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PETER BELL THE THIRD.
MICHING MALLECHO, ESQ.
Is it a party in a parlour,
AH silent, and all damned .'
Peter Bell, by W, Wordsworth.
Ophklia.—What means this, my lord?
Hamlet.—Marry, this is Miching Mallecho; it means mischief.
TO HIOMAS BROWN, ESQ., THE YOUNGER, H.F.
Allow me to request you to introduce Mr. Peter Bell to the respectable family of the Fudges; although he may fall short of those very considerable personages in the more active properties which characterize the Rat and the Apostate, I suspect that even you, their historian, will confess that he surpasses them in the more peculiarly legitimate qualification of intolerable dulness.
You know Mr. Examiner Hunt; well—it was he who presented me to two of the Mr. Bells. My intimacy with the younger Mr. Bell naturally sprung from this introduction to his brothers. And in presenting him to you, I have the satisfaction of being able to .assure you that he is considerably the dullest of the three.
There is this particular advantage in an acquaintance; with any one of the Peter Bell*, that if you know one Peter Bell, you know three Peter Bells; they are not one, but three; not three, but one. An awful mystery, which, after having caused torrents of blood, and having been hymned by groans enough to deafen the music of the spheres, is at length illustrated to the satisfaction of all parties in the theological world, by the nature of Mr. Peter Bell.
Peter is a polyhedric Peter, or a Peter with many sides. He changes colours like a camel eon, and his coat like a snake. He is a Proteus of a Peter. He was at first sublime, pathetic, impressive, profound; then dull; then prosy and dull; and now dull—O, so very dull ! it is an ultra-legitimate dulneu.
You will perceive that it is not necessary to consider Hell and the Devil as supernatural machinery. The whole scene of my epic is in " this world which is ** —So Peter informed us before his conversion to
The world of all of us, and where
We find our happiness, or not at alt.
Let me observe that I have spent six or seven days in composing this sublime piece; the orb of my moonlike genius has made the fourth part of its revolution round the dull earth which you inhabit, driving you mad, while it has retained its calmness and its splendour, and I have been fitting this its last phase "to occupy a permanent station in the literature of my country.**
Your works, indeed, dear Tom, sell better; but mine are far superior. The public is no judge ; posterity sets all to rights.
Allow mo to observe that so much has been written of Peter Bell, that the present history can be considered only, like the Iliad, as a continuation of that scries of cyclic poems, which have already been candidates for bestowing immortality upon, at the same time that they reccivo it from, his character and adventures. In this point of view, I hare violated no rule of syntax in beginning my composition with a conjunction ; the full Hop which closes the poem continued by me, being, like the full stops at the end of the Iliad and Odyssey, a full atop of a very qualified import.
Hoping that the immorality which you have given to tho Fudges, you will receive from them; and in the firm expectation, that when London shall be an habitation of bitterns, when St. Paul's and Westminster Abbey shall stand, shapeless and nameless ruins, in the midst of an unpeopled marsh; when the piers of Waterloo-Bridge shall become the nuclei of islets of reeds and osiers, and cast the jagged shadows of their
broken arches on the solitary stream, some transatlantic commentator will be weighing in the scales of some new and now unimagincd system of criticism, the respective merits of tho Bells and the Fudges, and their historians,
I remain, dear Tom,
December 1, 1819.
P.S —Pray excuse the date of place ; so soon as the profits of the publication come in, I mean to hiie lodgings in a more respectable street.
IT It IX.
Peter Bells, one, two and three,
O'er the wide world wandering be.—
First, the antenatal Peter,
Wrapt in weeds of the same metre,
The so long predestined raiment
Clothed, in which to walk his way meant
The second Peter; whose ambition
Is to link the proposition,
As the mean of two extremes—
(This was learnt from Aldric's themes)
shielding from the guilt of schism
The orthodoxal syllogism;
The First Peter—ho who was
Like the shadow in the glass
Of the second, yet unripe,
His substantial antitype.—
Then came Peter Bell the Second,
Who henceforward must be reckoned
The body of a double soul,
And that portion of the whole
Without which the rest would seem
Ends of a disjointed dream
And the Third is he who has
To the other Bide, which is,—
Peter Bell the First was Peter
• Tho oldest scholiasts i
A dodtcagamic Potter.
This is At once more descriptive and more raegalophonous. —but tho alliteration of the text had captivated the vulgar ear of the herd of later commentators.