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"What!" cried the stranger, "wh-wh-what! D'ye mock me? t-take you that!" "Huh! mock me!" quoth Hob, amain,
"So t-t-take you that again!"
Then to't they fell, in furious plight,
While each one thought himself in th' right;
They likewise thought each other wrong.
Was ever held a grand specific!
Each word the combatants now utter'd Conviction brought that both dolts stutter'd, Each scratch'd his silly head, and thought He'd argue ere again he fought.
Hence I this moral shall deduce-
The Burning of Brury Lane Theatre'.
As CHAOS which, by heavenly doom,
When light first flash'd upon
So London's sons in night-cap woke,
In bed-gown woke her dames,
For shouts were heard 'mid fire and smoke,
"The playhouse is in flames."
And lo! where Catherine Street extends,
Το every window pane;
1 Forty-four years have elapsed since these lines were written; and some of our very young readers may, therefore, be fairly excused not being quite au fait to the circumstances under which they originally appeared, and of which for their benefit we give an outline. The present theatre of Drury Lane had been just rebuilt on the site of the former building, which had been burned down. The committee (for the rebuilding) in order to inaugurate the opening of the new theatre with due éclat, had issued an advertisement, throwing open to competition the address to be spoken on the occasion. Two brothers, Horace and James Smith, conceived the idea of making a group of such addresses-supposed to have been sent in to the committee, and rejected-the vehicle for a set of humourous parodies on the works of the most eminent authors. The result was a little volume of some 139 pages, containing capital imitations of Byron, Coleridge, Southey, Wordsworth, Dr. Johnson, Cobbett, and others. The lines selected above are from one of the best, "A Tale of Drury Lane," by W. S. (Sir Walter Scott).
Blushes each spout in Martlet Court,
Nor these alone, but far and wide
To those who on the hills around Beheld the flames from Drury's mound, As from a lofty altar rise;
It seem'd that nations did conspire,
Some vast stupendous sacrifice!
His nether bulk embraced;
Then jacket thick of red or blue,
The engines thunder'd through the street,
And one, the leader of the band,
The others came in view:
The Hand-in-Hand the race begun,
Crump from St. Giles's Pound:
Whitford and Mitford join'd the train, Huggins and Muggins from Chick Lane, And Clutterbuck, who got a sprain
Before the plug was found.
Hobson and Jobson did not sleep,
E'en Higginbottom now was posed,
The firemen terrified are slow
To bid the pumping torrent flow,
Huggins, regard your own behoof,
An awful pause succeeds the stroke,
Conceal'd them from the astonish'd crowd.
And Eagle firemen knew
'Twas Joseph Muggins, name revered, The foreman of their crew.
Loud shouted all in signs of woe,
"A Muggins to the rescue, ho!"