Thursday, 19 July 2012

Still Pickwicking

Pickwick is invited to a garden party at which the much-praised, terrible poetess Mrs Leo Hunter will be the star turn.
'Mrs Leo Hunter has many of these breakfasts, Sir,' resumed the new acquaintance—'"feasts of reason," sir, "and flows of soul," as somebody who wrote a sonnet to Mrs Leo Hunter on her breakfasts, feelingly and originally observed.' [ch. 15]
'Feelingly and originally ...' The joke here is that these lines are (of course) plagiarised from Pope: ‘First Satire of the Second Book of Horace Imitated’ (1733): ‘There [Twickenham] St. John mingles with the friendly bowl;/The feast of reason and the flow of soul.’ But here's the thing: Dickens may or may not have been aware of a little-known poet called ‘Hudson’ who published a poem in 1825 containing this stanza:
There’s nothing brightens up the eye
Like drinking grateful wine.
Music’s strain is ne’er in vain,
Whilst seated round the bowl;
And we, at least, enjoy the feast
Of reason and the flow of soul. [The Universal Songster (1825), 406]
His joke about provincial poets plagiarising famous ones seems grounded in fact.

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