An Inventory of the Furniture in Dr. Priestley's Study

Original Text: 
The Works of Anna Lætitia Barbauld, Volume I (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, Paternoster-Row, 1825), pp. 55-58. PR 4057 B7 1825 v.1 Robarts Library.
2With not a foot to call his own.
3A list of folks that kicked a dust
5He hopes,-- indeed it is but fair,--
6Some day to get a corner there.
7A group of all the British kings,
8Fair emblem! on a packthread swings.
10A decent, venerable show,
11Writ a great while ago, they tell us,
12And many an inch o'ertop their fellows.
15The meek-robed lawyers all in white;
16Pure as the lamb,-- at least, to sight.
18By which the rogues he can defy all,--
19All filled with lightning keen and genuine,
20And many a little imp he'll pen you in;
22Among the neighbours makes a rout;
23Brings down the lightning on their houses,
24And kills their geese, and frights their spouses.
25A rare thermometer, by which
26He settles, to the nicest pitch,
27The just degrees of heat, to raise
28Sermons, or politics, or plays.
30From shilling touch to pompous folio;
31Answer, remark, reply, rejoinder,
32Fresh from the mint, all stamped and coined here;
33Like new-made glass, set by to cool,
34Before it bears the workman's tool.
36--"How can a man his anger hold in?"--
37Forgotten rimes, and college themes,
38Worm-eaten plans, and embryo schemes;--
39A mass of heterogeneous matter,
40A chaos dark, no land nor water;--
41New books, like new-born infants, stand,
42Waiting the printer's clothing hand;--
43Others, a mottly ragged brood,
44Their limbs unfashioned all, and rude,
46One rears a helm, one lifts a spear,
47And feet were lopped and fingers torn
48Before their fellow limbs were born;
49A leg began to kick and sprawl
50Before the head was seen at all,
51Which quiet as a mushroom lay
52Till crumbling hillocks gave it way;
53And all, like controversial writing,
54Were born with teeth, and sprung up fighting.
55"But what is this," I hear you cry,
56"Which saucily provokes my eye?"--
58Born of the air and doomed to flame.


1] Joseph Priestley (1733-1804), clergyman, chemist, and discoverer of oxygen. Back to Line
4] Ptolemy I, king of Egypt (died 283 BC). Back to Line
9] The Fathers: of the universal (medieval) Catholic church. Back to Line
13] Juvenal: Roman satirical poet (ca. 60-ca. AD 140). Back to Line
14] Ovid's tales: Metamorphoses of Publius Ovidius Naso 43 BC-AD 17). Back to Line
17] phial: vial, such as a Leyden jar, used for storing electricity. Back to Line
21] Le Sage's sprite: René LeSage's Le Diable Boiteux (1707), dramatized by Samuel Foote in The Devil upon Two Sticks (1768; note from McCarty and Kraft's edition, p. 248): about the adventures of the devil Asmodeus. Back to Line
29] olio: jumbled hodgepodge of materials. Back to Line
35] Bowling: unidentified printer. Back to Line
45] Cadmus' half-formed men: a story told in Ovid's Metamorphoses,III.88-123, about the founder of Thebes. Back to Line
57] hydrogen, or perhaps (yet unrecognized at this time) oxygen. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.