site logo

Felon Literature

One of the most stinging reproofs of perverted literary taste, evidently

aimed at Newgate Calendar literature, appeared in the form of a

valentine, in No. 31 of Punch, in 1842.

The valentine itself reminds one of Churchill's muse; and it needs no

finger to tell where its withering satire is pointed:--


"Illustrious scribe! whose vivid genius strays
'Mid Drury's stews

to incubate her lays, And in St. Giles's slang conveys her tropes,

Wreathing the poet's lines with hangmen's ropes; You who conceive

'tis poetry to teach The sad bravado of a dying speech; Or, when

possessed with a sublimer mood, Show "Jack o'Dandies" dancing upon

blood! Crush bones--bruise flesh, recount each festering sore--

Rake up the plague-pit, write--and write in gore! Or, when

inspired to humanize mankind, Where doth your soaring soul its

subjects find? Not 'mid the scenes that simple Goldsmith sought,

And found a theme to elevate his thought; But you, great scribe,

more greedy of renown, From Hounslow's gibbet drag a hero down.

Imbue his mind with virtue; make him quote Some moral truth before

he cuts a throat. Then wash his hands, and soaring o'er your

craft--Refresh the hero with a bloody draught: And, fearing lest

the world should miss the act, With noble zeal italicize the

fact. Or would you picture woman meek and pure, By love and virtue

tutor'd to endure, With cunning skill you take a felon's trull,

Stuff her with sentiment, and scrunch her skull! Oh! would your

crashing, smashing, mashing pen were mine, That I could "scorch

your eyeballs" with my words,


* * * * *