In the course of relating the sensational reception of "A Defence of Cosmetics," which few periodical critics realized was a spoof, his memorist S. N. Behrman includes the poetic response of Punch — a paraody, I should explain, of Isaac Watt's "Against Idleness and Mischief" from Divine Songs for Children (1715) that Lewis Carroll had already parodied in Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland. The text of Watts's poem comes Martin Gardner's Annotated Alice, pp. 38-39.

"Ars Cosmetica"

How would the little busy bore
    Improve on Nature's dower,
And praise a painted Laïs more
    Than maidens in their flower!
How deftly he dabs on his grease,
    How neatly spreads his wax;
And finds in dirty aids like these
    The charm that Nature lacks.
In barber-born, cosmetic skill,
    "Art" would be busy too;
And folly finds some business still
    For popinjays to do!

"Against Idleness and Mischief"

How doth the little busy bee
    Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
    From every opening flower!

How skillfully she builds her cell!
    How neat she spreads the wax!
And labours hard to store it well
    With the sweet food she makes.

In works of labour or of skill,
    I would be busy too;
For Satan finds some mischief still
    For idle hands to do.

In books, or work, or healthful play,
    Let my first years be passed,
That I may give for every day
    Some good account at last.

"How doth the little crocodile"

"How doth the little crocodile
    Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
    On every golden scale!

"How cheerfully heseems to grin.
    How neatly spreads his claws,
And welcomes little fishes in,
    With gently smiling jaws!"


Beerbohm, Max. The Works of Max Beerbohm. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1922. 107-135.

Behrman, S. N. Portrait of Max: An Intimate Memoir of Sir Max Beerbohm. New York: Random House, 1960.

Carroll, Lewis. The Annotated Alice: Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass. Ed. Martin Gardner. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1960.

Last modified 9 May 2008