Describing the miseries of a garretteer poet.
THE next morning as his Lordship was sitting in his study, reading some papers of state, with our hero under his chair; his gentleman-usher entered the room, and informed him that Mr. Rhymer the poet was below. 'Curse Mr. Rhymer the poet, and you too for an egregious blockhead,—why the devil did you let the fellow in? Tell him, his last political pamphlet is execrable nonsense, and unintelligible jargon, and I am not at leisure to see him this morning.' 'My lord,' replied the valet, 'He begs me to present his humble duty to your lordship, and to inform you, that a small gratuity would be very acceptable at present, for it seems his wife is ready to lie-in, and he says, he has not six-pence to defray the expenses of her groaning.' 'How,' cries his lordship, 'has that fellow the impudence to beget children? The dog pretends here to be starving, and yet has the assurance to deal in procreation—Prythee, Dickson, what sort of a woman is his wife? Have you ever seen her?' 'Yes, my lord,' answered the trusty valet; 'I have had the honour of seeing the lady, but I am afraid she would have no great temptations for your lordship; for the poor gentlewoman has the misfortune to squint a little, which does not give a very bewitching air to her countenance, besides which, she has the accomplishment of red hair into the bargain.' 'Well then,' cries the peer, turn the hound out of doors, and bid him go to the devil. Pox take him, if he had a handsome wife, I might be tempted to encourage him a little; but how can he expect my favour without doing anything to deserve it?' 'Then your lordship won't be pleased to send him a small acknowledgment,' said the valet de chambre.' 'No,' replied the peer, 'I have no money to fling away on poets and hackney-writers; let the fellow eat his own works, if he is hungry.—Hold, stay, I have thought better of it; here Dickson, take this little dog, since my wife won't have him, and carry him to the poet. My service to the gentleman, and desire him to keep the creature for my sake.'
Dickson was a man of some little humour, which had prompted him to the dignity of first pimp in ordinary to his lordship, and perceiving that his master had a mind to divert himself this morning with the miseries of an unhappy poet, he resolved that the joke should not be lost in passing through his hands. Taking the dog therefore from his lordship, he made haste downstairs, and accosted the expecting bard in the following manner: 'Sir! his lordship is very busy this morning, and not at leisure to see you, but he speaks very kindly of you, and begs you would do him the favour to accept of this beautiful little Bologna lap-dog.' 'Accept of a lap-dog,' cries the poet with astonishment; bless me! what is the matter? surely there must be some mistake, Mr. Guillaume! for I cannot readily conceive of what use a Bologna lap-dog can be to me.' 'Sir,' replied the valet-de-chambre, 'you may depend upon it, his lordship had some reason for making you this present, which it does not become us to guess at.' 'No,' said the bard, I would not presume to dive into his lordship's councils; but really now, Mr. Dickson, a few guineas in present cash would be rather more serviceable to me than a Bologna lap-dog, even a few Bologna sausages, to carry home in my pocket, would have been more comfortable to my poor wife and children.' 'Sir,' said the valet, 'you must not distrust his lordship's generosity: great statesmen, Mr. Rhymer, always do things in a different manner from the rest of the world: there is usually, as you observe, something a little mysterious in their conduct; but assure yourself, sir, this dog will be the fore-runner of a handsome annuity, and it would be the greatest affront imaginable not to receive him.—You must never refuse anything, which the Great esteem a favour, Mr. Rhymer, on any account; even though it should involve you and your family in everlasting ruin. His lordship desired that you would keep the dog for his sake, sir, and therefore you may be sure he has a particular regard for you, when he sends you such a memorial of his affection.'
The unhappy poet finding he could extort nothing from the unfeeling hands of his patron, was obliged to retire with the dog under his arms, and climbed up in a disconsolate mood to his garret, where he found his wife cooking the scrag end of a neck of mutton for dinner. The mansions of this son of Apollo were very contracted, and one would have thought it impossible for one single room to have served so many domestic purposes; but good housewifery knows no difficulties, and penury has a thousand inventions, which are unknown to ease and wealth. In one corner of these poetical apartments stood a flock-bed, and underneath it, a green jordan presented itself to the eye, which had collected the nocturnal urine of the whole family, consisting of Mr. Rhymer, his wife, and two daughters. Three rotten chairs and a half seemed to stand like traps in various parts of the room, threatening downfalls to unwary strangers; and one solitary table in the middle of this aerial garret, served to hold the different treasures of the whole family. There were now lying upon it the first act of a comedy, a pair of yellow stays, two political pamphlets, a plate of bread-and-butter, three dirty night-caps, and a volume of miscellany poems. The lady of the house was drowning a neck of mutton, as we before observed, in meagre soup, and the two daughters sat in the window, mending their father's brown stockings with blue worsted. Such were the mansions of Mr. Rhymer, the poet, which I heartily recommend to the repeated perusal of all those unhappy gentlemen, who feel in themselves a growing inclination to that mischievous, damnable, and destructive science.
As soon as Mr. Rhymer entered the chamber, his wife deserted her cookery, to enquire the success of his visit, on which the comforts of her lying-in so much depended; and seeing a dog under her husband's arm, 'Bless me, my dear!' said she, 'why do you bring home that filthy creature, to eat up our victuals? Thank heaven, we have got more mouths already, than we can satisfy, and I am sure we want no addition to our family.' 'Why, my dear,' answered the poet, 'his lordship did me the favour to present me this morning with this beautiful little Bologna lap-dog.' 'Present you with a lap-dog,' cried the wife interrupting him, 'what is it you mean, Mr. Rhymer? but, however, I am glad his lordship was in so bountiful a humour, for I am sure then he has given you a purse of guineas to maintain the dog. Well, I vow it was a very genteel way of making a present, and I shall love the little fool for his master's sake.—Great men do things with so much address always, that one is transported as much with their politeness as their generosity.' Here the unhappy bard shook his head, and soon undeceived his wife, by informing her of all that had passed in his morning's visit. 'How,' said she, 'no money with the dog? Mr. Rhymer, I am amazed that you will submit to such usage. Don't you see that they make a fool, and an ass, and a laughing-stock of you? Why did you take their filthy dog? I'll have his brains dashed out this moment.—Mr. Rhymer, if you had kept on your tallow-chandler's shop, I and mine should have had wherewithal to live; but you must court the draggle-tail muses forsooth, and a fine provision they have made for you.—Here I expect to be brought to bed every day, and you have not money to buy pap and caudle.—O curse your lords and your political pamphlets! I am sure I have reason to repent the day that ever I married a poet.' 'Madam,' said Rhymer, exasperated at his wife's conversation, 'you ought rather to bless the day, that married you to a gentleman, whose soul despises mechanical trades, and is devoted to the noblest science in the universe. Poetry, Madam, like virtue, is its own reward; but you have a vulgar notion of things, you have an illiberal attachment to money, and had rather be frying grease in a tallow-chandler's shop, than listening to the divine rhapsodies of the Heliconian maids. 'Tis true, Madam, his lordship has not recompensed my labours according to expectation this morning, but what of that? he bid me proceed in the execution of my design, and undoubtedly means to reward me. Lords are often destitute of cash, as well as poets, and perhaps I came upon him a little unseasonably, when his coffers were empty; but I auspicate great things from his present of a dog.—A dog, Madam, is the emblem of fidelity, and that encourages me to hope his Lordship will be true to my interest.' 'The emblem of a fiddle-stick!' cried the wife, interrupting him, 'I tell you, Mr. Rhymer, you are a fool, and have ruined your family by your senseless whims and projects.—A gentleman, quotha! Yes forsooth, a very fine gentleman truly, that has hardly a shirt to his back, or a pair of shoes to his feet.—Look at your daughters there in the window, and see whether they appear like a gentleman's daughters; and for my part, I have not an under-petticoat that I can wear.—You have had three plays damned, Mr. Rhymer, and one would think that might have taught you a little prudence; but, deuce fetch me, if you shall write any more, for I'll burn all this nonsense that lies upon the table.' So saying, she flew like a Bacchanal fury at his works, and with savage hands was going to commit them to the flames, but her husband's voice interrupted her, crying out with impatience, 'See, see, see, my dear! The pot boils over, and the broth is all running away into the fire.' This luckily put an end to their altercation, and postponed the sacrifice that was going to be made; they then set down to dinner without a table-cloth, and made a wretched meal, envying one another every morsel that escaped their own mouths.
Their distresses increased every day, and it is highly probable, that Pompey would soon have fallen a sacrifice to hunger, and been served up at Mr. Rhymer's poetical table, had not the cunning little animal, prudentially foreseeing what might happen, taken to his heels one morning, and happily made his escape from this scene of misery, squalidness, and poetry.