Thanks for the Cheese


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.

Dodgson begins

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.

Dodgson continues

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