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Short poem

Charles Churchill (1731-1764)

The Ghost: Book II


          653  Pomposo (insolent and loud),
          654Vain idol of a scribbling crowd,
          655Whose very name inspires an awe,
          656Whose ev'ry word is sense and law,
          657For what his greatness hath decreed,
          658Like laws of Persia and of Mede,
          659Sacred thro' all the realm of wit,
          660Must never of repeal admit;
          661Who, cursing flatt'ry, is the tool
          662Of ev'ry fawning, flatt'ring fool;
          663Who wit with jealous eye surveys,
          664And sickens at another's praise;
          665Who, proudly seiz'd of learning's throne,
          666Now damns all learning but his own;
          667Who scorns those common wares to trade in,
          668Reas'ning, convincing, and persuading,
          669But makes each sentence current pass
          670With "Puppy," "Coxcomb," "Scoundrel," "Ass";
          671For 'tis with him a certain rule,
          672The folly's prov'd when he calls fool;
          673Who, to increase his native strength,
          674Draws words six syllables in length,
          675With which, assisted with a frown
          676By way of club, he knocks us down;
          677Who 'bove the vulgar dares to rise,
          678And sense of decency defies,
          679(For this same decency is made
          680Only for bunglers in the trade,
          681And, like the cobweb laws, is still
          682Broke thro' by great ones when they will)--
          683Pomposo, with strong sense supplied,
          684Supported, and confirm'd by pride,
          685His comrades' terrors to beguile,
          686"Grinn'd horribly a ghastly smile:"
          687Features so horrid, were it light,
          688Would put the Devil himself to flight.


653] Published in instalments between 1762 and 1763. A poem in four books, a sort of rhymed diary or potpourri, which arises from the incident of the "Cocklane Ghost", a supposed ghost to which were attributed mysterious noises heard at 33 Cock Lane, Smithfield. The affair was a deliberate conspiracy against a man whose paramour had died, and whose ghost was said to have returned to accuse him of having murdered her. It caused great excitement in London and attracted the attention of Dr. Johnson. Boswell says (Life of Samuel Johnson, under the year 1763: "Churchill, in his poem entitled The Ghost, availed himself of the absurd credulity imputed to Johnson, and drew a caricature of him under the name of 'Pomposo', representing him as one of the believers of the story ... Many of my readers, I am convinced, are to this hour under an impression that Johnson was thus foolishly deceived. It will therefore surprize them a good deal when they are informed upon undoubted authority, that Johnson was one of those by whom the imposture was detected. The story had become so popular, that he thought it should be investigated."

658] Cf. Dan., vi, 8: "According to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not."

663 ff.] Cf. Boswell, under 1763: "I ventured to hint that he was not quite a fair judge, as Churchill had attacked him violently. JOHNSON. 'Nay, Sir, I am a very fair judge. He did not attack me violently till he found I did not like his poetry; and his attack on me shall not prevent me from continuing to say what I think of him, from an apprehension that it may be ascribed to resentment. No, Sir, I called the fellow a blockhead at first, and I will call him a blockhead still.'"

686] Cf. Milton, Paradise Lost, II, 846.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Charles Churchill, The Ghost,+ Books I-II, 3rd edn. with additions (London: for the author, 1763). Microfilm no. 29 ROBA. 2nd edn. with additions. London: for the author,1763. Microfilm no. 28 Robarts Library.
First publication date: 1763
RPO poem editor: N. J. Endicott
RP edition: 2RP.1.744; RPO 1997-2000.
Recent editing: 2:2002/5/8

Form: couplets

Other poems by Charles Churchill