The Adventures of Dr. Syntax in Search of the Picturesque, Part Eleven

Part Eleven includes excerpts from Cantos XXI, XXII, XXIII
We left Dr. Syntax nearly at the end of his Adventures…

Selections from Canto 21:

Dr. Syntax is about to set out for the day when his horse Grizzle is brought around and he is delighted to find his mare’s lack of ears and tail have been “replaced.”

 Of painted canvass were her ears;
Upon her stump a tail appears;
So chang’d she was, so gay, so smart,
Deck’d out with so much curious art,
That even Syntax hardly dare
To claim his metamorphos’d mare.
He said no more — but kenn’d the joke
Was not the sport of vulgar folk;
So trotted off—-and kindly lent
His smile to aid the merriment. …


Dr. Syntax Preaching, c. 1790, Art Institute of Chicago
Derby Porcelain Manufactory, soft-paste porcelain with polychrome enamel decoration


He soon decides to stop and attend church…

To the first church I will repair.
And pay my solemn duties there.
Thus as he spoke, a village chime
Denoted it was service time:
And soon a ruddy Curate came,
To whom he gravely told his name,
His rank and literary fame;
And said, as he’d been us’d to teaching,
He’d give him half an hour’s preaching.
This was accepted with a smile.
And they both strutted up the aisle;
When, in due time, and with due grace,
Syntax display’d his preaching face.
And in grave tones, though somewhat hoarse,
He gave the following discourse…


Syntax preaching

Dr. Syntax preaches on for several hundred rhyming lines and concludes:
“Glory’s eternal crown to share.

Which Cherubs sing, and Angels wear:
Then is complete th’ amazing plan.
And Mortal is Immortal Man.” 
Here Syntax thought it fit to close;-
Th’ admiring congregation rose;
And after certain hems and ha’s,
The ‘Squire nodded his applause;
Nay, such attention he had given
To the sage Minister of Heaven,
That neither did he sleep nor snore —
A wonder never known before.
Then quickly issuing from his pew.
He came to thank the Doctor too.
“Sir, your discourse, so good and fine,
Proves you to be a great divine,
While I, alas! am but a sinner;
So you’ll go home with me to dinner.

Dr. Syntax has a good dinner, is invited to spend the night.

Selections from Canto 22

The next morning, Dr. Syntax and Grizzle head off toward home, and stop for a rest,

But now a trumpet’s warlike sound

‘Woke Syntax from his dream profound;
While Grizzle frisk’d, and mov’d on straight,
With many a prancing, to the gate,
Where, in a gorgeous cap of fur.
Stood the proclaiming Trumpeter ,
With face as the old Lion red,
Which dangling hung above his head.
“Oh!” he exclaim’d, “I now could swear
I see again the Grizzle mare;
I know her well by that same scar
Which she got with me in the war…  

Now Syntax sat and heard the story
The soldier told of England’s glory;
How British columns fought their way,
And drove the foe, and won the day:
How oft he did his breath enlarge.
To call to arms and sound the charge;
But, though he rous’d to many a feat,
He never sounded a retreat.
Still he declaim’d in modest tone,
For England’s glory was his own. … 

It has just come into my mind
To leave poor Grizzle here behind.
And let some stage or mail convey
My bags and me my onward way.
Perhaps, for old-acquaintance sake,
Of my poor beast the care you’ll take.”
“If so,” the Trumpeter replied,
“‘Twill be my honour and my pride.
God bless your Rev’rence, — never fear —
Your mare shall have protection here ;
When you return, her looks will tell.
That her old friend has us’d her well.”

 A horn now told the near approach
Of some convenient, rapid coach;
And soon a vehicle and four
Appear’d at the Red Lion door;
Into his place the Doctor pounc’d;
The coachman smack’d, and off they bounc’d. …


After a rather uncomfortable trip, Dr. Syntax arrives in London and wonders where to stay.
 He was resolved to try his fate
In knocking at his Lordship’s gate.
At that same gate he soon appear’d;
My Lord with smiles the Doctor cheer’d.
“You have done well, my learned friend.
Hither your early steps to bend;
Bus’ness has brought me up to town,
And thus you find me all alone:
Here pitch your tent and pass your hour
In working up your pleasant Tour;
And, when ’tis done, I’ll aid your scheme —
It shall not prove an idle dream.”
Syntax receiv’d his Lordship’s grace
With moisten’d eye, but smiling face,
And for ten days, at morn and night,
He toil’d to bring his book to light…
My Lord, by gen’rous friendship mov’d,
Now read his Volume, and approv’d,
“Think not,” said he, “I fondly give
Opinions, tending to deceive:
That I’m sincere, my friend, you’ll see.
When I declare that you are free
To dedicate your Book to me;
Nor is this all — I’ll recommend
My very pleasant, learned friend
To one who has as lib’ral feeling
As any in this kind of dealing;
And when my letter you present,
Hell take the work, and give content.
Thus, my good Sir, I’ve done my best:
You’ll see him and explain the rest.” …
 Dr. Syntax heads to Paternoster Row, site of the bookseller’s office. Eventually he meets the man:
 “My errand was to bid you look
With care and candour on this Book;
And tell me whether you think fit
To buy, or print, or publish it?
The subject which the work contains
Is Art and Nature’s fair domains;
‘Tis form’d the curious to allure; —
In short, good man, it is a Tour;
With drawings all from nature made.
And with no common skill displayed;:
Each house, each place, each lake, each tree,
These fingers drew — these eyes did see.”
 Though at first unwilling, a letter from Syntax’s mentor changes the bookseller’s mind:
 “His Lordship here expressly says
Your work transcends his utmost praise;
Desires the printing may commence,

And he’ll be bound for the expense.

The book will sell, I have no doubt,
I’ll spare no pains to bring it out:
A work like this must not be stinted.
Two thousand copies shall be printed.”
 …Thus (such are this world’s odds and ends)
Though foes they met — they parted friends.

Selections from Canto 23

…His little journey at an end.

The Doctor join’d his noble friend:
Together they in comfort dine.
Then munch’d their cakes, and sipp’d their wine
When Syntax, briefly, thus display’d
His parley with the man of trade.
“I owe unto your Lordship’s name
My future gains in gold and fame. … 

“To your kind words I’ve nought to say,
But thank your Lordship, and obey.
And now, as twenty years have pass’d
Since I beheld fair London last,
I shall employ the present day
In strolling calmly to survey
What changes time and chance have made,
What wealth has done, and art essay’d.
What taste has, in its fancies, shown.
To give new splendour to the town;
That being done, I’11 take my way
To Covent Garden — to the play.”

Dr. Syntax at Covent Garden Theatre
…(Syntax) hasten’d to the playhouse door,
And took his place within the pit,
Beside a critic and a wit.
As wits and critics now are known,
Who hash up nonsense for the town;
And in the daily colunms show
How small the sum of all they know. …
 … as they the drama view’d,
The conversation was renew’d.
And lasted till the whole was o’er;
When, as they pass’d the playhouse door.
The Critic said, — “‘Twill wound my heart
If you and I so soon must part:
Oh, how I long to crack a bottle
With such a friend of Aristotle! “…
When fairly got into the street,
“Oh,” thought the Doctor, “what a treat
For my good Lord, when next we meet!”
End canto 23

Final Excerpts to come soon!