Lapsus Calami (Apr 1891)/The Critic's Speech

A parody of Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark. First published anonymously in Out of School at Eton (1877), and later included in the first edition of Lapsus Calami (1891), though omitted in the third and subsequent editions.

The Critic's Speech

"Just the book to review!" the critic cried,
The Chase of the Snark to wit,
While his audience pressed round him on every side,
To hear his opinion of it.

"They read it with glasses, they read it with care,
They peruse it again and again,
They ruin their health beyond repair,
And they give themselves Snark on the brain.

"But what are the charms of this curious tale,
Which attract such a numerous band,
Or why it obtains so extensive a sale,
I could never at all understand.

"The reader who looks through his various books
Five characteristics will mark,
Which always belong, both in prose and in song.
To the author of 'Hunting the Snark.'

"The first is the binding: especially that
Of the book we presume to review.
On which is depicted a watery flat
Of a sickly cadaverous hue.

"That he's most inconsistent, I think you'll agree,
When he dares to assert it as true,
That the rudder gets mixed with the bowsprit at sea,
Or that birds can be salted in glue.

"The third is his manner of making a jest,
Which is quite and entirely his own,
And he seeks after witty remarks with a zest
That might find the philosopher's stone.

"The fourth is the way that he sticks to a word,
Such as beamish, galumph, and the rest.
Which he thinks is amusing as well as absurd.
An opinion I beg to contest.

"The fifth is pure folly. It now will be just
To describe each particular vein.
Distinguishing 'fits' which appal and disgust,
From 'fits' which are simply inane.

"For though much is as pointless as can be desired,
I'm exceedingly sorry to say
That Kenealy—" the critic abruptly retired,
For his audience had melted away.