John William Burgon (1813-1888)
From 1800-1829 Literary Anecdotes

IN 1845 the Newdigate Prize for an English poem at Oxford was won by J. W. Burgon, afterwards Dean of Chichester. The subject was Petra. The successful poem was, on the whole, not much better and not much worse than the general run of such compositions; but it contained one couplet which Dean Stanley regarded as an absolute gem—a volume of description condensed into two lines:

Match me such marvel, save in Eastern clime—
A rose-red city, half as old as time.

The couplet was universally praised and quoted, and, as a natural consequence, parodied. There resided then (and long after) at Trinity College, Oxford, an extraordinary old don called Short. When I was an undergraduate he was still tottering about, and we looked at him with interest because he had been Newman's tutor. To his case the parodist of the period, in a moment of inspiration, adapted Burgon's beautiful couplet, saying or singing:

Match me such marvel, save in college port,
That rose-red liquor, half as old as Short.

From Russell, Collections, p. 254.

« NEXT » « Anecdotes 1800-1829 » « All Anecdotes » « Humour » « Library »