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As a politician too, Gibbon was attacked. He is said to have publicly declared, that it was necessary for the safety of the country that half a dozen of the members of the cabinet should be executed ; and yet within a few weeks of this declaration, he accepted (1779) the office of one of the Lords Commissioners of Trade and Plantations, worth about £700 per annum. Upon this an epigram appeared, which has been ascribed to Charles James Fox (“Notes and Queries," 1st S. VIII. 312), but upon insufficient authority:
King George in a fright
Thought no means more sure
But his caution is vain,
"Tis the curse of his reign
Tho' he wrote not a line,
Yet a cause of decline
His book well describes
And his writings declare
(“Notes and Queries," 2nd S. XII. 98.) Mr. William Sheepshanks, tutor of Jesus College, Cambridge (who took his degree in 1814), wrote satyrs instead of satires in giving an exercise from Horace or Juvenal. This produced the following epigram, which was fastened on the door of the tutor's room.
The satyrs of old were satyrs of note,
With the shanks of a sheep and the head of an ass, This is ascribed to Mr. H. A. Wedgwood, who graduated at Jesus College in 1821. The same wit embalmed Shelford of Corpus, who was public examiner in 1821, and noted for plucking mon. Shelford fen is near Cambridge:
I've seen a man pluck geese on Shelford fen,
SIR JOHN SUCKLING Was born at Whitton, in Middlesex, in 1609. He was a inan of fortune, and spent his time and his money amongst the wits of the age. In the civil war he espoused the royal cause, and raised a troop of horse for the King. He died in 1641. The following pieces, though strictly admissible into this collection, are, like some by Sir Charles Sedley, on the border-land between epigrams and vers de société, and may be called by either name. They are taken from Tonson's edition of Suckling's Works, 1709,
WHY SO PALE?
Prithee why so pale?
Looking ill prevail?
Prithee why so pale?
Prithee why so mute?
Saying nothing do't?
Prithee why so mute?
This cannot take her;
Nothing can make her :
The devil take her. George Wither, who was contemporary with Suckling, writes in tho same strain. The following is the first of several stanzas (Ellis' “Specimens of the Early English Poets,” 1803, III. 83):
Shall I, wasting in despair,
Be she fairer than the day,
If she be not so to me,
What care I how fair she be ? Lord Nugent has an epigram on the happy effects of a lady's disdain when constantly shown (Dodsley's “Collection of Poems," 1782, IL 244):
Since first you knew my am'rous smart,
Each day augments your proud disdain ;
And now, thank heav'n! to break my chain.
Now let love and hatred cease!
All that rigour gives me peace. Possibly, however, Suckling's heroine was not indifferent, but carried too far the advice given by a lady in the following lines, and lost her lover by over anxiety to keep him (“The Grove,” 1721, 56):
She, that would gain a constant lover,
Must at a distance keep the slave,
Men should but guess the thoughts we have,
And all attendance they will pay ;
And vows, like vapours, fleet away.
Three whole days together;
Ere he shall discover
Such a constant lover.
Is due at all to me;
Had it any been but she.
Had it any been but she,
And that very face,
A dozen dozen in her place ! Sir Charles Sedley, in an epigram “To Celia,” acknowledges that, like Suckling, he would not be constant for an hour together, were not the object of his love the most charming of her sex (Sedley's “ Poetical Works,” 1707, 7):
Not, Celia, that I juster am
Or better than the rest;
Were not my heart at rest.
By every thought I have:
Thy heart I only crave.
In thy dear self I find,
The handsome and the kind.
And still make love anew?
'Tis easy to be true. The ladies to whom these poets professed such constancy, must have been the equals of her on whose girdle Waller wrote his elegant stanzas, the last of which forms in itself a beautiful little epigram;
A narrow compass ! and yet there
LOVE TURNED TO HATRED.
I will not love one minute more swear,