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April 7, 1969

John Wolcot, MD (1738-1819)Peter Pindar, the Satirist

Author Affiliations

From the Knickerbocker Hospital, New York.

JAMA. 1969;208(1):103-108. doi:10.1001/jama.1969.03160010099011

Alexandert the "life of L a Wit is a warfare upon earth." Few better examples could be found to illustrate Pope's semiautobiographical remark than the life of John Wolcot (1738-1819), who started his professional life as a physician, had a brief inglorious fling at being a clergyman, returned to the practice of medicine, and finally abandoned it for the life of a satirist. He wrote under the pseudonym of Peter Pindar, and his satires on art, literature, and politics dominated English satire from 1782, much as James Gillray's caricatures were preeminent during the same period.

The true goal of satire, according to Dryden, is "the amendment of Vices by correction," or as Defoe phrased it, "The end of satyr is reformation." Satire, or at least social protest, was not new to English poetry; literary historians can trace its presence back before Chaucer, but it remained for Donne, Marston, and Hall