Essays in Romanticism

"The great God Pan is alive again": Thomas Love Peacock and Percy Shelley in Marlow

Essays in Romanticism (2014), 21, (1), 65–87.

Abstract

This essay examines the influence of Thomas Love Peacock’s distinctly pagan understanding of classical literature and mythology on Percy Shelley and, through him, the rest of the Marlow circle in 1817 and 1818. The title, taken from an January 1818 Leigh Hunt letter, suggests the importance of the “pagan” (as opposed to merely “classical”) imagery that recurs throughout the entire circle’s works in this period, deliberate symbols of celebration and opposition (at once political, religious, and social) for this coterie of self-styled “Athenians.” Reading Peacock’s Calidore and Rhododaphne; or, the Thessalian Spell alongside Shelley’s contemporaneous works, I argue for the transformative power of the pagan imagery that “Greeky Peaky” Peacock introduced to the younger romantics and suggest some ways in which this romantic paganism contributes to our understanding of Shelley’s notorious “passion for reforming the world.”

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Author details

Barnett, Suzanne