‘Wit Is By Politeness Sharpest Set’

Uncorking-Old-Sherry-Gillray

As in smooth oil the razor best is whet,
So wit is by politeness sharpest set;
Their want of edge from their offense is seen,
Both pain us least when exquisitely keen.

Probably nineteenth century. My commonplace book has ‘Dr Young’ as the author, but two 19th c anthologies which have it say it is Anon.
The illustration is ‘Uncorking Old Sherry’ by  James Gillray. Via Wikimedia
William Pitt stands in the House of Commons, facing the opposition, which is represented by bottles containing the heads of the most well-known opposition leaders including Fox, Tierney, Windham and Grey. At Pitt’s feet is a bottle containing the head of Sidmouth. Pitt is uncorking a bottle containing the head of Sheridan, the contents of which spray up and on which appear inscriptions describing excessive oratory, apparently by the opposition.
This was one of the most popular of Gillray’s political prints.Caption reads: Published March 10 1805 by H Humphrey. St James Street London: the honble Gent. tho’ he does not very often address the House, yet when he does, he always thinks proper to pay off all arrears, & like a Bottle just uncorked bursts all at one into an explosion of Froth & Air;—then, whatever might for a length of time lie lurking & corked up in his mind. whatever he thinks of himself or hears in conservation, — whatever he takes many days or weeks to sleep upon, the whole commonplacebook of the interval is sure to burst out at once, stored with studied-Jokes, sarcasms, arguments, invectives, & every thing else, which his mind or memory are capable of embracing whether they have any relation or not to the Subject under discussion – See Mr Ptts speech on y Gent Defence Bill. March 6th 1805
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About layanglicana

Author of books on Calcutta, Delhi and Dar es Salaam, I am now blogging as a lay person about the Church of England and the Anglican Communion. I am also blogging about the effects of World War One on the village of St Mary Bourne, Hampshire.
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