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.
‘Z’ was in fact John Gibson Lockhart, a politically and artistically conservative Scottish writer.
‘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.
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.
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’.