Manlius to Peter Pindar: Satire, Patriotism, and Masculinity in the 1790s
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This essay examines the political satires of John Wolcot (alias Peter Pindar) in the context of the numerous patriotic attacks on their author between 1787 and 1801. Wolcot's satires on George III met with ferocious, politically motivated attacks on the poet's masculinity. These can be explained only in part with reference to the French Revolution: Wolcot's literary combats, and his influence on younger satirists such as James Gillray, also testify to the longer-term importance of sodomy, scatology, and gendered notions of the king's two bodies in English political debate. Wolcot insisted on the corporeality of the King's body and of his desires. In the 1790s these assertions were received as libel, sedition, and blasphemy, rather than as unpatriotic. In fact, Wolcot's continued success in the face of political attacks can be attributed to his stance of loyal opposition, a stance related to "patriotism" in its dominant eighteenth-century sense. The conflict surrounding Wolcot thus illuminates the massive shifts occurring since that time in the definition of patriotism and the composition of the body politic, but also reinforces the connection between patriotism and masculinity.
Romantic Circles Praxis Series, May 2006