A Celebration of Women Writers

"An Inventory of the Furniture in Dr. Priestley's Study." by Anna Lætitia Barbauld (1743 - 1825)

First Publication: The Works of Anna Lætitia Barbauld, with a Memoir by Lucy Aikin. London: Longman, 1825. I. 55-58.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom

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


A map of every country known,
With not a foot of land his own.
A list of folks that kicked a dust
On this poor globe, from Ptol. the First;
He hopes,indeed it is but fair,
Some day to get a corner there.
A group of all the British kings,
Fair emblem! on a packthread swings.
The Fathers, ranged in goodly row,
A decent, venerable show,
Writ a great while ago, they tell us,
And many an inch o'ertop their fellows.
A Juvenal to hunt for mottos;
And Ovid's tales of nymphs and grottos.
The meek-robed lawyers, all in white;
Pure as the lamb,at least, to sight.
A shelf of bottles, jar and phial,
By which the rogues he can defy all,
All filled with lightning keen and genuine,
And many a little imp he'll pen you in;
Which, like Le Sage's sprite, let out,
Among the neighbors makes a rout;
Brings down the lightning on their houses,
And kills their geese, and frights their spouses.
A rare thermometer, by which
He settles, to the nicest pitch,
The just degrees of heat, to raise
Sermons, or politics, or plays.
Papers and books, a strange mixed olio,
From shilling touch to pompous folio;
Answer, remark, reply, rejoinder,
Fresh from the mint, all stamped and coined here;
Like new-made glass, set by to cool,
Before it bears the workman's tool.
A blotted proof-sheet, wet from Bowling.
"How can a man his anger hold in?"
Forgotten rimes, and college themes,
Worm-eaten plans, and embryo schemes;
A mass of heterogenous matter,
A chaos dark, nor land nor water;
New books, like new-born infants, stand,
Waiting the printer's clothing hand;
Others, a motley ragged brood,
Their limbs unfashioned all, and rude,
Like Cadmus' half-formed men appear;
One rears a helm, one lifts a spear,
And feet were lopped and fingers torn
Before their fellow limbs were born;
A leg began to kick and sprawl
Before the head was seen at all,
Which quiet as a mushroom lay
Till crumbling hillocks gave it way;
And all, like controversial writing,
Were born with teeth, and sprung up fighting.
  "But what is this," I hear you cry,
"Which saucily provokes my eye?"
A thing unknown, without a name,
Born of the air, and doomed to flame.

Editor: Mary Mark Ockerbloom