The best good Man, with the worst natur’d Muse

Two years later, an addendum to an image from Dickens’ Christmas Carol – Like a bad lobster in a dark cellar. There I’d mentioned a similar image in a quote from John Randolph – “He is a man of splendid abilities but utterly corrupt. He shines and stinks, like a rotten mackerel by moonlight.” Today I have either a background source for Randolph or – more likely – a third independent observation of the same kind. While reading the works of John Wilmot last week I found the following line in his An Allusion to Horace:

For pointed Satyrs, I wou’d Buckhurst choose,
The best good Man, with the worst natur’d Muse.

I, of course, follow a clue to a man with the ‘worst natur’d Muse’ and find that Buckhurst (Charles Sackville, Lord Buckhurst) was indeed savage in wit. Here is only one of his attacks on Catherine Sedley, a sometime mistress of the future James II:


Tell me, Dorinda, why so gay,
Why such embroidery, fringe and lace,
Can any dresses find a way
To stop th’ approaches of decay,
And mend a ruined face? …

So have I seen in larder dark
Of veal a lucid loin,
Replete with many a brilliant spark,
As wise philosophers remark,
At once both stink and shine.