The Adventures of Dr. Syntax in Search of the Picturesque, Part 12

Excerpts from Cantos XXIV, XXV, XVI , in which Dr. Syntax returns home at last

At the beginning of Canto 24, the author William Combe employs a favorite technique: commentary on the quality of popular culture in his day.  Though the central thrust of Dr. Syntax is a satire on the idea of the picturesque as promoted in the works of William Gilpin and others, through Syntax, Combe has plenty to say about other aspects of his world:

 Excerpts from Canto 24.


Dr, Syntax at Covent Garden Theatre

…”I’ve seen a play,” he (Syntax) mutt’ring said; —

“Twas Shakespeare’s — but in masquerade!
I’ve seen a farce, I scarce know what 
‘Twas only fit to be forgot.
I’ve seen a critic, and have heard
The string of nonsense he preferred.
Heaven bless me! where has Learning fled?
Where has she hid her sacred head?
Oh, how degraded is she grown,
To spawn such boobies on the town!”…  

“Well,” said my Lord, when he appear’d,
“I hope the play your spirits cheerd;
Falstaff, the morning critics tell,
Was never surely play’d so well”
“These critics,” Syntax smiling said,
“Are wretched bunglers at their trade;
One sat beside me in the pit.
No more a critic than a wit!… 

They engage in a long discussion of the theatre and critics until they get back to the subject of Dr. Syntax’s book.  Anyone  familiar with publishing will enjoy the remarks of the publisher Vellum:

 Vellum appeared, with solemn look.
To talk about the Doctor’s book.
He said, “Twas true, a learned friend
The manuscript did much commend;
He thinks it is a work of merit.
Written with learning, taste, and spirit;
The sketches too, if he don’t err.
Possess appropriate character;
‘Tis to the humour of our age.
And has your Lordship’s patronage;
I therefore wish the work to buy.
And deal with liberality.
‘Tis true that paper’s very dear,
And workmen’s wages most severe:
The volume’s heavy, and demands
Th’ engraver’s with the printer’s hands;
Besides, there is a risk to run;
Before the press its work has done.
New taxes may, perhaps, be laid
On some prime article of trade.
And then the price will be so high; —
The persons are but few who buy
Books of so very costly kind;
But still the work is to my mind:
I’ll try my luck, and will be bound
To give, my Lord, three hundred pound.”

 “After some little chat on trade.
The bargain was completely made —
The work transferr’d, the money paid.

said my Lord, “I think your gains
By no means equal to your pains:
(For Vellum will a bargain drive
As well as any man alive;)
The work must give my friend a name,
And stamp his literary fame;
‘Twill Paternoster Row command,
And keep old Vellum cap-in-hand;
And when a name is up, ‘tis said
The owner may lay snug in bed. –
Write on — the learned track pursue —
And booksellers shall cringe to you.”  

“Much pass’d upon his Lordship’s part,
Which shew’d the goodness of his heart;:
While Syntax made his full replies,
Not with his tongue — but with his eyes.

Dr. Syntax will indeed be a published author!  Music to his ears.

Selections from Canto 25

My Lord retir’d–the Doctor too,

As he had nothing else to do,
Thought he would take a peep and see
His noble Patron’s library.
So down he sat, without a care,
In a well-stuff’d morocco chair.
And seiz’d a book; but Morpheus shed
The poppies o’er his rev’rend head;
While Fancy would not be behind.
So play’d her tricks within his mind.
And furnish’d a most busy dream,
Which Syntax made his pleasant theme. .
The Doctor’s Dream
When he awakes, he tells My Lord about the dream…
 My Lord continued the debate;
And time pass’d on in pleasant prate.
Till night broke up the tete-a-tete.
Selections from Canto 26
CROWN’D with success, the following day
The Doctor homeward took his way;
And on the ‘morrow he again
Was borne by Grizzle o’er the plain; …
 Some days before, (I had forgot
To say,) a letter had been wrote.
To tell how soon he should appear.
And re-embrace his dearest dear;
But not one solitary word
Of his good fortune he preferred.  
So when he arrives at home, his wife is hardly glad to see him, thinking him a failure.
‘Twas thus he thought, when, at the gate.
He saw his Doll impatient wait;
Nor, as he pass’d the street along.
Was he unnotic’d by the throng;
For not a head within a shop
But did through door or window pop.
He kiss’d his dame, and gravely spoke.
As now he brooded o’er a joke
While she to know, impatient bum’d,
With how much money he retum’d.
” Give me my pipe,” he said, ” and ale,
And in due time you’ll hear the tale.”
He sat him down his pipe to smoke,
Look’d sad, and not a word he spoke;
But Madam soon her speech began.
And in discordant tones it ran: —
“I think, by that confounded look.
You have not writ your boasted book;
Yes, all your money you have spent,
And come back poorer than you went;
Yes, you have wander’d far from home.
And here a beggar you are come…
 Thus, as she vehemently prated,
And the delighted Doctor rated.
From a small pocket in his coat,
He unobserv’d drew forth a note,
And throwing it upon the table.
He said, “My dear, you’ll now be able
To keep your mantua-maker quiet;
So cease, I beg, this idle riot:
And, if you’ll not make such a pother,
I’ll treat you with its very brother:
Be kind — and I’ll not think it much
To shew you half-a-dozen such.”
Doctor Syntax Returned From His Tour
She started up in joy’s alarms.
And clasp’d the Doctor in her arms;
Then ran to bid the boys huzisa,
And gave them all a holiday.  
“Such is the matrimonial life,”
Said Syntax ; — “but I love my wife.
Just now with horsewhip I was bother’d;
And now with hugging I am smother’d;
But wheresoe’er I’m doom’d to roam,
I still shall say—that home is home…
 Dr. Syntax reflects on life in general…
 More had he spoke: but, lo! the Dame
With the appointed haslet came:
When Syntax, having bless’d the meat,
Sat down to the luxuriant treat.
“And now,” he said, “my dear, ’twill be
As good as Burgundy to me.
If you will tell me what has pass’d
Since we embrac’d each other last’
“ Oh,” she replied, ” my dearest love,
Things in their usual order move….
 After a long litany of troubles his wife endured, the Doctor finishes his dinner.
The Doctor thought his jolly wife
Ne’er look’d so handsome in her life.
Her voice he thought grown wond’rous sweet;
To him a most uncommon treat…
 Though to each virtue often blind,
The world to wealth is ever kind ;
For lo ! a certain tell-tale dame,
Yclep’d and known as Mistress Fame,
Had told to all the country round.
That Syntax, for a thousand pound.
Had sold a learned book he wrote;
That now he was a man of note. …
 But all these views soon found an end:
A packet came, and from a friend,
From ‘Squire Worthy, who resides
On Keswick’s bold and woody sides. …
 ” Good Rev’rend Sir, Our Vicar’s dead.
And I have nam’d you in his stead.
I often wish’d his neck he’d break.
Or tumble drunk into the Lake…
 “You will perceive I keep my word,
And to this church you’re now preferred…
You, Sir, may make the living clear
Above three hundred pounds a year;
And if you will but condescend
To my Son’s learning to attend;
If you’ll direct his studious hour,
I’ll add some fifty pounds or more:
Nay, soon we hope that you will cheer
The parish with your presence here
Miss Worthy and her sister join
Their kindest compliments to mine;
And to your prayers I recommend
Your faithful and admiring friend,
Jonathan Worthy.”
 …The time soon came, when, quite light-hearted.
The Doctor and his spouse departed:
And as they journey’d on their way. …
 When rising ‘mid the tufted trees.
Syntax his sacred structure sees.
Whose tow’r appeared in ancient pride.
With the warm vic’rage by its side.
“ At length, dear wife,” he said, ” we’re come
To our appointed tranquil home.”
Doctor Syntax Taking Possession of His Living
Syntax, whom all desir’d to please,
Enjoy’d his hours of learned ease;
Nor did he fail to preach and pray,
To brighter worlds to point the way;
While his dear spouse was never seen
To shew ill-nature or the spleen;
And faithful Grizzle now no more
Or drew a chaise, or rider bore.
Thus the good Parson, Horse, and Wife,
Led a most comfortable life.
The End
Note that the Horse is mentioned before the Wife in the conclusion…author William Combe always went for the rhyme!!!. 

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