Decorated initial H

orace was much more visible than Ovid. He was the best-remembered classical author in nineteenth-century England, the common possession of well-educated men, benignly presiding over cultivated masculine interchange in life and letters. Coleridge introduced a quotation by referring to his works as 'still the pocket companions of those who pride them- selves on uniting the scholar with the gentleman'. As if to illustrate the point, Bulwer Lytton quoted him frequently in his early novel Pelham; or The Adventures of a Gentleman (1828). Women were less impressed, even when their education had included the classics. George Eliot knew her Horace, particularly the Ars Poetica, but made almost no use of him in her novels. Branwell Brontë attempted a translation of Horace's Odes which was commended by Hartley Coleridge, but his more famous sisters seem to have had no interest in the poet or the translation. The young Elizabeth Barrett had read Horace with her brother but always preferred Virgil and Homer. Horace was, supremely, the gentleman-poet for nineteenth-century gentlemen, the literary equivalent of the comfortable London clubs from which women were excluded. [175]

The various modes of appropriating Horace, in this and other periods, correspond to Horace's own ways of dealing with Greek poetry: they could be summed up as translation, parody, allusion, or quotation, and "imitation" or of Horatian effects in a different context. [177]

On the whole, Horace, suitably selected, served the nineteenth century well as a kind of honorary Victorian, providing forms of words which said what people wanted to hear or feel, sometimes giving them opportunities to demonstarte their own superiority. He was never in any danger of being blackballed at the club. [193]


Vance, Norman. The Victorians and Ancient Rome. Oxford: Blackwell, 1997.

Last modified 15 January 2007