Edited by Daniel Armstrong Robinson
The Romantic Period is funnier—and cornier—than most people think it is. This site aims to uncover what I call ludic Romanticism. I’m working on a good definition–forthcoming.
Writing under the nom de plume “Peter Pindar,” John Wolcot (1738–1819) wrote satirical, comical, irreverent, facetiously sentimental, sometimes bawdy—and often just plain silly—poetry that mocked the political, cultural, and fashionable worlds of London and Hanoverian Great Britain. He was a physician and a priest, a raconteur and a scholar, a poet and a jester. As Peter Pindar, Wolcot was the most popular poet of the 1780s and 1790s, selling more books during his lifetime than any of the Romantic poets other than Byron, whose sense of humor he no doubt influenced. He was the friend of philosopher William Godwin, writer Mary Robinson, painter John Opie, and caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson. His merciless lampooning of the king made him a celebrity. In 1838, Walter Scott described Walcot as “the most unsparing calumniator of his time.”
No scholarly edition of the works of Peter Pindar exists, although he did oversee a five-volume authoritative collected works, published in 1815. The topical nature of his poetry and his extensive revisions make a print edition impractical. His range of references to contemporary events and persons, moreover, presents challenges to reading and comprehending his poetry today. This “live” edition of Peter Pindar aims to provide reading texts of the complete works, with full bibliographical information and explanatory notes. The textual and informational difficulties will require updates, corrections, and elaborations; a digital edition, therefore, is the best way to represent the works. Understanding Peter Pindar, his poetry and his context, will shed new light on the social and political milieu of the years 1782 to 1819 as well as on the issues, events, and popular culture of the day and many now-unfamiliar persons who nonetheless were prominent figures during the Romantic Period. Peter Pindar is the pre-eminent comic writer of this period and, along with many others who shared the same networks, friend and foe, stands at the center of ludic Romanticism, which, in literary terms, includes work represented in a variety of media such as, in addition to books, newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, broadsheets, gift-books, annuals, prints, engravings, and cartoons. Eventually, I hope to include a kind of “Critical Heritage” section with contemporary commentary on Peter Pindar and a bibliography of secondary material—what little there is. But maybe that will change.
The site will include the poetry of the so-called Della Cruscans as well as miscellaneous ludic literature of the period.
As the project progresses, I welcome contributions, corrections, criticisms, comments, and other communications that may not begin with the letter “c.”
N.B. This site is a hobby on top of editing other scholarly projects for print publication, working at Widener University, and making music with my band, Smart Barker. More on that here.