A Cockney Catullus: The Reception of Catullus in Romantic Britain, 1795-1821

Stead, Henry (2015). A Cockney Catullus: The Reception of Catullus in Romantic Britain, 1795-1821. Classical Presences. Oxford University Press.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198744887.001.0001


This book traces the reception history of Catullus in Romantic-era Britain. It was in this turbulent period of British history that Catullus’ whole book of poems was first translated into English, and the poet first achieved widespread canonical status. In between John Nott’s pioneering book-length bilingual edition of Catullus (1795) and George Lamb’s polished verse translation (1821) there was a great deal of Catullan literary activity (translation and allusion). Building upon existing work in Romantic studies, the book shows how the so-called Cockney School was especially receptive to Catullus’ poetry. Chapter 1 focuses first on routes of access to Catullus’ poetry from the late seventeenth to the late eighteenth centuries, then compares the translations of Nott (1795) and Lamb (1821). Chapter 2—about Catullus’ 64th poem—begins with a comparative analysis of Charles Abraham Elton’s and Frank Sayers’s translations, and ends with a discussion about the reformist use of the poem by members of the Cockney School, including Leigh Hunt, John Keats, Thomas Love Peacock, and Barry Cornwall. The first section of Chapter 3 presents the non-cockney Catullan engagements of Walter Savage Landor, William Wordsworth, Thomas Moore, and Lord Byron. The second focuses on the Catullus found in the pages of the counter-revolutionary weekly journal The Anti-Jacobin (1797–8). The book closes with two chapters discussing the relationships between Catullus and Leigh Hunt and John Keats, respectively.

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