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Thomas Love Peacock
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Shelley; and Shelley read his friend's whimsical attack on poetry with all good
humour, proceeding to reply to it with a "Defence of Poetry," which would have
appeared in the same journal, if the journal had survived. In this novel of
"Crotchet Castle" there is the same good-humoured exaggeration in the
treatment of "our learned friend"--Lord Brougham--to whom and to whose labours
for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge there are repeated allusions. In one case
Peacock associates the labours of "our learned friend" for the general instruction
of the masses with encouragement of robbery (page 172), and in another with
body-snatching, or, worse, murder for dissection (page 99). "The Lord deliver me
from the learned friend!" says Dr. Folliott. Brougham's elevation to a peerage in
November, 1830, as Lord Brougham and Vaux, is referred to on page 177, where
he is called Sir Guy do Vaux. It is not to be forgotten, in the reading, that this
story was written in 1831, the year before the passing of the Reform Bill. It ends
with a scene suggested by the agricultural riots of that time. In the ninth chapter,
again, there is a passage dealing with Sir Walter Scott after the fashion of the
criticisms in the "Four Ages of Poetry." But this critical satire gave nobody pain.
Always there was a ground-work of good sense, and the broad sweep of the
satire was utterly unlike the nibbling censure of the men whose wit is tainted with
ill-humour. We may see also that the poet's nature cannot be expelled. In this
volume we should find the touch of a poet's hand in the tale itself when dealing
with the adventures of Mr. Chainmail, while he stays at the Welsh mountain inn, if
the story did not again and again break out into actual song, for it includes half-a-
dozen little poems.
When Peacock wrote his attack on Poetry, he had, only two years before,
produced a poem of his own--"Rhododaphne"--with a Greek fancy of the true and
the false love daintily worked out. It was his chief work in verse, and gave much
pleasure to a few, among them his friend Shelley. But he felt that, as the world
went, he was not strong enough to help it by his singing, so he confined his
writing to the novels, in which he could speak his mind in his own way, while
doing his duty by his country in the East India House, where he obtained a post
in 1818. From 1836 to 1856, when he retired on a pension, he was Examiner of
India Correspondence. Peacock died in 1866, aged eighty-one.
NOTE that in this tale Mac Quedy is Mac Q. E. D., son of a demonstration; Mr.
Skionar, the transcendentalist, is named from Ski(as) onar, the dream of a
shadow; and Mr. Philpot,--who loves rivers, is Phil(o)pot(amos).
by Thomas Love Peacock