Peter Pindar (1738-1819), the pen name of John Wolcot, dared to ridicule the foibles, corruptions and misdemeanours of King George III and those in power in his kingdom. His satire was merciless, but Wolcot survived accusations of treason, protected by his wit and readership. His admirers included Lord Nelson and the Prince Regent himself; to Robert Burns he was 'a delightful fellow and a first favourite of mine'. Fascinating for what they reveal of the world of Hanoverian England, Peter Pindar's audacious poems still shock the modern reader into laughter at the unchanging characteristics of the arrogant and powerful. Fenella Copplestone's introduction and notes illuminate social and literary contexts of Pindar's writing.
John Wolcot ('Peter Pindar') was born in 1738 in Devon. He was educated in Devon and in France and studied medicine in London and at Aberdeen University, where he took his medical degree in 1767. In the same year he travelled to Jamaica and became physician to the governor, Sir William Trelawny. Upon his return to England after Trelawny's death he practised medicine in Cornwall. It was here that he befriended the artist John Opie, who became his protege. In 1778 Wolcott abandoned medicine and went with Opie to London, where he began his career as a satirist under the pseudonym of Peter Pindar, publishing Lyric Odes to the Royal Academicians (1782-5) in The Weekly Review. His verses were bestsellers and he became a well-known figure in the capital's literary and political circles, greatly admired for his biting wit and social commentary. His targets included James Boswell, Edmund Burke, William Pitt and the actor David Garrick. In 1786 he published the first canto of his most important poem, The Lousiad, the five volumes of which were not completed until 1795, and in 1787 Ode upon Ode, which ridiculed the official yearly odes to King George III. Wolcott's verse was collected in 1812. He died in London in 1819 and was buried in thechurch of St Paul's, Covent Garden. Fenella Copplestone was born and educated in Northern Ireland. After postgraduate study at the universities of Sussex and Exeter, she trained as an English teacher at Makerere University, Kampala. She taught English first in Uganda and thereafter in Northern Ireland, England and Scotland, ending her teaching career as acting head of a comprehensive school. She has been a publisher's reader and a reviewer of poetry, and worked on Shakespearean topics with her husband Gamini Salgado before developing her current interest in eighteen-century literature. Her home is in Rennes, Brittany.