The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

May 9, 2017

May 9, 1738

John Wolcot, (baptised, May 9, 1738 to January 14, 1819) was a physician, and a clergyman. He assisted artists like John Opie. And in 1780 he moved to London and taking the pen name Peter Pindar wrote verse that satirized London society. There, we are informed,

he soon began to fly at higher game, the King and Queen being the most frequent marks for his satirical shafts. ...Although Pindar lacked the depth of the great satirists, he was a master of verse caricature, as shown especially in his scurrilous lampoons of George III in The Lousiad, an Heroi-Comic Poem (1785–95), .... 

Here the contrast between the Portuguese The Lusiads (1572) is meant to point up the smallness of George III, who had a bug on the dinner table. Pindar is the examplar of the superficial. His satire lies in comparing an epic poem with a dining disaster of the King's. But Pindar is just making fun of an important person, for being ordinary.

A later, literary, critic, George Saintsbury, (1845-1933, ) described Peter Pindar:

[H]is best literary mood is that of a cat--not of a cat in a rage, but a cat in a state of merriment, purring and rolling and mumbling about...You may look out for a shrewd scratch or bite shortly as part of the game.

A cat is an apt metaphor for some satire, because cats have no answers. THEY need none. The great satirists, say Swift, do have standards which inform their portraits.

In his "Bozzy and Piozzi" (1786) Pindar writes:

On the death of Doctor Johnson, a number oſ people, ambitious of being distinguished from the mute part of their species, set about relating and printing Stories and Bons Mots of this celebrated moralist. Amongst the most zealous..., though not the most enlightened, appeared Mr. Boswell. and Madame Piozzi, the Hero and Heroine of our Eclogues. They are supposed to have in contemplation the Life of Johnson.... to prove their biographical abilities....

What we have here is Pindar's own motivation for writing, set forth in his criticism of others. It is touching that Peter Pindar wanted to be buried next to another satirist, Samuel Butler. As if to shelter together before that hollowness which it is after all, easy enough to point at; the significance of the satirists must be underlined. That same year as "Bozzy and Piozzi" Roberts Burns used a picture similar to The Lousiads, and wrote about it a bit of timeless poetry:

"To A Louse: On Seeing One On A Lady's Bonnet, At Church" and that line we cannot forget:

O wad some Pow'r the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!

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