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University of Nottingham

Nottingham Byron Lecture 1969

THOMAS COOPER,
THE CHARTIST:
BYRON AND THE
'POETS OF THE POOR'


Philip Collins, M.A.
Professor of English Literature, University of Leicester

THOMAS COOPER, THE CHARTIST:
BYRON AND THE 'POETS OF THE POOR'


'Their names will be greater than their writings', Matthew Arnold predicted of Byron and Shelley; 'stat magni nouzinis unibra.' [1]  They have indeed enjoyed, besides the attention of the literary, that second and rarer kind of immortality, fame and at least a simplified public image among many people who have never read them.  Byron is celebrated, not only on academic occasions such as this, but also in films and colour-supplements; one does not find, say, Pope or George Eliot enjoying this kind of currency.  I shall be concerned today with a relatively unexplored aspect of his influence and mythic status in the decades following his death.

    Of Thomas Cooper, the nominal though not the only subject of my lecture, one could use Matthew Arnold's phrase, and more emphatically: his name is indeed greater than his writings, though his name is of course an altogether smaller and more local one than Byron's or Shelley's.  In 1845 he published an epic which, said a reviewer, was 'beyond all question the most singular poem in the language', a poem which 'comes nearer than any other poem in our language to the grand works of Milton' [2]; but Cooper's Purgatory of Suicides soon augmented the long list of unread epics, not the very short list of read ones.  What are his claims to be remembered? asked Professor Peers, of this University, forty years ago'His printed works will live, if at all, as literary curiosities.  He himself is now almost forgotten.' [3]  Well, where Cooper was aspiring to write 'literature', in his epic and other poems, and in his novels and stories, he is now indeed unread, and of his most ambitious and erstwhile famous work, the Purgatory, one must echo what the Quarterly said about another Chartist epic, Cappell Lofft's Ernest, or Political Regeneration: 'A man must be an ardent admirer of poetry or of Chartism to pursue his unflagging course through the twelve books'. [4]  I shall not be arguing that posterity has been mistaken about Cooper's poetic merits, though (as I hope to show) his career and writings remain interesting in other ways.  He is of course remembered by anyone who reads about Chartism, for he was (briefly) one of the national leaders, one of the martyrs, and one of the outstanding personalities of the movement.  Our sense of this comes partly from his autobiography, The Life of Thomas Cooper, written by Himself, a deservedly popular book when it was published in 1872.  It remains a minor classic, not only because it records a fascinating and varied life-story ('as interesting as a romance', said a reviewer, truly), and a life which briefly impinges on national events, nor only because it contains one of the most striking accounts extant of a formidable process of self-education, but also because it is written with an unpretentious force and directness that reminded reviewers of Defoe.  The austere Saturday Review suggested, indeed, that scores of popular writers would much improve their style if, every morning before they set to work, they learned off by heart a page of Cooper's Life.  The autobiography far surpasses Cooper's other writings (which also include many sermons and polemical religious works, written in his later years)and, one might add, he had long been in practice for writing his masterpiece, which he had even thought of writing thirty years earlier.  He had always happily seized any occasion to tell the story of his life in his address to a jury when on trial for arson, in the preface to his Purgatory of Suicides, even in his lectures.  'He lectured for six nights, telling us much of the story of his life', recalled a member of one of his audiences, in the 1860s.  By then he was a Christian again, after several changes of conviction, 'and was trying to undo all the harm he said he had done'.  On the sixth night, 'all the people rose and gave him a regular ovation, almost cheering him in their excitement'. [5] That week's evangelical work took place in the Baptist Chapel at Watford: another six added to his enormous total of discourses during his first eight years as a preacher, he delivered 1,169 sermons and 2,204 lectures (he recorded), and he was then in his sixties. [6]  He lived until 1892, preaching, lecturing and writing almost to the end, and supplementing his autobiography by some rather grumpy Thoughts at Four-Score (1885).

    Cooper has a further little niche in English literature, as a footnote to Charles Kingsley's novel about a Chartist poet, Alton Locke (1850).  For he was the main model for Alton's situation and adventures, and in conversation had provided Kingsley with much of his background information about Chartism.  Much of my lecture may be taken as an extended footnote to Alton Locke (not, I hope, such an unpromising nor supererogatory enterprise as it may sound).  Alton Locke was subtitled Art Autobiography, and did not originally bear Kingsley's name: but, as the Times reviewer perceived, it was clearly 'not the labour of a working man with a smattering of learning, but of a scholar with an inkling of Chartism'. [7]  To assess Kingsley's presentation of Chartism is not my task today.  It is of Alton Locke as 'a poet of the people' that I wish to speak: and here Kingsley was knowledgeable and shrewd.  And if I quote the moment of Alton's awakening into poetry, you will discern a large part of my subject.  As a child born in humble circumstances, Alton's imagination had been fired, first by the exotic scenery in missionary tracts, and then by hymns: but his first acquaintance with secular poetry came when he read, in daily snatches outside a bookshop, Byron's Childe Harold, and The Corsair


    . . . a new world of wonders to me.  They fed, those poems, both my health and my diseases; while they gave me . . . a thousand fresh notions about scenery and man, a sense of poetic melody and luxuriance as yet utterly unknown.  They chimed in with all my discontent, my melancholy, my thirst after any life of action and excitement, however frivolous, insane, or even worse . . . [The] guilty-innocent pleasure, grew on me day by day . . .


Soon, however, Alton is taken in hand by a radical Scots bookseller, Sandy Mackaye (a character based upon Carlyle), who makes him leave 'that vinegary, soul-destroying trash' and read Paradise Lost instead advice which echoes Carlyle's famous 'Close thy Byron, open thy Goethe' but with Milton realistically substituted for a working-class reader ignorant of German. [8]

    If we turn to Cooper's autobiography, not published until twenty-odd years later, we read:


    Save that childish enthusiasm I had felt while reciting 'Chevy Chase', I do not remember that poetry really touched any chord of my nature, until, in my thirteenth year, by some accident there fell into my hands one of the cantos of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and the drama of Manfred . ..  [They] seemed to create almost a new sense within me.  I wanted more poetry to read from that time; but could get hold of none that thrilled through my nature like Byron's.


The young shoemaker to whom Cooper was apprenticed, two years later, had read Byron, and 'spoke passionately' of it; a grocer's apprentice, who belonged to the same Mutual Improvement Society as Cooper (in Gains-borough), owned several precious volumes of Byron; and Cooper's enthusiasm was confirmed.  In mature life, he regarded Childe Harold and Wordsworth's sonnets as 'the noblest poetry since Paradise Lost': he told Wordsworth so, but Wordsworth dissented (about Byron). [9]  Now I cite this, not to confirm the case that Alton Locke is largely based upon Cooper and upon what he told Kingsley this was argued, fully and convincingly, by Louis Cazamian back in 1903 but because, as I shall argue, Byron often had this attraction and inspiration for working-class poets and intellectuals, especially those of a radical outlook.  To name just one other, at this stage: John Critchley Prince, another 'poet of the poor' mentioned in Alton Locke, born in Wigan three years after Cooper and into a similarly poverty-stricken family, also at the age of thirteen read Byron, and 'with the most intense and rapturous delight.  His mind had now met with its natural aliment . . . [The] humble boy . . . from that moment became a worshipper at the fane of the Muses'. [10]

    Through a study of Thomas Cooper, then, and with some reference study to Alton Locke, I want to discuss Byron's importance for these working-class readers: and I want also to discuss aspects of working-class poetry in (mainly) the 1830s and '40s, the quantity of which if not the quality is surprisingly great.  Neither of these topics has been much noticed in the literary and social histories I have read though the lately-published New Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature adverts me to several recent studies in German and Russian which I have not consulted.  To one Russian work covering ground that no English one does, I am particularly indebted: Y. V. Kovalev's Anthology of Chartist Literature, a generous selection of verse, fiction and literary criticism, all difficult to obtain in their original publications. [11]

    Alton Locke is brought up (like Thomas Cooper) by a widowed mother in penurious circumstances, and is apprenticed to a trade (tailoring, as against Cooper's shoemaking: both trades contained an unusual number of thoughtful and articulate men, who became working-class leaders and writers).  A keen self-educator though his exploits do not rival Cooper's legendary feats in this respect Alton forms literary ambitions, and starts to write an exotic poem, in which memories of those missionary tracts were joined in 'anomalous marriage' to Childe Harold.  His philosophical mentor Mackaye is not surprised to find him writing poetry: 'I suppose,' he says (and quite rightly), 'It's the appointed gate o' a workman's intellectual life'.  But Alton's South Sea island subject-matter is wrong, he insists; he takes him to the slums of St. Giles's and, brushing aside Alton's naive protests that this is all 'so unpoetical', tells him to write about that, and become the People's Poet: 'Ay, Shelley's gran' . . . but Fact is grander . . . All around ye, in every gin shop and costermonger's cellar, are God and Satan at death grips; every garret is a haill Paradise Lost or Paradise Regained . . .' [12]  Kingsley, here and elsewhere in the novel, is touching upon an anxious debate of the '40s and '50s  should poets leave the exotic and other settings sanctioned by Romantic precedent, and write about the urban and modern, including the evils and oppressions that many novelists were putting at the centre of their works?  The question posed itself in particularly sharp terms for working-class poets.  Many of them like Cooper and Prince had first-hand knowledge of extreme poverty, un- (or under-) employment, social unrest and political protest.  But many were held back from basing their poetry on such experience, partly because too little in the existing poetical tradition helped them to treat such subjects ('so unpoetical', as Alton had said), partly because they were already disadvantaged enough, in trying without money or connections to secure publication, without loading their manuscript with what might seem both artistically and politically objectionable but partly also because, for many of them, writing poetry was an attempt to escape, economically or at least in status or self-esteem, from working-class limitations, and, correspondingly, the subject-matter they least wanted to dwell upon was the working-class life they hated and resented.  Inevitably, working-class poets of this period, like poets of more comfortable origins, were influenced by Romantic conceptions of poetry and techniques: and one element of Romanticism that had a special appeal for the poor was its imaginative release into the strange and the wonderful.  Dr. Louis James, one of the few English scholars to have discussed this working-class poetry and its cultural context, has shown how, when it was non-political, it was 'generally a form of intellectual escapism' [13]; but, in our regrets and our critical condemnation of most of the poetry that resulted, we might remember what 'Mark Rutherford' says of the working-class-intellectual hero of his Revolution in Tanner's Lane:


. . . the revolutionary literature of the time, and more particularly Byron, increasingly interested him.  It is all very well for the happy and well-to-do to talk scornfully of poetic sentimentality.  Those to whom a natural outlet for their affection is denied know better.  They instinctively turn to books which are the farthest removed from commonplace and are in a sense unreal.  Not to the prosperous man, a dweller in beautiful scenery, well married to an intelligent Fife, is Byron precious, but to the poor wretch, say some City clerk, with an aspiration beyond his desk, who has two rooms in Camberwell; and who before he knew what he was doing made a marriage – well – which was a mistake, but who is able to turn to that island in the summer sea, where dwells Kaled, his mistress . . . [14]


    This passage represents part of Byron's appeal (and not only, of course, for readers with such circumscribed lives): and, to return to Alton Locke, his starting from a pastiche of Childe Harold was not implausible.  He is persuaded, however, to write more politically conscious poetry, but then he emasculates it to get a publisher and to keep in with some middle-class people who are patronising him.  Repenting of this, he tries to prove that he is a red-blooded Chartist still, and is gaoled for three years.  Alone in his cell, he determines to continue his self-education, and write a poem: 'I would concentrate all my experience, my aspirations, all the hopes, and wrongs, and sorrows of the poor, into one garland of thorns one immortal epic of suffering.' [15]  Kingsley is here recalling Cooper, of course, who had written his Purgatory of Suicides in Stafford Gaol.  Alton's ambition seems almost the inevitable one, for a literate Chartist or Radical gaoled for a political offence.  The recollection of The Pilgrim's Progress, that universally-read prison-book, was certainly an inspiration to them: and the relative peace, quiet and leisure of a long prison-sentence gave these usually hard-pressed men a unique opportunity for sustained composition.  Cooper acknowledged that, though he had conceived his 'Prison-Rhyme' years earlier, he might never have written it but for the leisure and the emotional impetus of imprisonment.  Political prisoners found ingenious ways of writing, when pen and paper were denied them: Samuel Bamford scratching poems with the stump of a tobacco-pipe on the flagstones in the yard, Ernest Jones writing them in his own blood (or so he said) and later secreting stolen ink inside a cake of soap, Cooper composing the first thirty stanzas of his epic in his head, Holyoake devising a gadget of wires so that he could write when it was dark.  Thomas Cooper was the most illustrious of these prison-poets, having in his two years' incarceration written a poem of nearly ten-thousand lines, a book of tales, part of an historical novel, and a Hebrew guide.  The title-page of his poem was not reticent: The Purgatory of Suicides: A Prison-Rhyme: in Ten Books, by Thomas Cooper, the Chartist.  In a study of Prison Books and their Authors (1861), he occupies the final chapter a large honour, since the first chapter was about Boethius.

    Alton Locke has a vulgar-minded but well-to-do cousin, who offers him some cynical advice: since 'you can't come the gentleman, you may as well come the rising genius.  The self-educated dodge pays well just now'.  The point is made more decorously by the high-minded Lord Lynedale, who tells Alton to bring round some of his poems: 'a self-educated author is always interesting'. [16]  Cooper, as we saw, proclaimed himself Chartist on his title-page; other such authors almost always stressed their origins, humbly or defiantly, on their title-page or in the preliminary matter Rhymes and Recollections of a Hand-Loom Weaver by William Thom of Inverury, for instance, to mention another poet referred to in Alton Locke.  Thom had signed his first published poem 'Serf', and hoped that his collected Rhymes would 'impart to one portion of the community a glimpse of what is sometimes going on in another'; it produced, he claimed, 'a powerful and enduring sympathy towards the Trade-stricken' and (as also sometimes happened when such volumes caught the public eye) the author received not only the profits on a successful book, but also substantial donations from well-wishers. [17]  Thom left his trade, and drank himself to death.  It was a hazard to which such poets were prone.  'That scribbling of rhymes hath positively half-ruined me,' wrote Tannahill, another Scottish weaver-poet.  '. . . It has led me into a wide circle of acquaintance, of course into an involuntary habit of being oftener in a Public house than can be good for any body . . .' [18]  Charles Kingsley was not being patronising when, in an interesting essay on these poets, written about the same time as Alton Locke, he questioned 'whether this new fashion of verse writing among working men has been always conducive to their own happiness'. [19]

    'This new fashion': certainly the sheer number and (I think) the average quality of such volumes were new.  The Westminster Review said of J. C. Prince's first collection in 1841 that 'Had such a volume . . . been produced twenty years ago by a poor cotton-weaver, its author would have been accounted a prodigy'; a friend of a shoemaker-poet named James Blackaby, who never became famous, remarked that he would have done so a century earlier, 'But poems and essays which sufficed to make their authors' fame in the last century are now so numerous that they are read only to be forgotten'. [20]  In a study of such poets published in 1851, The Literature of Labour: Illustrious Instances of the Education of Poetry in Poverty, E. P. Hood remarked (as did many others at that time) that 'No young man's library is complete' without G. L. Craik's popular and inspiring book The Pursuit of Knowledge under Difficulties (1830-1).  But, as Hood's book, reaching back to Cædmon and to Taylor the Water-poet, and as Robert Southey's Lives of Uneducated Poets (1831) too, remind us, the pursuit of knowledge and of versifying under difficulties was not a uniquely Victorian phenomenon, though circumstances of education, publishing and public opinion favoured such efforts much more in the 1830s and after, than ever before.  C. B. Tinker's delightful study of humbly-born poets in the eighteenth century, Nature's Simple Plan, explores the reasons why the sophisticated reading-public of that period was predisposed to expect that out of the simple would come forth poetic sweetness and strength.  Traces of this Romantic primitivism survive in mid-nineteenth-century comments.  William Howitt, for instance, in 1841, who did much to encourage Cooper and other such poets: 'It has long been my conviction that our literature . . . must owe its restoration to health and strength to an infusion of new blood from the working classes, which . . . I have always found to retain the soundest sentiments, and the most clear and manly moral sense.'  Or the theologian F. W. Robertson, in 1852: 'the Poetry of the coming age must come from the Working Classes.  In the upper ranks, Poetry . . . has long been worn out, sickly, and sentimental.  Its manhood is effete . . . But tenderness, and heroism, and endurance still want their voice, and it must come from the classes whose observation is at first hand, and who speak fresh from nature's heart. [21]  But this approach is much less common in the nineteenth than in the eighteenth century.

    Some of the working-class poetry, particularly the political kind, was addressed rather to fellow-workers and radicals than to the genteel reading public.  The poets who attracted a genteel readership appealed less as the voice of Nature, or as lusus Naturae, than as 'voices from the crowd', cries from the dispossessed.  Middle and upper class patronage was often important, though sometimes fickle and ruinous (Mackaye warns Alton Locke that, if he publishes a volume, he'll maybe briefly become 'a lion, and a flunkey, and a ticker o' trenchers — . . . and then they'll teach you your level, and . . . leave ye to die in a ditch as they did wi' puir Thom [22]).  Patronising (in a bad sense), playing Lord or Lady Bountiful, enjoying on undemanding form of intellectual slumming — these motives were indeed apparent in some of the condescensions extended to working-class poets, and Alton Locke's career exemplifies some of the perils, and some of the advantages, of being taken up by one's 'betters'.  But a more high-minded motive is also evident, one which hardly appears in the analogous eighteenth-century cases surveyed by Tinker — that development of social conscience which Kingsley complacently, but with some justice, described in 1857: 'A general interest of the upper classes in the lower, a general desire to do good, and to learn how good can be done, has been awakened throughout England, such as, I boldly say, never before existed in any country upon earth; and England, her eyes opened to her neglect of these classes . . . . has put herself into a permanent state of confession of sin, repentance, and amendment . . . ' [23]  I would not claim that the humble poets had a decisive effect in opening the eyes of the upper classes: but their reception owed something to this guilty curiosity about the poor, and their existence too, in such number, is a sign of that flexibility and relative openness of English society that account for our having avoided, in the nineteenth century, the revolutions that punctuated most other national histories.  A French observer, in 1856, noted that nowhere else than in Britain was there so much working-class poetry; it here constituted a recognisable branch of the national literature, and he attributed this to the political developments, notably Radicalism and Chartism, which differed in direction from the Continental experience. [24]

    Thomas Cooper was one of these poets who, in the words of one of their heroes, Shelley,


Are cradled into poetry by wrong:
They learn in suffering what they teach in song.


He wrote a few conventional nature-poems and songs in his teens, and some verses about Wesleyan Chiefs during his pious twenties, but it was his Chartist period that produced his most vigorous and nationally famous verse.  In 1840 he returned to Leicester, which was his birthplace, and discovered a depth and extent of poverty with which neither his childhood in Gainsborough, nor his later years in Stamford and London, had confronted him.  The shock produced one of the overnight conversions to which he was prone: he immediately became a Chartist, and a passionately committed, energetic and extreme one, and, as usual in his life, he took command of the organisation he had recently joined.  He had by now abandoned shoemaking for the only intellectual pursuits open to an intelligent self-taught working-man, school-teaching and journalism.  In Leicester he ran a series of Chartist newspapers, and in them, as in his later periodicals, he published some of his verse and, in the Poetry Corner that all these Chartist journals contained, he reprinted poems by Byron, Shelley, Ebenezer Elliott, and other established poets favoured by the reformers, and poems too by local poets (several of whom later produced volumes of their work).  His Chartist branch he renamed 'Shakesperean', after the 'Shakesperean Room' in the building where they met: but their activities included literary elements less accidental.  Notably, he and his poetic colleagues produced a Shakesperean Chartist Hymn Book (Leicester and London, 1843), containing rousing political verses sung, to hymn-tunes, during processions and open-air meetings and at half-political half-religious Sunday-night assemblies:


Raise them from their silken slumbers,
        Trouble them amidst their pride:
Swell your ranks, augment your numbers,
        Spread the Charter, far and wide!
                Truth is with us:
        God Herself is on our side. [25]


The religious, as well as the literary, reference was important: and so, particularly in Leicester, was the military.  Cooper was apt to sign routine notices about branch activities: 'Given at Head Quarters . . . COOPER, General to the Shakespere Brigade' [26]  (Here, as in other respects, Chartism reminds one of the Black Panthers; and one is thus reminded, too, that Chartism looks much less alarming in 1969 than it did to solid citizens like us in 1839.)

    In 1842 Cooper was arrested, for political activities elsewhere in the Midlands and, though he had an enjoyable time annoying the Court by making a ten-hour speech on his own defence, he was gaoled for two years (narrowly escaping transportation for life, indeed, on another charge).  One episode of this period happily illuminates Cooper and the working-class culture to which he belonged: on bail between trials, he wanted to provide some funds for his wife during his inevitable imprisonment, so he promoted in Leicester a performance of Hamlet, with himself in the lead.  Characteristic of the man that he could and would, from memory and with no previous stage experience, attempt the role: and a sign of those times that this could seem a promising enterprise to attract a large working-class audience.  Hamlet was one of the texts Cooper had learned off by heart around the age of twenty when he was involved in that amazing self-education; and he was mortified when his health failed, just as he was embarking on King Lear and had only committed to memory the first four books of Paradise Lost.  Apart from general reading, in philosophy and theology, he was also at that time learning Latin, Greek, Hebrew and French, rising at three in the morning so that he had four hours' study before sitting down at his stall to work at his cobbling until eight or nine at night.  'I was', he recalled, 'repeating something, audibly, as I sat at work the greater part of the day either declensions and conjugations, or rules of syntax, or propositions of Euclid, or the Paradise Lost, or Hamlet, or poetry of some modern or living author.'  And this stupendous effort was exerted with a starry-eyed zest that makes one's heart bleed, as he displays a passion for learning not always demonstrated by students with more advantages.  He discovers the town-library: 'I was in ecstasies to find the dusty, cobwebbed shelves loaded with Hooker, and Bacon, and Cudworth, and Stillingfleet, and Locke' and a score of other old authors, whom he names.  And contemporary literature too excited him: 'I went home all in a glow of delight for I was taking two numbers of the London Magazine with me, and the first volume of Scott's Kenilworth!' [27]

    All this reading helped him in composing his 'Prison-Rhyme', enthusiastically described by a fellow-poet as


More full of classic learning and allusion
Than any other poem in the language. [28]


It is indeed an extraordinary feat, for a man without a reference library at hand.  The poem consists of a series of dreams, in which the poet encounters in the underworld the shades of famous suicides, from ancient and modern history; this vision-device derives from Shelley, not Dante (whom Cooper had not read).  He tries to obtain variety and some sort of order (poets in Book IV, French revolutionaries in V, women in IX, and so on), but inevitably the poem both lacks a narrative structure, and suffers from monotony, all the characters having had troubles that led them to kill themselves.  Many of course were political victims, and much of the poem in fact consists of the enunciation of political morals congenial to Chartism.  Cooper's learning provides him with an amazing number of suicides (one had not thought dead had undone so many that way); he was unable to include one suicide, because he could not remember his name and had no means of looking it up Uriel Acosta, a Portuguese Jew who three times apostasised from Judaism, a figure few of us will have had the opportunity to forget. [29]  C'est magnifique, mais ce nest pas la poésie.  Cooper writes in a Babylonish dialect, much influenced by Milton, and is too continuously declamatory, as if always making or getting his characters to make public speeches.  He had intended to write the poem in blank verse, but found that the opening lines fell into a rhymed quatrain, and thus he came to write it in Spenserian stanzas, a measure he had never used before: [30] and, as always in poets of this period and class, Spenserian stanzas signal the influence of Byron.  The most tolerable parts of the poems are the exordia to every book, about the poet himself or expressing his convictions or miseries: the opening of Book II where he asks how a poor man like himself ('a thrall, from humble labour sprung', now a 'captive leveller') might 'Successful, strike the lyre in scornful age': and he takes courage by invoking the great English poets.


Or thou, immortal Childe, with him that saw
Islam's Revolt, in rapt prophetic trance,
Did fear of harsh reception overawe
Your fervid souls from fervid utterance
Of freedom's fearless Shout? your scathing glance
On priestly rottenness, did ye tame down
To censure soft that might find sufferance?
Knowing your cold award would be the frown

Of custom, priestcraft, power, ye made your stern thoughts known.

 [II, vii]


The poem is provided with extensive Notes, an occasion for further displaying knowledge which Cooper enjoyed; his Christmas volume The Baron's Yule-Feast (1846) must be one of the few such seasonal offerings to have annotation in Hebrew (for readers curious about the etymology of carr).  The volume's failure cannot have been wholly due to its having been published in January for the Christmas market.  Not that publishing then was as inefficient as it is in our technological age; Cooper left prison in May 1845, and after what he regarded as a difficult search for a publisher (though he enjoyed the encouragement or help of Disraeli, Dickens, Jerrold, and others), his poem 346 pages was published in August.

    I mentioned that, in his newspapers and periodicals, Cooper encouraged other 'poets of the poor', and there were many of them.  During 1850, for instance, he ran a penny periodical, Cooper's Journal; it only lasted seven months, but in that time reviewed nine volumes by such poets William Jones, a Leicester framework-knitter, Henry Lott, a working carpenter, Alexander Macansh, a deformed working-man from Dunfermline, and so on: also four penny-journals written by and for working-men The Leicester Movement, The Frame-Work Knitters' Advocate published in Nottingham, the Leeds Snob, and The Spirit of Freedom published from Uxbridge by a frequent contributor to Cooper's Journal, and the only poet to acquire a wider reputation, Gerald Massey Massey, whom F. D. Maurice commended to Kingsley, at this time, as 'our Chartist poet . . . not quite a Locke, but he has I think some good stuff in him.  I hope he will not be spoiled'. [31]  Massey certainly resembled Alton Locke in becoming a Christian Socialist, but was thus 'spoiled' as Chartists saw it like several other such working-class rebels, including Cooper, tamed into religious and political orthodoxy.

    Over twenty poets (of sorts) had contributed to Cooper's Journal: and his was a very minor working-class periodical, and by this time he had quarrelled with many of the leading Chartist leaders and authors, and others of them were in gaol.  Chartism had been remarkable literary; among its most prominent leaders, not only Cooper but also Ernest Jones, George Julian Harney, Samuel Kydd and W. J. Linton were prolific and quite capable poets, and were at various times also editing Chartist periodicals, where they printed poetry, old and new, and often critical discussion (particularly of socially-concerned literature the series in The Chartist Circular, for instance, on 'The Politics of Poets').  'The new fashion of verse writing among working men', which Kingsley discussed in 1851, was certainly widespread.  In Scotland, of course, both the vernacular tradition and, even more, the illustrious example of Burns stimulated a large and continuous production of popular verse, much of it by humble men; and their work had deeper roots in popular culture, as is evidenced by that Scottish handloom weaver Willie Thom.  He apostrophises his fellow weaver-poet, Tannahill:


    Poor weaver chiel!  What we owe to thee!  Your 'Braes o' Balquidder', and 'Yon Burnside' . . . [and other poems].  Oh! how they did ring above the rattling of a hundred shuttles!  Let me again proclaim the debt we owe to these Song Spirits . . . [When] the breast was filled with everything but hope and happiness, . . . let only break forth the healthy and vigorous chorus 'A man's a man for a' that', the fagged weaver brightens up . . . Who dare measure in doubt the restraining influence of these very Songs?  To us they were all instead of sermons . . . Church bells rang not for us.  Poets were indeed our Priests . . . [32]


The list of such poets is endless, and my Chairman [Professor Kinsley] would be better able than I am to descant upon, and to extend, it: the Bethune brothers (mentioned in Alton Locke), Robert Nicoll, the kineherder (known as 'Scotland's second Burns'), William Nicholson, the Galloway poet (pedlar, piper, and cattle-drover), James Hyslop, the shepherd, David Wingate, the collier, Hugh Miller, whose first volume was Poems . . . by a Journeyman Mason (1829), before he turned to the geological studies for which he has remained famous.

    English poets of this class lacked such an enriching culture to inspire and to receive their work, but the large quantity of verse printed in Chartist journals (and in earlier Radical journals of the 1820s) was clearly more than a reflection of the tastes of their editors.  One helpful tradition was hymn-singing; as 'Shakesperean Chartist Hymns' reminded us, the term 'hymn' was widely used in secular contexts, and the tunes used as often came from church and chapel as from popular songs.  Samuel Bamford, the Lancashire weaver of pre-Chartist radical days, used to organise his fellow political-prisoners to sing 'The Union Hymn'—


. . . Not distant is the welcome day,
When woe, and want, and tyrrary,
Shall from our isle by swept away:
The grand epoch of liberty
        Awaits a faithful union . . .


Arrested again after Peterloo, he blithely presented copies of his collected verse to the officers in his escorting party, and in Lancaster Castle he and his fellows made it a nightly rule at locking-up time to sing, 'in the true spirit of devotion', his 'Lancashire Hymn', invoking Hampden and Sydney and ending


If England wills the glorious deed,
We'll have another Runnimede. [33]


This communal hymn-singing tradition still has an embarrassed vestigial existence in the 'Red Flag' ritual at Labour Party gatherings, and William Morris of course made an attempt to give it a second wind, but it has been of little political, or poetical, significance.  The Chartists, however, seem to have enjoyed, and promoted, it more fully; and Ernest Jones would recite his Chartist Songs (1846) at political meetings, too, to great applause.  'I am,' he wrote, in 1846, 'pouring the tide of my songs over England, forming the tone of the mighty mind of the people' a claim which, Mr. John Saville tells us, was no exaggeration. [34]  Jones, I might here interject, followed Cooper by writing in gaol, 'with the aid of memory and blood' (he said), a long epic poem, The New World: and he has the distinction of being the only Chartist poet to achieve Oxford Book status.  His lively ironical 'Song of the Low' is a familiar anthology piece –


We're low – we're low – we're very, very low,
        As low as low can be . . .


    'But why should we wonder,' protested Ebenezer Elliott, the Corn Law Rhymer, in 1833, 'if mechanics write well in these days?' adding modestly that there were many Sheffield mechanics who could write better than he did, and proving (by somewhat dubious arguments Shakespeare is enrolled as a mechanic-poet of earlier years) that this was entirely likely and that, moreover, 'All genuine poets are fervid politicians'. [35] I have suggested that the political agitations of the first half of the nineteenth century gave an impetus to this form of self-expression, though other motives of course lay behind this verse-writing: notably, self-improvement, spiritual or economic.  Alexander Bethune, for instance, a Scottish labourer so poverty-stricken that he could remember only two whole days in the past twenty years which he had devoted wholly to pleasure, commented that 'it can scarcely be wondered at, that I should turn my thoughts to writing.  This appeared the only open door'.  Writing was, in this sense, the one unskilled middle-class trade for which no special education or qualifications, and no capital, were needed.  Both Alexander Bethune and his brother John attracted some notice as poets, but as Alexander reflected: 'This is no world for poets, particularly poor ones, to live in'. [36]  A complaint made at most times: but there was point in the remark of another humble poet, J. W. King of Sheffield and Leicester, 'If this is not an age of poetry, when will it appear?'  King pointed to the huge amounts of verse that were getting printed, and the thousands of cheap reprints of the classics (penny-number issues of William Cowper, Scott, Shelley, Byron and others), all of which, he said, 'proves beyond a doubt that this is an age for poetry'. [37]  King had been a contributor to Thomas Cooper's Journal; most of his volumes were published in London, by John Chapman (a radical publisher, important in this poetry market), paperbound booklets of 56 pages for a shilling.  Cooper, we saw, had been published commercially in London, and he also used the cheap part-issue form of reprinting so important in Victorian publishing: The Purgatory of Suicides was available in The People's Edition at 3/6d., or in six parts at sixpence, or eighteen numbers at twopence.

    I wish I knew more about the economics of the publishing of working-class poetry.  Printing was relatively cheap, but some of the poets I have mentioned were penniless and most of the others had few pennies to spare for printers' bills.  Hugh Miller tells us that most such verse produced in Scotland, being 'ill fitted for the literary market', was published by subscription 'that teasing subscription scheme which so often robs men of good money, and gives them bad books in exchange'. [38]  Subscription was certainly a widely-used method, though again I wish I knew more about how it was organised: how, for instance, did the 'rustic bard' of Barnsley, Thomas Lister, manage to amass in 1834 a list of subscribers that occupies twenty double-column pages of small print, with large contingents from towns all over the North of England?  some fifteen-hundred names, an unusually large printing.  His list is headed by a Duke, an Archbishop, two earls, a countess, and so on down the peerage to Members of Parliament, but these only amount to two dozen names. [39]  Needless to say, Lister is no political firebrand; more socially-activist poets would not look to the Duke of Devonshire to take four copies of their work; but subscription methods were common (though unfortunately few volumes contain lists of subscribers).  Much remains to be discovered about how these volumes were published, and about the role both of provincial and of metropolitan publishers.  That many volumes of verse by these humble authors at least paid their way is suggested by the fact that second, third and fourth collections were common.

    Lectures provide another indication of working-class interest in poetry.  In 1838, Mrs. Gaskell's husband gave a series of lectures 'in the very poorest district of Manchester, on "The Poets and Poetry of Humble Life".  You cannot think [wrote his wife] how well they have been attended . . . And the day before yesterday two deputations of respectable-looking men waited on him to ask him to repeat those lectures in two different parts of the town'. [40]  Thomas Cooper, in the years following his imprisonment, made his living, partly from authorship and journalism, but more as a lecturer, until another conversion made him non persona grata to the radical working-class audiences on whom he had relied.  (Due to lecture at the Hall of Science on 'Sweden and the Swedes', he announced to an appalled audience that he was suddenly convinced of the existence of a Divine Moral Governor.)  His repertoire had been staggering, and he had toured all over the British Isles: another desideratum in our knowledge of Victoria culture, indeed, is a study of lectures, recitals and readings, for which Cooper's contemporaries had an almost American zest.  Large audiences were attracted, and not only in Manchester; Crabb Robinson heard Cooper lecture on Byron ('an hour of desultory rambling which had not one redeeming virtue'), and commented on the poor attendance 'not above two hundred or two hundred and fifty people there!' [41]  Cooper's topics ranged over history (ancient and modern), biography, ranged biography, geography, science, philosophy, theology, music, the visual arts, and literature.  Of particular interest to us are his literary subjects: Shakespeare, of course, beyond which his four standard lectures were on the Lives and Geniuses of Milton, Burns, Byron and Shelley  the inevitable four poets for anyone appealing to working-class audiences, especially to the politically active.  Milton and Chartism has been the subject of one scholarly paper; [42] and much more could be said about the attraction  literary, religious, and political that Milton had for Chartists and other reformist groups, and about the polemical uses of the mid-seventeenth century in the nineteenth.  Cooper's Journal had an epigraph from Milton; so had the Chartist epic Ernest, and many other Chartist publications; and Milton's prose works, as well as his poetry, were often reprinted cheaply, for he expressed congenial views on freedom of publication, monarchy, removing hirelings from the church, and other such topics dear to the radical heart. nHis having been on the right side in the Civil War, and having remained staunch in defeat, moved the Chartists: and Cooper, appropriately, when lecturing, 'recited Satan's speech . . . with magnificent effect' . [43]

    The appeal of Burns for working-class readers and audiences is too obvious to need stating, and the importance of Shelley in nineteenth-century radicalism has been much discussed (particularly, of course through Queen Mab, 'the Chartist's Bible').  Byron's popularity has been less often noted, but he was being toasted, along with Burns and Shelley, at secret Torn Paine Dinners around 1820, and his works, like Shelley's, were much reprinted in cheap (mostly pirated) editions.  Louis James lists twenty-five such editions for working-class readers before 1844, and notes that in 1837 The Vision of Judgment was reprinted by Cleave as a political tract.  In the same year, Milner's Cottage Library was established; Byron and Burns were among the opening titles, and circulation-figures show that, in the sixty years that followed, they far outstripped the other poets in popularity; Milton, Pope, Bloomfield and Longfellow came next in the list, and Shelley had sold less than William Cowper and Wordsworth and barely one-sixth of the Byron total.  Engels, discussing the urban poor in 1844, maintained that


. . . it is the workers who are most familiar with the poetry of Shelley and Byron.  Shelley's prophetic genius has caught their imagination, while Byron attracts their sympathy by his sensuous fire and by the virulence of his satire against the existing order.  The middle classes, on the other hand, have on their shelves only ruthlessly expurgated editions of these writers . . . prepared to suit the hypocritical moral standards of the bourgeoisie.


These subversive poets circulated among the agricultural poor too: a country parson noted, in 1850, that cheap editions of Don Juan and Queen Mab, sold by every hawker of books throughout the country, were lying in the cottages of his flock.  Don Juan, said the Northern Star, was 'a record of free thought and an eloquent vindication of democracy, which every republican, every lover of his species, should have in his library'. [44]

    Few 'bourgeois' critics, indeed, were praising Don Juan so highly in 1847: but I should add that I have found, in Chartist verse, as little influence of the satirical Byron as is apparent in other areas of early Victorian poetry.  It was the Byron of Childe Harold and 'The Prisoner of Chinon' that influenced Thomas Cooper and his fellows.  But one extraordinary sign of the currency of Don Juan, and of the adulation of Byron, appeared in one of the first and largest of Chartist demonstrations, the procession at Newcastle on 27 June 1838.  A contemporary records:


    There were not less than fourteen bands of music in the vast procession, and . . . along the whole line banners of the most tasteful appearance waved in the breeze.  A considerable number of these contained patriotic inscriptions from the works of Byron, of which the following are a few . . .


 and he quotes six as a sample, of which four come from Don Juan and two from 'Ode from the French' – such inscriptions as:


REVOLUTION

I have seen some nations, like o'er-loaded asses,
Kick off their burdens,meaning the high classes.

[Don Juan, IX, lxxxiv]


Other banners bore quotations from Burns, Cowper, Goldsmith and others, 'but the larger numbers were original' further impressive evidence of the literary inclinations of Chartism.  Byron was prominent in the iconography of Radicals and Chartists: on the walls of the Chartist rooms at Sheffield hung home-made banners inscribed with the names of working-class heroes, ranging from Wat Tyler to Byron and Shelley; and in the houses of such men as Harney the Chartist leader, and of the hero of Revolution in Tanner's Lane (based upon 'Mark Rutherford' and his father), the portrait of Byron would hang beside those of Burns and Shelley, Tom Paine, Major Cartwright, Rousseau, Mazzini and Kossuth. [45]  Harney was one of the Chartist leaders who, like Cooper, had 'a passionate attachment' to Byron; he filled the Northern Star with quotations from him, and in his staider old age became an expert on minutiae of his biography, in Notes and Queries.  'His poetry is still an inspiration,' wrote Harney in 1892:


    He is the poet emphatically of Freedom freedom of thought, freedom political and social.  He is not of that order of phrase-mongers who with the name of Liberty on the lips have tyranny in their hearts, and who aspire to overthrow ancient Privilege that they may on its ruins build up their own more intolerable despotism.


And, to prove his point, Harney quoted the lines which so many Victorian liberals cherished


I wish men to be free,
As much from mobs as kings, from you as me.

[Don Juan, IX, xxv]


lines which, he commented, 'embody the pith of many a volume in vindication of Liberty from Algernon Sydney to John Stuart Mill'. [46]

    When Byron's body reached Nottingham, an unsympathetic local observer wrote in a letter: 'He was a lover of liberty, which the Radical Corporation here thought made him their brother; therefore all the rabble rout from every lane and alley, and garret and cellar, came forth to curse and swear, and shout and push, in his honour.'  At the same time, Byron's old antagonist Robert Southey was writing, somewhat ungenerously:


    'I am sorry Lord Byron is dead, because some harm will arise from his death . . . We shall now hear his praises from all quarters.  I dare say he will be held up as a martyr to the cause of liberty, as having sacrificed his life by his exertions in behalf of the Greeks.  Upon this score the liberals will beatify him . . .' [47]


This inevitably happened: no eminent poet had died in such heroic circumstances since Sir Philip Sidney, and no poet's death was to evoke such emotions again until Rupert Brooke's.  Proclaiming his 'plain, sworn, downright detestation 'Of every despotism in every nation', Byron had promised that 'I will war, at least in words (and should/ My chance so happen deeds, with all who war/ With Thought' [Don Juan, X, xxiv].  Whatever the mixture of his motives in involving himself in Italian and Greek insurrectionary politics, and whatever the sincerity and coherence of his political convictions (matters disputed then, and since), he had, uniquely among literary trumpeters of Freedom, warred with deeds, and had died in the effort.  Doubtless that 'rabble rout' in Nottingham had read little or no Byron, and lacked the sophisticated understanding of a Harney, let alone of a contributor to PMLA or the Philosophical Quarterly, or of a Bertrand Russell paying Byron the compliment of examining, if demolishing, his political position in his History of Western Philosophy.  Equally, one doubts whether the enthusiasts today who paint on our buildings the slogan 'Viva Che', and who wear the buttons above their hearts, have pondered fully the bearings of Guevaraism on, say, the economic planning of the East Midlands.  But in both cases the myth is not the less powerful for being imprecisely determined.  'I was born for opposition,' wrote Byron in Don Juan [XV, –xxii] a rough-and-ready declaration which would appeal to radicals for whom opposition was the only likely political stance for a long time ahead.  Similarity, they might have found congenial his much-quoted journal-entry, incomplete though it may be as a philosophy: 'I have simplified my politics into an utter detestation of all existing governments . . . The fact is, riches are power, and poverty is slavery all over the earth' ― though they would have demurred about his conclusion, at that period, that 'one sort of establishment is no better or worse for a people than another' [16 January 1814].  Later, he pronounced that 'The king-times are fast finishing.  There will be blood shed like water, and tears like mist; but the peoples will conquer in the end.  I shall not live to see it, but I foresee it' [13 Januarys 1821].

    The Nottingham 'rabble' are likely to have remembered more positive political activity by Byron than such heart-satisfying curses against the Establishment and prophecies of its doom: not only his death in a war against oppression, but his splendid speech in the Lords defending the Luddites, and his vigorously scathing 'Ode to the Framers of the Frame Bill'.  Perhaps too they had heard the rumours (which had created alarm in Governmental circles) that Byron was preparing, around the time of Peterloo, to return from exile and lead a popular insurrection.  The only serious political activist among the English Romantics, and the only one (except Scott) with an international reputation, he had of course been an inspiration to revolutionaries in several Continental countries.  In the year after his death, he was one of the ideological heroes of the Decembrist rising in Russia; the poet Ryleyev, one of its leaders, carried a volume of Byron as he went to his execution.

    'The day will come,' wrote Mazzini in 1839, 'when Democracy will remember all that it owes to Byron', and he criticised the English for failing to recognise what Byron had done for Europe or to learn from him as his Continental readers had done.  Commenting on this in 1870, John Morley acknowledged that 'It is only in his own country that Bvron's influence has been a comparatively superficial one', because revolution had 'never had that hold on the national imagination' here that it had possessed overseas. [48]  Britain came nearest to revolution in the post-Napoleonic years and in the decade of Chartism: and, as we have seen, Byron was one of the main literary inspirations, both for the political leaders, the 'rabble rout', and the working-class poets of the period.  More has been written about Shelley's appeal to this public, and doubtless Shelley was more profoundly radical than Byron; as Marx commented, lovers of Byron and Shelley will rejoice that Byron died at the age of thirty-six, 'because if he had lived he would have become a reactionary bourgeois; they grieve that Shelley died at twenty-nine, because he was essentially a revolutionist and he would always have been one of the advanced guard of socialism' prophecies with which it is entertaining to contrast Charles Kingsley's, that 'the sturdy peer . . . might, if he had reformed, have made a gallant English gentleman; while Shelley . . . would probably have ended in Rome, as an Oratorian or a Passionist'. [49]  But Shelley, though proclaiming his 'passion for reforming the world', stated that he was writing (in Prometheus Unbound, but it applies elsewhere) for the 'highly refined imagination of the more select classes of poetical readers'. [50]  These were no more numerous among the Chartists than elsewhere; but those qualities, and limitations, of Byron's poetry which made him a best-seller among the less select classes of poetical readers, in the boudoir as well as at the workbench, gave his work a wider currency if a shallower impact.  And Byron's poetry proved more imitable, for a popular readership, both technically (partly because Byron's was a plain man's poetry, much of it amateurish in technique), and in recurrent subjects which appealed to these poets: the lonely rebel, the prisoner or exile, the moods of Nature as reflections of the poet's mind, the apostrophes to freedom or denunciations of oppressors, the potted character-sketch of historical or contemporary figures.  A curious local example of one version of this is Sherwood Forest, a poem in Spenserian stanzas by the Nottingham stocking-weaver, Robert Millhouse; Robin Hood emerges as a Byronic hero ('Remembrance often would his brow o'ercast/Of early joys which led new hopes along . . . and of suitably humanitarian impulses (he would 'heave a sigh o'er want and pain/While from his eyes the drops of pity fell'). [51]

    Ironically, however, Byron's only references to the working-class poets who were to admire and imitate him were snobbishly dismissive:


When some brisk youth, the tenant of a stall
Employs a pen less pointed than his awl,
Leaves his snug shop, forsakes his store of shoes,
St. Crispin quits, and cobbles for the Muse,
Heavens! how the vulgar stare! how crowds applaud!
How ladies read, and Literati laud! . . .
Hear, then, ye happy sons of needless trade!
Swains! quit the plough, resign the useless spade!
Lo! B
URNS and BLOOMFIELD, nay, a greater far,
G
IFFORD was born beneath an adverse star,
Forsook the labours of a servile state,
Stemmed the rude storm, and triumphed over Fate:
Then why no more? if Phœbus smiled on you,
B
LOOMFIELD! why not on brother Nathan too?
Let Poesy go forth, pervade the whole,
Alike the the rustic, and mechanic soul!
Ye tuneful cobblers! still your notes prolong,
Compose at once a slipper and a song;
So shall the fair your handywork peruse,
Your sonnets sure shall please – perhaps your shoes.
May Moorland weavers boast Pindaric skill,
And tailors' lays be longer than their bill!
While punctual beaux reward the grateful notes,
And pay for poems – when they pay for coats.


[English Bards, and Scotch Reviewers, 11. 765-98]


One of the 'poets of the poor', Ebenezer Elliott, riposted with vigour:


Go, and at Bloomfield, Nature's Artist, sneer,
Since chance, that makes a cobbler, makes a peer.
Hadst thou been one of that degraded crowd
Who die unwept, or weep, in silence bow'd, . . .
No tuneful curse had tortured from thy tongue,
No ribald o'er thy rhyme enraptured hung;
But lordly Lara, haply, would have cried
Matches and thread, from Holborn to Cheapside;
Or cobbled shoes, the lowest of his tribe,
Doom'd ne'er to rise by merit to a scribe;
Or, cross-legg'd, crouch'd, the ninth part of an ape,
Stitching the clothes he could not learn to shape . . .


But, within a few years, Elliott's admiration for Byron 'amounted almost to idolatry; and [a contemporary writes] he was impatient of all dissent from his judgment in this particular . . . Nor was it easy to convince him that there was a single flaw in the rhetoric or sentiments of his noble idol'. [52]  He would quote endless passages from Byron, he imitated him, and wrote several adulatory poems about him.  And even the Northern Star went out of its way to praise English Bards, and Scotch Reviewers, which contains those offensive lines.  As Macaulay had remarked in 1831, referring to other classes of readers whose susceptibilities, political or religious, Byron had outraged, people continued to 'love him and admire him . . . Everything, it seemed, was to be forgiven to youth, rank, and genius'. [54]

    The readers and poets I have been discussing were not predisposed to admire rank, though maybe even they were not immune to the national tendency to love a lord, particularly if he was at odds with other lords.  In drawing attention to Byron's popularity among early-Victorian workingmen, I have been making a sortie into one area of his reputation and an area of popular culture that could support a larger scholarly expedition, more fully equipped to explore these little-known territories.  Political, social and economic historians have become increasing aware of the importance of local studies, to supplement and correct national which often means metropolitan studies.  Local studies have something to contribute to literary and cultural history, too, especially if we extend 'local' to the metaphorical senses of 'provincial' the poetry which never found its way on to the high-roads of literature, the reading-public which took its instruction, not from the quarterlies or the Athenæum or the Saturday Review, but from the unstamped press of the 1820s and '30s, the Chartist journals of the '40s, and the popular journals of the Howitt's and Eliza Cook's school to which Alton Locke, and Thomas Cooper, contributed, and in which (suitably enough) Dr. Samuel Smiles praised Cooper, Bamford, Massey, and other such heroes of the pursuit of knowledge under difficulties.' [55]

    Or, to be pointedly local: what was Thomas Cooper thinking of when he wrote that 'if any locality in England can tend to elevate the sentiments of its young habitants, one would think it to be Nottingham'? [56] and he was not then giving an ingratiating lecture or speech to an audience here, but writing a short-story.  'There are souls to be saved in Manchester,' ran a favourite tag in this period, and about Manchester in literature, and as a social entity, we have lately learned much, to our profit.  What was the life-expectancy (in more than biological terms), what nourishment for soul and spirit existed in early-Victorian Nottingham, or Leicester?  What were its sources, literary and other, and how was it diffused?  Preparing this lecture has made me realise how little I know about these matters, and I hope that hearing it may have interested you in the range (or medley) of questions which I have raised, unable though I am fully to answer them.

 

REFERENCES

1.    'Heinrich Heine', Cornhill Magazine, August 1863, reprinted in Essays in Criticism (Eversley edn., 1895), p. 178.

2.    The Britannia, 30 August 1845, p. 553.

3.    Robert Peers, 'Thomas Cooper, the Leicester Chartist', Journal of Adult Education, III (1931), 250.

4.    Quarterly Review, LXV (1839), 159.

5.    Laura Hain Friswell, In the Sixties and Seventies (1905), p. 60.  For a fuller account of a similar lecture ('He began by an autobiographical sketch . . .'), see Caroline Fox: her Journals and Letters, ed. Horace N. Pym (rev. edn., 1883), p. 389.

6.    The Life of Thomas Cooper, written by Herself (1877 edn.), p. 387. [Ed. - this online edition as stated.]

7.    Samuel Phillips, Essays from 'The Times' (1871), ii, 202.

8.    Charles Kingsley, Alton Locke (1889 edn.), pp. 22, 24.

9.    Life, pp. 35, 42, 48, 291.

10.    Alton Locke, p. 63; John Critchley Prince, Hours with the Muses (3rd edn., 1842), pp. xix, xxxii. [Ed. - this online edition as stated.]

11.    See New CBEL, ed. George Watson (Cambridge, 1969), iii, 167, 174.  See also references in Albert K. Stevens, 'Hilton and Chartism', Philological Quarterly, XII (1933), 378 n. The useful Introduction to Kovalev's anthology (Moscow, 1956) is translated in Victorian Studies, II (1958), 117-138.

12.    Alton Locke, pp. 66-72.

13.    Fiction for the Working Man 1830-1850 (Oxford, 1963), p. 173.

14.    'Mark Rutherford', The Revolution in Tanner's Lane (4th edn., n.d.), p.145.

15.    Alton Locke, p. 222.

16.    Alton Locke, pp. 111, 116.

17.    Op. cit. (2nd edn., 1845), pp. 40, 2, 191.

18.    Quoted R. L. Crawford, 'New Light on Robert Tannahill, the Weaver-poet of Paisley', Notes and Queries, May 1966, p. 188.

19.    'Burns and his School' (North British Review, November 1851), in Kingsley's Miscellanies (2nd edn., 1860), i, 380.  The poets reviewed are Ebenezer Elliott, Robert Nicoll, John and Alexander Bethune, William Thom, Thomas Cooper, and Alexander Whitelaw.

20.    Westminster Review, XXXVI (1841), 264; Thomas Frost, Forty Years' Recollections, Literary and Political (1880), p. 35.

21.    Howitt, letter of 11 June 1841, in Prince, Hours with the Muses, p. 257; Robertson, lecture at Brighton Mechanics' Institute, 1852, in his Lectures on the Influence of Poetry (1906), p. 77.

22.    Alton Locke, p. 59.

23.    Miscellanies, ii, 321.

24.    L. Etienne, 'Les poètes des pauvres en Angleterre', Revue des deux mondes, V (1856), 371, 378-9. See also Philarète Chasles, 'La poésie chartists en Angleterre', ibid, XII (1845), 326-39.

25.    Life, p. 167. The hymn — tune, 'Calcutta' — was written by John Bramwich, a stocking-weaver.

26.     R. J. Conklin, Thomas Cooper, the Chartist (Manila, 1935), pp. 97-8.

27.    Life, pp. 51-9.

28.    James Hurnard, The Setting Sun (1870), iii, 696-7.

29.    Cooper, Poetical Works (1877), p. x.

30.    Life, p. 251.

31.    Letter of 28 February 1850, in The Life of F. D. Maurice, ed. Frederick Maurice (4th edn., 1885), ii, 36.

32.     Thom, op. cit., pp. 14-15.

33.     Samuel Bamford, Passages in the Life of a Radical (revised edn., nod.), pp. 91, 136.

34.     John Saville, Ernest Jones: Chartist (1952), p. 20.

35.    Ebenezer Elliott, Preface to The Splendid Village (1833), pp. 48-9.

36.    Memoirs of Alexander Bethune, ed. William M'Combie (Aberdeen, 1845), pp. 197, 42, 315.

37.    J. W. King, The Patriot: a Poem (1853), Preface, pp. v–viii.

38.     Hugh Miller, My Schools and Schoolmasters (n.d.), p. 347 (ch. xix).

39.    Thomas Lister, The Rustic Wreath: Poems, Moral, Descriptive, and Miscellaneous (Leeds and London, 1834), pp. 185-204.

40.     The Letters of Mrs. Gaskell, ed. J. A. V. Chapple and Arthur Pollard (Manchester, 1966), p. 33.

41.     Henry Crabb Robinson on Books and their Authors, ed. Edith Morley (1938), ii, 666-7.

42.     See note 11.

43.     W. E. Adams, Memoirs of a Social Atom (1903), i, 170.

44.     David E. Erdman, 'Byron and Revolt in England', Science and Society, XI (1947), 239 n (and see his 'Byron and the Genteel Reformers', PMLA, LVI  [1941], 1065-94, and 'Byron and "the New Force of the People"', Keats-Shelley Journal, XI [1962, 47-64]; Louis James, op. cit., pp. 74, 201-2; Herbert E. Wroot, 'A Pioneer of Cheap Literature: William Milner of Halifax', Bookman, March 1897, p. 174; F. Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England, tr. and ed. W. O. Henderson and W. H. Chaloner (Oxford, 1958), p. 273; Cuthbert Charles Southey, Life and Correspondence of Robert Southey (1850), v. 75; Thomas Frost, 'Scott, Byron and Shelley', Northern Star, 2 January 1847, in Kovalev, p. 322.

45.     R. G. Gammage, History of the Chartist Movement 1837-1854 (revised edn., 1894), pp. 22-3 (I have corrected the text; either Gammage or the banner-makers got the words and punctuation of all the quotations, except one, wrong); A. R. Schoyen, The Chartist Challenge: a Portrait of George Julian Harney (1958), p. 123; W. E. Adams, op. cit., ii, 224; William Robertson Nicoll, Memoirs of Mark Rutherford (1924), p. 34.

46.     See Schoyen, op. cit., pp. 2, 125, 274, 284; Harney, 'Byron', Newcastle Weekly Chronicle, 16 April 1892.

47.     Mary Howitt: an Autobiography, ed. Margaret Howitt (1889), i, 185; C. C. Southey, op. cit., v, 178.  For another local reaction, see William Powers Smith, Lines on the Funeral of Byron (Nottingham, 1824).

48.     Life and Writings of Mazzini (1870), vi, 93; John Morley, 'Byron', Fortnightly Review, December 1870, reprinted in his Critical Miscellanies (1886 edn.), i, 204-7.

49.     Marx quoted by Crane Brinson, Political Ideas of the English Romanticists (Oxford, 1926), p. 126; Kingsley, Miscellanies, i, 311.

50.     Preface, Prometheus Unbound (1820).  Cf. Newman Ivey White, 'Shelley and the active Radicals of the early nineteenth century', South Atlantic Quarterly, XXXIX (1930), 248-61.

51.     Sherwood Forest, and Other Poems (1827), II, xix, xii.  On Millhouse, see Sketches of Obscure Poets, with Specimens of their Writings (1833), pp. 32- 45.

52.     Elliott, Love and the Giaour (1823), quoted by G. L. Phillips, 'Elliott The Giaour', RES, XV (1939), 426; 'January Searle' [G. S. Phillips], The Life of Ebenezer Elliott (1850), p. 23.

53.     Northern Star, 9 August 1845, in Kovalev, pp. 308-9.

54.     Edinburgh Review, LIII (1831), 547, reprinted in Macaulay's Critical and Historical Essays (1843).

55.     Alton Locke, p. 172. See Smiles's series 'Poets of the People' in Howitt's Journal, Vol. III, 1848, and his article on Massey in Eliza Cook's Journal (1851), 372-5.

56.     Wise Saws and Modern Instances (1845), ii, 6l.

Acknowledgments. The lecturer wishes to thank the following, who have most kindly answered queries or suggested references: Dr. Lois Potter, Professor Andrew Rutherford, Mr. John Saville, Dr. Peter Keating, and Mr. Victor Neuburg.

 



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