1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Dr. John Wolcot

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 220-21.



Dr. John Wolcot (1738-1819), who, under the name of Peter Pindar, gained much notoriety as a satirist, was a native of Dodbrooke, in Devonshire, studied medicine, and became a practitioner. While residing at Truro he detected the talents of the self-taught artist, Opie, whom he brought to London in 1780. Wolcot had now recourse to his pen for his support. His Lyric Odes to the Royal Academicians took the town by surprise. The justice of many of his criticisms, the daring personalities, and the quaintness of the style, were something so new that the work was highly successful. He now began to launch his ridicule at the king, ministers, opposition leaders, and authors, among which last were Gifford, Boswell, and Johnson. His popularity lasted for nearly forty years. In 1795 he got from his booksellers an annuity of 250, payable half-yearly, for the copyright of his works — a contract which resulted in heavy loss to the booksellers. Ephemeral in their nature, and lacking the vitality of moral purpose, most of his writings have sunk into oblivion. After all his satires on George III. and Pitt, he accepted a pension from the administration of which Pitt was the head.