The Rosciad "The Best Things Carried To Excess Are Wrong"

Charles Churchill

"The Best Things Carried To Excess Are Wrong"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: A dissipated clergyman, Churchill won both fame and notoriety as a satiric poet during the last four years of his life. He was associated with and defended John Wilkes, the unscrupulous editor of the North-Briton. Much of the harsh and vitriolic nature of Churchill's satire seems to have been formed by this association. In The Rosciad, his first important poem, Churchill attacked a number of theatrical personalities with such witty satire that it was at one time regarded as the most important satiric work between those of Pope and Byron. Near the end of the poem, after a long catalogue of contemporary stage personalities, all subjected to biting attack, came the famous actor David Garrick, followed by a train of critics. The first critic accuses Garrick of being too short to play a hero because "Your Hero always should be tall, you know":

Another can't forgive the paltry arts,
By which he makes his way to shallow hearts;
Mere pieces of finesse, traps for applause.–
"Avaunt, unnat'ral start, affected pause."
For me, by Nature form'd to judge with phlegm,
I can't acquit by whosesale, nor condemn.
The best things carried to excess are wrong:
The start may be too frequent, pause too long;
But, only us'd in proper time and place,
Severest judgment must allow them Grace.