Two Poems by Mary Alcock

both of which seem to recommend unwittingly what they aim to deplore.

A Receipt for Writing a Novel

Would you a favourite novel make,
Try hard your reader’s heart to break,
For who is pleased, if not tormented?
(Novels for that were first invented.)
‘Gainst nature, reason, sense, combine
To carry out your bold design,
And those ingredients I shall mention,
Of love, take first a due proportion —
It serves to keep the heart in motion:
Of jealousy a powerful zest,
Of all tormenting passions best;
Of horror mix a copious share,
And duels you must never spare;
Hysteric fits at least a score,
Or, if you find occasion, more;
But fainting-fits you need not measure,
The fair ones have them at their pleasure;
Of sighs and groans take no account,
But throw them in to vast amount;
A frantic fever you may add,
Most authors make their lovers mad;
Rack well your hero’s nerves and heart,
And let your heroine take her part;
Her fine blue eyes were made to weep,
Nor should she ever taste of sleep;
Ply her with terrors day or night,
And keep her always in a fright,
But in a carriage when you get her,
Be sure you fairly overset her;
If she will break her bones — why let her.
Again, if e’er she walks abroad,
Of course you bring some wicked lord,
Who with three ruffians snaps his prey,
And to a castle speeds away;
There, close confined in hainted tower,
You leave your captive in his power,
Till dead with horror and dismay,
She scales the walls and flies away.
Now you contrive the lovers’ meeting,
To set your reader’s heart a-beating,
But ere they’ve had a moment’s leisure,
Be sure to interrupt their pleasure;
Provide yourself with fresh alarms,
To tear ’em from eachother’s arms;
No matter by what fate they’re parted,
So that you keep them broken-hearted.
A cruel father some prepare,
To drag her by her flaxed hair;
Some raise a storm and some a ghost,
Take either, which may please you most.
But this you must with care observe,
That when you’ve wound up every nerve
With expectation, hope and fear,
Hero and heroine must disappear.
Some fill one book, some two without ’em,
And ne’er concern their heads about ’em:
This greatly rests the writer’s brain,
For any story, that gives pain,
You now throw in — no matter what,
However foreign to the plot;
So it but serves to swell the book,
You foist it in with desperate hook —
A masquerade, a murdered peer,
His throat just cut from ear to ear —
A rake turned hermit — a fond maid
Run mad, by some false loon betrayed —
These stories supply the female pen,
Which writes them o’er and o’er again,
And readers likewise may be found
To circulate them round and round.
Now at your fable’s close devise
Some grand event to give surprise —
Suppose your hero knows no mother —
Suppose he proves the heroine’s brother —
This at one stroke dissolves each tie,
Far as from east to west they fly:
At length, when every woe’s expended,
And your last volume’s nearly ended,
Clear the mistake and introduce
Some tattling nurse to cut the noose;
The spell is broke — again they meet
Expiring at eachother’s feet;
Their friends lie breathless on the floor —
You drop your pen; you can no more —
And ere your reader can recover,
They’re married — and your history’s over.
1799

Instructions, Supposed to be Written in Paris, for the Mob in England

Of Liberty, Reform and Rights I sing,
Freedom, I mean, without or Church or King;
Freedom to seize and keep whate’er I can,
And boldly claim my right – The Rights of Man:
Such is the blessèd liberty in vogue,
The envied liberty to be a rogue;
The right to pay no taxes, tithes or dues;
The liberty to do whate’er I choose;
The right to take by violence and strife
My neighbour’s goods and, if I please, his life;
The liberty to raise a mob or riot,
For spoil and plunder ne’er were got by quiet;
The right to level and reform the great;
The liberty to overturn the state;
The right to break through all the nations laws,
And boldly dare to take rebellion’s cause:
Let all be equal, every man my brother;
Why have one property, and not another?
Why suffer titles to give awe and fear?
There shall not long remain one British peer;
Nor shall the criminal appallèd stand
Before the mighty judges of the land;
Nor judge nor jury shall there longer be,
Nor any jail but every prisoner free:
All law abolished and with sword in hand,
We’ll seize the property of all the land.
Then hail to Liberty, Reform and Riot!
Adieu Contentment, Safety, Peace and Quiet!
1792

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