Tuesday 14 March 2023

An Ode written by Mr. Hatchett, 1750

The following Ode is addressed to Lord Robert Spencer (1747–1831; above ætat 22), youngest son of Charles Spencer, 3rd Duke of Marlborough (1706–58), on the occasion of his third birthday (8 May 1750). The Ode was written by “Mr. Hatchett”—probably William Hatchett. More on this possibility below, but first the Ode:

An ODE to the Hon. Master SPENCER, on his Birth-Day. By Mr. Hatchett.

HAPLY, my young Mæcenas, your third Lustre’s past,
  When the bright Seeds of Knowledge ripen fast:
  Life’s vernal Season this, whose genial Heat
The new Idea shoots from the Soul’s fertile Seat:
  So Sol in Aries swells the pregnant Earth,
  Which brings unnumber’d Beings into Birth.

While now the blooming Mind, thrice lov’d, important Heir,
  Under the sapient Eye of Guardian Care,
  Is forming unto all that’s Great and Good,
The long inherent Virtues of your lineal Blood;
  So to the Rose succeeds another Rose,
  Which with its native Beauty sweetly blows:

While your learn’d Mentor wins you to the polish’d Arts,
  Each moral, generous Sentiment imparts,
  With anxious Labour teaches to controul
The growing, fierce, contending Passions of the Soul,
  And fires your Heart with God-like Patriot Zeal,
  To shine the Darling of the Common-Weal:

While oft he sets before you this illustrious Plan,
  That Virtue only can ennoble Man;
  Can make those Gifts, which Fortune may have giv’n,
Be, as they ought, possess’d, approv’d by Earth and Heav’n,
  Be’t mine to sing the glad returning Morn,
  When a Delight and Blessing you were born.

Thrice welcome Task! the tuneful Tribute let me pay,
  Blythe as the Lark that chants the new-born Day;
  In liveliest Strains proclaim the happy Birth,
And with the jocund Muse let all devote to Mirth:
  On pain of Dulness, hear the Muses say,
  Let nought but Wit, and Mirth, be seen to Day.

Worthy the Subject, me, the fav’rite Nine, inspire!
  Give me to touch for once the Thracian Lyre!
  Let all Creation feel the sprightly Song;
To its gay Force let even lifeless Matter throng:
  Dulness the Penalty, if Grief and Woe,
  On this glad Day, their rueful Faces shew.

Sacred this Day to Jollity, hence Care and Strife!
  Thou Friend of Health, thou sparkling Zest of Life!
  Come, laughing Joy, exhilarate the Blood,
And cause quick Circulation like a rolling Flood:
  Dulness the Penalty, if Grief and Woe,
  On this glad Day, their rueful Faces shew.


Thy chearful Influence shed round from Morn to Night,
  Brighten each Eye, each Stoick Heart make light;
  To Beauty give the dimpling graceful Smile,
In warbling Note, and Attick Step, the Hours beguile:
  Dulness the Penalty, if Grief and Woe,
  On this glad Day, their rueful Faces shew.


Nor fail to send your warmest Wishes to the Sky,
  Oft as you charge the circling Goblet high;
  A healthful Round of Natal Days the Toast,
To the dear, lovely Youth, Mankind and Nature’s Boast:
  Dull be for ever the unsocial Soul,
  That in gay Chorus join not with the Bowl.

* * * * *

The two earliest appearances of this poem in print (that I can find) are both from December 1750. It seems likely that the poem first appeared in Whitehall Evening Post or London Intelligencer (11 December 1750): 1a, so this is the printing that I have used as my copy text. This printing is more careful with incidentals, such as the use of italics, capitalisation, indentation of lines and so forth, than the (reprints) in The London Magazine, vol. 19 (December 1750): 601a–b (here), and in The Royal Magazine; Or, Quarterly Bee, vol. 2 (March 1751): 445b–446a (here).

Although Hatchett was a relatively uncommon name in the mid-eighteenth century, I am aware of a number of men by that name, so it is by no means certain that the author of this poem was Haywood’s Hatchett. However, William Hatchett is the only one that I know of who capable of this sort of versification, so the odds are certainly in his favour; circumstantial evidence also points to William Hatchett.

It is not clear what personal connection William Hatchett (if it is his work) might have had that would prompt him write this sort of celebratory poem, except in the hope of being well paid for his flattery—as was conventional—by Charles Spencer, the 3rd Duke. In 1750, Spencer was “Lord Steward of the Household”—an office of considerable political importance and carried Cabinet rank at the time—and, apparently, “he had no concept of economy, and was a heavy spender,” which would make him a prime mark.

A more personal connection exists via Eliza Haywood, who dedicated Adventures of Eovaai to Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, in 1736 (even though she had previously satirised Churchill as “Marama” in the second volume of Memoirs of a Certain Island Adjacent to the Kingdom of Utopia in 1725). Churchill was prominent for her opposition to Walpole—so, on the same side of politics as Haywood and Hatchett—but she had died in 1744 (having outlived her daughter, mother of the 3rd Duke). It may be that Hatchett tried appealing to the 3rd Duke with this poem, in the hope that he would carry on the support previously offered by his grandmother.

Regarding the Whitehall Evening Post, Kathryn R. King (A Political Biography of Eliza Haywood (2012), 115) considers this newspaper as “authoritative with regard to [Haywood’s] late-career publishing activities”—noting that the proprietor was Charles Corbett, a Fleet Street bookseller who had, in 1749 (when questioned by the authorities about Haywood’s A Letter from H[enry] G[orin]g) “testified that he had known her ‘many years’ and acknowledged having ‘sold several things Wrote & Published by’ her” and that, later, he has published her obituary notice in Whitehall Evening Post, which is the primary source of information supporting many Haywood attributions.

While King also mentions that Corbett published Hatchett’s The Chinese Orphan in 1741, she does not mention that he had published his Rival Father a decade earlier (in 1730) and in the same 12 December 1749 deposition she references in relation to Haywood, he explains that “Mr. Hatchett (who the Examt. has known many years) came to [his] Shop & asked him” about the copies of Haywood’s Henry Goring pamphlet, which had been left “by a porter from a person whose Name the Examt. did not know.”

The appearance of a poem by a “Mr. Hatchett” in a newspaper associated, in this way, with both Haywood and Hatchett, offers considerable support to the attribution of this poem, so I am inclined to treat William as the author.

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