It’s a miracle this collection survived. Other historical documents did not: “In a fit of witless vandalism in 1913, George V, his queen and his secretary one evening sat in a parlour at Windsor and systematically burned the contents of thirty-seven boxes of George IV’s love letters . . . on the grounds that George was ‘the meanest and vilest of reprobates’.” King George V later sold 9,900 of his ancestor’s prints to the Library of Congress—to pay for his stamp collection.
Recently I made another interesting discovery: Our Prinny’s favorite bard was Captain Charles Morris (1744-1838), to whom he paid a £200 annuity. Morris’s poems and songs were famous, reprinted repeatedly in collections such as The Festival of Anacreon,** Containing a Collection of Modern Songs, written for the Anacreontic Society, the Beef-Steak and Humbug Clubs (8th ed. c. 1810); and many, many others, including a collection the poet Robert Burns published in 1799.
A sample of Morris’s lyric powers:
The Dey of Algiers, when afraid of his ears,
A messenger sent to the Court, sir,
As he knew in our state the women had weight,
He chose one well hung for the sport, sir.
He searched the Divan till he found out a man,
Whose b******s were heavy and hairy,
And he lately came, o'er from the Barbary shore,
As the great Plenipotentiary.
. . .
When to England he came, with his p***k in a flame,
He shewed it his Hostess on landing,
Who spread its renown thro' all parts of the town,
As a pintle past all understanding.
So much there was said of its snout and its head,
That they called it the great Janissary:
Not a lady could sleep till she got a sly peep
At the great Plenipotentiary.
These are some of the more delicate verses. You can read one version of the full poem here on page 36, or choose a version from here. Longtime 2NHG readers may recall a similarly bawdy epic by Lord Rochester.
*My quotations are from the Gatrell book.
**Now I finally understand this caricature.
Illustration: Gillray, Anacreonticks in full Song, 1801, courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. You can view a color version here.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.