I found extracts of this poem in a Ward's English Poets, so went looking for the whole thing. It seems there was the equivalent of the Algonquin club in St James' Coffee House in the 18th century and at a meeting just before Goldmith died, Garric suggested they all write each other's epitaphs. Unfortunately the information I've found doesn't say who the other members were, and another source implies the table of people was imaginary (both sources appended). On first reading the extracts I assumed Will was Shakespeare. Does anyone know any more about this, specifically who the subjects were? .
RETALIATION: A POEM
Of old, when Scarron his companions invited,
Each guest brought his dish, and the feast was united;
If our landlord supplies us with beef, and with fish,
Let each guest bring himself--and he brings the best dish:
Our Dean shall be venison, just fresh from the plains;
Our Burke shall be tongue, with a garnish of brains;
Our Will shall be wild fowl, of excellent flavour,
And Dick with his pepper shall heighten the savour;
Our Cumberland's sweet-bread its place shall obtain,
And Douglas is pudding, substantial and plain;
Oil, vinegar, sugar, and saltness agree:
To make out the dinner, full certain I am,
That Ridge is an anchovy, and Reynolds is lamb;
That Hickey's a capon, and by the same rule,
Magnanimous Goldsmith, a gooseberry fool.
At a dinner so various, at such a repast,
Who'd not be a glutton, and stick to the last?
Here, waiter, more wine, let me sit while I'm able,
'Till all my companions sink under the table;
Then, with chaos and blunders encircling my head,
Let me ponder, and tell what I think of the dead.
Here lies the good Dean, re-united to earth,
Who mixt reason with pleasure, and wisdom with mirth:
If he had any faults, he has left us in doubt--
At least, in six weeks, I could not find 'em out;
Yet some have declared, and it can't be denied 'em,
That sly-boots was cursedly cunning to hide 'em.
Here lies our good Edmund, whose genius was such,
We scarcely can praise it, or blame it too much;
Who, born for the Universe, narrowed his mind,
And to party gave up what was meant for mankind.
Though fraught with all learning, yet straining his throat,
To persuade Tommy Townsend to lend him a vote;
Who, too deep for his hearers, still went on refining,
And thought of convincing, while they thought of dining;
Though equal to all things, for all things unfit,
Too nice for a statesman, too proud for a wit:
For a patriot too cool; for a drudge, disobedient,
And too fond of the right to pursue the expedient.
In short, 'twas his fate, unemployed, or in place, sir,
To eat mutton cold, and cut blocks with a razor.
Here lies honest William, whose heart was a mint,
While the owner ne'er knew half the good that was in't;
The pupil of impulse, it forced him along,
His conduct still right, with his argument wrong;
Still aiming at honour, yet fearing to roam,
The coachman was tipsy, the chariot drove home;
Would you ask for his merits, alas! he had none,
What was good was spontaneous, his faults were his own.
Here lies honest Richard, whose fate I must sigh at,
Alas, that such frolic should now be so quiet!
What spirits were his, what wit and what whim,
Now breaking a jest, and now breaking a limb;
Now wrangling and grumbling to keep up the ball,
Now teasing and vexing, yet laughing at all?
In short so provoking a devil was Dick,
That we wished him full ten times a day at Old Nick.
But missing his mirth and agreeable vein,
As often we wished to have Dick back again.
Here Cumberland lies having acted his parts,
The Terence of England, the mender of hearts;
A flattering painter, who made it his care
To draw men as they ought to be, not as they are.
His gallants were all faultless, his women divine,
And comedy wonders at being so fine;
Like a tragedy queen he has dizen'd her out,
Or rather like tragedy giving a rout.
His fools have their follies so lost in a crowd
Of virtues and feelings, that folly grows proud
And coxcombs, alike in their failings alone,
Adopting his portraits are pleased with their own.
Say, where has our poet this malady caught,
Or wherefore his characters thus without fault?
Say, was it that, vainly directing his view
To find out men's virtues, and finding them few,
Quite sick of pursuing each troublesome elf,
He grew lazy at last and drew from himself?
Here Douglas retires from his toils to relax,
The scourge of impostors, the terror of quacks:
Come all ye quack bards, and ye quacking divines,
Come and dance on the spot where your tyrant reclines,
When Satire and Censure encircled his throne,
I feared for your safety, I feared for my own;
But now he is gone, and we want a detector,
Our Dodds shall be pious, our Kenricks shall lecture;
Macpherson write bombast, and call it a style,
Our Townshend make speeches, and I shall compile;
New Lauders and Bowers the Tweed shall cross over,
No countryman living their tricks to discover;
Detection her taper shall quench to a spark,
And Scotchman meet Scotchman and cheat in the dark.
Here lies David Garrick, describe me who can,
An abridgment of all that was pleasant in man;
As an actor, confessed without rival to shine,
As a wit, if not first, in the very first line:
Yet, with talents like these, and an excellent heart,
The man had his failings, a dupe to his art;
Like an ill-judging beauty, his colours he spread,
And beplastered, with rouge, his own natural red.
On the stage he was natural, simple, affecting;
'Twas only that when he was off he was acting:
With no reason on earth to go out of his way,
He turned and he varied full ten times a-day;
Though secure of our hearts, yet confoundedly sick,
If they were not his own by finessing and trick;
He cast off his friends, as a huntsman his pack,
For he knew when he pleased he could whistle them back.
Of praise a mere glutton, he swallowed what came,
And the puff of a dunce, he mistook it for fame;
'Till his relish grown callous, almost to disease,
Who peppered the highest, was surest to please.
But let us be candid, and speak out our mind,
If dunces applauded, he paid them in kind.
Ye Kenricks, ye Kellys, and Woodfalls so grave,
What a commerce was yours, while you got and you gave!
How did Grub-street re-echo the shouts that you raised,
While he was beRosciused, and you were bepraised!
But peace to his spirit, wherever it flies,
To act as an angel, and mix it with skies;
Those poets, who owe their best fame to his skill,
Shall still be his flatterers, go where he will.
Old Shakespeare, receive him, with praise and with love,
And Beaumonts and Bens be his Kellys above.
Here Hickey reclines, a most blunt, pleasant creature,
And slander itself must allow him good-nature:
He cherished his friend, and he relished a bumper;
Yet one fault he had, and that one was a thumper:
Perhaps you may ask if the man was a miser?
I answer, no, no, for he always was wiser;
Too courteous, perhaps, or obligingly flat;
His very worst foe can't accuse him of that.
Perhaps he confided in men as they go,
And so was too foolishly honest; ah no!
Then what was his failing? come tell it, and burn ye,
He was, could he help it? a special attorney.
Here Reynolds is laid, and, to tell you my mind,
He has not left a wiser or better behind;
His pencil was striking, resistless and grand,
His manners were gentle, complying and bland;
Still born to improve us in every part,
His pencil our faces, his manners our heart:
To coxcombs averse, yet most civilly steering,
When they judged without skill, he was still hard of hearing:
When they talked of their Raphaels, Corregios, and stuff,
He shifted his trumpet, and only took snuff.
By flattery unspoiled--
Here Death took the pen from Goldsmith's hand before he could write his own epitaph.
Source 1 : (where I also got the poem from) says:
Goldsmith wrote Retaliation: A Poem in 1774, reponding to a proposal by David Garrick, the actor, that they compare their skill at epigrams by writing each other's epitaph. Goldsmith decided to write Garrick's epitaph along with those of ten others he imagined gathered about a table, including himself.
The St James' Coffee House on the corner of St James' Street in London was a meeting place for leading figures in the arts world throughout the 18th Century so unsurprisingly Oliver Goldsmith regularly met with the most distinguished Wits of the day to eat, drink and, more importantly, score intellectual points from each other. Discussions regularly became quite heated; indeed 'Wit sparkled sometimes at the expense of good nature'. On one particularly raucous occasion Goldsmith, who was reputed to consider himself superior at every branch of art from poetry to hornpipe dancing was challenged to respond to epitaphs that the others would write for him; David Garrick took only seconds to compose his masterpiece, and recited;
Here lies Nolly Goldsmith, for shortness called Noll,
Who wrote like an angel, but talked like poor Poll!
There was an immediate eruption of laughter, more epithets were created (sadly they have not survived) and Goldsmith was invited to retaliate. Not amused, he sat quietly for a while but rather than rush into his task he took several weeks over his answer which he published in fragments and was in fact still working on it right up to his death. The final surviving verse was spotted by a friend on his desk a few days before he died; when the friend asked if he could keep it Goldsmith replied "In truth you may, my Boy, for it will be of no use to me where I am going
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/06/2005 04:24AM by marian2.
I've found my first possible clue - according to my Biographical Dictionary, Goldsmith was one of 9 founder members of 'The Club' later renamed 'The Literary Club' . Whether they met at St James Coffee House , I know not. Other members were (from various sources) -
"at different times – the constellation of Johnson, Reynolds, Goldsmith, Gibbon, Warton, Burke and Garrick
In 1764 Johnson and Joshua Reynolds founded “The Club” (known later as The Literary Club). Its membership included Oliver Goldsmith, Edmund Burke, David Garrick, and Boswell. The brilliance of this intellectual elite was, reportedly, dazzling, and Dr. Johnson (he had received a degree in 1764) was its leading light
However, that only seems to give us David Garrick, who is identified in the poem Joshua Reynolds and Edmund Burke, possibly.
Here Reynolds is laid, and, to tell you my mind,
He has not left a wiser or better behind;
Snerk! Cheap shot, Ollie.
Dean sounds like Jonathan Swift, but he died in 1745, so perhaps not. Burke is Edmund, right. (Richard) Cumberland. Douglas dunno. But heck, there are so many of them, it is a bear of a task.
I think there is a thread from years ago with more ID info...
you have quite a memory! I found it:
Brilliant - the identity of the Dean has been annoying me, as I couldn't see how it could be Swift given his date of death and the date of the poem being nearly 30 years apart.
Can't remember if I was visiting e-mule as long ago as 2002 or not, so I don't know if Retaliation struck a chord, but it's interesting that so many of the same points came up again before the other Marian found the old post!
I also looked up Scarron and discovered he lived 1610-1660. He became an abbe and 'gave himself up to pleasure. Made a long trip to Italy in 1634 then became ill in 1638 - there is some story about him hiding in a ditch all night, having upset the locals and been run out of town, resulting in some sort of arthritis-type illness - and he was so badly crippled and in so much pain that he had to take lots of morphine. Somewhat eccentric he produced a very unequal body of work (poetrry, plays, madrigals - all sorts of varying quality), fell out with lots of people to his pecuniary disadvantage and finally married a penniless beauty (despite his great deformities) 6 years before he died. He sounds like a nightmare of a close friend but great copy!!
Fascinating - I had completely forgotten the subject was previously discussed.