Rejected Addresses

Rejected Addresses was the title of an 1812 book of parodies by the brothers James and Horace Smith. In the line of 18th century pastiches focussed on a single subject in the style of poets of the time, it contained twenty-one good-natured pastiches of contemporary authors. The book's popular success set the fashion for a number of later works of the same kind.

James and Horace Smith, authors of the Rejected Addresses

PrecursorsEdit

Although parody is a long-standing literary genre, the mock heroic of Augustan times began to share its territory with parody, using the deflationary inversion of values - comparing small things with great - as a satirical tool in the deconstruction of the epic style.[1] A later humorous tactic, in place of a connected narrative in the mock-epic manner, was to apply poems in the style of varied authors to a single deflationary subject. The ultimate forerunner of this approach has been identified with Isaac Brown's small work, A Pipe of Tobacco, in Imitation of Six Several Authors, first published in 1736.[2] In that case the poets Colley Cibber, Ambrose Philips, James Thomson, Edward Young, Alexander Pope and Jonathan Swift were used as the focus for its series of good-natured parodic variations.[3] The popularity of these was attested by many subsequent editions and by their reproduction in the poetical miscellanies of after decades.

A new direction was given to this departure by employing parody as a weapon in the political conflicts of the 1790s. This was particularly identified with the Anti-Jacobin, where the works of poets identified with liberal tendencies were treated with satirical humour. An anthology of such parodies, The Poetry of the Anti-Jacobin, followed in 1800 and its popularity guaranteed frequent editions over the following decades.[4] Although the name of their targets are generally not mentioned, a clue is usually given by way of preface or notes, sometimes quoting the opening lines. Robert Southey was a particular victim in early numbers of the weekly, in which his lofty sentiments were downgraded to ridiculous bathos. For his "Inscription for the apartment in Chepstow Castle, where Henry Martin the regicide was imprisoned thirty years" was substituted the Newgate Prison cell of a drunken "Elizabeth Brownrigg the Prentice-cide" (I). And Southey's humanitarian themes clothed in experimental metres were rewritten as "The friend of humanity and the knife-grinder" (II)[5] and the subversive "The Soldier’s Friend" (V).

Later numbers took as their target speculative philosophical and scientific works aiming at popular acceptance by being clothed in verse. Richard Payne Knight’s The Progress of Civil Society (1796) became the satirical "The Progress of Man" (XV, XVI, XXI). This was later ascribed to the fictitious "Mr Higgins of St Mary Axe", author as well of "The Loves of the Triangles" (XXIII, XXIV, XXVI, a parody of Erasmus Darwin’s verse treatise The Loves of the Plants (1791) mingled with gallophile propaganda. He also reappears as author of "The Rovers" (XXX – XXXI), an imitation seemingly based on contemporary translations of popular German melodramas.

Rejected AddressesEdit

The widened parodic focus from poetry to drama in the Anti-Jacobin was taken even further in the Rejected Addresses of 1812, in which works in prose were made additional targets. The occasion given for its publication was a public competition advertised in the press for an address to be spoken at the reopening of the Drury Lane Theatre, which had been destroyed by fire. As none of the actual entries were considered adequate in the end, Lord Byron was commissioned to write one specially. But when the brothers James and Horace Smith heard of the result of the competition, they planned a volume of parodies of writers of the day, to be published as supposed failed entries and issued to coincide with the theatre’s opening.[6]

Titled Rejected Addresses: Or, The New Theatrum Poetarum, the book’s contents were as follows:

No. Title Pretended Author Written by
I Loyal Effusion W. T. F. (William Thomas Fitzgerald) Horace Smith
II The Baby’s Debut W. W. (William Wordsworth) James Smith
III An Address Without a Phœnix S. T. P.  : a genuine rejected address by - Horace Smith
IV Cui Bono? Lord B. (Lord Byron) James and Horace
V Hampshire Farmer’s Address W. C. (William Cobbett) James
VI The Living Lustres T. M. (Thomas Moore) Horace
VII The Rebuilding R. S. (Robert Southey) James
VIII Drury’s Dirge Laura Matilda, a Della Cruscan poet[7] Horace
IX A Tale of Drury Lane W. S. (Walter Scott) Horace
X Johnson’s Ghost Samuel Johnson Horace
XI The Beautiful Incendiary Hon. W. S. (William Robert Spencer) Horace
XII Fire and Ale M. G. L. (Matthew Gregory Lewis) Horace
XIII Playhouse Musings S. T. C. (Samuel Taylor Coleridge) James
XIV Drury Lane Hustings "A new halfpenny ballad by a Pic-Nic Poet" James
XV Architectural Atoms "Translated by Dr. B." (Thomas Busby) Horace
XVI Theatrical Alarm-Bell "By the Editor of the M. P." (Morning Post) James
XVII The Theatre Rev. G. C. (George Crabbe) James
XVIII Macbeth Travestie Momus Medlar (William Shakespeare) James
XIX Stranger Travestie Momus Medlar (August von Kotzebue) James
XX George Barnwell Travestie Momus Medlar (George Lillo) James
XXI Punch’s Apotheosis T. H. (Theodore Hook) Horace

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Gregory G. Colomb, Designs on Truth: The Poetics of the Augustan Mock-Epic, Penn State Press, 1992, pp. 44-7
  2. ^ Nil Korkut, Kinds of Parody from the Medieval to the Postmodern, Peter Lang 2009, p. 50
  3. ^ Third edition available on Google Books. That used commentaries on Latin tags to indicate what stylistic traits are the targets of the poems. Their later reappearance in miscellanies often added the name of the author travestied.
  4. ^ An annotated edition of 1854
  5. ^ This was also the subject of a successful James Gillray cartoon illustrating the text
  6. ^ Rejected Addresses at Project Gutenberg
  7. ^ Romantic Parodies, 1797-1831, Fairleigh Dickinson University, 1992, p.39