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THE HAUNCH OF VENISON

A POETICAL EPISTLE TO LORD CLARE

[The Haunch of Venison, a Poetical Epistle to Lord Clare. By the late Dr. Goldsmith. With a Head of the Author, Drawn by Henry Bunbury, Esq.; and Etched by [James] Bretherton,-was first published in 1776 by J. Ridley, in St. James's Street, and G. Kearsly, in Fleet Street. It is supposed to have been written early in 1771. The present version is printed from the second edition "taken from the author's last Transcript," and issued in the same year as the first.]

THE HAUNCH OF VENISON

A POETICAL EPISTLE TO LORD CLARE1

THANKS, my Lord, for your venison, for finer or fatter
Never rang'd in a forest, or smok'd in a platter;
The haunch was a picture for painters to study,
The fat was so white, and the lean was so ruddy.
Though my stomach was sharp, I could scarce help
regretting

To spoil such a delicate picture by eating;

I had thoughts, in my chambers, to place it in view,
To be shown to my friends as a piece of virtù ;
As in some Irish houses, where things are so so,
One gammon of bacon hangs up for a show:
But for eating a rasher of what they take pride in,
They'd as soon think of eating the pan it is fried in.
But hold let me pause-Don't I hear you pronounce
This tale of the bacon a damnable bounce?

Well, suppose it a bounce-sure a poet may try,
By a bounce now and then, to get courage to fly.

But, my Lord, it's no bounce: I protest in my turn,
It's a truth and your Lordship may ask Mr. Byrne. 2
To go on with my tale-as I gaz'd on the haunch,
I thought of a friend that was trusty and staunch;
So I cut it, and sent it to Reynolds undress'd,
To paint it, or eat it, just as he lik'd best.

Of the neck and the breast I had next to dispose; 'Twas a neck and a breast-that might rival M[on] r[oe]'s :-8

But in parting with these I was puzzled again,

With the how, and the who, and the where, and the when.

[1 Robert Nugent of Carlanstown, Westmeath; created Viscount Clare in 1766; in 1796 Earl Nugent. A Memoir of Earl Nugent was published in 1898 by Mr. Claud Nugent.]

[2 Lord Clare's nephew.]

[ Dorothy Monroe, a celebrated beauty.]

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There's Howard, and C[ole]y, and Hrth, and H[i]ff,1
I think they love venison-I know they love beef;
There's my countryman H[]gg[i]ns-Oh! let him alone,
For making a blunder, or picking a bone.

But hang it to poets who seldom can eat,
Your very good mutton's a very good treat;
Such dainties to them, their health it might hurt,
It's like sending them ruffles, when wanting a shirt.
While thus I debated, in reverie centred,

An acquaintance, a friend as he call'd himself, enter'd ;
An under-bred, fine-spoken fellow was he,

And he smil'd as he look'd at the venison and me.
"What have we got here?-Why this is good eating!
Your own, I suppose or is it in waiting?"

"Why, whose should it be?" cried I with a flounce,
"I get these things often ; "--but that was a bounce:
"Some lords, my acquaintance, that settle the nation,
Are pleas'd to be kind-but I hate ostentation."

"If that be the case, then," cried he, very gay,
"I'm glad I have taken this house in my way.
To-morrow you take a poor dinner with me;
No words-I insist on't-precisely at three:

We'll have Johnson, and Burke; all the wits will be there;2

My acquaintance is slight, or I'd ask my Lord Clare.
And now that I think on't, as I am a sinner!

We wanted this venison to make out the dinner.
What say you-a pasty? it shall, and it must,
And my wife, little Kitty, is famous for crust.
Here, porter!-this venison with me to Mile-end;
No stirring-I beg-my dear friend-my dear friend!"
Thus snatching his hat, he brush'd off like the wind,
And the porter and eatables follow'd behind.

Left alone to reflect, having emptied my shelf, "And nobody with me at sea but myself;"

[1 Paul Hifferman, M.D., a Grub Street writer.]

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[2 Cf. Boileau, Sat., iii. ll. 25-6, which Goldsmith had in mind.] [A textual quotation from the love-letters of Henry Frederick, Duke of Cumberland, to Lady Grosvenor.]

Though I could not help thinking my gentleman hasty,
Yet Johnson, and Burke, and a good venison pasty,
Were things that I never dislik'd in my life,
Though clogg'd with a coxcomb, and Kitty his wife.
So next day, in due splendour to make my approach,
I drove to his door in my own hackney-coach.

2

When come to the place where we all were to dine, (A chair-lumber'd closet just twelve feet by nine :) My friend bade me welcome, but struck me quite dumb, With tidings that Johnson and Burke would not come ;1 "For I knew it," he cried, "both eternally fail, The one with his speeches, and t'other with Thrale ;2 But no matter, I'll warrant we'll make up the party With two full as clever, and ten times as hearty. The one is a Scotchman, the other a Jew, They['re] both of them merry and authors like you; The one writes the Snarler, the other the Scourge; Some think he writes Cinna-he owns to Panurge." While thus he describ'd them by trade and by name, They enter'd, and dinner was serv'd as they came.

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At the top a fried liver and bacon were seen, At the bottom was tripe in a swingeing tureen; At the sides there was spinach and pudding made hot; In the middle a place where the pasty-was not. Now, my Lord, as for tripe, it's my utter aversion, And your bacon I hate like a Turk or a Persian; So there I sat stuck, like a horse in a pound, While the bacon and liver went merrily round.

But what vex'd me most was that d-'d Scottish rogue,
With his long-winded speeches, his smiles and his brogue;
And, "Madam," quoth he, "may this bit be my poison,
A prettier dinner I never set eyes on;

Pray a slice of your liver, though may I be curs'd,
But I've eat of your tripe till I'm ready to burst."

[1 Cf. Boileau, ut supra, ll. 31-4.]

[2 Henry Thrale, the Southwark brewer, Johnson's close friend from 1765.]

[3 These were noms de guerre of Dr. W. Scott, Lord Sandwich's chaplain, an active supporter of the Government.]

[Cf. She Stoops to Conquer, Act i. Sc. 2.]

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