Horace Smith, 1778-1849: Look on My Works, ye Mighty, and Despair

“In Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:”

For those intimately familiar with Shelley’s Oxymandias, this might come off as cheeky parody of the sort one used to get in New York Magazine Competition, or the New Statesman, or even the Washington Post.

Actually, that’s not far off from the truth.

A little back-story.  In 1809, the Drury Lane Theater burned down, a sad event for London theater goers.  It took three years to rebuild the place and as re-opening day approached, the managers needed to get themselves talked about.  They came up with a competition. Members of the public were solicited to write an oration to be read on the theater’s opening night.  The sweetener was a prize was fifty pounds, an eye-catching sum in those days, and even today. Continue reading