All this dismal happened in June 1776. as well as I remember; Mr Thrale was gone with little Mr Evans of St Saviour’s to fish for Trout in the River at Rickmansworth, & we were just come from Bath to Streatham, and were gathering our Folks together I see by some old Verses which I wrote just at that Time to Mr Thrale who went on the Wensday to Herts, & returned on the Fryday—so I sent the Verses to meet him at the Borough house on the Fryday Morng. God knows they are silly enough—but they do not smell of the Lamp at least. I wrote them as fast as I now write this Stuff.
While you are amus’d with your Rickmansworth Fishing
And see the Red Trout look so Crimson the Dish in;
What says my sweet Master to our pleasant Fancy,
Of trying to emulate great Mr Anstie?1
That we by some means for your Sport may provide,
You may read as you travel this new Stretham Guide;
Here then we begin, our Adventures rehearse,
Which can’t be more easy in Prose than in Verse;
For where there is nothing to tell tis much better,
To make all the Bustle one can with a Letter;
So to Wickham on last Monday Morning we drove,
To carry our Compliments Service and Love;
Mrs Nesbitt2 was just driven out at the Door
But had left Master Arney3, the Dogs & Miss Moor,
With a young Tawny Brat of their new Commodore.
They offer’d us Cherries, Tea, Coffee and Cake,
But few of their Bounties would Queeny partake,
And for my Part I fretted that Poppet & Ramper4
Should have for no Purpose so silly a Scamper;
I ask’d of their Butler and heard he was nice,
Possessing no Virtue, if charg’d with no Vice;
Not an Englishman strong, nor an Irishman bony,
But a Man half a Miss, a perfum’d Macaroni;—
They discard him with Pleasure, why we should receive
Is more than my Wit can find out with your Leave;
Unless the mere Name of a Nesbitt contains
Some strange hidden Power of heating one’s Brains:
And they themselves fancy that Albert’s fine Man
Will put their Affairs on a wonderful Plan:
Since this Fellow then seems only something to titter at,
I vote for the Man you say lived with Vansittart;
And I wish he’d make haste at our Table to wait,
Get Matters in order, and brush up the plate;
For on Saturday next Lady Cotton & they come,
Besides a whole Troop I invited from Wycombe;
And we shall look desperate foolish indeed,
If of Plate and of Servants we stand so in need.
—Well so much for Business! ’tis Time to be telling
What Mischief our Matters domestick have fell in;
Our Dogs by the Tulippomania5 possest
Everlastingly fighting will give us no Rest
Our Pea Chickens droop, and our Pheasants don’t lay,
And the Weather’s uncertain for cutting the hay;
But the Children are happy, except perhaps Hetty
Whilst conning her Lesson for Mr Barretti6;
If Johnson & he would come down with some News
My Letter’d have much better Chance to amuse,
Meantime Mr Scott’s house is sold with the Ground
For seventeen Hundred and seventy Pound:
And the Furniture next Monday Sennight on Sale is,
As we were inform’d by their Maid Mrs Alice:
Just now a fierce Battle is fought on the Common7,
For Love as we’re told, of a handsome young Woman;
The Ostler8 and Butcher with proper Parade
Shake hands in a Ring for the Combatants made.
But my honest Friend Marrow bone deals the best Blows,
And the Ostler retires with a sad Bloody Nose:
Alas my brave Neighbours ! no Gazette nor Bard
With Praise well deserved shall your Prowess reward;
Whereas let some Faery but change their Degree,
Let the Butcher be Howe9, and the Ostler be Lee!
Whole Nations suspended shall view the Debate
And the Victor decide all America’s Fate.
But see in this Tumult—or some time to Day
If my favourite Rose is not run quite away:
I saw her frisk out on the Lawn I protest
When Molly stood by me to Day to be drest;
But She shall be cry’d both at Stretham & Tooting
And every where else that the Jade can set Foot in,
Five Shillings reward sure will bring her again,
And I’m sure I’d not lose her for five nor for Ten.
I would willingly now close my Letter to you,
But more serious Misfortunes will plead for their due;
Our Friend Mrs Parker’s in real Distress,
Send somebody over, You can do no less;
Her Sister was burnt in last Monday’s sad Fire,
If you send a Man over he’ll further enquire;
But Oh my sweet Love!—what a sad World is this,
The Sorrow so frequent, so scanty the Bliss;
That one cannot one’s Cares for a Moment beguile,
And draw from one’s Husband an innocent Smile
But the Gloom of Concern overshadows our Day,
And shews us that Man was not made to be gay.
- 1. Christopher Anstey. Author of The New Bath Guide in 1766.
- 2. Susannah Nesbitt, Henry Thrale’s youngest sister.
- 3. This must be Arnold Nesbitt's son. No other mention of him survives.
- 4. The Coachhorses.
- 5. Tulip was the name of one of their bitch dogs.
- 6. Hester incorrectly spelt Baretti with two r's.
- 7. Tooting Bec common, the lower Streatham common on which the Thrale property was situated..
- 8. Possibly a Hostler.
- 9. Probably William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe.