Keats, Cornwall and the 'Scent of Strong-Smelling Phrases'

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Leaving aside our own estimation of the respective merits of Keats and 'Barry Cornwall', popular Romantic taste preferred the latter's slant on medieval Italian verse and his Elizabethan-styled dramatic 'scenes' -self-contained verse dramas - to the former's own Hunt-inflected corpus. One of the questions I wish to address is why did Cornwall - pseudonym of solicitor Bryan Waller Procter (1787-1874) - appeal so intensely to early nineteenth-century audiences in a way Keats emphatically did not? To claim that Cornwall's success lay in his ability to supply the wide taste for risqu� verse is not to tell the whole story. Keats was also a 'sensual' writer, and far from achieving saleable status he was roundly condemned for his 'emasculated prurience'.For many commentators, indeed, a sea of vulgarity lapped at the edges of Keats's work, nauseating conservative reviewers. 'Z.' (John Gibson Lockhart) publicly insulted Keats in Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine, labelling him a 'boy of pretty abilities' and couching criticism of his early paean, 'To Mary Frogley', in a barely concealed discourse of teenage onanism: 'Johnny's affections are not entirely...
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)102-114
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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