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

Paperback | November 26, 2016

byLucy McDiarmid

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On January 18, 1914, seven male poets gathered to eat a peacock. W. B. Yeats and Ezra Pound, the celebrities of the group, led four lesser-known poets to the Sussex manor house of the man they were honouring, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt: the poet, horse-breeder, Arabist, and anti-imperialist marriedto Byron's only granddaughter. In this story of the curious occasion that came to be known as the 'peacock dinner,' immortalized in the famous photograph of the poets standing in a row, Lucy McDiarmid creates a new kind of literary history derived from intimacies rather than 'isms.' The dinnerevolved from three close literary friendships, those between Pound and Yeats, Yeats and Lady Gregory, and Lady Gregory and Blunt, whose romantic affair thirty years earlier was unknown to the others. Through close readings of unpublished letters, diaries, memoirs, and poems, in an argument at alltimes theoretically informed, McDiarmid reveals the way marriage and adultery, as well as friendship, offer ways of transmitting the professional culture of poetry. Like the women who are absent from the photograph, the poets at its edges (F.S. Flint, Richard Aldington, Sturge Moore, and VictorPlarr) are also brought into the discussion, adding interest by their very marginality. This is literary history told with considerable style and brio, often comically aware of the extraordinary alliances and rivalries of the 'seven male poets' but attuned to significant issues in coterie formation,literary homosociality, and the development of modernist poetics from late-Victorian and Georgian beginnings. Poets and the Peacock Dinner is written with critical sophistication and a wit and lightness that never compromise on the rich texture of event and personality.

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On January 18, 1914, seven male poets gathered to eat a peacock. W. B. Yeats and Ezra Pound, the celebrities of the group, led four lesser-known poets to the Sussex manor house of the man they were honouring, Wilfrid Scawen Blunt: the poet, horse-breeder, Arabist, and anti-imperialist marriedto Byron's only granddaughter. In this story...

Lucy McDiarmid is Marie Frazee-Baldassarre Professor of English at Montclair State University. The recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, she is the author or editor of five previous books. Her sc...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:240 pagesPublished:November 26, 2016Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198788339

ISBN - 13:9780198788331

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Table of Contents

Prologue: Seven Poets and a Peacock1. Male Poets in Proximity2. Lady Gregory's Ideas3. Victorian Adultery4. A Woman's Sonnets5. Alliances and Rivalries6. The Naked Muse7. "a really important event"8. A Live TraditionEpilogue: The Long Peacock Dinner

Editorial Reviews

"There is a strong Irish element to the background of this story, and no one is better placed or qualified than McDiarmid, with her deep knowledge of Irish cultural history, to unravel and clarify the details and complexities ... scholarly and engaging." --Michael Copp, New Canterbury Literary Society News