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‘The Banker Poet’

The Rise and Fall of Samuel Rogers, 1763–1855

Martin Blocksidge was Head of English at the Royal Grammar School, Guildford, and Director of Studies at St. Dunstan's College, London, and former President of The English Association. He is now a professional author and his most recent work, 'A Life Lived Quickly' Arthur Hallam and his Legend, was published by Sussex Academic Press in 2011 and described in the Times Literary Supplement as ‘scrupulously fair-minded . . . balanced and believable’.

p class="body">Samuel Rogers was arguably the most widely read poet of the early nineteenth century. He was also a prominent figure in the literary and cultural life of London and owned one of the largest private art collections of his day. He was well known to at least three generations of celebrated figures, ranging from John Wilkes and Dr. Burney, through Wordsworth, Scott and Byron, to Tennyson, Dickens and Ruskin. He was also associated with other prominent national figures such as Charles James Fox, Joseph Priestley, Lord Holland, and the Duke of Wellington.

Known throughout his life (not always sympathetically) as ‘the Banker Poet’, he came from a radical, Dissenting background. He was supportive of the French Revolution and politically active in the 1790s when to be so involved personal danger (he attended the treason trials of Tom Paine and Horne Tooke). Nevertheless he considered his true vocation to be poetry and achieved considerable success and fame when The Pleasures of Memory was published in 1792. Ten years later he ‘retired’ to a civilised home in St. James’s Place where his breakfast and dinner parties were legendary. His art collection attracted visitors from all over the world, and his poem Italy, composed after an extended tour there in 1815, was widely read. Martin Blocksidge considers the nature of Rogers’ poetry and the reputation it acquired, and examines its cultural context; likewise Rogers’ connoisseurship of paintings. Rogers was famous, but controversial, provoking some distaste and consequent satirical treatment, most notably from his erstwhile friend, Byron.

Biographical and interdisciplinary, this narrative is relevant not only to literary historians but to those interested in the history of Dissenting and radical groups, picturesque travel, art history and the cultural history of London.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-580-9
Hardback Price: £25.00 / $49.95
Release Date: July 2013
Page Extent / Format: 344 pp. / 234 x 156 mm
Illustrated: Yes

PROLOGUE: ‘This much-talked-of Laureateship’


1. The Dissenters of Newington Green

2. The Pleasures of Memory

3. Picturesque Traveller

4. Finding a Home


5. Columbus and Jacqueline

6. The Oracle of Holland House

7. Italy at Last

8. Italy Again

9. Mr. Rhymer


10. ‘Dear old Rogers’

11. ‘A balanced mind’



Tennysonians think of Samuel Rogers, if they think of him at all, as the man who lent Tennyson his court dress so that he could attend a royal levée in 1851. Rogers had performed a similar service for Wordsworth in 1845. He was, as Martin Blocksidge describes him, a ‘mannikin’, and both Wordsworth and Tennyson were large men, Tennyson particularly so. However, the courtly events passed off well, with Emily saying that the ‘coat did well enough but about the other parts […] there was some anxiety’ (7).
... Blocksidge is at pains in his thoroughly researched and readable book to show that there was much more to Rogers than this sartorial detail. He was a very popular and successful poet during his youth and middle age, so much so that he was offered the Laureateship first, before it passed to Tennyson. He refused, saying that ‘after long deliberation […] I am come, with great reluctance, to the resolution that I must decline the offer’ (5). He was by 1850 a very old man, and more significantly he was an eighteenth-century man, no longer popular and often satirically referred to as ‘Mr Rhymer’.
... Rogers was learning to write modern poetry, but ended up crowded out by his contemporaries, too late to secure him a significant place in posterity.
Reviewed by Marion Shaw, Loughborough University, in the Tennyson Research Bulletin, Vol. 10, No. 3, 201

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