The Kit-Cats (1708)

Blackmore, Richard,
William Hogarth, The Kit Kat Club, Lotherton Hall, Leeds Museums and Galleries


"Now Kit-Cat Wits to their first Maxims true,
Not of high Station, and in Number few,
Did Wit's just Rights and Interests pursue."

THE Kit-Cats, &c.

I Sing the Assembly's Rise, Encrease and Fame,
That condescends to honour Kit-Cats Name,
Whose Pride, like thine, O Rome, from small Beginnings came.
Oh thou! who Chief Art to the Muses dear,
Whom Poets Court, and Statesmen love or fear:
Who with an uncontroul'd, Despotic Sway,
Dost still new Burdens on thy Subjects lay;
Who Tax'd by thee with less Reluctance bear
The Charge of Caesar's, than of A N N A 's War.
Who reeking in thy own, and Roman Sweat,
Dost ancient Conquests o'er the French repeat:
Do thou, great Bocai smooth thy spacious Brow,
And one kind Smile on my Attempt bestow:

For thou, whole fertile Genius does abound
With noble Projects, didst this Order found.
And still dost cherish, cultivate and guide
Thy humble Creature, and with decent Pride
Dost, like the God of Wine, the Kit-Cat state bestride.
Gracious appear, as when thou mount's thy Seat
High in the great Assembly, to create
Some Peer a Member of the Kit-Cat State.
Or, when Apollo like, thour't pleas'd to lead
Thy Sons to feast on Hampsteads airy Head;
Hampstead, that now in fame Parnassus shall exceed
When Warlike William Albion's Scepter swayd
Succour'd th'Opprest, th'Oppressors progress staid
And of Europa's Peace the blest Foundations laid;
Illustrious Deeds were still the Hero's Aim,
He follow'd Danger as he flew for Fame.
A thousand Ills he bore in Albion's Cause,
Patient of every Suff'ring, but Applause;
Reverse of Lewis He (Example rare!)
Lov'd to deserve the Praise he could not bear.
He shun'd the Acclamations of the Throng,
And always coldly heard the Poet's Song.
Hence the great King the Muses did neglect,
And the meer Poet met with small Respect.
But tho' the Muses and their tuneful Train
In that great Monarch's Military Reign,
Had of the Royal Favour little Share,
Still they were kinder Bocai's tender Care:
He still caress'd the unregarded Tribe,
And did to all their various Tasks prescribe;
From whence to both great Aquisitions came,
To him the Profit, and to them the Fame.
On the fair Strand by which with graceful Pride
Unrivall'd Thames rolls his alternate Tyde,
Between the Courts which most the People awe,
(In one the Monarch Reigns, in one the Law)
A slately Building rear'd its lofty Head,
Which both the Thames and Town around survey'd.
Here crown'd with Clusters Bacchus kept his Court,
Where mighty Vats his Chearful Throne support;
High o'er the Grte he hung his waving Sign,
A Fountain Red with ever-flowing Wine.
Here Politicians us'd to Recreate
Their Lungs exhausted with a long Debate,
in setling, or perp!exing points of State.
In Pleasure here they pass the wearing Night,
And the hard Labours oi the Day recite;
They tell how bravely Artop Silence broke,
And how much like an Angel Oran spoke;
How some young Orators new come from School,
Mounted the Rope, and danc'd without a Pole.
What wretched Speeches t'other Party made,
How weak, and how insipid things were said
By all their leading Men, but by their own
What Miracles of Eloquence were shown,
What flames of fire, what Thunder-bolts were thrown!
How all their Speakes but of middle Name
Out-did the Grecian and the Roman Fame.
They tell with how much Negligence of Art
With how sincere an Air, and open Heart,
The prudent Prolocutor plaid his Part.
The Victors of their glorious Conquest boast,
They Triumph at the Vanquish'd Parties cost,
And tell how down they look'd, the Question lost.
One Night in Seven, at this convenient Seat,
Indulgent B 0 C A J did the Muses treat,
Their Drink was gen'rous Wine, and Kit-Cat's Pyes their Meat.
Here he assembled his Poetic Tribe,
Past Labours to Reward, and new ones to prescribe;
Hence did th' Assembly's Title first arise,
And Kit-Cat Wits sprung first from Kit-Cat's Pyes.
B O C A J the mighty Founder of the State
Led by his Wisdom, or his happy Fate,
Chose proper Pillars to support its Weight.
All the first Members for their Place were fit,
Tho' not of Title, Men of Sense and Wit.
While Kit-Cats by their Discipline secure,
Preserv'd their well-fram'd Constitution pure;
Soon from this warm well cultivated Bed
Letters came forward, Sense began to spread,
And Wit shot up apace its thriving Head.
The Languid Muses, now, new Life acquire,
And every Genius feels his native Fire.
The chearful Bards their weekly Work reherse,
And noble Subjects sing in noble Verse.
No sweeter Lays, nor more harmonious Strains
E'er blest Parnassus, or th' Arcadian Plains.
The tuneful Tribe with praise each other Crown,
And B 0 C A J with a Nod approves Apollo's Son.
Old Thames to listen to the Poet's Song,
In ling'ring Volumes slowly crept along:
But soon the Flood, that with reluctance past,
To hear the charming Lays return’d in hast.
Their Conversation fed their mutual Flame,
And made the Bards at Flights much higher Aim,
For Men of Wit do Men of Wit inspire,
And Emulation strikes out nobler Fire.

Meantime these Sons of Wit advanc'd their Name,
And fair Augusta rung with Kit-Cat's Fame;
Their brighter Beams Eclypse the fading Toast,
That long before unrival'd rul'd the Roast.
Now Crowds to Founder B 0 C A J did resort,
And for his Favour humbly made their Court;
The little Wits attended at his Gate,
And Men of Title did his Levee wait.
For he as Sovereign, by Prerogative
Old Members did exclude, and new receive.
He judg'd who most were for the Order fit,
And Chapters held, to make new Knights of Wit.

Now Kit-Cat Wits to their first Maxims true,
Not of high Station, and in Number few,
Did Wit's just Rights and Interests pursue.
They were by all esteem'd, by all carest,
The Joy of all the Town, the Life of every Feast.
If not a Kit-Cat Wit or two were there,
Flat was the Wine, and tastless was the Chear.


Richard Blackmore, The Kit--cats. A Poem. E. Sanger and E. Curl, at the Post-House at the Middle. Temple-Gate, and at the Peacock without Temple-Bar, 1708.