Other literary forms

(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Before turning his talents to the satiric novel, Thomas Love Peacock wrote poetry. His early works include Palmyra, and Other Poems (1806), The Genius of the Thames (1810), The Philosophy of Melancholy (1812), and Sir Proteus: A Satirical Ballad (1814). When his principal efforts turned to prose, Peacock continued to produce the occasional elegant lyric or rousing song, many of them incorporated into his novels. His longnarrative poem Rhododaphne (1818), “a nympholeptic tale,” attracted considerable contemporary attention and has retained a measure of continued critical esteem; his satiric Paper Money Lyrics (1837), topical and crochety, is largely ignored.

Early in his literary career Peacock also wrote two farces, “The Dilettanti” and “The Three Doctors,” both of which were unpublished. Throughout his life, and particularly during the periods when his responsibilities at the East India Company precluded sustained literary projects, Peacock wrote essays and reviews, the most famous being his unfinished but incisive “Essay on Fashionable Literature,” in The Four Ages of Poetry (1820), the satiric critique of contemporary poetry’s debasement that provoked Percy Bysshe Shelley’s A Defense of Poetry (1840) and Peacock’s four-part Memoirs of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1858-1862), which the reserved and fastidious Peacock, who deplored the publication of private matters, wrote grudgingly, as a corrective to the muddled enthusiasms and posthumous scandal-retailing that admirers and acquaintances of Shelley were offering as literary biography.