The archive in greater detail is as follows: nineteen manuscript poems (probably dating from 1794-1810) with typed transcripts of 'The Island of Innocence', 'Ode to Ridicule' and 'Ode to Fancy', and a letter from the Reverend Cornelius Cardew to J.T. Smith (The British Museum) containing details of Wolcot's life in Cornwall (17 Nov 1819). There is also a bundle of miscellaneous unfinished manuscripts which have been jotted down in ink on various sizes of paper.
Manuscripts of John Wolcot ('Peter Pindar')
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- ReferenceGB 50 U DX41/2
- Dates of Creation-1819
- Physical Description24 items & 1 bundle
Scope and Content
Administrative / Biographical History
John Wolcot (Peter Pindar) was born in Dodbrooke, Devonshire. He attended schools in Kingsbridge, Liskeard and Bodmin, and was then sent to France for a year to learn the language. He went to London in 1762 to study medicine, and in 1764 became his uncle's assistant at Fowey, Cornwall.
In 1769 he went to Jamaica as physician to the governor, Sir William Trelawny, a distant relative. In the expectation of a good living becoming vacant on the island he took holy orders, but was disappointed. He soon abandoned the clergy and returned to medicine. When Sir William died he returned to Britain and practised medicine at Truro, Helstone and Exeter. There he met the mine - carpenter's boy John Opie who was an artist and introduced him to the London art scene. Whilst in London Wolcot began his series of poems attacking the Royal Academy.
From art he turned to politics and became a significant figure in the political, artistic and literary society of the reign of George III, indeed 'the chief satirist of the time in verse' (Peter Pindar's Poems selected by P.M. Zall with a foreword by A.L. Rowse). No one was safe. George III, William Pitt and Tom Paine all attracted his scurrilous pen. He met his match when William Gifford not only attacked him in verse but gave him a sound beating (Epistle to Peter Pindar).
In 1792 Joseph Haydn set Wolcot's words to music in his piece Der sturm: gemischter chor (soloquartett ad libitum) mit orchester oder klavier - begleitung/praklisch eingerichtel va F. Burkhart.
Wolcot lived well on the proceeds of his copyrights and died in London at the age of eighty one. He is buried in St. Paul's next to the satirist Samuel Butler.
Access will be granted to any accredited reader
- Peter Pindar's Poems selected by P.M. Zall with a foreword by A.L. Rowse (1972)
- Wolcot, John, The History of Peter Pindar (1788)
- Wolcot, John, Touchstone (1795)
- Wolcot, John, One thousand seven hundred and ninety four: a satire in four dialogues (1797)
- Haydn, Joseph Franz, Der sturm: gemischter chor (soloquartett ad libitum) mit orchester oder klavier - begleitung/praklisch eingerichtel va F. Burkhart; englischer originaltext va Peter Pindar (1792)
- Gifford, William, Epistle to Peter Pindar (1800)
- Weinbrot, Howard, Eighteenth Century Satire: Essays on Text and Context from Dryden to Peter Pindar (1988)