Description

Translations, and dictionaries of myth such as Lemprière’s and Tooke’s were vital to the development of the poet John Keats’s ability to participate in 19th-century literary culture. 

What does the book’s title mean? 

Pantheon is a Greek word meaning ‘all the gods’. Though it originally referred to buildings, here it refers to the gathering of information on all of the gods of classical antiquity in one volume. 

Who wrote this book? 

Though the title page bears the name of Andrew Tooke, an English schoolmaster, this book – first published in 1698 – is in fact a translation of the French Jesuit François Antoine Pomey’s Pantheum mythicum. Tooke’s book was immensely successful, going through 22 editions. 

When did John Keats encounter it? 

As its title explains, this book is specifically aimed at schools; Keats first read the book at Clarke’s Academy, where he received a liberally minded education before he began his apprenticeship as an apothecary at the age of 14. 

Which of Keats’s works can we link it to? 

As was typical of the period, all of Keats’s writing is dense with allusions to classical worlds. The long poems Endymion (1818) and Hyperion, however, both take their cues from Greek myth. This did not escape the notice of reviewers such as John Gibson Lockhart, for whom it was a sign of Keats not knowing his place. For the classically educated Byron, it was all too obviously schoolboyish; he wrote in a letter after Keats’s death that his poetry had merely been ‘versifying Tooke’s Pantheon and Lemprière’s Dictionary’.

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