PINDAR, Peter [pseud. of John Wolcot]

PINDAR, Peter [pseudonym of John Wolcot]. The Works of Peter Pindar, Esq.

 London, Published by J. Walker and J. Harris, 1809.

£850

12mo, four volumes, each one with a half-title, frontispiece, engraved title page and regular title page with Peter Pindar’s portrait being on the first volume. Ms. ex libris of Sir George-William Denys, Baronet, on front endpaper of each volume. Bound in a lovely gilt-ruled straight-grain red morocco (fourth volume with some worm tracking on front cover), inner dentelles, author and title to gilt spine, marbled pastedowns, a.e.g. A lovely set in a beautiful binding.

Peter Pindar was the pen name of John Wolcot (9 May 1738 – 14 January 1819), an English satirist who found that poetry paid better than his medical profession. Indeed, though trained as a physician and practising medicine, in 1780, Wolcot went to London and began writing satires. The first objects of his attentions were the members of the Royal Academy. For the historian of the fine arts the relevant items are his Lyric and Farewell Odes to the Royal Academicians for the years 1782, 1783, 1785 and 1786 (pp. 9-133), in which the painter Benjamin West and all its other leading members are unmercifully satirised, and the opening poem in his Subjects for Painters (pp. 445-506), but the poems as a whole well repay reading, particularly those that ridicule the naturalist Sir Joseph Banks, King George III’s, and the Abyssinian traveller James Bruce. Other objects of his attack were Boswell, the biographer of Samuel Johnson, Hannah More, former bluestocking and playwright, and Bishop Porteus. Wolcot had a remarkable vein of humour and wit, which, while intensely comic to persons not involved, stung its subjects to the quick. He had likewise strong intelligence, and a power of coining effective phrases. In other kinds of composition, as in some ballads he wrote, an unexpected touch of gentleness and even tenderness appears. Among these are The Beggar Man and Lord Gregory. He died at his home in Latham Place, Somers Town, London, on 14 January 1819, and was buried in a vault in the churchyard of St Paul’s, Covent Garden.