The Fleshly school of poetry, (School of carnal poetry), brought together a group of English poets in the late 19th century associated with Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
The term Fleshly Poets was invented by Scottish author Robert Williams Buchanan (1841-1901) and appeared in an article written under a pseudonym in the Contemporary Review in October 1871).
In the text, the poetry of Rossetti and his colleagues, especially that of Algernon Swinburne, was censored as a “morbid deviation from healthy lifestyles”
In Buchanan’s view, these poets exhibited “an exquisite sensuality; not manly, not tender, completely insane; and a superfluity of extreme sensitivity. “
Rossetti responded with the writing: “The Stealthy School of Criticism” in December 1871, and Swinburne with a pamphlet, entitled: “Under the Microscope”, Under the Microscope, in 1872.
The House of Life, by Rossetti, an example of carnal poetry
Of all Rossetti’s poems, the series The House of Life stands out, which describes the physical and spiritual development of an intimate relationship.
The theme of the poems, which is specified in sex and sensuality, are a good summary of what carnal poetry is and the focus where the critics were most primed against him and that of his poetry.
Dante Gabriel Rossetti, drug addict and alcoholic, died years after his chosen retirement in 1870. Dante Gabriel’s sister, Christina Rossetti, also wrote poems where carnal temptation and charged eroticism meet, although in a less accentuated way.
The controversy over the carnal poets dragged on for quite some time and markedly distressed Rossetti.
In the work of Rossetti, Swinburne, and (to a lesser extent) William Morris, Buchanan had perceived – and disliked – a bluntness about sex and an absence of moral didacticism that anticipated the decadent movement of the late nineteenth century. Buchanan dedicated him the novel God and man (1881).
Oscar Wilde, also Fleshly poet?
Years later, as Luis Antonio de Villena writes in the prologue to the novel Wilde Encadenado, by José Carlos Bermejo, the librettists “Gilbert & Sullivan, premiered a comic or comic operetta that pretended to mock aestheticism, so exquisitely fashionable. The work is called “Patience”, and with her character Bunthorne they did not want to caricature Wilde, but rather everything that a critic called the “Fleshly poets” that is to say “the carnal poets”, immoral, from the aestheticism, doubtful …
“Patience” premiered in London in April 1881, it was such a success that businessmen had to take it to a larger theater, the Savoy. In those moments Wilde lived his striking moment of archetypal esthete, with his long hair, his velvet jackets and the mannerism of his flowers. For that reason (and because of the striking propaganda that the character generated) no one doubted in London that the protagonist of “Patience”, caricatured, was Oscar Wilde ».