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the experience of reading in Britain, from 1450 to 1945...

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James Grainger


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James Grainger : Sugar Cane, The

'He spoke slightingly of Dyer's "Fleece".— "The subject, Sir, cannot be made poetical. How can a man write poetically of serges and druggets ? Yet you will hear many people talk to you gravely of that [italics] excellent [end italics] poem, "The Fleece." Having talked of Grainger's "Sugar-Cane", I mentioned to him Mr. Langton's having told me that this poem, when read in manuscript at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, had made all the assembled wits burst into a laugh, when, after much blank-verse pomp, the poet began a new paragraph thus: "Now, Muse, let's sing of [italics] rats [end italics]". And what increased the ridicule was, that one of the company, who slily overlooked the reader, perceived that the word had been originally [italics] mice [end italics], and had been altered to [italics] rats [end italics], as more dignified. This passage does not appear in the printed work. Dr. Grainger, or some of his friends, it should seem, having become sensible that introducing even [italics] Rats [end italics] in a grave poem might be liable to banter. He, however, could not bring himself to relinquish the idea; for they are thus, in a still more ludicrous manner, periphrastically exhibited in his poem as it now stands: "Nor with less waste the whisker'd vermin race, A countless clan, despoil the lowland cane." Johnson said, that Dr. Grainger was an agreeable man; a man who would do any good that was in his power. His translation of "Tibullus", he thought, was very well done; but "The Sugar Cane, a Poem," did not please him; for, he exclaimed, "What could he make of a sugar cane? One might as well write the 'Parsley Bed, a Poem ;' or ' The Cabbage Garden, a Poem'".'

Century: 1700-1799     Reader/Listener/Group: James Grainger      Manuscript: Unknown


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