Master Percy Praises The Lever Museum

Eighteenth century England produced a lot of child proteges who were often put on display by their partents and guardians in a way that to modern eyes seems like exploitation, but for families of humble birth could provide a welcome income. Some went on to achieve well deserved success such as the future President of the Royal Academy, Sirt Thomas Lawrence.

Here is a more dubious case, that of Master Percy, praising the museum of Sir Ashton Lever. This museum had been collected over al  lifetime with hopes that it would be purchased for the benefit of the nation. It had been open to the public but its owner had been overwhelmed by the demands. Unfortunately he decided to dispose of it during the War of Independence when there was no money for such luxuries.

This is from 1781 17 July Cumberland Pacquet, and Ware’s Whitehaven Advertiser

Verses addressed to Sir Ashton Lever, on being favoured with a sight of his museum November. 6, 1778 by Master Percy

If I had Virgil’s judgement, Homer’s fire,

and could with equal rapture strike the lyre,

Could drink as largely of the Muses spring

then would I of Sir Ashton’s merits sing.

Look here, look there, above, beneath, around,

sure great Apollo consecrates the ground.

Here stands a tyger, mighty in his strength,

there crocodiles extend their scaly length;

Subtle voracious to devour their food,

Savage they look, and seem to pant for blood,

Here shells and fish, and finny dolphins seen,

display their various colours, blue and green.

View there an urn which Roman ashes bore,

and habits once that foreign nations wore.

Birds and wild beasts from Afric’s burning sand,

and curious fossils rang’d in order stand.

Now turn your eyes from them, and quick survey

Spars, diamonds, chrystals, dart a golden ray.

View apes in different attitudes appear,

With horns of bucks, and goats, and shamois deer.

Next various kinds of monsters meet the eye;

Dreadful they seem, grim looking as they lie.

What man is he that does not view with awe

The river-horse that gave the Tigris law?

Dauntless he looks, and, eager to engage,

Lashes his sides, and burns with steady rage.

View where an elephant’s broad bulk appears,

And o’er his head his hollow trunk he rears:

He seems to roar, impatient for the fight,

and stands collected in his utmost might.

Some I have sung, much more my Muse could name

a nobler Muse requires Sir Ashton’s fame.

I’ve gain’d my end, if you, good Sir, receive

This feeble present, which I freely give.

Your well known worth, to distant nations told,

amongst the sons of Fame shall be enroll’d

T.P Kennington

Master TP ( a nephew of the present Dean of Carlisle, and born Sep 13 1768) who hath written the 1st canto of an Epic Poem, consisting of more than 600 lines, the subject being the Invasion of Britain by Julius Caesar; as also the 1st act of a tragedy, founded upon a Peruvian story. In both these there are strong marks of a most early genius for poetry, which he likewise recites admirably well upon the 1st stool you may place him. This wonderful boy was asked into how many books he intended to divide his Epic Poem; when he answered, that he could not well bring all his matter into less than 24.

He was carried to the Museum at Leicester house (being himself a virtuosi); soon after which he expressed his admiration of what he had seen, in which he noticed most kinds of the productions in that most capital collection.

We should rather suppose that no other verses are to be found upon the same subject; and therefore Master Percy on this occasion, could not have been assisted by imitation.

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