciled at Oxford?

"_Dr. J_. Sir, in order to be facetious it is not necessary to be

When Bulwer-Lytton brought out his play _Not so Bad as we Seem_, his
friends pleasantly altered its title to _Not so Good as we Expected_.
And when a lady's newspaper advertised a work called "How to Dress on
Fifteen Pounds a Year, as a Lady. By a Lady," _Punch_ was ready with the
characteristic parody: "How to Dress on Nothing a Year, as a Kaffir. By
a Kaffir."

Mr. Gladstone's authority compels me to submit the ensuing imitation of
Macaulay - the most easily parodied of all prose writers - to the judgment
of my readers. It was written by the late Abraham Hayward. Macaulay is
contrasting, in his customary vein of overwrought and over-coloured
detail, the evils of arbitrary government with those of a debased
currency: -

"The misgovernment of Charles and James, gross as it had been, had not
prevented the common business of life from going steadily and
prosperously on.

"While the honour and independence of the State were sold to a foreign
Power, while chartered rights were invaded, while fundamental laws were
violated, hundreds of thousands of quiet, honest, and industrious
families laboured and traded, ate their meals, and lay down to rest in
comfort and security. Whether Whig or Tories, Protestants or Jesuits
were uppermost, the grazier drove his beasts to market; the grocer
weighed out his currants; the draper measured out his broadcloth; the
hum of buyers and sellers was as loud as ever in the towns; the
harvest-home was celebrated as joyously as ever in the hamlets; the
cream overflowed the pails of Cheshire; the apple juice foamed in the
presses of Herefordshire: the piles of crockery glowed in the furnaces
of the Trent; and the barrows of coal rolled fast along the timber
railways of the Tyne."

This reads like a parody, but it is a literal transcript of the
original; and Hayward justly observes that there is no reason why this
rigmarole should ever stop, as long as there is a trade, calling, or
occupation to be particularized. The pith of the proposition (which
needed no proof) is contained in the first sentence. Why not continue
thus? -

"The apothecary vended his drugs as usual; the poulterer crammed his
turkeys; the fishmonger skinned his eels; the wine merchant adulterated
his port; as many hot-cross buns as ever were eaten on Good Friday, as
many pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, as many Christmas pies on Christmas
Day; on area steps the domestic drudge took in her daily pennyworth of
the chalky mixture which Londoners call milk; through area bars the
feline tribe, vigilant as ever, watched the arrival of the cat's-meat
man; the courtesan flaunted in the Haymarket; the cab rattled through
the Strand; and, from the suburban regions of Fulham and Putney, the
cart of the market gardener wended its slow and midnight way along
Piccadilly to deposit its load of cabbages and turnips in Covent

Twice has Mr. Gladstone publicly called attention to the merits of this
"effective morsel of parody," as he styles it; and he judiciously adds
that what follows (by the late Dean Hook) is "a like attempt, but less
happy." Most people remember the attack on the constitution of the Court
of Chancery in the preface to _Bleak House_. Dean Hook, in a laudable
attempt to soothe the ruffled feelings of his old friend Vice-Chancellor
Page Wood, of whom Dickens in that preface had made fun, thus endeavours
to translate the accusation into Macaulayese: -



"The Court of Chancery was corrupt. The guardian of lunatics was the
cause of insanity to the suitors in his court. An attempt at reform was
made when Wood was Solicitor-General. It consisted chiefly in increasing
the number of judges in the Equity Court. Government was pleased by an
increase of patronage; the lawyers approved of the new professional
prizes. The Government papers applauded. Wood became Vice-Chancellor. At
the close of 1855 the Equity Courts were without business. People had
become weary of seeking justice where justice was not to be found. The
state of the Bench was unsatisfactory. Cranworth was feeble; Knight
Bruce, though powerful, sacrificed justice to a joke; Turner was heavy;
Romilly was scientific; Kindersley was slow; Stuart was pompous; Wood
was at Bealings."

If I were to indulge in quotations from well-known parodies of prose,
this chapter would soon overflow all proper limits. I forbear,
therefore, to do more than remind my readers of Thackeray's _Novels by
Eminent Hands_ and Bret Harte's _Sensation Novels_, only remarking, with
reference to the latter book, that "Miss Mix" is in places really
indistinguishable from _Jane Eyre_. The sermon by Mr. Jowett in Mr.
Mallock's _New Republic_ is so perfect an imitation, both in substance
and in style, that it suggested to some readers the idea that it had
been reproduced from notes of an actual discourse. On spoken as
distinguished from written eloquence there are some capital skits in the
_Anti-Jacobin_, where (under the name of Macfungus) excellent fun is
made of the too mellifluous eloquence of Sir James Mackintosh.

The differentiating absurdities of after-dinner oratory are photographed
in Thackeray's _Dinner in the City_, where the speech of the American
Minister seems to have formed a model for a long series of similar
performances. Dickens's experience as a reporter in the gallery of the
House of Commons had given him a perfect command of that peculiar style
of speaking which is called Parliamentary, and he used it with great
effect in his accounts of the inaugural meeting of the "United
Metropolitan Improved Hot Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punctual
Delivery Company" in _Nicholas Nickleby_ (where he introduces a capital
sketch of Tom Duncombe, Radical Member for Finsbury); and in the
interview between Mr. Gregsbury, M.P., and his constituents in a later
chapter of the same immortal book.

The parliamentary eloquence of a later day was admirably reproduced in
Mr. Edward Jenkins's prophetic squib (published in 1872) _Barney
Geoghegan, M.P., and Home Rule at St. Stephen's_. As this clever little
book has, I fear, lapsed into complete oblivion, I venture to cite a
passage. It will vividly recall to the memory of middle-aged politicians
the style and tone of the verbal duels which, towards the end of Mr.
Gladstone's first Administration, took place so frequently between the
Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition. Mr. Geoghegan has
been returned, a very early Home Ruler, for the Borough of Rashkillen,
and for some violent breaches of order is committed to the custody of
the Sergeant-at-Arms. On this the leader of the House rises and
addresses the Speaker: -

"Sir, - The House cannot but sympathize with you in the eloquent and
indignant denunciation you have uttered against the painful invasion of
the decorum of the House which we have just witnessed. There can be no
doubt in any mind, even in the minds of those with whom the hon. member
now at the bar usually acts, that of all methods of argument which could
be employed in this House, he has selected the least politic. Sir, may I
be permitted, with great deference, to say a word upon a remark that
fell from the Chair, and which might be misunderstood? Solitary and
anomalous instances of this kind could never be legitimately used as
arguments against general systems of representation or the course of a
recent policy. I do not, at this moment, venture to pronounce an opinion
upon the degree of criminality that attaches to the hon. member now
unhappily in the custody of the Officer of the House. It is possible - I
do not say it is probable, I do not now say whether I shall be prepared
to commit myself to that hypothesis or not - but it is not impossible
that the hon. member or some of his friends may be able to urge some
extenuating circumstances - (Oh! oh!) - I mean circumstances that, when
duly weighed, may have a tendency in a greater or less degree to modify
the judgment of the House upon the extraordinary event that has
occurred. Sir, it becomes a great people and a great assembly like this
to be patient, dignified, and generous. The honourable member, whom we
regret to see in his present position, no doubt represents a phase of
Irish opinion unfamiliar to this House. (Cheers and laughter.) ... The
House is naturally in a rather excited state after an event so unusual,
and I venture to urge that it should not hastily proceed to action. We
must be careful of the feelings of the Irish people. (Oh! oh!) If we are
to govern Ireland according to Irish ideas, we must make allowance for
personal, local, and transitory ebullitions of Irish feeling, having no
general or universal consequence or bearing.... The course, therefore,
which I propose to take is this - to move that the hon. member shall
remain in the custody of the Sergeant-at-Arms, that a Committee be
appointed to take evidence, and that their report be discussed this day

To this replies the Leader of the Opposition: -

"The right hon. gentleman is to be congratulated on the results of his
Irish policy. (Cheers and laughter.) ... Sir, this, I presume, is one of
the right hon. gentleman's contented and pacified people! I deeply
sympathize with the right hon. gentleman. His policy produces strange
and portentous results. A policy of concession, of confiscation, of
truckling to ecclesiastical arrogance, to popular passions and ignorant
prejudices, of lenity to Fenian revolutionists, has at length brought us
to this, that the outrages of Galway and Tipperary, no longer restricted
to those charming counties, no longer restrained to even Her Majesty's
judges, are to reach the interior of this House and the august person of
its Speaker. (Cheers.) Sir, I wash my hands of all responsibility for
this absurd and anomalous state of things. Whenever it has fallen to the
Tory party to conduct the affairs of Ireland, they have consistently
pursued a policy of mingled firmness and conciliation with the most
distinguished success. All the great measures of reform in Ireland may
be said to have had their root in the action of the Tory party, though,
as usual, the praise has been appropriated by the right hon. gentleman
and his allies. We have preferred, instead of truckling to prejudice or
passion, to appeal, and we still appeal, to the sublime instincts of an
ancient people!"

I hope that an unknown author, whose skill in reproducing an archaic
style I heartily admire, will forgive me for quoting the following
narrative of certain doings decreed by the General Post Office on the
occasion of the Jubilee of the Penny Post. Like all that is truly good
in literature, it will be seen that this narrative was not for its own
time alone, but for the future, and has its relevancy to events of the
present day:[30]

"1. Now it came to pass in the month June of the Post-office Jubilee,
that Raikes, the Postmaster-General, said to himself, Lo! an opening
whereby I may find grace in the sight of the Queen!

"2. And Raikes appointed an Executive Committee; and Baines, the
Inspector-General of Mails, made he Chairman.

"3. He called also Cardin, the Receiver and Accountant-General; Preece,
Lord of Lightning; Thompson, the Secretarial Officer; and Tombs; the

"4. Then did these four send to the Heads of Departments, the
Postmasters and Sub-Postmasters, the Letter-Receivers, the
Clerks-in-Charge, the Postal Officers, the Telegraphists, She Sorters,
the Postmen; yea from the lowest even unto the highest sent they out.

"5. And the word of Baines and of them that were with him went forth
that the Jubilee should be kept by a conversazione at the South
Kensington Museum on Wednesday the second day of the month July in the
year 1890.

"6. And Victoria the Queen became a patron of the Jubilee Celebration;
and her heart was stirred within her; for she said, For three whole
years have I not had a Jubilee.

"7. And the word of Baines and of them that were with him went forth
again to the Heads of Departments; the Postmasters and Sub-Postmasters,
the Letter-Receivers, the Clerks-in-Charge, the Postal Officers and
Telegraphists, the Sorters and the Postmen.

"8. Saying unto them, Lo! the Queen is become Patron of the Rowland Hill
Memorial and Benevolent Fund, and of the conversazione in the museum;
and we the Executive Committee bid you, from the lowest even to the
highest, to join with us at the tenth hour of the conversazione in a
great shouting to praise the name of the Queen our patron.

"9. Each man in his Post Office at the tenth hour shall shout upon her
name; and a record thereof shall be sent to us that we may cause its
memory to endure for ever.

"10. Then a great fear came upon the Postmasters, the Sub-Postmasters,
and the Letter-Receivers, which were bidden to make the record.

"11. For they said, If those over whom we are set in authority shout not
at the tenth hour, and we send an evil report, we shall surely perish.

"12. And they besought their men to shout, aloud at the tenth hour,
lest a worse thing should befall.

"13. And they that were of the tribes of Nob and of Snob rejoiced with
an exceeding great joy, and did shout with their whole might; so that
their voices became as the voices of them that sell tidings in the
street at nightfall.

"14. But the Telegraphists and the Sorters and the Postmen, and them
that were of the tribes of Rag and of Tag, hardened their hearts, and
were silent at the tenth hour; for they said among themselves, 'Shall
the poor man shout in his poverty, and the hungry celebrate his lack of

"15. Now Preece, Lord of Lightning, had wrought with a cord of metal
that they who were at the conversazione might hear the shouting from the
Post Offices.

"16. And the tenth hour came; and lo! there was no great shout; and the
tribes of Nob and Snob were as the voice of men calling in the

"17. Then was the wrath of Baines kindled against the tribes of Rag and
Tag for that they had not shouted according to his word; and he
commanded that their chief men and counsellors should be cast out of the
Queen's Post Office.

"18. And Raikes, the Postmaster-General; told the Queen all the travail
of Baines, the Inspector-General, and of them that were with him, and
how they had wrought all for the greater glory of the Queen's name.

"19. And the Queen hearkened to the word of Raikes, and lifted up Baines
to be a Centurion of the Bath; also she placed honours upon Cardin, the
Receiver-General and Accountant-General; upon Preece, Lord of Lightning;
upon Thompson, the Secretarial Officer; and upon Tombs, the Controller,
so that they dazzled the eyes of the tribe of Snob, and were favourably
entreated of the sons of Nob.

"20. And they lived long in the land; and all men said pleasant things
unto them.

"21. But they of Tag and of Rag that had been cast out were utterly
forgotten; so that they were fain to cry aloud, saying, 'How long, O ye
honest and upright in heart, shall Snobs and Nobs be rulers over us,
seeing that they are but men like unto us, though they imagine us in
their hearts to be otherwise?'

"22. And the answer is not yet."


[30] June 1897.



Here I embark on the shoreless sea of metrical parody, and I begin my
cruise by reaffirming that in this department _Rejected Addresses_,
though distinctly good for their time, have been left far behind by
modern achievements. The sense of style seems to have grown acuter, and
the art of reproducing it has been brought to absolute perfection. The
theory of development is instructively illustrated in the history of
metrical parody.

Of the same date as _Rejected Addresses_, and of about equal merit, is
the _Poetry of the Anti-Jacobin_, which our grandfathers, if they
combined literary taste with Conservative opinions, were never tired of
repeating. The extraordinary brilliancy of the group of men who
contributed to it guaranteed the general character of the book. Its
merely satiric verse is a little beside my present mark; but as a parody
the ballad of _Duke Smithson of Northumberland_, founded on _Chevy
Chase_, ranks high, and the inscription for the cell in Newgate where
Mrs. Brownrigg, who murdered her apprentices, was imprisoned, is even
better. Southey, in his Radical youth, had written some lines on the
cell in Chepstow Castle where Henry Marten the Regicide was confined: -

"For thirty years secluded from mankind
Here Marten lingered ...
Dost thou ask his crime?
He had rebell'd against the King, and sate
In judgment on him."

Here is Canning's parody: -

"For one long term, or e'er her trial came,
Here Brownrigg lingered ...
Dost thou ask her crime?
She whipped two female 'prentices to death,
And hid them in a coal-hole."

The time of _Rejected Addresses_ and the _Anti-Jacobin_ was also the
heyday of parliamentary quotation, and old parliamentary hands used to
cite a happy instance of instantaneous parody by Daniel O'Connell, who,
having noticed that the speaker to whom he was replying had his speech
written out in his hat, immediately likened him to Goldsmith's village
schoolmaster, saying, -

"And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew
That one small _hat_ could carry all he knew."

Another instance of the same kind was O'Connell's extemporized
description of three ultra-Protestant members, Colonel Verner, Colonel
Vandeleur, and Colonel Sibthorp, the third of whom was conspicuous in a
closely shaven age for his profusion of facial hair.

"Three Colonels, in three different counties born,
Armagh and Clare and Lincoln did adorn.
The first in direst bigotry surpassed:
The next in impudence: in both the last.
The force of Nature could no further go -
To beard the third, she shaved the former two."

A similarly happy turn to an old quotation was given by Baron Parke,
afterwards Lord Wensleydale. His old friend and comrade at the Bar, Sir
David Dundas, had just been appointed Solicitor-General, and, in reply
to Baron Parke's invitation to dinner, he wrote that he could not accept
it, as he had been already invited by seven peers for the same evening.
He promptly received the following couplets: -

"Seven thriving cities fight for Homer dead
Through which the living Homer begged his bread."

"Seven noble Lords ask Davie to break bread
Who wouldn't care a d - were Davie dead."

The _Ingoldsby Legends_ - long since, I believe, deposed from their
position in public favour - were published in 1840. Their principal
merits are a vein of humour, rollicking and often coarse, but genuine
and infectious; great command over unusual metres; and an unequalled
ingenuity in making double and treble rhymes: for example -

"The poor little Page, too, himself got no quarter, but
Was served the same way, And was found the next day,
With his heels in the air, and his head in the water-butt."

There is a general flavour of parody about most of the ballads. It does
not as a rule amount to more than a rather clumsy mockery of
mediaevalism, but the verses prefixed to the _Lay of St. Gengulphus_ are
really rather like a fragment of a black-letter ballad. The book
contains only one absolute parody, borrowed from Samuel Lover's _Lyrics
of Ireland_, and then the result is truly offensive, for the poem chosen
for the experiment is one of the most beautiful in the language - the
_Burial of Sir John Moore_, which is transmuted into a stupid story of
vulgar debauch. Of much the same date as the _Ingoldsby Legends_ was the
_Old Curiosity Shop_, and no one who has a really scholarly acquaintance
with Dickens will forget the delightful scraps of Tom Moore's amatory
ditties with which, slightly adapted to current circumstances, Dick
Swiveller used to console himself when Destiny seemed too strong for
him. And it will be remembered that Mr. Slum composed some very telling
parodies of the same popular author as advertisements for Mrs. Jarley's
Waxworks; but I forbear to quote here what is so easily accessible.

By way of tracing the development of the Art of Parody, I am taking my
samples in chronological order. In 1845 the Newdigate Prize for an
English poem at Oxford was won by J.W. Burgon, afterwards Dean of
Chichester. The subject was Petra. The successful poem was, on the
whole, not much better and not much worse than the general run of such
compositions; but it contained one couplet which Dean Stanley regarded
as an absolute gem - a volume of description condensed into two lines: -

"Match me such marvel, save in Eastern clime -
A rose-red city, half as old as time."

The couplet was universally praised and quoted, and, as a natural
consequence, parodied. There resided then (and long after) at Trinity
College, Oxford, an extraordinarily old don called Short.[31] When I was
an undergraduate he was still tottering about, and we looked at him with
interest because he had been Newman's tutor. To his case the parodist of
the period, in a moment of inspiration, adapted Burgon's beautiful
couplet, saying or singing: -

"Match me such marvel, save in college port,
That rose-red liquor, half as old as Short."

The Rev. E.T. Turner, till recently Registrar of the University, has
been known to say: "I was present when that egg was laid." It is
satisfactory to know that the undergraduate who laid it - William Basil
Tickell Jones - attained deserved eminence in after-life, and died Bishop
of St. David's.

When Burgon was writing his prize-poem about Petra, Lord John Manners
(afterwards seventh Duke of Rutland), in his capacity as Poet Laureate
of Young England, was writing chivalrous ditties about castles and
banners, and merry peasants, and Holy Church. This kind of mediaeval
romanticism, though glorified by Lord Beaconsfield in _Coningsby_,
seemed purely laughable to Thackeray, and he made rather bitter fun of
it in _Lines upon my Sister's Portrait, by the Lord Southdown._

"Dash down, dash down yon mandolin, beloved sister mine!
Those blushing lips may never sing the glories of our line:
Our ancient castles echo to the clumsy feet of churls.
The spinning-jenny houses in the mansion of our Earls.
Sing not, sing not, my Angelina! in days so base and vile,

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