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Peter Pindar papers

Call Number: MS 128


Literary drafts of Peter Pindar, the nom-de-plume of satirist and poet John Wolcot (1738-1819). The collection consists of rough drafts of poems on scraps of paper, mostly amorous-pastoral poems, as well as some excerpts from plays, songs without music, a patriotic ballad, and a satire.


  • 1786 - 1811


Conditions Governing Access

No access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of John Wolcot (1738-1819)

John Wolcot was born and baptized in Devon, England, the 4th child of surgeon Alexander and his wife Mary (Ryder) Wolcot. At the death of his father in 1751, Wolcot was sent to live with his uncle in Cornwall, and two aunts who were living with his uncle. Wolcot attended various schools and at the age of 17 began an apprenticeship as a surgeon-apothecary to his uncle.

Wolcot was not an enthusiastic apprentice, being more interested in writing verse, but he completed his training with studying French for a year in France and walking the wards and attending medical lectures in London. Because of a desire for financial independence, Wolcot pursued qualifications as a doctor, and he received his medical doctor degree from the University of Aberdeen in 1767. Wolcot thereafter persuaded his uncle to recommend him to Sir William Trelawney (circa 1722-1772), who had been appointed governor-general of Jamaica, and Wolcot went to Jamaica with the family in 1768.

By 1769 Wolcot had returned to England to be ordained as a priest, in the further hopes of gaining financial independence. While in London his uncle died, delaying Wolcot's return to Jamaica until 1770. Finding satisfaction neither as a parish priest or as a military doctor, Wolcot sought permission to return to England in 1773 from the new governor of Jamaica after Sir William's death.

Wolcot settled in Truro with a medical practice, advocating for natural cures instead of prevailing drugs and treatments prescribed by other doctors of the time. At this time he was also developing a literary career, and finally in 1781 took an artist protege, John Oppy or Opie, to London, to establish themselves in literary and artistic circles.

Opie had immediate success; Wolcot started gaining success in 1782 with the publication of Lyric Odes to the Royal Academicians for 1782, for the first time under his pseudonym Peter Pindar, "a distant relation of the poet of Thebes." In these and later Odes, Wolcot combined a critical eye for art, or anti-royalist jokes, with his satirical wit, and he finally gained the financial success he had craved most of his life. As Pindar, Wolcot wrote a variety of verse, including pastorals, sentimental odes, and ballads, but was best-known and loved for his satirical odes. He also served as a regular reviewer for the Monthly Review from 1773-1796 and wrote some prologues and a tragedy that was never staged. He gained international fame for his satires but established no school of his own, though he had imitators.

[Information retrieved from Jones, William R., "Wolcot, John [pseud. Peter Pindar]," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, 2008.]


.5 Linear Feet (1 document case)


The first 37 folders, containing amorous-pastoral poems, have been arranged alphabetically by first line. The other items in the collection have been grouped thereafter by format: folders 38-45 being more amorous-pastoral poems, 46-57 elegiac poems, 48-51 nature poems, 52-53 hunting songs without music, 54 on Dame winny (a bawdy ballad), 55 a patriotic ballad, 56 a satire on Jack Ketch, and 57-60 prose and play excerpts.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchase, Dawsons of Pall Mall, 1974.

Physical Description

MS 128

Processing Information

Items were acquired as a packet and rearranged by Spencer Research Library staff. Information about original packet order, and information regarding item numbers written in pencil on a few items, is available upon request.

Guide to the John Wolcot Collection
Peter Pindar papers
Finding aid prepared by alh, 1974. Finding aid encoded by mwh, 2020.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Peter Pindar papers, MS 128, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States