Matthew Sperling

Preening their Feathers

Poets and the Peacock Dinner: The Literary History of a Meal

By

Oxford University Press 212pp £20 order from our bookshop

In January 1914, six poets drove from London to Sussex to eat an afternoon meal with a seventh, much older poet. Two of the six, W B Yeats and Ezra Pound, are among the truly great poets of the age, though at the time they were yet to write most of their major works. The other four are barely remembered today. The man they visited, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, has his place in history as a very colourful late Victorian: a Sussex landowner of literary inclinations who chose the active life and became known as an Arabist, anti-imperialist, bullfighter, horse-breeder and husband to Lord Byron’s granddaughter. He was also a seducer famous for his good looks – the sort of faintly absurd figure with whom Lytton Strachey could have played havoc in Eminent Victorians. As a poet, Blunt’s achievement now seems negligible, but the purpose of the meal was for the younger men to honour his work. The poets ate roast peacock and roast beef. Speeches were made and they drove back to London at around 5pm.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • From the Archive: Martyn Bedford on Ian McEwan's 'Atonement' ,
    • In 'Silenced Voices' reports the ongoing story of the human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been… ,
    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,