16 SEPTEMBER 1899, Page 14



SIR,—The writer of the article on "Agricultural Poetry" in your last issue has given quite a wrong version of Boswell's story about Grainger's poem. Your contributor says :— " Boswell tells the story how Grainger, reading his poem in manuscript to Johnson, came to the line, ' Say, shall I sing of rate ' Whereupon the doctor vehemently exclaimed No !' " The actual story as told by Boswell is as follows :—" Having talked of Grainger's Sugar-Cane,' I mentioned to him [John- son] Mr. Langton's having told me that this poem, when read in manuscript at Sir Joshua Reynolds's, had made all the assembled wits burst into a laugh, when, after much blank- verse pomp, the poet began a new paragraph thus :— 'Now, Muse, let's sing of rats.'

And what increased the ridicule was, that one of the corn- pany, who slily overlooked the reader, perceived that the word had been originally mice, and bad been altered to rats, as more dignified."—I am, Sir, &c., T.