"A Fine Puss-gentleman That's All Perfume"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Having listed many deterrents to good conversation, such as sound and fury in place of logic, and the smoking of a pipe that not only slows up the story-telling but drives the fair sex from the room, Cowper continues his 908-line discussion of the gift of conversation with attention to another of his pet hatreds, a highly perfumed fine gentleman. His mind travels from the civet out of which perfumes are made to the civet cat from which that secretion is obtained. Accordingly, he calls such persons "puss-gentlemen." Their heavy perfume sickens and even kills some people. The "raree shows" referred to, were peep shows or carnivals, frequented by the unwashed rabble.

I cannot talk with civet in the room,
A fine puss-gentleman that's all perfume;
The sight's enough–no need to smell a beau–
Who thrusts his nose into a raree show?
His odoriferous attempts to please
Perhaps might prosper with a swarm of bees;
But we that make no honey, though we sting,
Poets, are sometimes apt to maul the thing.
'Tis wrong to bring into a mixed resort
What makes some sick, and others à-la-mort,–
An argument of cogence, we may say,
Why such a one should keep himself away.