Horace and the Construction of the English Victorian Gentleman 1



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Horace and the Construction of the English Victorian Gentleman 1




STEPHEN HARRISON

The reading, criticism and imitation of particular classical authors formed a natural part of self-construction for the elite classes in Victorian England, since the centrality of classics in the education of the period ensured that these texts were a key element in contemporary self-fashioning. 2 This paper looks at the role in this self-fashioning of Horace, in some ways the most congenial of Latin authors for Victorian elite subjectivity.  Unlike his fellow Augustan poet Vergil, 3 Horace remained popular amongst general as well as scholarly readers in Victorian England. 4 Though there are several reports by famous literary figures that they were put off Horace in youth by unimaginative school tuition, 5 the centrality of Horace to the curriculum of the newly-influential elite English ‘public’ (private) schools 6 was clearly one root cause of this popularity. Fundamental here was the reception and construction of Horace as an honorary English gentleman who represented the values of the male and homosocial Victorian English elite : moderation, clubbability, leisured gentility, patriotism, and (even) religion.

The Oxford English Dictionary gives as one of its definitions of the term ‘gentleman’ (s.v. 4, a) ‘a man of superior position in society, or having the habits of life indicative of this; often, one whose means enable him to live in easy circumstances without engaging in trade, a man of money and leisure’. This is roughly how I will use the term here, adding some of the moral ideals and high culture to be found (e.g.) in the celebrated view of the Victorian gentleman given in J.H.Newman’s The Idea of a University (first published 1852): ‘a cultivated intellect, a delicate taste, a candid, equitable, dispassionate mind, a noble and courteous bearing in the conduct of life’ 7. As we shall see, both aspects (leisured and genteel wealth, cultured behaviour and manners) make Horace an especially attractive ancient author for the Victorian male elite.

The wide range of Horace’s poems, even within the single genre of lyric, the Odes being in the Victorian period (as always) the most read of his works, meant that he could be appropriated and reprocessed by the English elite for a wide range of purposes. But the key factor was the gentlemanly status conferred and implied by a knoweldge of the poet, cultural capital in Pierre Bourdieu’s terms. 8 Clive Newcome in W.M.Thackeray's The Newcomes (1855) acquires enough classics at Grey Friars (based on the English ‘public’ school Charterhouse) in the 1820's 'to enable him to quote Horace respectably throughout life' (Ch.8), the mark of a gentleman and elite member. Horace in fact provides the route into the gentlemanly club, literally so in Ronald Knox’s Let Dons Delight (1939), set in a senior common room in the University of Oxford in1938 but reflecting established Victorian and Edwardian ideas :


‘God knows why it should be so, but as a matter of observation it seems to me quite certain that the whole legend of the ‘English Gentleman’ has been built upon Latin and Greek. A. meets B on the steps of his club and says : ‘Well, old man, eheu fugaces, what ?’ and B says ‘Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori’, and the crossing-sweeper falls on his knees in adoration of the two men who can talk as learnedly as that’.9
This entertainingly absurd exchange of random Horatian tags, dimly recalled from elite education, takes place on the steps of a London gentleman’s club, which constitutes the metropolitan analogue of the select Oxford college common room in which the framing conversation itself takes place. It shows both that Horace represented a natural talisman for the elite and (behind the evident irony) how little knowledge of the poet was actually required for such social acceptance.

Horace’s elite status was also clear from the other side of the sociological tracks. Several characters in Victorian literature seeking intellectual self-improvement and consequent increase in social standing use Horace as a potential way to success. At one end of the Victorian period, Mr O’Bleary, the ambitious young Irishman in ‘The Boarding House’ in Dickens’ Sketches by Boz (1836-7), reads Horace in the evenings, expressive of his desire to rise in the world of London to which he has moved from Dublin, 10 while at the other Jude Fawley in Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure (1895) studies his Horace on the road with his baker’s cart in his quest to become a gentleman and scholar (Part 1 Chapter 5) , and H.G.Wells’ autobiographical George Lewisham in Love and Mr Lewisham (1900) reads Horace’s Odes as a set text for his external London matriculation (Chapter 1), the route by which he too hopes to achieve gentlemanly respectability.

Just as Horace’s Odes could be seen as mapping the leisured lifestyle of the English male elite, so they could be presented as mirroring other aspects of its ideology. Lord Lytton’s translation of the Odes and Epodes, published in 1869, argued that Horace’s interest in moralising aligned him with the gentlemanly clergy of the Victorian period, even including an implicit allusion to continental travel as a shared gentlemanly experience :
And out of this rare combination of practical wisdom and poetical sentiment there grows that noblest part of his moral teaching which is distinct from schools and sects, and touches at times upon chords more spiritual than those who do not look below the surface would readily detect. Hence, in spite of his occasional sins, he has always found indulgent favour with the clergy of every Church. Among the dozen books which form the library of the village curé of France, Horace is sure to be one; and the greatest dignitaries of our own Church are among his most sedulous critics and his warmest panegyrists. 11
Horace’s collection in the Odes of over a hundred relatively short and diverse poems which often gave moral advice even achieved comparison with the Psalms of the Old Testament in the writing of J.W.Mackail, brought up as a late Victorian gentleman :

‘… both volumes have been taken to the heart of the world, and have become part of ourselves. It is interesting to remark that both have this note of intimacy, that the Psalms and the Odes, or at least the most familiar among them, are habitually referred to, not by their titles (for they have none), nor by their number in the series, but simply by their opening words. We do not usually speak of the 95th or 114th, the 127th or 130th Psalms, if we wish to be understood, but of the Venite, the In exitu Israel, the Nisi Dominus, the De Profundis. And so with Horace one speaks familiarly of the Integer vitae, the Aequam memento, the Eheu fugaces, the Otium divos. This secular Psalter, like its religious analogue, has to be supplemented, enlarged, re-interpreted, possibly even cut, for actual use, for application to our own daily life. But both, in their enormously different ways, are central and fundamental; permanent lights on life and aids to living.’ 12

Horace, then, could be seen as proto-Christian, and his Odes as quasi-scriptural, an important affinity in Victorian England where the Christian religion still held a central place in elite society.

This paper will look in some detail at the self-definition and self-affirmation of the English nineteemth-century male elite through the prism of translating or imitating Horace. Members of the Victorian establishment could demonstrate their cultural capital by producing English renderings of its favourite Latin poet, and the practice of Horatian pastiche and intertextual allusion became extensive.

Theodore Martin, future knight, biographer of Queen Victoria’s consort Prince Albert and pillar of the Victorian establishment, attempted in his translation of the Odes and Epodes (1860) to provide mid-Victorian equivalents for the Horatian social context. Especially interesting here is his treatment of Odes 1.8, in which the poet addresses Lydia and accuses her of turning her lover Sybaris from manly pursuits on the Campus Martius to the softer games of love. The descriptions of leisure pursuits both outdoor and indoor in this poem for Martin clearly reflects the easeful lives of the Victorian elite, often divided between sports and socialising as in the country-house week-end, and implies that little has changed in the intervening centuries, as his annotation to the poem shows : ‘The whole poem, besides its value as a picture still true in all its main features of ‘Modern habits and manners, and of the amusements and lighter occupations of the higher classes of society in England’, is delightful for grace, sprightliness and Horatian shrewdness’. 13 Martin was so taken by this idea that he appended to his translation of the poem a modern version, a fashion followed by other poets (see 3 below), in which the contemporary links are clearly made. In its rendering of 1.8.3-12, in which the original asks why Sybaris is not engaging in Augustan-type exercises of riding, swimming, sword-play, javelin and discus, the version refers to the Victorian gentlemanly sports of hunting, rowing, cricket, boxing, fencing and general athletics :
Before his eyes by love were seal’d,

He headed every hunting field,

In horsemanship could all eclipse,

And was the very best of whips.

With skulls he was a match for Clasper,

His bat at cricket was a rasper,

And ne’er was eye or hand so quick

With gloves, or foil, or single-stick;

A very stag to run or jump –

In short, he was an utter trump.


This version’s appeal to contemporary gentlemen is marked not just by the evocation of favourite activities but also by allusions to sporting heroes of the time (Clasper) 14 and to technical sporting idiolects (‘whip’ in hunting) 15 and slang terms (‘rasper’ 16 and ‘trump’ 17), all reinforcing elite class solidarity for gentlemanly readers.

The common element of leisure shared by Horace and certain sections of the Victorian male elite could also be seen through the angle of retirement from the world. The mature Horace (building on hints such in poems such as Odes 1.5, hinting at an erotic past, and Odes 3.14, looking back to his Republican days) was commonly depicted as someone who had taken leave of the great world after a tempestuous youth, 18 and translating Horace’s Odes could thus be a suitable occupation for those retired from public life. Lord Lytton’s translation of 1869, already alluded to, was written at the end of a long (and sometimes sensational) literary and political career in which he had run through all possible forms of the English novel and served as Secretary of State for the Colonies. 19 Most famous perhaps in this field was Gladstone’s translation of the Odes (1894), originally begun as a suitable diversion amid the stresses of his later political campaigns 20 but eventually finished in retirement : the day after he resigned as Prime Minister for the last time (March 2nd 1894), Gladstone is recorded as working on his translation of Horace which was then published within months by the workaholic octogenarian ex-premier. 21

Most of the celebrated literary men of the Victorian era came from or aspired to membership of the social elite, and the evocation of Horace in their creative work was a signal both of their own elite status or ambitions and of a desire to be accepted by a gentlemanly readership. The common format of Horace’s Odes, by which another person is addressed, often a real male Roman person, could create an effective cultural triangle in which the reader could participate in the knowledge of Horace shared between the poet and his addressee. Matthew Arnold could famously criticise Horace for not sharing Arnold’s own Victorian virtues of industry, quasi-religious commitment and a desire to improve the world in his 1857 essay ‘On the Modern Element in Literature’ 22, but a bare decade before we find him addressing a fellow male elite member in a poem which openly advertised itself as a ‘Horatian Echo’ (1847). The poem begins with an injunction not to enquire about politics with detailed topical allusions (1-18) :
Omit, omit, my simple friend,

Still to enquire how parties tend,

Or what we fix with foreign powers.

If France and we are really friends,

And what the Russian Czar intends,

Is no concern of ours.


Us not the daily quickening race

Of the invading populace

Shall draw to swell that shouldering herd.

Mourn will we not your closing hour,

Ye imbeciles in present power,

Doomed, pompous and absurd !


And let us bear, that they debate

Of all the engine-work of state,

Of commerce, laws and policy,

The secrets of the world’s machine

And what the rights of man may mean,

With readier tongue than me.


This (as scholars have noted) 23 recalls Horace’s opening address to Quinctius in Odes 2.11.1-4, urging him to ignore what foreign peoples plot, even perhaps picking up Horace’s verb of advice with a change of prefix (from ‘remittas’ to ‘omit’) :
Quid bellicosus Cantaber et Scythes,
Hirpine Quincti, cogitet Hadria
     diuisus obiecto, remittas
     quaerere

Likewise, the central injunction to enjoy the good things in life and the final two stanzas on mortality make the most familiar of Horatian moves in the sympotic odes, from carpe diem to memento mori (e.g. Odes 1.4, 4.7), especially in the closing lines (31-6) :
The day approaches when we must

Be crumbling bones and windy dust;

And scorn us as our mistress may,

Her beauty will no better be

Than the poor face she slights in thee,

When dawns that day, that day.


The recommendation of the quiet life which this poem carries is both typically Horatian and highly appropriate to the contemporary circumstances of the likely addressee, probably the aspiring Liberal politician John Blackett. 24

Tennyson’s 'To the Rev. F.D.Maurice’ of 1854 similarly neatly inserts real current affairs into the recognisable frame of the Horatian invitation-ode, again in an address to a fellow-member of the elite who will recognise the allusions (1-16) :


Come, when no graver cares employ,

Godfather, come and see your boy:

Your presence will be sun in winter,

Making the little one leap for joy.


For, being of that honest few,

Who give the Fiend himself his due,

Should eighty-thousand college-councils

Thunder ‘Anathema,’ friend, at you :


Should all our churchmen foam in spite

At you, so careful of the right,

Yet one lay-hearth would give you welcome

(Take it and come) to the Isle of Wight …


As has been persuasively argued in a model treatment, 25 this poem plainly picks up a series of elements from Odes 3.29, an invitation from the poet to Maecenas to come to the country : note that Maurice is being invited to Tennyson’s country home on the Isle of Wight, Farringford, and to forget the concerns of the city. Maurice had just been removed from his chair at King’s College London for religious unorthodoxy, and the consolatory private address of a friend who had been in public trouble might also pick up Odes 4.9, apparently addressed to the Lollius who had suffered a major military setback in his German command a few years before. 26 Note too that Tennyson (unlike Arnold) uses Horace’s characteristic format of the quatrain stanza.

Another (unrecognised) imitation of a Horatian ode by Tennyson can be found in the dedicatory poem (1883) attached to ‘Tiresias’, addressed to the poet and gentleman Edward Fitzgerald, his friend since their shared Cambridge days and author of the famous version of the Persian Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam, who might naturally be expected to pick up on this Latin link (on Fitzgerald and Horace see further below). In Horatian manner the ode begins by hailing the addressee, located like Maecenas in Odes 3.29 in a rural retreat (1-4) :


Old Fitz, who from your suburb grange,

Where once I tarried for a while,

Glance at the wheeling Orb of change,

And greet it with a kindly smile…


In the manner of the Horatian ode, the literary works of the friend are complimented (line 32 ‘your golden Eastern lay’ and line 37 ‘your Omar’; cf. Odes 2.1, to Pollio, alluding to his Histories), the poet is explicit about his age (lines 43-44 ‘And I am nearing seventy-four, / while you have touch’d at seventy-five’), and the poem celebrates the friend’s birthday (cf. Odes 4.11 on Maecenas’ birthday). Tennyson’s manuscripts and supervised editions during his lifetime give the poem in continuous form, but it is worth noting that it can be easily broken up into fourteen quatrains which would replicate the four-line stanzas of Horatian odes, clearly a feature of the poem to Maurice (above). Similarly, the quatrain stanzas of Tennyson’s celebrated In Memoriam (1851), like the poem to Fitzgerald famously dedicated to another Cambridge friend, A.H.Hallam, clearly contain some allusions to Horatian odes which the dead Hallam might have appreciated. 27 Section 115 is clearly a spring-ode which reflects similar Horatian meditations on the the arrival of that season (cf. Odes 1.4, 4.7) : 28
Now fades the last long streak of snow

Now burgeons every maze of quick

About the flowering squares, and thick

By ashen roots the violets blow.


Now rings the woodland loud and long,

The distance takes a lovelier hue,

And drown’d in yonder living blue

The lark becomes a sightless song.


Now dance the lights on lawn and lea,

The flocks are whiter down the vale,

And milkier every milky sail

On winding stream or distant sea:


Where now the seamew pipes, or dives

In yonder greeing gleam, and fly

The happy birds, that change their sky

To build and brood; that live their lives


From land to land : and in my breast

Spring wakens too; and my regret

Becomes an April violet,

And buds and blossoms like the rest. 29


Edward Fitzgerald himself made use of Horatian material in his magnificent Rubáiyát (1st edition 1859, 5th 1889), once again showing his gentlemanly Horatian education. Here again we find quatrain stanzas, overtly mirroring the metres of the Persian original which Fitzgerald claimed to have rendered, but often recalling the Odes. The narrating first person of the world-weary ageing epicurean Omar himself, mixing sympotic exhortation to seize the day with splendid moralising and memento mori nihilism, provides multiple echoes of the Horace of the Odes. This is especially clear in the sympotic passages, e,g, stanza 11 :
Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,

A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse – and Thou

Beside me singing in the Wilderness –

And Wilderness is paradise enow.


The simple sympotic setting and address to a single beloved as fellow-participant has more than one point of contact with the last poem of Odes 1, 1.38 :

Persicos odi, puer, apparatus,
displicent nexae philyra coronae,
mitte sectari, rosa quo locorum
     sera moretur.


Simplici myrto nihil adlabores               
sedulus curo: neque te ministrum
dedecet myrtus neque me sub arta
     uite bibentem.

It has also been noted that the famous words of stanza 51 look back to another Horatian ode : 30


The Moving Finger writes: and having writ,

Moves on : nor all thy Piety nor Wit

Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,

Nor all thy tears wash out a Word of it.

The reference to ‘Piety’ clearly picks up Odes 4.7.21-8, a similar address suggesting that no human qualities can help a man resist death :
cum semel occideris et de te splendida Minos
     fecerit arbitria,
non, Torquate, genus, non te facundia, non te
     restituet pietas;
infernis neque enim tenebris Diana pudicum              
     liberat Hippolytum,
nec Lethaea ualet Theseus abrumpere caro
     uincula Pirithoo.

These literary allusions formed a bond between writer and reader as fellow gentlemen able to detect the intertextual presence of Horace, but were generally earnest in tone. Less earnest uses of Horatian allusion were also known in the Victorian era. Especially entertaining is Thackeray’s version of Odes 1.38, of which the Latin original has just been cited above, entitled ‘Ad Ministram’ :
Dear Lucy, you know what my wish is, -

I hate all your Frenchified fuss :

Your silly entrées and made dishes

Were never intended for us.

No footman in lace and in ruffles

Need dangle behind my arm-chair;

And never mind seeking for truffles,

Although they be ever so rare.


But a plain leg of mutton, my Lucy,

I prithee get ready at three :

Have it smoking, and tender and juicy,

And what better meat can there be ?

And when it has feasted the master,

‘Twill amply suffice for the maid :

Meanwhile I will smoke my canaster,

And tipple my ale in the shade.


Here, as Norman Vance has noted, Thackeray ‘humorously transforms Horace’s preference for Roman simplicity instead of exotic Persian elaboration into a celebration of plain English fare’. 31 More interestingly, Thackeray also transforms Horace’s address to his male wine-pourer into one to a female attendant (note the title Ad Ministram). It is somewhat unclear whether Lucy is to be imagined as the speaker’s wife serving her husband at home in a modest household (perhaps implied by ‘for us’) or as a servant being given instructions by her bachelor master (possibly implied by the reference to ‘the maid’). 32 The latter interpretation is especially intriguing : modern Latin scholars have suggested an erotic and pederastic tinge in Horace’s address to the wine-pourer and suggestions for his coiffure, 33 and Thackeray may have picked up this suggestion of sexual partnership in the original. 34 In any case, the addressee’s gender is changed to reflect the realities of the life of the Victorian gentleman with whom Horace is otherwise easily identified, and to avoid possible implications of homosexuality. 35

Thackeray’s poem (first published in 1841) 36 was followed by Martin’s translation of 1860 (see above), which gave rise to similar Horatian parodies set in Victorian gentlemanly social life. In his ‘to Q.H.F’, published in 1873 and explicitly stimulated by Martin’s translation (its subtitle is ‘Suggested by a Chapter in Sir Theodore Martin’s “Horace” ’) Austin Dobson (who himself later published translations of Horace) 37 evokes the now familiar idea that modern London, a metropolis set at the heart of an empire, parallels Horace’s Rome in the characters and foibles of its genteel population :


Ours is so advanced an age !

Sensation tales, a classic stage,

Commodious villas !

We boast high art, an Albert Hall,

Australian meats, and men who call

Their sires gorillas !

We have a thousand things, you see,

Not dreamt in your philosophy.


And yet, how strange ! Our “world” to-day,

Tried in the scale, would scarce outweigh

Your Roman cronies:

Walk in the Park – you’ll seldom fail

To find a Sybaris on the rail

By Lydia’s ponies,

Or hap on Barrus, wigged and stayed,

Ogling some unsuspected maid.


The great Gargilius, then, behold !

His “long-bow” hunting tales of old

Are now but duller;

Fair Neobule too ! Is not

One Hebrus here – from Aldershot ?

Aha, you colour !

Be wise. There old Canidia sits:

No doubt she’s tearing you to bits.

Here “world” refers to the social world of the Victorian elite, and the social context is clearly that of the upper classes : ‘the Park’ is plainly London’s Hyde Park, resort of the rich for a constitutional ride or walk (though it also skilfully echoes Horace’s similarly abbreviated use of campus for campus Martius at Odes 1.8.4, the poem from which the lovers Sybaris and Lydia are also taken), while Hebrus from Aldershot, a town of regimental headquarters, is clearly an army officer (his name and Neobule’s passion come from Odes 3.12). Though other Horatian genres outside the Odes are alluded to here (Barrus is from the Satires, Gargilius from the Epistles, Canidia from the Epodes), we are clearly in the world of Horatian erotic lyric : the metre chosen by Dobson, though an eight-line rather than four-line stanza, plainly recalls the Sapphic stanza of the Odes by echoing the length and rhythm of its short last line in the short third and sixth line : ‘Commodious villas’ is a good English stressed equivalent of that adonean line, terruit urbem (Odes 1.2.4).

Much the same is C.S.Calverley’s ‘ Contentment – After The Manner of Horace’, published in 1872. In this poem Calverley, who was a considerable classical scholar and a master of metre in Latin, Greek and English verse, and who had earlier published translations of a number of Horace’s Odes, 38 matches Dobson in adopting a metre which recalls Horace’s Sapphic stanza, this time in Horatian quatrains with a short last line again close to the adonean. The topic is Horatian, too : the man of contentment whom mishaps do not disturb is a comic version of the indifference of the Stoic sage to external disaster famously promoted in Odes 1.22 Integer vitae scelerisque purus) and 3.3 (Iustum et tenacem propositi virum). The poem begins with a Horatian-type address to a friend and an imitation of the opening of Odes 1.1 (in ‘Friends, there be they on whom mishap/ Or never or so rarely comes’, the construction of ‘there be they’ is strongly Latinate and echoes Odes 1.1.3 sunt quos), and ends with a celebration of the happy life of the carefree English gentleman as he takes a train, evoking the elite pleasure of travel : 39


And when they travel, if they find

That they have left their pocket-compass

Or Murray or thick boots behind,

They raise no rumpus,


But plod serenely on without:

Knowing it’s better to endure

The evil that beyond all doubt

You cannot cure.


When for that early train they’re late,

They do not make their woes the text

Of sermons in the Times, but wait

On for the next;


And jump inside, and only grin

Should it appear that that dry wag,

The guard, omitted to put in

Their carpet-bag.


A final example is taken not from poetry but from the most widely-read literary form of the Victorian period in the elite classes, the gentlemanly novel. In Thackeray’s Henry Esmond (1852), his historical novel of the Stuart and early Georgian period in England, we find the embedded story of Tom Trett, who achieves contentment despite bankruptcy (Book III Chapter 4), which ends with the following flourish : 'So it was that when Fortune shook her wings and left him, honest Tom cuddled himself up in his ragged virtue, and fell asleep'. This clearly echoes the metaphor used by Horace at Odes 3.29.53-6, when he talks of wrapping himself in virtue if fortune changes and facing poverty with equanimity :
Si celeris quatit [sc. Fortuna]

Pennas, resigno quae dedit et mea

Virtute me involvo probamque .

Pauperiem sine dote quaero.

As in his poem Ad Ministram (discussed above), Thackeray’s re-use of Horace is clearly parodic : Horace’s dignified statement of philosophical independence is altered in tone by the familiar language ('cuddled', 'ragged') and the changed, bathetic ending. But the effect is not to make fun of Horace : the allusion appeals to a shared knowledge and to a amused and affectionate perception that the earnest original has been significantly redirected to comic purposes. 40

This rapid and superficial tour of English Victorian elite literature has given some strong indications of how deeply knowledge of Horace, acquired in the course of a gentlemanly education made newly rigorous and more widely available to the upper classes through the recently reformed ‘public’ schools, was embedded in elite male writers and readers of the period, and how the poet could be used by them as a triangulation point in the reinforcement of shared elite status. Translations, subtle intertextual reworkings in major Victorian poets and comic/parodic uses all point the same way, to Horace as a common currency for exchange, mutual recognition and class-consciousness within a self-defining elite.

Works cited


Allott, K. and Allott M. 1979. Arnold : The Complete Poems. London.

Arnold, M. 1970. Selected Prose. Harmondsworth.

Bourdieu, P. 1984. Distinction. London.

Brander, M. 1973. The Victorian Gentleman. London.

Castronovo, D. 1987. The English Gentleman. New York.

Cunningham, V.D. 2000. The Victorians : An Anthology of Poetry and Poetics. Oxford.

Gaisser, J.H. 1994. “The Roman Odes at School.” CW 87 : 443-56.

Harrison, S.J. 2000. “Sons, Mothers and Lovers in Thackeray and Virgil”. Notes and Queries 245 [n.s.47] : 329-32

Knox, R.A. 1939. Let Dons Delight. London.

Lytton, Lord. 1869. The Odes and Epodes of Horace. Edinburgh/London.

Mackail, J.W.. 1897. Latin Literature. London.

Mackail, J.W. 1926. Classical Studies. New York.

Martin, T. 1860. The Odes of Horace. London.

Morley, J. 1911. The Life of William Ewart Gladstone [3 vols.]. London.

Mustard, W.P. 1904. Classical Echoes in Tennyson. New York.

Newman, J.H. 1873. The Idea of a University. London.

Rudd, N. 1991. “Two Invitations.” Hermathena 150 : 4-17.

Stray, C.A. 1998. Classics Transformed : Schools, Universities and Society in England, 1830-1960. Oxford.

Syme, R. 1986. The Augustan Aristocracy. Oxford.

Tennyson, H. 1899. Alfred Lord Tennyson : A Memoir. London.

Thackeray, W.M. 1879. Ballads and The Rose and The Ring. London.

Thayer, M.R. 1916. The Influence of Horace on the Chief English Poets of the Nineteenth Century [Cornell Studies in English 2]. New Haven.

Turner, P. 1989. Victorian Poetry, Drama and Miscellaneous Prose 1832-1890.

Turner, F. 1993. “Virgil in Victorian Classical Contexts”. In Contesting Cultural Authority. Cambridge. 284-321

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Nitchie, E.J. 1918. “Horace and Thackeray”. CJ 13 : 393-418.

1 I am most grateful to Barbara Goff for organising the original conference in Reading and for facilitating the publication of this piece.


2 See especially Stray 1998, who chronicles the move from classical learning as the mark of an elite amateur in the Victorian period to the professionalisation of teaching and scholarship in the twentieth century.


3 On the mixed reception of Vergil in the British culture of the Victorian period, see Vance 133-53 and Turner 1993.


4 For Horace in Victorian British culture see Vance, 175-93 and Thayer.


5 E.g. Byron (Childe Harold, Canto 4 (1818) LXXIV-VII, esp. LXXV.6-8 : ‘I abhorr’d / Too much to conquer for the poet’s sake, / The drill’d dull lesson, forced down word by word’, or Tennyson (see Tennyson, 13).


6 See Stray, and for a case study see Gaisser.


7 Cited from the 1873 edition (Newman 208-9). For more on the subject of the gentleman in Victorian England see Brander and Castronovo.


8 See Bourdieu 53-4.


9 Knox, 264. I owe this splendid quotation to an address to the Horatian Society given by Dr Emily Gowers in London in July 2003 and published privately in 2004.


10 This is one of the very few allusions to classical literature in Dickens, who wrote primarily for a non-elite readership.


11 Lytton, xvii. Note that indeed the most distinguished English Victorian edition of Horace (2 vols., 1874 and 1891) was produced by the Rev. E.C.Wickham, D.D., son-in-law of Gladstone and eventually Dean of Lincoln and a leading churchman.


12 Mackail 1926, 148-9.


13 Martin 283.


14 The Claspers, father and son, Henry (Harry) Clasper (1812-1870), and John (Jack) Clasper (1936-1908), were both famed professional oarsmen (see Oxford Dictionary of National Biography) ; the son is likely to be meant here given his especial fame in the 1850’s.


15 ‘Whip’ here is short for ‘whipper-in’, defined by The Oxford English Dictionary as ‘A huntsman’s assistant who keeps the hounds from straying by driving them back with the whip. Also called shortly a whip'.


16 The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘rasper’ as a slang term meaning ‘A person or thing 


17 The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘trump’ as a colloquial ‘term of hearty commendation


18 Mackail 1897, 111 : ‘Horace had passed meanwhile into later middle life. He had in great measure retired from society, and lived more and more in the quietness of his little estate among the Sabine hills’. ‘Society’ and ‘estate’ look to the Victorian gentleman as much as to the Latin poet.


19 See the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.


20 Morley 3.384.


21 Morley 3.386


22 Arnold, 74 : 'Horace wants seriousness … the men of taste, the men of cultivation, the men of the world are enchanted with him; he has not a prejudice, not an illusion, not a blunder. True ! yet the best men in the best ages have never been thoroughly satisfied with Horace. If human life were complete without faith, without enthusiasm, without energy, Horace … would be the perfect interpreter of human life: but it is not; to the best, to the most living sense of humanity, it is not; and because it is not, Horace is inadequate'.


23 Allott 59.


24 Allott 58.


25 Rudd.


26 See Syme 402.


27 For another example see Vance 178.


28 The repeated ‘now’ at the head of three consecutive stanzas clearly picks up the patter iam (5) … nunc (9) ….nunc (11) from Odes 1.4, with the first two standing at the head of stanxas.


29 For further Tennysonian allusions to Horace see Mustard.


30 Turner 1989, 106.


31 Vance 181


32An 1879 illustration of the poem by George Kilburne clearly shows a wife at table with her husband : Thackeray 183.


33 West 191-2.


34 For Thackeray’s similar detection of a sexual frisson in a scene in the Aeneid see Harrison.


35 Similarly Martin in his translation renders Odes 4.10 (a pederastic poem to the boy Ligurinus) with the title ‘To a Cruel Beauty’, casting the boy as a girl (187).


36 Fraser’s Magazine, June 1841.


37 Seven odes are translated in his collection Old World Idylls (1883).


38 Fifteen odes are translated in his collection Translations Into English (1866).


39 The reference to ‘Murray’ may be to a continental guide book – cf. Cunningham 681, though the single carpet-bag might suggest a country-house weekend in England rather than a trip to Paris.


40 For other Horatian allusions to Thackeray, see Nitchie.


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