Oh! Mr Best You’re Very Bad

Jane Austen wrote this sprightly poem in 1806 when she was endeavoring to find a way for her friend Martha Lloyd to come and visit her. Apparently, Mr. Best could not be persuaded to set out on a journey and give Martha a ride. It is doubtful that he ever saw the work, though it was sure to have caused considerable amusement in the Austen family.

Oh! Mr. Best, you’re very bad
And all the world shall know it;
Your base behaviour shall be sung
By me, a tunefull Poet.–

You used to go to Harrowgate
Each summer as it came,
And why I pray should you refuse
To go this year the same?–

The way’s as plain, the road’s as smooth,
The Posting not increased;
You’re scarcely stouter than you were,
Not younger Sir at least.–

If e’er the waters were of use
Why now their use forego?
You may not live another year,
All’s mortal here below.–

It is your duty Mr Best
To give your health repair.
Vain else your Richard’s pills will be,
And vain your Consort’s care.

But yet a nobler Duty calls
You now towards the North.
Arise ennobled–as Escort
Of Martha Lloyd stand forth.

She wants your aid–she honours you
With a distinguished call.
Stand forth to be the friend of her
Who is the friend of all.–

Take her, and wonder at your luck,
In having such a Trust.
Her converse sensible and sweet
Will banish heat and dust.–

So short she’ll make the journey seem
You’ll bid the Chaise stand still.
T’will be like driving at full speed
From Newb’ry to Speen hill.–

Convey her safe to Morton’s wife
And I’ll forget the past,
And write some verses in your praise
As finely and as fast.

But if you still refuse to go
I’ll never let your rest,
Buy haunt you with reproachful song
Oh! wicked Mr. Best!–

J.A
Clifton 1806

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  1. [...] Jane Austen Centre calls this 11-stanza verse, “sprightly.” Indeed, it reveals her keen wit and charming [...]

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