Banks’ Liaison Skewered in an Ovidian Pastiche
34. [COOK LITERATURE]. [SCOTT-WARING, John]. An Epistle from Oberea, Queen of Otaheite, to Joseph Banks, Esq. Translated by T. Q. Z. Esq. Professor of the Otaheite Language in Dublin, and of all the Languages of the Undiscovered Islands in the South Sea; And Enriched with Historical and Explanatory Notes. The Third Edition. London: J. Almon, 1774 [i.e., 1773]. 15, [1, blank] pp. 4to, mid-twentieth-century three-quarter crimson roan over rose and grey marbled boards, spine gilt-lettered. Spine ends snagged, boards faded along edges, title page slightly toned and foxed, consolidated voids in gutter margins. Overall a good copy in a rather lurid binding, perhaps fittingly so.
Third edition (first edition published earlier the same year). Beddie 3915. Cf. Hocken, pp. 11-12. Holmes 11 (first edition). Kroepelien 1166. Cf. O'Reilly-Reitman 9791. Cf. Sabin 3204. This work has been variously attributed to Richard Porson and Spence. Halkett & Laing attribute it to Scott-Waring, an attribution now generally accepted. Scott-Waring (1747-1819) was a professional soldier, polemicist, politician, and political agent best remembered for his disastrous advocacy of Warren Hastings.
This titillating poem quickly went through five editions the year it was published. This squib, a pastiche of Ovid, satirizes Sir Joseph Banks for his alleged affair, is complete with supposed learned footnotes and historical commentaries, and even cites Hawkesworth as an authority for some incidents. Known formally as Purea, the Queen was described by Parkinson as “a fat, bouncing, good-looking dame” (p. 21). She was well-known in England because of the vivid descriptions of her Hawkesworth published based on Banks’ own journals. It is surmised that Banks fell asleep in her canoe one day and that the two became lovers when she discovered him there. Any number of satires on the subject were published at the time, of which this is probably the most famous. ($1,500-2,500)
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