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Into the drawers and china pry,
Papers and books, a huge imbroglio!
Or, creased, like dog's-ears, in a folio.
So rumour says: (who will, believe?)
* There is a very great similarity between the style of part of this poem, and Prior's Tale of the Dove:' as for instance in the following stanzas, which Gray must have had in his mind at the time.
"With one great peal they rap the door,
Like footmen on a visiting day:
Folks at her house at such an hour,
"Her keys he takes, her door unlocks,
Through wardrobe and through closet bounces,
Peeps into every chest and box,
Turns all her furbelows and flounces.
"I marvel much, she smiling said,
Or may be in the tea-pot drown'd."
Short was his joy. He little knew
The words too eager to unriddle,
So cunning was the apparatus,
The powerful pot-hooks did so move him, That, will he, nill he, to the great house, He went, as if the devil drove him.
Yet on his way (no sign of grace,
To Phoebus he preferr'd his case,
And begg'd his aid that dreadful day.
The godhead would have back'd his quarrel; But with a blush on recollection,
Own'd, that his quiver and his laurel
'Gainst four such eyes were no protection.
The court was sat, the culprit there,
Forth from their gloomy mansions creeping, The lady Janes and Joans repair,
And from the gallery† stand peeping:
* The note which the ladies left upon the table. The music-gallery, which overlooked the hall,
Such as in silence of the night
Come (sweep) along some winding entry, (Tyacke* has often seen the sight)
Or at the chapel-door stood sentry†:
In peaked hoods and mantles tarnish'd,
The peeress comes. The audience stare,
The bard, with many an artful fib,
And all that Groom‡ could urge against him.
* The housekeeper. Her name which has hitherto, in ALL editions of Gray's Poems, been written Styack, is corrected from her grave-stone in the church-yard, and the accounts of contemporary persons in the parish. Housekeepers are usually styled Mrs.; the final s, doubtless, caused the name to be misapprehended and mispelt.
+ The old chapel, the door of which was at the opposite extremity of the hall.
The former has hitherto been styled groom of the chamber, and the latter steward, but the legend on a grave-stone, close to Tyacke's, is to the memory of William Groom, and appears to offer evidence that Gray mistook the name of the one for the office of the other.
But soon his rhetoric forsook him,
He stood as mute as poor Macleane*,
Yet something he was heard to mutter, "How in the park beneath an old tree, (Without design to hurt the butter, Or any malice to the poultry),
"He once or twice had penn'd a sonnet;
The ghostly prudes with hagged face
She smil'd, and bid him come to dinner.
"Jesu-Maria! Madam Bridget,
Why, what can the viscountess mean? (Cried the square-hoods in woful fidget) The times are alter'd quite and clean! "Decorum's turn'd to mere civility; Her air and all her manners show it. Commend me to her affability! Speak to a commoner and poet!"
[Here five hundred stanzas are lost.]
* A famous highwayman hanged the week before.
And so God save our noble king,
And guard us from long-winded lubbers, That to eternity would sing,
And keep my lady from her rubbers*.
* See a Sequel to the Long Story, in Hakewill's History of Windsor, by John Penn, Esq., and a farther Sequel to that, by the late laureate, H. J. Pye, Esq.
Anecdotes of the personages commemorated in the Long Story, while they continued to live in the same society, furnish a natural appendix to that lively narrative. Of these, it would have appeared preferable to select such as related to the short period which immediately succeeded it; and which preceded the death of the Poet's mother in 1753, so much deplored by him. None, however, can be at present known. We have indeed some account of one of the principal personages in the year 1752, in another society; and it appears from the following passage, in a letter of Mrs. Montagu, of that date, that the lady had then admitted the attention and homage of her future husband. "I wish the fair shepherdess (Miss Speed) a happy meeting with her Pastor Fido, at the next masquerade, for I think it more probable she will meet him there, than under the shadyoak, or spreading beech."" But, whether it be owing to the charms of this new and favoured lover on her leisure hours, or to any disposition of reserve, of which the letter of Gray in answer to Mr. Walpole (vide Orford's Works, vol. v. p. 392), seems to convey a proof, or to other causes, the little information that can now be gleaned relative to the society of Stoke in those times, is due to the recollections and friendly communication of Admiral Sir John T. Duckworth, K. B.; whose respected father became vicar of this place in the year 1756. This distinguished officer says, that he and his elder brother at that time, when they were about eight or ten years of age, were regularly and frequently invited, with their father and mother, to dine at "the Great House," the presence of youthful