HAVING talked of Dr. Grainger's sugarcane, I mentioned to him Mr. Langton's having told me that this poem, when read in manuscript at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, had made all the assembled wits burst into a laugh, when, after much blank-verse pomp, the poet began a new paragraph thus:
Now, Muse, let's sing of rats.
And what increased the ridicule was, that one of the company, who slyly overlooked the reader, perceived that the word had been originally mice, and had been altered to rats, as more dignified.
This passage does not appear in the printed work, Dr. Grainger, or some of his friends, it should seem, having become sensible that introducing even Rats in a grave poem might be liable to banter. He, however, could not bring himself to relinquish the idea; for they are thus, in a still more ludicrous manner, periphrastically exhibited in his poem as it now stands:
Nor with less waste the whiskered vermin race,
A countless clan, despoil the lowland cane.
From Boswell, Life of Johnson, ii. 453-454.
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