of “Author's Evenings” reminiscent of men and books, his scattered writings were never collected or even completely identified, and his reputation must rest almost entirely upon The lay Preacher. In these papers he sometimes dallied with a trifling subject, or to the indignation of severe critics applied a sacred text to the discussion of Mrs. Radcliffe's romances, or gave free rein to his eccentric humour in denouncing French innovations. But in the main he preserved a solemn front, dimming his wit with sobriety, as in the following extract from “Watchman, what of the night?”
In reality, however, Dennie was as fond of conviviality as Steele, and as elegant in dress as Goldsmith. His literary pose had little in common with his actual habits of composition, as described by a former printer's devil of The Farmer's Museum:
Duty, as well as inclination, urges the Lay Preacher to sermonize, while others slumber. To read numerous volumes in the morning, and to observe various characters at noon, will leave but little time, except the night, to digest the one or speculate upon the other. The night, therefore, is often dedicated to composition, and while the light of the paly planets discovers at his desk the Preacher, more wan than they, he may be heard repeating emphatically with Dr. Young,Darkness has much Divinity for me.He is then alone, he is then at peace. No companions near, but the silent volumes on his shelf, no noise abroad, but the click of the village clock, or the bark of the village dog. The Deacon has then smoked his sixth, and last pipe, and asks not a question more, concerning Josephus, or the Church. Stillness aids study, and the sermon proceeds.The Lay Preacher (1796), p. 103.
One of the best of his Lay Sermons was written at the village tavern, directly opposite to the office, in a chamber where he and his friends were amusing themselves with cards. It was delivered to me by piece-meal, at four or five different times. If he happened to be engaged in a game, when I applied for copy, he would ask some one to play his hand for him, while he could “give the devil his due.” When I called for the closing paragraph of the sermon, he said, “Call again in five minutes.” “No,” said Tyler, “I'll write ”