The Fribbleriad

by David Garrick

NOTES: The famous actor and stage manager David Garrick (1717-79) had been engaged in a feud with the outspoken Irish critic Thaddeus Fitzpatrick since the late 1750s. Fitzpatrick would stand up in the pit during the most sombre scenes in King Lear and whinny with laughter, and he frequently attacked Garrick in the journals, signing himself ‘X.Y.Z.’ Garrick finally lost his temper and attacked Fitzpatrick in The Fribbleriad in 1761, focusing mostly on Fitzpatrick’s effeminacy. Fitzpatrick, who seems to have been a rather disagreeable person, retailiated by stirring up a riot at Garrick’s Drury Lane theatre in 1763, which they followed up by virtually destroying Covent Garden theatre (owned not by Garrick, but by a friend and supporter of Garrick), tearing up the benches, cutting the linings of the boxes to pieces, smashing all the chandeliers. Not much research has been conducted into Fitzpatrick’s life; he seems to have been a supercilious and effete dandy, though not necessarily homosexual as implied by Garrick. Garrick draws some of his imagery from Pope’s satire on Lord Hervey as Sporus, though he had earlier constructed the pansy archetype in his character of Fribble in his play Miss in Her Teens (though at the time he did not have Fitzpatrick in mind). In 1772, Garrick himself would be portrayed as a sodomite in William Kenrick’s Love in the Suds. As a measure of the popularity of The Fribbleriad, "Fribble" was the name of a horse that ran in the races at Burford, Oxfordshire, mentioned in the St James's Chronicle for 8-10 October 1761.

Who is the Scribbler, X, Y, Z,
Who still writes on, though little read?
Whose falsehood, malice, envy, spite,
So often grin, yet seldom bite?
Say, Garrick, does he write for bread,
This friend of yours, this X, Y, Z?
For pleasure sure, not bread – ’twere vain
To write for that he ne’er could gain:
No calls of nature to excuse him,
He deals in rancour to amuse him;
A man, it seems – ’tis hard to say –
A woman then? – a moment pray; –
Unknown as yet by sex or feature,
Suppose we try to guess the creature;
Whether a wit, or a pretender?

     Some things it does may pass for either,
And some it does belong to neither:
It is so fibbing, slandering, spiteful,
In phrase so dainty, so delightful;
So fond of all it reads and writes,
So waggish when the maggot bites;
Such spleen, such wickedness, and whim,
It must be woman, and a brim.           [lines 1-24, p. 21]
But then the learning and the Latin!
The ends of Horace come so pat in,
And, wanting wit, it makes such shift
To fill up gaps with Pope and Swift,
As cunning housewives bait their traps,
And take their game with bits and scraps;
For playhouse critics, keen as mice,
Are ever greedy, ever nice;
And rank abuse, like toasted cheese,
Will catch as many as you please.
In short, ’tis easily discerning,
By here and there a patch of learning,
The creature’s male – say all we can,
It must be something like a man –
What, like a man, from day to shrink,
And seek revenge with pen and ink?
On mischief bent, his name conceal,
And like a toad in secret seal,
There swell with venom inward pent,
Till out he crawls to give it vent.
Hate join’d with fear will shun the light,
But hate and manhod fairly fight –
’Tis manhood’s mark to face the foe,
And not in ambush give the blow;
The savage thus, less man than beast,
Upon his foe will fall and feast,
From bush, or hole, his arrows send,
To wound his prey, them tear and rend;
For fear and hatred in conjunction
Make wretches, that feel no compunction.      [lines 25-54, p. 22]
. . .

     If such are manhood’s feats and plan,
Poor X, Y, Z, will prove no man.
Nor male? nor female? – then on oath
We safely may pronounce it both.

     What! of that wriggling, fribbling race,
The curse of nature, and disgrace?
That mixture base, with friends set forth,
To taint and vilify all worth –
Whose rancour knows nor bounds nor measure,
Feels every passion, tastes no pleasure;
The want of power, all peace destroying,
For ever wishing, ne’er enjoying –           [lines 73-84, p. 23]
So smiling, smirking, soft in feature,
You’d sear it was the gentlest creature –
But touch its pride, the lady-fellow,
From sickly pale, turns deadly yellow –
Male, female, vanish – fiends appear –
And all is malice, rage, and fear!

     What in the heart breeds all this evil,
Makes man on earth a very devil?
Corrupts the mind, and tortures sense?
Malignity with impotence.

     Say, Gossip Muse, who lov’st to prattle,
And fill the town with tittle-tattle,
To tell a secret such a bliss is!
Say for what cause these Master-Misses
To Garrick such a hatred bore,
That long they wish’d to pinch him sore;
To bind the monster hand and foot,
Like Gulliver in Lilliput,
With birchin twigs to flea [i.e. flay] his skin,
And each to stick him with a pin?
Are things so delicate, so fell!
Can Cherubims be imps of hell?
Tell us how spite a scheme begot,
Who laid the eggs, who hatch’d the plot:
O sing in namby-pamby feet,
Like to the subject, tripping neat;
Snatch every grace that fancy reaches;
Relate their pasisons, plottings, speeches;
You, when their PANFRIBBLERIUM sat,
Saw them conven’d, and heard their chat:      [lines 85-114, p. 24]
Saw all their wriggling, fuming, fretting,
Their noddling, frisking, and curvetting;
Each minute saw their rage grow stronger,
Till the dear things could hold no longer;
But out burst forth the dreadfulvow,
To DO A DEED! – O Muse, thy lyre new-string,
The how, the where, the when to sing!      [lines 115-122, p. 25]
. . .
‘If mischief is your wish and plan,
Let FIZGIG, FIZGIG, be the man!
What say you? – Brethren! shall it be –
Has he your voice?’ – All cry’d, ouy, ouy.
At which, ONE larger than the rest
With visage sleek, and swelling chest,
With stretch’d-out fingers, and a thumb
Stuck to his hips, and jutting bum,
Rose up! – All knew his smirking air;
They clap’d, and cry’d – the chair, the chair!
He smil’d: and to the honour’d seat,
Paddled away with mincing feet:
So have I seen on dove-house top
With cock’d-up tail, and swelling crop,
A pouting pigeon waddling run,
Shuffling, riggling, noddling on.

     Some minutes pass’d in forms and greeting,
PHIL. WHIFFLE op’d the cause of meeting.
‘In forty-eight – I well remember –
Twelve years or more; the month November;
May we no more such misery know!
Since Garrick made OUR SEX a shew;
And gave us up to such rude laughter,
That few, ’twas said, could hold their water:
For He, that player, so mock’d our motions,
Our dress, amusements, fancies, notions,      [lines 205-30, p. 28]
So lisp’d our words, and minc’d our steps,
He made us pass for demi-reps.
Though wisely then we laugh’d it off,
We’ll now return his wicked scoff.
Genteel revenge is ever slow,
The dear Italians poison so. –
But how attack him? far, or near?
In front, my friends, or in the rear?’
All started up at once to speak,
As if they felt some sudden tweak:
’Twas quick resentment caus’d the smart,
And pierc’d them in the tenderest part.      [lines 231-42, p. 29]
. . .

     A pause ensued: – at length began
The valiant captain, PATTYPAN.
With kimbow’d arm, and tossing head,
He bridled up – ‘Wear I this red?
Shall blood be nam’d, and I be dumb?
For that, and that alone, I come.
Glory’s my call, and blood my trade;
And thus’ – then forth he drew his blade.
At once the whole assembly shrieks,
At once the roses quit their cheeks;
Each face o’ercast with deadly white,
Nor paint itself could stand the fright;
The roof with order, order, rings,
And all cry out – NO NAKED THINGS!      [lines 282-96, p. 50]
The captain sheath’d his wrath in pride,
And stuck the bodkin by his side.

     More soft, more gentle than a lamb,
The reverend Mister MARJORAM
Arose – but first, with finger’s tip,
He pats the patch upon his lip;
Then o’er it glides his healing tongue,
And thus he said – or rather sung.
‘Sure ’tis the error of the moon!
What, fight a mimic, a buffoon!                [lines 297-306, p. 31]
And sure, to stab him would be cruel. –
I vote for – arsenick in his gruel.’

     He said, and smil’d; then sunk with grace,
Lick’d the patch’d lip, and wip’d his face.      [lines 321-4, p. 31]
. . .

     All rose at once – then hand in hand,
Each link’d to each, the heroes stand –
Like Fairies form a magic round, –
Then vow, and tremble at the sound –
By all that’s dear to human kind,
By every tye can FRIBBLES bind;                [lines 380-5, p. 33]
They vow, that with their latest breath
They’ll stand by Fizgig – life or death.
The kiss goes round the parting friends –
The chair is left – th’ assembly ends.
Then each, his spirit to recruit,
For biscuits call, and candied fruit;
And sip, his flutter’d nerves to heal,
Warm water, sack, and orange-peel –
Then made as warm as warmth could make them,
All to their several homes betake them –
Save one, who, harrass’d with the chair,
Remain’d at Hampstead, for the air.

     Now, GARRICK, for the future know
Where most you have deserv’d a foe –
Can you their rage with justice blame?
To you they owe their public shame.
Though long they slept, they were not dead;
Their malice wakes in X, Y, Z. –
And now bursts forth their treasur’d gall,
Thro’ him – COCK FRIBBLE of them all!      [lnes 386-405, p. 34; finis]

SOURCE: The Poetical Works of David Garrick, Esq., 2 vols, London: 1785, vol. 1

CITATION: If you cite this Web page, please use the following citation:
Rictor Norton (Ed.), "The Fribbleriad, 1761", Homosexuality in Eighteenth-Century England: A Sourcebook, 18 March 2003, updated 3 January 2006 <>.

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