Roscius, the Peer, and His Tailor

Communicated by Mr Henry Thomson

The following authentic story has been put in rhyme merely because the contrast between the Matter & the Manner offered a fair subject for a laugh, & not with the slightest idea of depreciating the abilities of Mr. Kemble of whose dramatic talents, in their peculiar line of excellence, the writer is a fervent admirer.

The success on recital chiefly depends on the imitation of the inflections & cadences peculiar to the voice of the Modern Roscius.

Reader! Wilt hear and after-dinner story?
My Muse I fear, will tell it but so-so,
 But what it is I trow,
If that you list, you soon will know,
 Since it lays right before you.

Fame says our modern Roscius oft has told
This tale: and thence ’tis somewhat old,
 Great Mister Kemble!
At whose dread nod inferior actors tremble.
 Whose solemn, insubstantial prose,
 In undulating period flows,
Whose style in short, is any thing but terse,
 Whose oratory is almost divine,
But ne’er till now, had it been sung in verse,
 That sin is mine.
Now Reader! lest thy patience fail,
Our Roscius shall begin the tale.

As issuing from my door in Russell Street
Lord Willoughby de Broke, I chanced to meet
And when Lord Willoughby de Broke
 Had spoke
 And I had bow’d,
Three times as low as to the vulgar crowd.

“Kemble!” then said Lord Willoughby de Broke,
 With a friendly look,
“Kemble! Where are you going?”
“My Lord,” said I, again profoundly bowing,
 To Lord Willoughby de Broke,
 As I spoke,
“I’m going to Covent Garden, to rehearse
My part in the new Tragedy in verse.”
“Well,” said Lord Willoughby de Broke, “my road lies near,
 ’Tis sad uncertain snowy weather,
So Kemble we will go together,
And your umbrella’ll serve till we get there.”

“For I am going to Chandos Street
 To my tailor’s;
(Shame that these Rascals e’er should fail us)
 Where I bespoke.”
Said Lord Willoughby de Broke,
“A pair of black plush breeches stout, and neat
For riding in.” — Now on our way we went
My mind on one sole project so intent
That tho’ I walked beside a Peer
Worth many thousand pounds a year,
 (Lord Willoughby de Broke)
I did not hear one word he spoke;
So deep, so inward, was my cogitation,
Yet not the wish’d-for comfort of possessing
A cure for Aitches howsoe’er distressing,
 Nor the good of the Nation
 No occupied my mind:
 Nor the patent leather,
 Of which I’d heard
As blest emollient for a stubborn bird
 In frosty weather —
Ah! No — together —
Were birds and aitches given to the wind,
Even the black letter friend, who ran away,
When sorely pressed by bailiffs t’other day,
With unique copy of my oldest play,
 Engrossed not me.
’Twas he alone — the man of stitches,
Who made the black-plush breeches,
That Lord Willoughby de Broke,
 Had bespoke.
I longed to see.

At last to Chandos Street we came in spite of weather,
And when Lord Willoughby de Broke
 Had re-bespoke
 The breeches,
The tailor’s tardy stitches
Had failed to put together:
I said to myself, Kemble!
Thou Man of Erudition, eloquence, and riches
At whose frown many tremble,
Why may’st not thou too have a pair of black plush breeches
And I said to the tailor, “Ho!
Perhaps, Sir, you do not know
 Who I am;
Of Kemble, Mister Kemble, have you heard?
John Philip Kemble, Manager I mean,
Of Covent Garden Theatre! I ween
 That unapplauded he is rarely seen
That man with the black wig, and bird
Sure of this Mister Kemble you have heard
That great Tragedian, whose fame’s wide spread
Good Lord, Sir! In what desert were you bred
(With leer jocose subjoined the solemn wag)
That yet you have not heard of that great man
He’s now before you, Sir! — I scorn to brag —
You’ll find this history’s no idle flam —
 Now you know who I am.”

And so once more at large,
 From all imputation,
 Of brag-ation
 Again our Roscius rallied to the charge.

“Friend! can you not make me too a pair of black plush breeches
 Like those Lord Willoughby de Broke
 Has bespoke?”
Low bow’d the Man of Stitches.
“Perhaps I may be able to befriend you,
In my profession I can recommend you,
We’re a large body, plebeians some, some higher,
(And many pairs of breeches we require)
A vast assemblage — and use each costume
In turn — from Athens, Tripoli and Rome.
Ancient and Modern, Turkish and Russian,
Dutch, Jewish, Polish, French and Prussian
Laplandish, Danish, German, and Spanish,
American, Circassian, Chinese,
Swedish, Bohemian, Hindu, Portuguese,
 Icelandic, Japonese,
 All these,
And many more — I should consume the day
Were I each varying costume to display.”

Our Roscius now was fairly run aground,
 For lack of breath;
But what he lost they say the Tailor found —
With wonderment the orator he ey’d,
At length, “Oh! Sir,” in ecstasy he cried
 “You are too good —
 Here Boy! put on more wood —
I fear you’re cold, Sir, and I blush to death
To think how you have spent your precious breath
 On such a thing as I.”
“Nay, friend, ’twas necessary to explain,
I hope I have not talked in vain
You’ll study each costume (How hard it freezes!)”
Then with assenting bow profound,
Down to the very ground,
The man of tape, and buckram, made reply;
“Oh! any custom that your Honor pleases.”


Reader! pause here —
Before you sneer
One word in your ear
Think not we deem the fun
 Of this our tale,
Lies in the miserable pun,
So witless and so stale,
Made by the Man of Stitches.
Ah! No — ’tis not the story of the breeches
It is the manner not the matter
That sets the table in a clatter
That sets the table in a roar
Ready to cry encore! encore!
When guests prevail (in all his glory)
On our great Roscius to relate the story.
Yet little dreams he that his length of face
His tone monotonous, and sad grimace
Forms the quintessence of the jest,
 For he believes their fun
 Lies in the wretched pun
And when he’s pressed
He cries, “If joke there be,
In this same history,
The fun I cannot see.”
Ah Reader! Wilt not say the same of me
And this my history?

Alas! Alas! mine is a piteous case,
But Reader! if thou art not still more cruel
 Than Nero,
Thou’st grant description’s beggar’d by the face
Pedantic utterance and quaint grimace
 Of my Hero.

Good Reader! thou for love of Mirth and Glee
If but one spice of drollery there be,
In this same history,
Ah! prithee don’t asperse
 What I rehearse
 In Verse!

April 7th 1810