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Long title
A Handsel in return for a New Year's Gift
Original text

My able helpmate, say, what laws
Of public or domestic cause
Could justify thy quick retreat,
Rashly to vacate landlord's seat?
Like namesake James, thou'dst hap be prone
To abdicate the British throne.
Thy genius, spirit, learning, wit
Made all confess my choice most fit,
To do the duties of the day,
And act as premier cicisbeo.
But fairy elves at luckless hours
May blast the strongest earthly pow'rs;
Slow went the glass, for half the round,
Then pell mell fast, your toast's the sound.
'A hint', they cried, 'fore all the world';
The gloves were stretch'd, the fans were furl'd.
Again e'er ladies went to tea,
I delegate all pow'r to thee.
Bottles renew'd, I glanc'd the board,
Began to speech my kind landlord.
With meaning nod (a fair one own'd it),
'Our landlord's fled - at least, absconded'.
'Hem! Give us pause, return he may,
If fain he'll rise another day.'
Conjectures various now were sported:
'Sans dire adieu!' and, 'Where resorted?'
A mal assortie assignation
Or visits to some high in station;
The spleen, or colic, pent-up vapour,
From screws or morbific matter.
Intenstine rebels cause disasters
To prince and subject, men and masters.
'Cease female squibs!' a sage cried, smiling,
'For Paoli Boswell's laws compiling;
St. Edward's self, we may assure us,
Made not so wise a Corpus Juris.
A brother lawyer shook his head,
Said: 'Boswell toils at no such trade;
To polish Corsicans he's hard at work,
Dramatic scenes he writes, might tame a Turk.'
'Fie!' cried a lady, 'was't not mean
Thus to forsake the social scene?
At best, you'll grant, he must discern ill
Who grasps the shells and leaves the kernel.
Had he forsook his d-l-s Duchess
Soon he'd been seen limping on crutches;
With spit, or fork, or some such weapon,
Like Butler's Trulla, him she'd leap on.'
They lash'd thee thus, like eastern Tartar.
At last I humbly begg'd for quarter;
I promis'd hence thou'dst be more steady,
Then went to tea and coffee ready.


Probably authored by Boswell ca. 1768, although the known existing copy is not in his handwriting. Jack Werner suggests that it may be in the handwriting of John Lawrie, one of Boswell's law-clerks.

Original sources