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‘Pagan Moore: Poetry, Painting and Passive Masculinity in George Moore’s Flowers of Passion (1877) and Pagan Poems (1881)’

Llewellyn, Mark (2007) ‘Pagan Moore: Poetry, Painting and Passive Masculinity in George Moore’s Flowers of Passion (1877) and Pagan Poems (1881)’. Victorian Poetry, 45 (1). pp. 77-92.

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Criticism and the public taste have, following George Moore’s own lead, tended to neglect his poetic work.1 At the publication of Flowers of Passion in autumn 1877, literary voices were united in their disgust toward Moore’s blatant treatment of issues such as lesbianism, homosexuality, incest, necrophilia, and cunnilingus—to name just a few. An early reviewer, Edmund Yates, writing in the journal The World, declared that Moore’s book of poems should “be burnt by the common hangman, while its writer was being whipped by the cart’s tail,”2 and Truth’s reviewer castigated the volume as “an insult to society.”3 Despite, or more likely because of, the furore surrounding this first foray into print, Moore went on to produce a second volume of verse, Pagan Poems, in 1881, in which he again used his material in such a provocative way as to guarantee his notoriety. Building upon, if not outrightly plagiarizing, the work of his French and English contemporaries such as Baudelaire and Mendès, Rossetti and Swinburne, these two poetry collections remain intriguing works in their own right because of the manner in which Moore deals with issues of the body, sexuality, gender, and, most particularly, masculinity.