A Collection of Verses upon Several Occasions by Several Hands, begun March 26th 1732

Compiled by William Jermy

Amongst the English poetry and drama section of the Brotherton Collection at Leeds University is a manuscript entitled A Collection of Verses upon Several Occasions by Several Hands, begun March 26th 1732, by William Jermy. It was purchased for the Brotherton collection in an auction at Quaritch (Sotherby's) in 1971. The auction catalogue entry included the description "A remarkably curious and scarce collection of interesting pieces from private sources, and which appear not to have found their way into print." The provenance of the manuscript prior to the auction is not known.

There are 132 sets of verses in this collection, which was probably started when William Jermy was at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (1731 - 1734?). Of the 45 named authors, 21 were also at the University of Cambridge at the same time. The largest number of verses (thirteen) are attributed to Rev John Hoadly, who later was recognized as a poet and dramatist, with Benjamin Stillingfleet providing eight and Philip Dormer Stanhope, the Earl of Chesterfield providing four. There were also six verses provided by four female authors. Some of the verses are based on recognized classical verses, others on topical current events, and some on life and death in general. There are two main scribes for the document, one of whom was undoubtedly William Jermy.

There are four verses that have a Miss Molly Bacon as their theme. Three of them have William Jermy named as the author in the list of contents, and next to the verses themselves. However, in each case the name or initials have been heavily disfigured, making them hard to read. The fourth poem does not have a named author, but judging by its subject matter it is likely to have been William Jermy. There are a number of crossings outs and alterations to one of the verses, suggesting that it was being developed as it was written.

This form of poetry (and title) seemed to be quite popular at the time, as witnessed by a thirty page book entitled Poems on Several Occasions, by Mary Masters, which was published in 1733. Included in the list of subscribers is Mr William Jermy of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, as well as the Right Honourable Lord Richardson and the Honourable Miss Elizabeth Richardson of Norwich. Mary Masters subsequently published Familiar Letters and Poems on Several Occasions in 1755, this time acknowledging the late William Jermy, Esquire of Norwich as a subscriber.

The four poems are presented below, and the relevant pages of the manuscript reproduced at the bottom of the page - with the kind permission of The Brotherton Collection, Leeds University.

An Acrostic

Wm. J.

Bright Daphne fled as Phoebus close pursu'd,
And lo! the nymph transform'd a laurel stood;
Crown’d with this trophy, thence his Godhead shone,
O! poor embellishment and vain renown!
No laurel, fair one, e’re cou'd heal thy frown

Upon Miss Nanny Molly Bacon

Wm. J.

The sun who rolls his orb on high,
And all things sees beneath the sky
Beauty like thine, sweet nymph, ne’er view’d
From Zembla’s Hills to Ganges Flood.

Cou’d mortal e’er boast charms like thine,
or child of earth look so divine?
Those coral lips, those lilly arms
Ne’er ow’d to dirty clay their charms.

From thy dear eyes quick lightning streams,
Bright as the sun’s all piercing beams,
And like the sun’s too potent ray
They kill their thousands in a day.

Thy happy shape with perfect ease,
Grows small & charming by degrees.
Cupid thy ev’ry look befriends
& Grace on all thy steps attends.

But oh! When from the pretty mouth
Flow sense, good nature, wit and truth
Convinc'd the sounds must be divine
We bow before the Paphian shrine

The Norfolk Beauties, a song, in imitation and to the tune of the Hogan of Houghton, 1733

Some bards of old time, much delighted with love
In the praise of bright beauty most ardently strove
our Waller, dear poet, (Be praised his name)
has tendered immortal one Sydney to fame
Some have been bewitched by the Lancastrian dames
and others re-echo the Nymphs of the Thames
Yet the beauties of Norfolk remain still unsung
Tho’ such excellent creatures ne’er spoke to the tongue

Had the Trojans seen Bacon, those blades of Renown
Would ha’ given up Helen, & sav’d their dear town
Nor had pains occasion’d so fatal a war
But with honour and triumph been ravish’d with her
Who enjoys but a smile is as great as a Greek
She’s the only thing extant to make the muse speak
They say Dr Turner, but I’m sure you can’t tell
what theme could inspire our poetry so well

The old ballad-wright Homer’s delighted with nectar
and yet makes a great fuss with his tall boy call’d Hector
But had fortune thrown him on Norfolk’s fair coast
He’d sung of the Sydneys & charming Miss Host
He’d Ha! Praise both our Sidney & sung of Miss Hoste
Amongst all his heroes not one can be found
Had he met with Miss Warner, could then stand his ground
And for Bully Achilles who did swagger and damn
She has Her eyes w’d have melted him down to a lamb

Your foreign Monsieurs with their merry nymphs girls play
and dull German skulls love a tun of warm clay
No leisure for love to the ill-fated Poles
But it’s beauty and wit that agrees best with souls engage our souls
All doctors agree that such toasts in our glass
is the reason things here are at so good a pass,
and swear, if Sir Robert were wise as is meet
He would lay down his power at Garboldisham’s feet.

But hold! One glass now I will drink tho’ I dye
you may guess what I mean, to Miss Molly’s soft eye
She’s so lovely, so lively, so blooming and fresh
No painting can shew her, nor language express
If venus durst peep, to decide, from the sky
Likely Hogan, Miss Hamond, must spiritless dye
But whilst toupets of drawing room belles make their boast
I’ll I defy them to match us, in Norfolk, with toasts.

Wm. J.

On a Gentleman’s toasting Miss M Bacon, 1734

(Although this poem is anonymous, the subject matter suggests that the author was William Jermy.)

All peevish jarrings hence be gone
Good wine’s the source of joy
Let sprightly wit & mirth alone
our happy hours employ

Come lets have your favourite lass
The idol of your breast
A girl adds lythe to the glass
and gives the wine a zest

Poh! never blush, your toast lets hear
or not a glass I'll fill
you've got some sparkling flames so near,
midst friends her name to tell

Miss Bacon - say you so in truth
your fancy high has flown,
with so much beauty, wit, & youth
will tattered crepe go down?

No - if so high your eyes you raise
you'll find your hopes all most
Striving to stem the sun’s bright blaze
Young Phaeton was lost

Who was Miss Molly Bacon?

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