An archivist at Trinity has shared a humorous poem ‘Thanks for the Cheese’ written by Hassard Hume Dodgson (1803-84), uncle of Lewis Carroll.
The poem was composed for Susan Emma Smith, mother of Trinity Fellow Sir Henry Babington Smith and found among his papers.
Should you wonder, why it pleases
Mrs Smith to send me cheeses;
I will tell you, when a son
Has a prize or honour won,
Then she thinks that she must send
Stilton cheeses to a friend.
The Babington-Smith and Dodgson families were neighbours in Putney.
To each son success I wish
Chuckling at my Stilton dish
Honour fame for all I pray
Crowns of laurel, crowns of bay
While I dream of curds and whey
May they ever joy impart
To their loving mother’s heart
Thanks in wretched* poetry
Susan was the mother of six sons who survived infancy, but it is likely that the poem refers to one of the achievements of Henry, born in 1863, who achieved a first-class degree in classics at Trinity and won the Browne gold medal for a Latin epigram three years in a row between 1884 and 1886. Dodgson was also a classicist who translated his nephew’s poem ‘Jabberwocky’ into Latin.
Dodgson’s postscript (*) neatly links to Cambridge student John Milton whose notebook of poetry is kept in the Wren Library.
Yet I’m happier far than Milton
Wretch who never had a Stilton
In later life Henry Babington-Smith, who died in 1923, was an eminent financier and civil servant. He was made a Fellow of Trinity in 1890 and his papers were deposited here in 1976 by his son and daughter.
Photo of stilton cheese: Victor Bayon