The "Cockney School" refers to a group of poets and essayists writing in England in the second and third decades of the 19th century. The term came in the form of hostile reviews in Blackwood's Magazine in 1817. Its primary target was Leigh Hunt, but John Keats and William Hazlitt were also included. Only Keats could properly be regarded as a cockney. Hazlitt was not even born in London. John Scott died after a duel over the controversy.
Each of the writers was derided for a slightly different quality. Keats, for example, was accused of "low diction" for rhyming "thorns/fawns" in "Sleep and Poetry" and other rhymes which suggested a working class speech. Hunt and Hazlitt were similarly vilified for their diction, but the criticisms were more ideological with them than with Keats. John Wilson Croker perpetuated the term "Cockney School" beyond the pages of Blackwood's in 1818 when he attacked Keats's Endymion in the Quarterly Review.John Wilson (Christopher North) and Lockhart had joined its staff in 1817. Lockhart shared in the caustic and aggressive articles that marked the early years of Blackwood; but his biographer Andrew Lang denied he was responsible for the virulent articles on Coleridge and on "The Cockney School of Poetry" of Leigh Hunt, Keats and their friends. Lockhart has been accused of the later Blackwood article (August 1818) on Keats, but he did show appreciation of Coleridge and Wordsworth.
The term, and the campaign against Hunt and the others, was not a question of aesthetics. It was, instead, an attack on the class background of the authors and their aspirations to the highest level of the literati, and it was, additionally, a reaction to the "Cockney" politics of the authors. The political, reformist agenda and the democratic ideology of Hunt and Hazlitt were offensive to the Blackwood's review staff, and the cultural and class background of the authors was introduced as a mechanism. Percy Bysshe Shelley was accused of being similarly offensive politically, but the reviewers excused him for his genius (and, of course, his high birth).
The second generation of the Romantic movement was as politically and economically revolutionary as it was aesthetically challenging to the status quo, and the controversy and partial reviewers responsible for the creation of the "Cockney School" epithet foreground how offensive it was to the establishment that lower class persons might emerge. According to the 1907 Nuttall's Brief Encyclopedia, the term was revived in the 1890s by working class London poets, but, although this may have been en vogue at the turn of the twentieth century, the term is currently remembered for the Romantic reference only.
John Keats was an English poet prominent in the second generation of Romantic poets, with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, although his poems were in publication for only four years before he died of tuberculosis at the age of 25. They were indifferently received by critics in his lifetime, but his fame grew rapidly after his death. By the end of the century he had been placed in the canon of English literature and become the inspiration for the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, with a strong influence on many writers; the Encyclopædia Britannica described one ode as "one of the final masterpieces". Jorge Luis Borges called his first encounter with Keats's work an experience that he felt all of his life. It had a style "heavily loaded with sensualities", notably in the series of odes. Typically of the Romantics, he accentuated extreme emotion through emphasis on natural imagery. Today his poems and letters remain among the most popular and analysed in English literature. Especially acclaimed are "Ode to a Nightingale", "Sleep and Poetry" and the sonnet "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer".
"Ozymandias" is a sonnet written by the English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822). It was first published in the 11 January 1818 issue of The Examiner of London. The poem was included the following year in Shelley's collection Rosalind and Helen, A Modern Eclogue; with Other Poems, and in a posthumous compilation of his poems published in 1826.
William Hazlitt was an English essayist, drama and literary critic, painter, social commentator, and philosopher. He is now considered one of the greatest critics and essayists in the history of the English language, placed in the company of Samuel Johnson and George Orwell. He is also acknowledged as the finest art critic of his age. Despite his high standing among historians of literature and art, his work is currently little read and mostly out of print.
John Gibson Lockhart was a Scottish writer and editor. He is best known as the author of a biography of his father-in-law Sir Walter Scott, which has been called the second most admirable biography in the English language, after Boswell's Life of Johnson.
James Henry Leigh Hunt, best known as Leigh Hunt, was an English critic, essayist and poet.
This article contains information about the literary events and publications of 1818.
"To Autumn" is a poem by English Romantic poet John Keats. The work was composed on 19 September 1819 and published in 1820 in a volume of Keats's poetry that included Lamia and The Eve of St. Agnes. "To Autumn" is the final work in a group of poems known as Keats's "1819 odes". Although personal problems left him little time to devote to poetry in 1819, he composed "To Autumn" after a walk near Winchester one autumnal evening. The work marks the end of his poetic career, as he needed to earn money and could no longer devote himself to the lifestyle of a poet. A little over a year after the publication of "To Autumn", Keats died in Rome.
The Lake Poets were a group of English poets who all lived in the Lake District of England, United Kingdom, in the first half of the nineteenth century. As a group, they followed no single "school" of thought or literary practice then known. They were named, only to be uniformly disparaged, by the Edinburgh Review. They are considered part of the Romantic Movement.
Alastor, or The Spirit of Solitude is a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, written from 10 September to 14 December in 1815 in Bishopsgate, near Windsor Great Park and first published in 1816. The poem was without a title when Shelley passed it along to his contemporary and friend, Thomas Love Peacock. The poem is 720 lines long. It is considered to be one of the first of Shelley's major poems.
The Quarterly Review was a literary and political periodical founded in March 1809 by the well known London publishing house John Murray. It ceased publication in 1967. It was referred to as The London Quarterly Review, as reprinted by Leonard Scott, for an American edition.
The London Magazine is a publication of arts, literature and miscellaneous interests. Its history ranges across nearly three centuries and several reincarnations, publishing writers including William Wordsworth, William S. Burroughs, Winston Churchill and John Keats.
Blackwood's Magazine was a British magazine and miscellany printed between 1817 and 1980. It was founded by the publisher William Blackwood and was originally called the Edinburgh Monthly Magazine. The first number appeared in April 1817 under the editorship of Thomas Pringle and James Cleghorn. The journal was unsuccessful and Blackwood fired Pringle and Cleghorn and relaunched the journal as Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine under his own editorship. The journal eventually adopted the shorter name and from the relaunch often referred to itself as Maga. The title page bore the image of George Buchanan, a 16th-century Scottish historian, religious and political thinker.
John Scott was a Scottish journalist, editor and publisher.
Characters of Shakespear's Plays is an 1817 book of criticism of Shakespeare's plays, written by early nineteenth century English essayist and literary critic William Hazlitt. Composed in reaction to the neoclassical approach to Shakespeare's plays typified by Samuel Johnson, it was among the first English-language studies of Shakespeare's plays to follow the manner of German critic August Wilhelm Schlegel, and, with the work of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, paved the way for the increased appreciation of Shakespeare's genius that was characteristic of later nineteenth-century criticism. It was also the first book to cover all of Shakespeare's plays, intended as a guide for the general reader.
"To Kosciusko" is the name shared by three sonnets written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Leigh Hunt, and John Keats. Coleridge's, the original, was written in December 1794 and published in the 16 December 1794 Morning Chronicle as the fifth of his Sonnets on Eminent Characters series. Hunt and Keats were inspired to follow his poem with their own versions in November 1815 and December 1816, respectively. The sonnets were dedicated to heroism of Tadeusz Kościuszko, leader of the 1794 Polish rebellion against Prussian and Russian control.
The Literary Pocket-Book was a collection of works edited by Leigh Hunt and containing material by Hunt, Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, and Bryan Waller Procter. The collection was put together during 1818, and proved so successful that Hunt was able to sell the copyright for £200 a year later. The collection includes written worked, lined pages to write notes on and lists of authors, artists, schools and libraries. It was a public success, bringing new readers to both Shelley and Keats, and served as a model for other collections of poetry written during the Victorian era. Critical reviews were also excellent, with The London Magazine describing it as "for the most part delightfully written", although Keats himself later wrote that the collection was "full of the most sickening stuff you can imagine".
The Feast of the Poets is a poem by Leigh Hunt that was originally published in 1811 in the Reflector. It was published in an expanded form in 1814, and revised and expanded throughout his life. The work describes Hunt's contemporary poets, and either praises or mocks them by allowing only the best to dine with Apollo. The work also provided commentary on William Wordsworth and Romantic poetry. Critics praised or attacked the work on the basis of their sympathies towards Hunt's political views.
Jeffrey N. Cox is Arts and Sciences Professor of Distinction in English Literature and Humanities and Chair of the Department of English at the University of Colorado Boulder. He is the author or editor of ten books and more than forty scholarly articles. Cox specializes in English and European Romanticism, cultural theory, and cultural studies. He is a leading scholar of late eighteenth- to early nineteenth-century drama and theater; of the Cockney School of poets, which included, among others, John Keats, Percy Shelley, and Leigh Hunt; and of the poetry of William Wordsworth.
The Round Table is a collection of essays by William Hazlitt and Leigh Hunt published in 1817. Hazlitt contributed 40 essays, while Hunt submitted 12.
Elizabeth Kent ('Bessy') (1791–1861) was a nineteenth century British writer on botanical and horticultural matters.