This review of John Keats’s long poem Endymion (1818) is the fourth of a series of articles attacking the ‘Cockney School of Poetry’ gathered around the writer Leigh Hunt.
Who wrote it?
‘Z’ was in fact John Gibson Lockhart, a politically and artistically conservative Scottish writer.
What does the article say about Keats?
‘Z’ complains that the celebrity of poets such as Robert Burns has attracted ‘uneducated and flimsy striplings’ from lower social classes to literature: ‘our very footmen compose tragedies’. He attacks Hunt’s ‘Young Poets’ article for giving Keats ideas above his station, before mocking Keats’s medical training and height, and concluding
It is a better and wiser thing to be a starved apothecary than a starved poet; so back to the shop Mr John, back to “plasters, pills, and ointment boxes”, &c.
What does the article say about Endymion?
Overall, the poem is described as ‘calm, settled, imperturbable drivelling idiocy’. What particularly seems to rankle with ‘Z’ is Keats’s presumption in taking on a classical Greek subject:
His Endymion is not a Greek shepherd, loved by a Grecian goddess; he is merely a young Cockney rhymester, dreaming a phantastic dream at the full of the moon.
What motivated the attack?
In a context of national political unrest, ‘Z’ was disturbed by Keats’s radicalism because he ‘belongs to the Cockney School of Politics, as well as the Cockney School of Poetry’.