Portrait of John Wolcot by John Opie, circa 1780 (detail)
Dodbrooke, near Kingsbridge, Devon (baptised)
|Baptised||9 May 1738|
|Died||14 January 1819 (aged 80)|
|Resting place||St Paul's, Covent Garden|
|Other names||Peter Pindar|
|Alma mater||Aberdeen University|
|Occupation||Physician, Clergyman, Author|
Wolcot was baptised at Dodbrooke, near Kingsbridge, Devon. In the parish register, his surname was spelled "Woolcot". It is not known where he was born. He was educated by an uncle, and received his M.D. from Aberdeen University. In 1767 he went as physician to Sir William Trelawny, Governor of Jamaica. He was offered the lucrative living of St. Anne's, where the current parson was seriously ill. Wolcott went back to England and took holy orders in 1769. He returned to Jamaica to find the parson of St. Anne's had recovered and Wolcott was instead offered the less lucrative living of Vere. Sir William died in 1772; Wolcot came home and, abandoning the Church, resumed his medical career. He settled in practice at Truro, where he discovered the talents of John Opie, and assisted him.
In 1780 Wolcot went to London and began writing satires. The first objects of his attentions were the members of the Royal Academy. These attempts being well received, he soon began to fly at higher game, the King and Queen being the most frequent marks for his satirical shafts. In 1786 he published The Lousiad, a Heroi-Comic Poem, which took its name from a legend that a louse had once appeared on the King's dinner plate.
Other objects of his attack were James Boswell, the biographer of Samuel Johnson; James Bruce, the Abyssinian traveller; Hannah More, former bluestocking and playwright and Bishop Porteus. Wolcot had a remarkable vein of humour and wit, which, while intensely comic to persons not involved, stung its subjects to the quick. He had likewise strong intelligence, and a power of coining effective phrases. In other kinds of composition, as in some ballads which he wrote, an unexpected touch of gentleness and even tenderness appears. Among these are The Beggar Man and Lord Gregory. Much that he wrote has now lost all interest owing to the circumstances referred to being forgotten, but enough still retains its peculiar relish to account for his contemporary reputation.
- Pindar, the ancient Greek poet
Arline Meyer,"From the Foothills of Parnassus; viewed by Thomas Rowlandson and John Wolcot (alias Peter Pindar),” The British Art Journal, March 2002
- Maylon, Julie (October 1998). "Peter Pindar and his World". Paragon Review. Brynmor Jones Library, University of Hull. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
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- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons. Wikisource
- Portrait of John Wolcot by John Opie, R.A.