Radicals, Reformers, and Legislators of the World
In October 1817, an anonymous contributor to Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine embarked upon one of the most notorious campaigns of critical abuse in British literary history. Its author's single most remarkable achievement, and one that has coloured the literary historiography of the Romantic period ever since, was to condense a whole panoply of prejudices, snobbery, and opprobrium into a single, inspired appellation, which targets the writer and journalist Leigh Hunt as ‘the ideal of a Cockney poet’ and the leader of the new school. Subsequent issues of the magazine extended the attack to such members of Hunt's London acquaintance as William Hazlitt, Benjamin Haydon, and, most famously, John Keats. The very potency of the Blackwood's attacks has inspired several more recent attempts to reassert the political and cultural significance of the Hunt circle by inverting the original, negative valuation of ‘Cockney’ poetics.
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