Canto I

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Originally published May 1809 in The Poetical Magazine, pp. 6-10.


In the Tour, with the first part of which we here present our readers, the author carries his hero through a great variety of whimsical adventures to the Lakes and back again. As Tours are a fashionable article in the literature of the present day, we trust that the poetical peregrination of Dr. Syntax will come in for some share, at least, of the public applause, to which we conceive it to be entitled. The lovers of humour will not be displeased to be informed, that it will be accompanied with a considerable number of illustrated engravings.2


      3The school was done, the bus’ness o’er,
When, tir’d of Greek and Latin lore,
Old Syntax sought his easy chair,
And sat in calm composure there.
His wife was to a neighbour gone,
To hear the chit-chat of the town;
And left him the unfrequent4 pow’r
Of brooding thro’ a quiet hour.

      5Thus, while he sat, a busy train
Of images besieg’d his brain.
Of Church-preferment he had none,
And all his hope6 that was gone.7
Indeed, on ev’ry Sabbath-day,
Through8 eight long miles he took his way,
To preach, to grumble, and to pray;
To cheer the good, to warn the sinner,
And, if he got it, eat a dinner.
To bury these, to christen those,
And marry such fond folks as chose
To change the tenour9 of their life,
And risk the matrimonial strife.
Thus were his weekly journeys made,
‘Neath summer suns and wintry shade;
And all his gains, it did appear,
Were only thirty pounds a year.
Besides, th’ augmenting taxes press
To aid expence and add distress.
Mutton and beef, and bread and beer,
And ev’ry thing, was10 grown so dear;
The boys were now so11 prone to eat,
Delighting less in books than meat;
That, when the time of Christmas came,
His earnings ceas’d to be the same;
Were just sufficient, and no more,
To keep the wolf without the door.12
E’en birch, the pedant master’s boast,
Was so increas’d in worth and cost,
That oft, prudentially beguil’d,
To save the rod, he spar’d the child.
Thus, if the times refus’d to mend,
He to his school must put an end.
How hard his lot! how blind his fate!
What shall he do to mend his state?—
Thus did poor Syntax ruminate.

When, as the vivid lightnings fly,
And instant light the gloomy sky,
A sudden thought across him came,
That told the way to wealth and fame.
And, as th’ expanding vision grew
Wide and wider to his view,
The painted fancy did beguile
His woe-worn phiz into a smile:
But, while he pac’d the room around,
Or stood immers’d in thought profound,
The Doctor, ‘midst his rumination,
Was waken’d by a visitation
Which troubles many a poor man’s life—
The visitation of his wife.
Good Mrs. Syntax was a lady
Ten years or more beyond her hey-day;
And, with her other charms, inherits
A gentlemanly flow of spirits.
She never curs’d or swore, tis true,
But still she was a bitter shrew;13
And, when14 enrag’d by foul disaster,
Would15 shake the boys and cuff the master:
Nay, to avenge the slightest wrong,
She could employ both arms and tongue;
And, if you16 list to country tales,
She sometimes would enforce her nails.
Her face was red, her form was fat,
A round-about, and rather squat;
And, when in angry humour stalking,
Was like a dumpling set a-walking.
‘Twas not the custom of this spouse
To suffer long a quiet house:
She was among those busy wives
Who hurry-scurry through their lives;
And make amends for want17 of beauty
By telling husbands of their duty.

‘Twas at this moment, when, inspir’d,
And by his new ambition fir’d,
Syntax to heav’n18 his hands uprear’d,
That Mrs. Syntax reappear’d:19
Amaz’d she look’d, and loud she shriek’d,
Or, rather, like a pig she squeak’d,
To see her humble husband dare
Thus quit his sober ev’ning chair,
And pace, with varying steps, about,
Now in the room, and now without.
At first, she did not find her tongue,
(A thing that seldom happen’d long,)
But soon that organ grew unquiet,
To ask the cause of all this riot.
The Doctor smil’d, and thus address’d
The secrets of his lab’ring breast.—
“Sit down, my love, my dearest dear,
Nay prithee do, and patient hear;
Let me for once, throughout my life,
Receive this kindness from my wife:
It will oblige me so;–in troth,
It will, indeed,20 oblige us both;
For such a plan has come athwart me,
Which some kind sprite from heav’n has brought me;
That, if you will your councils join,
To aid this golden scheme of mine,
New days will come—new times appear,
And teeming plenty crown the year;
We then on dainty bits will dine,
And change our home-brew’d ale for wine;
On summer days, to take the air,
We’ll put our Grizzle to a chair;
While you, in silks and muslin fine,
The grocer’s wife shall far outshine,
And neighb’ring folks be forc’d to own,
In this fair town, you give the ton.”21
“Oh! tell me,”22 cried the smiling dame,
“Tell me this golden road to fame:
You charm my heart; you quite delight it—”23
“I’ll24 make25 a TOUR,–and then I’ll26 WRITE it.27
You well know what my pen can do,
I’ll prove it with my pencil too;28
I’ll ride and write and sketch and print,
And thus create a real mint;
I’ll prose it here, I’ll verse it there,
And picturesque it ev’ry where.
I’ll do what all have done before;
I think I shall,–and somewhat more.
At Doctor Pompous give a look;
He made his fortune by a book:
And if my volume does not beat it,
When I return, I’ll fry and eat it.
Next week, the boys will all go home,
And I shall have a month to come.
My clothes, my cash, my all prepare,
Let Ralph look to the grizzle mare;
Tho’ wond’ring fools may laugh or scoff,
By this day fortnight I’ll be off;
And when old time29 a month has run,
Our bus’ness, lovey,30 will be done.
While I31 in search of fortune roam,
You shall32 enjoy yourself at home.”33
34The story told, the Doctor eas’d
Of his grand plan, and Madam pleas’d,
No pains were spar’d by night or day
To set him forward on his way:
She trimm’d his coat,–she mended all
His various clothing,great and small:
And better still, a purse was found
With twenty-notes, of each a pound.
Thus furnish’d, and in full condition
To prosper in his expedition,
At length the ling’ring moment came
That gave the dawn of wealth and fame.
Incurious Ralph, exact at four,
Led Grizzle saddled to the door;
And soon, with more than common state,
The Doctor stood before the gate.
Behind him was his faithful wife,35
“One more embrace, my dearest life!”
Then his grey palfry he bestrode,
And gave a nod, and off he rode.
“Good luck! good luck!”36 she loudly cried,
Vale! O vale!37 he replied.

Pl 1 Setting Out

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1. The Schoolmaster’s Tour] A Tour, in Search of the Picturesque, By the Reverend Doctor Syntax 1812a, 1812b.
2. In the the Tour…illustrated engravings om. 1812a, 1812b.
3. Chapter I, 1812a and Canto I, 1812b, begin here.
4. unfrequent] infrequent 1812a,1812b.
5. No paragraph break, 1812b. Paragraph break appears in 1812a.
6. And all his hope of that was gone] Nay all his hope of that was gone 1812a; Nay, all his hopes of that were gone 1812b.
7. Two lines are added after this sentence in 1812b: “He felt that he content must be/With drudging in a Curacy.” These lines do not appear in 1812a.
8. Through PM1812a] Thro’ 1812b.
9. tenour PM1812a] tenor 1812b.
10. ev’ry thing, was] ev’ry thing was 1812a, 1812b.
11. now so PM1812a] always 1812b.
12. Were just sufficient…without the door] And now, alas, could do no more/Than keep the wolf without the door. 1812a, 1812b.
13. And, with her other charms…bitter shrew] But though the blooming charms had flown/That grac’d her youth; It still was known/The love of power she never lost,/As Syntax found it to his cost:/For as her words were used to flow,/He would say, YES, my dear! or NO.––1812a; But tho’ the blooming charms had flown/That grac’d her youth; it still was known/The love of power she never lost/As Syntax found it to his cost;/For as her words were us’d to flow,/He but replied or, YES, or NO.–– 1812b
14. And, when PM1812a] When e’er 1812b.
15. Would] She’d 1812a, 1812b.
16. you] we 1812a, 1812b.
17. want] loss 1812a, 1812b.
18. Syntax to heav’n] The pious man 1812a, 1812b.
19. reappear’d:] re-appear’d: 1812a, 1812b.
20. indeed,] my dear, 1812a, 1812b.
21. Quotation marks are omitted from Syntax’s speech in PM, but have been emended here from the 1812 edition.
22. Question marks are omitted here in PM, but have been emended here from the 1812 edition.
23. Question marks are omitted here in PM, but have been emended here from the 1812 edition.
24. I’ll] ––I’ll 1812a, 1812b.
25. “I’ll make” is italicized 1812a, 1812b.
26. “and then I’ll” is italicized 1812a, 1812b.
27. WRITE it] WRITE IT 1812a, 1812b.
28. I’ll prove it with my pencil too; PM; I’ll prove it with my pencil too:–– 1812a] And I’ll employ my pencil too; 1812b.
29. time PM, 1812a] Time 1812b.
30. lovey] Lovey, 1812a; Lovey, 1812b.
31. While I] I will 1812a, 1812b.
32. You shall] While you 1812a, 1812b.
33. Quotation marks are omitted from Syntax’s speech in PM, but have been emended here from the 1812 edition.
34. There is a paragraph break here 1812a, 1812b.
35. wife,] wife;–– 1812a, 1812b.
36. Quotation marks are omitted here in PM, but have been emended here from the 1812 edition.
37. Quotation marks are omitted here in PM, but have been emended here from the 1812 edition.