Romanticism and Patriotism:
I would like to thank Joshua Gonsalves, Brad Prager, and Orrin Wang for insightful comments and bibliographical suggestions on an earlier draft of this essay.
1. According to the OED, in the late seventeenth century "patriot" was "applied to one who supported the rights of the country against the King and court. . . . Hence the name itself fell into discredit in the earlier half of the 18th c., being used, according to Dr. Johnson, ‘ironically for a factious disturber of the government'" (II.2099). Many examples from the 1790s bear out this point: caustic references to John Wilkes as a "patriot" in the Times (3/19/1788); Gillray's Patriotic Regeneration (1795), envisioning a Jacobin Parliament with Fox as Robespierre; and pieces in the first Anti-Jacobin (1797-98) such as the letter of "A Batchelor." Ironically, Wolcot may have been closer to the nonpartisan Toryism of Henry, Viscount Bolingbroke in The Idea of a Patriot King (1738) than was George III, whose patriotism very much involved partisan politics and royal prerogative.
2. This is a selective list. Although there is only one numerical estimate of Wolcot’s sales, ample anecdotal evidence suggests that it is at least not wildly exaggerated: "According to Cyrus Redding [a relative] in what is possibly an exaggeration, at the height of this period of his fame between twenty and thirty thousand copies of his work were sold in a single day" (Girtin 113).
3. Wolcot was a wide-ranging man of letters who worked in many other forms besides the satires that concern me here, beginning with the sentimental Elegy for William Boscawen that launched his London career (1768; 1779). He produced occasional satires in his native Cornwall and in Jamaica before coming to London in 1781. After the success of his Royal Academy odes he also published, over the next thirty years, art criticism (as well as a volume of aquatints of his own landscapes); dramatic prologues, epilogues, and criticism; opera librettos and translations; reviews in the Monthly Review (1793-96); a blank verse tragedy, The Fall of Portugal; and a wide variety of other verse, including beast fables, romantic tales, and significant contributions (along with Robert Burns) to George Thomson’s A Select Collection of Scottish Airs. His serious verse is reminiscent of James Thomson in diction and sentiment.
4. Tom Girtin points out that Wolcot may have suggested this role for himself and that Opie in any case included himself in this picture as well as the "fiercer" of the two assassins (111). As in so many cases the political signification is much more equivocal than in Manlius’s strict ideological reading (and is complicated further by the biographical facts of Wolcot’s relationship with Opie).
6. Many other prints bear witness to Wolcot’s influence. Affability (1795) takes up the King’s habit of engaging laborers in conversation, as lampooned extensively by Wolcot. Satan in All His Glory, or Peter Pindar Crouching to the Devil (1792) is particularly important for its portrait of the man himself and for its Oedipal misreading of the poem referenced in the image, the "Conciliatory Ode" to Lord Lonsdale (see further M. Dorothy George 951-52).
7. When Wolcot sued his publisher in 1801, Lord Eldon refused to grant the injunction he was seeking on the grounds that his works were "libellous publications" (qtd. in Girtin 219). But he was never prosecuted in his own right. Gillray, according to Paulson, was "drawn into the arms of the Tories . . . by a blasphemy prosecution arising from a 1796 print showing Fox and Sheridan as Magi" (184), and agreed to produce propagandistic images in return for a pension.
8. As it turned out, Peter’s severity would grow much worse before he mended, though the increasingly harsh reviews in this magazine, as well as other criticisms through the early 90s purporting to speak for the king and the nation, maintain the aggrieved paternal tone used by the king himself (for example) in his proclamations to the rebellious colonies in 1775.
9. Wolcot alludes to a meeting of the Privy Council concerning himself as early as 1787 in Ode upon Ode: "No! Free as air the Muse shall spread her wing, / Of whom, and when, and what she pleases sing: / Though privy councils, jealous of her note, / Prescribed, of late, a halter for her throat" (Works 278). The OCLC database identifies Pindaromastix as Joseph Reed, also a possible collaborator of William Kenrick on Love in the Suds and hence—assuming both attributions are correct—a veteran fabricator of sodomy charges.
10. Johnson’s definition notwithstanding (see note 1), "patriot" occurs here and in a few other anti-Wolcot texts in its straightforward sense, which may have experienced a resurgence by the 1790s. Canning, in New Morality, uses the word numerous times in both its straightforward and ironic senses.
12. Nichols excerpted a significant portion of "The Remonstrance" in this review and printed "The Magpie and the Robin," one of Wolcot’s characteristic beast fables, in full in the poetry section of this issue. From this point the magazine is noticeably conciliatory toward Wolcot: "Peter, under affliction, improveth" (62.155).
13. Dyer’s superb calendar of satirical publications between 1789 and 1832 provided me with crucial references for this article. He is also one of several critics to highlight Wolcot’s influence on Lord Byron (3).
14. Cobbett must have forgotten his earlier partisanship by 1816, because in that year he incorporated a defense of Wolcot against Gifford in a criticism of the latter, by that time editor of the Quarterly Review, in his Political Register (qtd. in Clark 109). Wolcot had in fact been an early patron of Polwhele’s and Polwhele never repudiated him (see further Girtin 210).
15. Wolcot’s actual career in vice must have paled by comparison to the excesses of which he was accused in print. But in what seems a curious instance of life imitating art, Wolcot was tried for criminal conversation with his landlady and acquitted in June 1807, when he was 69. The enraged (or opportunistic) husband charged that Wolcot pretended to serve his wife as an acting coach. The couple’s servants provided (ultimately ineffective) testimony that might well have been drawn from the body of satire on Wolcot. See further Girtin 226-223.
16. Previous discussion of Wolcot’s real sexual proclivities has been limited to pointing out that although he remained unmarried, his close relationships with much younger male protégés (Opie most famously)"Though they "would in the twentieth century be regarded with some reserve" (Girtin 60) "were attended by "no contemporary breath of scandal" (67).
18. Priestley considerately advises the king not to trouble himself about a future state. Priestley also features more centrally in another Gillray print published the same week, which brings out the blasphemy in The Hopes of the Party. In A Birmingham Toast, Priestley gives the toast "The K[ing’s] Head, here!" while holding up an empty communion dish.