PLEADING IN THE COURT OF QUEEN'S BENCH:
CHARTIST PRISONER LIFE:
AND now the most heartrending trial I had ever to
meet in my life was at hand. My poor dear wife was in a very
dangerous state, worn almost to a skeleton, always in bed, and incapable
of helping herself; and I had to leave her in that state on the 2nd of
May—for we were summoned to appear in London to receive sentence on the
4th. I had told her that I expected two years' imprisonment, because
they had given Capper that sentence. One of her sisters, with other
women, who stood around her bed, as I stooped to give her, as I expected,
the last token of love in this life, burst into an exclamation of
amazement, as they saw her glance upwards and smile, with an expression
that meant, "We shall meet in heaven!"
I spoke in the market-square of Northampton on the evening of
the 2nd of May, and in the John Street room, in London, on the evening of
the 3rd. On the morning of the 4th, in the court of Queen's Bench,
O'Connor, Harney, Doyle, Leach, Bairstow, Hill, Parkes, Arran, Railton,
Brooks, James Arthur, and several other members of the Manchester
Convention, and I with them, were first arraigned, and bound in £100 each
to keep the peace, and appear again when summoned, and then dismissed.
Next, Daddy Richards and I (for Capper was safe in Stafford Gaol, and
Ellis was sent across the sea) were re-arraigned, as convicted of sedition
and conspiracy, before Lord Denman (the Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's
bench), Sir John Patteson, and Sir John Williams; and we were directed to
plead "in mitigation of judgment, or sentence."
Sir Frederick Pollock and Serjeant Talfourd were in court all
day; but Sir William Follett was only called in, from the House of
Commons, just at the close. O'Connor, Wheeler, Skevington of
Loughborough, and a great band of Chartists, were also in court, all day,
and witnessed all the proceedings. Judge Patteson and Judge Williams
read judge Erskine's notes of our trial; and again, it was read out that "Mistake"
was written on the evidence for felony, by the judge, at the request of
the jury. When they had finished the reading of judge Erskine's
notes, I began to plead, and referred to printed proofs that the outbreak
originated with the Anti-Corn-Law League; but was interrupted by Lord
Denman, who told me that I had said all that at Stafford, and need not
repeat it now. I recommenced; but again he interrupted me, saying,
"We cannot have the time of this court taken up with mere
repetitions of what you said at Stafford. You are here simply to
plead in mitigation of judgment—and so, go on, sir!"
The last words were spoken with such haughty harshness, that
I burst into tears. I had been taught to worship this man, all my
life. He was Brougham's coadjutor in the defence of poor Queen
Caroline, and bore so high a name for patriotism, liberality, and
uprightness, that my sensitive nature felt his words as if my mother had
"My lord," I said in a broken voice, "is that worthy of
yourself—of the name of Denman? I cannot address the Court, if your
lordship speaks to me in that manner. Will you allow John Richards
to go on, and let me address the Court when he has done?"
"If you like!" said the Lord Chief Justice, in the same
So I sat down, and Daddy Richards went on, and very
admirably, too—for the old man had fine native powers, and spoke with a
little stateliness that was very becoming to a white-headed, large-foreheaded
man of threescore and ten. He told the Court that he learnt his first
lessons in patriotism and politics from "the Right Honourable Charles
James Fox, and the Right Honourable William Pitt." He gave a really clever
sketch of the progress of opinion in politics during his own
time—strongly set forth the broken promises of the Whig Ministry and its
supporters—and argued well for the People's Charter; in conclusion,
telling the Lord Chief justice, to his face, that his lordship's doings in
the past had greatly helped the progress of Chartism.
"My lords," said the fine old man, "I have spent my life in the good old
cause of freedom, and I believe still that it will prevail. I am seventy
years old; but I shall live to see
the People's Charter become the law of the land yet!"
The judges smiled, and O'Connor and the Chartists looked as if they could
have liked to give the old Daddy three cheers. I resumed when the old man
about one o'clock; and I went on till five, and then asked if I might
conclude my plea on the morrow.
Lord Denman eyed me with cruel archness this time, and, with a grim
mocking smile, said,—"We mean to hear you out to-night"
So he beat me out of my naughty design of making them sit two days; and
in another hour and a half I concluded.
Sir William Follett was now summoned from the House of Commons to address
"My lords," said he, "I entreat you to pass a severe sentence on the
prisoner Cooper: you will probably have some consideration for the
advanced age of the prisoner
Sir John Patteson, the large dark-eyed, and large-horned judge—for he was
deaf, and wore huge hearing horns—had to pronounce sentence; and he spoke
to us with admirable
me to two years', and John Richards to one year's, imprisonment in
I sprang up immediately, and begged, before the Court was broken up that
the judges would allow me literary privileges during my imprisonment—as
the chaplain of Stafford
Gaol had forewarned me that if I came there again as a convicted offender,
I could have nothing but the Bible and Prayer Book to read, and could not
be allowed to write or
receive a letter, or make use of pen, ink, and paper; since all that was
contrary to the rules of the prison.
"We have no control over the rules of any gaol in the kingdom," replied
the Lord Chief justice, as haughtily as ever; "at present you are
committed to the custody of the
Marshal of the Marshalsea—so get down, sir!"
We remained only one week in the Queen's Prison "Queen's Bench Prison" as
it used to be called. Richard Oastler then occupied what the prisoners
called " the state-room"; and I and Daddy Richards dined with him on the Sunday. Mr. Oastler
wrote to Lord Kenyon to intercede with Lord Denman, and get him to express
his wish to the Stafford
magistrates that I should be allowed the literary privileges I had asked
for; but Denman sternly refused.
We were suddenly told, at ten o'clock on the night before we left the
Queen's Prison, that we were to be taken to Stafford at six the next
morning. I neither took off my
clothes, nor slept, that night; but passed
it in busily revolving the events of the last two years of my life, and
resolving that I would turn the two years' imprisonment into a fresh start
for an honourable life, or die. I
vowed that I would break down the system of restraint in Stafford Gaol,
and win the privilege of reading and writing, or end my life in the
struggle. I thought I should never see
my dear wife again: she would die before I left the prison, and so
I need not be careful of my life on her account. And if I could not write
the poem on which I believed my whole future on earth depended—if it were
to be honourable—it was
not worth enduring two years' dismal and unrelieved imprisonment, to come
out in rags and with a ruined constitution.
My resolution was at once put to the test when we reached Stafford Gaol
again. My box, in which I had a considerable number of books, was taken
from me, and one of the
turnkeys demanded the key to it. I refused to give it him; and he said he
must take it from my pocket.
"Do, if you dare," said I ; "if you attempt it, I'll knock your teeth
down your throat!"—and I said it in such a way that he slunk aside, and
said no more.
We were put into the same day-room with Capper; and for the first few
weeks we all three slept in one room. Very soon, we were placed in
separate sleeping cells. Each cell
had a stone floor; was simply long enough to hold a bed, and broad enough
for one to walk by the side of it. An immense slab of cast
iron formed the bedstead, and it rested on two large stones. A bag stuffed
so hard with straw that you could scarcely make an impression on it with
your heel formed the
bed. Two blankets and a rug completed the furniture. There was no pillow;
but remembering that, from my former imprisonment, I had brought in with
me a small
Mackintosh pillow, which I could blow up and put under my head. The best
thing I had was a very large and very heavy camlet travelling cloak. If I
had not brought this with
me, I could not have slept in that cell during the winter without becoming
a cripple for life, or losing my life.
The prison-bell rang at half-past five, and we were expected to rise and
be ready to descend into the day-yard at six. At eight, they brought us a
brown porringer, full of
"skilly"—for it was such bad unpalatable oatmeal gruel, that it deserved
the name— and a loaf of coarse, dark-coloured bread. At twelve at noon,
they unlocked the door of
our day-room, and threw upon the deal table a netful of boiled potatoes,
in their skins, and a paper of salt—for dinner. At five in the evening,
they brought us half a porringerful
of "skilly;" but no bread. At six, we were trooped off, and locked up
in our sleeping cells for the next twelve hours.
I demanded better food; and was told I could not have it. I asked to write
to my wife, and receive a letter from her; but still they refused. One day
slipped past one of the turnkeys, as he unlocked our day-room door, ran
along the passages, and got to the door of the governor's room, and
thundered at it till he came out
"Give me food that I can eat," I said; "or some of you shall pay for it."
"Go back—get away to your day-room," cried the governor.
"I will, if you will give me something to eat," I said.
"Here—come here, and take him away!" cried the governor to two of the
turnkeys who had just then appeared, but who looked sorely affrighted.
"I'll knock the first man down who dares to touch me," said I; and the
turnkeys stood still.
The governor burst into laughter, for he saw they were plainly in a fix.
"What d'ye want to eat, Cooper?" said he, in a gentle tone ; "tell me, and
I'll give it you."
"All I want of you, at present," said I, "is a cup of good coffee, and a
hearty slice of bread and butter. When I can speak to the magistrates, I
shall ask for something more."
And I did ask the magistrates; but they would not yield. So I led the
officers of the prison a sorely harassing life, poor fellows! I was ever
knocking at the door, or
shattering the windows, or asking for the surgeon or governor, or
troubling them in one way or other. I had not gone to the gaol chapel
return to Stafford. I refused to do so; because when I was in the gaol
during those eleven weeks, we Chartist prisoners had to be locked up in a
close box while we were in
the chapel, and look at the chaplain through iron bars. I said I would not
be treated in that degrading way, and refused to go. But when we had been
about a month in the
gaol, the second time, Capper said to me one day as they returned from the
chapel,—"You should go to the chapel now; they have taken us out of the
lock-ups, and we sit in
the open chapel, along with the short-timers, now."
I made no reply to Capper; but what he said raised a resolve in my mind
at once. He told me this on a Wednesday; but Friday was also a chapel day. So when the Friday
came, I took one of the prayer-books in my hand, and placed myself next
the door, to be ready to step out in a moment, when the turnkey opened
it, and said, "Chapel!"
He unlocked the door; and, before he could say
"Chapel," he stammered, in surprise, "Are you going, to-day?"
"Yes," said I, and stepped past him in a moment.
Capper and Richards took their seats in the open part of the chapel,
facing the pulpit, and I sat down beside them, keeping my eyes strictly
fixed on the open door, where the chaplain must enter. I no sooner
caught sight of his white surplice, than I bounded forward, and seizing
him by the arm, just as he was about to step up into the pulpit, I cried,—
"Are you a minister of Christ? If you be, see me righted. They are
starving me, on skilly and bad potatoes; and they neither let me write to
my wife, or receive a letter from
her—if she be alive!"
The poor chaplain shook like an aspen leaf, and stared at me with open
mouth, but could not speak!
"D'ye hear, man?" I cried, shaking him by the arm—"Will you see me
righted, I say?"
"He's mad!—he's mad!" gasped the poor chaplain; "take him off! take
Four of the turnkeys seized me by the legs and arms, and bore me away,
while I made the chapel and vaulted passages ring with my shouts of "Murder! murder!"
This violence exhausted me greatly; and the surgeon
prescribed some extra food. I think it was two boiled eggs, with
coffee and bread and butter. But as all went on as usual the next
day, I continued to tease the keepers, and to send messages to the
governor, and to ask for the magistrates; but nothing was yielded to me.
So about eight or ten days after my adventure in the chapel, I said to
Capper and old Daddy Richards,—
"Go out into the day-yard, both of you. I want to try the effect of a
bombardment; and I don't want either of you to be in the scrape."
"What art thou about to do, Tom?" said the dear old Daddy; "art thou
about to ruin us?"
"Ruin you! you old goose," I said; "you are ruined,—are you not?"
The old man ran off, laughing, into the day-yard, wondering what I was
about to do. There was no chair in our day-room; but only a heavy wooden
bench, on which we all
three were expected to sit. It was very heavy; but I got hold of it, and
turning one end unto the inner door, I let go, as a sailor would say—at
the door, with all my might,
crying "Murder! murder! murder!" Soon came the whole body of turnkeys;
and the chief of them, Chidley, who was a large, stout man, opened the
door, and cried,
"What do ye mean by this? We'll settle you! Come along—we'll take you to
They took me to no black-hole; but they locked me up in an empty room,
and kept me there till dusk of evening, when they took me to bed without
I found my strength sorely lessened by these continued and exhaustive
attempts to break down the prison system; and one morning, when the bell
rang at half-past five, I
felt so weak that I could not rise. Soon came a turnkey, unlocked the
door, and threw it open as usual.
"Holloa!" said he; how's this?—why are you not up?"
"I am too weak to get up," I answered; and he closed the door, locked it,
and went his way.
In a few minutes, I heard the feet of several persons in the passage, and
could tell that they were
sweeping it. They drew near the door, and I heard
a whispering. Soon one of them whispered through the large keyhole.
"Mester Kewper! dooant yo knaw me? My name's John Smith. I cum thrum th'
Potteries; an' I heerd yo' speeak that day, upo' th' Craan Bonk. Dun yo
"Want aught?" I said, "why, what can you get me?"
"Some bacca, if you like—or, maybe, the old Daddy would like some."
"But how can you get it, and what are you doing in the passage?"
"Why, we've getten lagged, [Sentenced to transportation] yo see; and they
setten us to sweep th' passages and th' cells, till we go off. We can get
you owt yo like, throo th'
debtors. There's a chink i' th' wall where we get things through."
"Can you get me some sheets of writing paper—one large sheet—and a few
pens and a narrow bottle of ink ? If you can, I'll give you the money to
And I thrust two shillings under the bottom of the door, for the space was
wide; and they promised to bring me what I wanted, if I could be in the
same place the next
"I'll take care to be here," said I. And the next morning, when the
turnkey found me in bed, as he
opened the door, he closed it again, without asking a question, and left
me alone as before.
"Can you get me a letter sent out to the post-office?" I asked, as they
brought me the ink and pens and paper.
"Yes," they said; if yo conna be here ageean tomorrow morning, leave th'
letter under th' mattrass. We shall be sure to get it a few minutes after. We knaw them
amung th' debtors that'll see it sent safe to the post-office."
I drew up a petition to the House of Commons on the larger sheet of
paper—asking that I might have food on which I could subsist; that I
might be allowed to write to my wife
and a few friends, and receive letters from them; and that I might be
allowed the use of my books, and be also allowed to write what I pleased,
for my own purposes, during
I also wrote to the great friend of poor Chartist prisoners, noble Thomas
Slingsby Duncombe, and told him that I had written out a petition to the
House of Commons, and
should address it to himself for presentation; that I should put it into
the hands of the governor of the gaol on the morrow, and request him to
place it before the magistrates. I
particularly desired Mr. Duncombe to mark how long it was before he
received the petition, and to note that it was dated.
I left the letter under the mattress; and it was safely
received by Mr. Duncombe. When the governor made his usual morning call,
just as he entered our dayroom, I put the petition into his hands.
"Please to show that to the magistrates," said I; "and then take care
that it is sent to Mr. Duncombe, the member of Parliament for Finsbury."
"What is it, sir?" asked the governor, all in a flutter.
"A petition to the House of Commons," said I.
"Take it back sir—take it back—I'll have nothing to do with it," cried
the poor governor, trying to push it into my hands.
"On your peril, sir," said I, "lay that petition before the magistrates.
Refuse, if you dare, sir! And tell the magistrates if they do not send
the petition to Mr. Duncombe, they
shall be reckoned with, if I live to get out of this place."
"Where did you get the paper, sir?" he asked; "and the pens and ink?"
"I shall not tell you. If you were to hang me you should not know."
"Well, sir," said he, going away; "I must tell the magistrates all about
it; but, depend upon it, you have got yourself into a pretty mess."
"Tell the magistrates they will get themselves into a pretty mess, if they
do not forward my petition to Mr. Duncombe," I shouted after him.
CHARTIST PRISONER'S LIFE, CONTINUED:
FOR many days I asked the governor of the gaol, as he paid us his morning
visit, if my petition had been sent to Mr. Duncombe; but his answer was
"No." At length it was
"Yes;" and, two days after, Governor Brutton suddenly opened the door of
our day-room, and, with a really happy look, said,
"Now, come, Cooper, the magistrates want to see you; and do be
respectful to them, and you'll get all you want."
"Trust me, governor," said I, "if there be a change of that sort in the
wind, I'll be respectful enough."
The magistrates invited me to sit down, after they had said "Good morning,
Mr. Cooper;" and I thought that was really respectful, and I would be
The Hon. and Rev. Arthur Talbot, brother to Earl Talbot, read Mr.
Duncombe's letter to me, stating that he had presented my petition to the
House of Commons, and had
asked the Speaker if it were right
and constitutional to detain the petition of a political prisoner nearly a
fortnight, as the magistrates had done; and the Speaker had replied that
it was neither right nor
constitutional. He (Mr. Duncombe) did not wish to make any harsh
observations: he simply thought that my requests were so reasonable that
the magistrates would deem it
right to comply with them.
"I may say," said Mr. Talbot, "that your own conduct in the gaol induced
us to detain your petition—but we will say no more about that. With
regard to your food, the surgeon
has full liberty from us, now, to allow you what he deems necessary for
your health. We have also resolved that you shall be allowed to write to
your wife and receive letters
from her; but all letters must be delivered open by yourself to the
governor, and he will open all letters from your wife, before he delivers
them to you. In the course of time we
may allow you, also, to correspond with two or three of your friends,—so
long as they are not political."
"May I write to my wife weekly, and receive a letter from her weekly?" I
asked; "you ought to allow me to do that, considering that she seemed so
near death when I left her."
My request was granted at once.
"And now, gentlemen," I said, "there is one more favour I must beg of you. Let me have the use of my books, and also be allowed to proceed with my
writing. I have an
unfinished romance that I want
to complete, and some other things I want to do. I hope there will be no
objection to my employing myself in a peaceable way. Depend upon it, you shall not have to complain of
my behaviour if you treat me reasonably."
"You have no objection to our seeing the books, I hope?" said the Hon.
and Rev. Mr. Talbot; "if they be political, we should object to your
"I will open the portmanteau, if you will order it to be brought in,"
said I; "and you can take out the political books, if you find any; but I
do not think you will."
They took out two small books which I cared nothing for, and which I did
not know that I had with me; and then they gave up the portmanteau and
all that it contained into
my possession. I thanked them, and went back to my day-room.
My companions were highly gladdened; for when the surgeon came to visit
us, and asked what I wished for in the way of food, he prescribed an equal
allowance for them also: so my struggle had won food for all three of us. I asked, first, for
coffee; and we had a good allowance of it, and the article was good. We
had also a sufficient allowance of
butter, and rice. The surgeon would only allow us a quarter of a pound of
meat daily, at first; and this was our worst allowance: it was invariably
either a bit of the breast of
mutton, or of the "sticking piece" of beef; and became so unwelcome before
years' confinement was ended, that I often loathed the very sight of the
meat. One evil we had to endure was beyond the surgeon's power to remedy.
We had to take all the
water we drank from a pump in our day-yard; and it was so bad that we had
to let the bucket stand a long time that all the unmentionable stuff might
settle to the bottom,
before we could use the water. I should not forget to say that Mr. Hughes,
the surgeon, kindly directed that I should have the use of an arm-chair,
so that I could sit by myself
to write, at the table, while the old men chose to sit by the fire. The
reader must understand
that our day-room was not a palace. The floor was stone slabs, and the
wind assailed us in every quarter. It was a place to create tooth-ache and
In the course of the first summer, we had an addition to our number; and
in the second spring a second companion sojourned with us for a short
time. On the 12th of August,
1843, Arthur G. O'Neill of Birmingham, came in to undergo a year's
imprisonment; and on the 6th of April, 1844, Joseph Linney of Bilston was
transferred from the
Penitentiary, London, to complete his term of imprisonment with us. His
stay was but short: he left us in twelve weeks.
I was allowed but three visitors, as friends, during my imprisonment: one
at the end of six months, another at the end of twelve, and another at the
of eighteen. My dear old friend and benefactor, Dr. J. B. Simpson of
Birmingham came first; and my dear departed friend, Thomas Tatlow of
Leicester, came last.
The other visitor was Bairstow, to whose hands the poor stockingers had
committed a little money for my relief; but he kept three-fifths of it for
himself. Let me dismiss
the name of this depraved,
pitiable young man. I had taken him into my house and given himself and
his wife hospitality for many months; I had given him money for his
journeys; and when I
left Leicester, I gave him the care of my business, that he might live out
of it, and take care my wife did not want—telling him, in the presence of
all the men who crowded
round me, as I was departing, that, if my wife died, Bairstow was to
consider the business entirely his own.
But he made the house a place of dissipation, invited card-players into
it, and ruined the business altogether; so that the house had to be given
up, and my wife had to be
carried out and taken care of, chiefly by my dear and true friends Thomas
Tatlow and William Stafford, who provided her with a kind nurse in her
acceptance with the people as an orator had caused me to keep him at
Leicester. He left his wife before the end of my
imprisonment; and was never more heard of. He is supposed to have come to
his end in some obscure way.
My great business in the gaol has yet to be related. During the first two
months I not only could not get
at my books, but I had locked up the only copy I possessed of the hundred
lines written as a blank verse commencement of my purposed poem, " The
Suicides." As I could not recover them, and did not know whether they
would ever yield to allow me the use of my books and papers, I thought I
could defeat their purpose by
composing the poem and retaining it in my mind. So my thoughts were very
much intent on making a new beginning,—and on the night of the 10th of
June, 1843, when we
had been one month in the gaol, I felt suddenly empowered to make a start; and when I had composed the four opening lines, I found they rhymed
alternately. It was a pure
accident—for I always purposed to write my poem in blank verse. Now,
however, I resolved
to try the Spenserean stanza. So I struck off two stanzas that night:
they are the two opening stanzas of my poem; and they are the first Spenserean
ever wrote in my life.
The remembrance that Byron had shown the stanza of the "Faery Queene" to
be capable of as much grandeur and force as the blank verse of " Paradise
Lost," while he
also demonstrated that it admits the utmost freedom that can be needed for
the treatment of a grave theme, determined me to abide by the Spenserean
stanza. When I
obtained the use of writing materials, at the end of those two months of
struggle, I very soon had a fair copy written of the, perhaps, thirty
stanzas I had by that time
The creation of my "Purgatory of Suicides" I have called my "great
business" in the gaol. And so it was—for it employed a great part of my
thought, and absorbed some
mental effort, of almost every day I spent in Stafford Gaol, except one
period of three months that I shall have to refer to.
I could revel in Shakspeare and Milton as soon as I got possession of my
books; and in Chambers' "Cyclopædia of English Literature" I had
portions of almost every
English poet of eminence. At an after-date, I had "Childe Harold," and
Shelley (the small pirated edition), with Jarvis's translation of "Don
Quixote," White's "Selborne," and
other books, sent into the gaol. But I set about solid reading. I read
Gibbon's great masterpiece entirely through, in the gaol. The reader will
remember that this was my
second reading of the magnificent "Decline and Fall." In Latin, I read the
Æneid and the Commentaries through once more, attended a little to my
Greek, and also re-read
the volume of German stories, twice or thrice.
O'Neill had been allowed to have some books, and so I read his copy of
Prideaux's "Connexion of the Old and New Testament," Milner's Church
History, and some other
things he possessed. We also formed a purpose of pursuing the study of
language together, as O'Neill had been a student in his time. I had copies
of the New Testament in
several languages, and we read in each, every morning, for a short time;
but one of my constitutional periods of passion approached, and I was
carried away with it.
I fastened on the Hebrew, with a fine old German-printed Old Testament and
the lexicon of Gesenius; and for three months I read nothing, thought of
nothing, but Hebrew. I
copied out all the verbs, I classified and copied out nouns. I purposed to
commit everything to memory. My poem stood still—everything stood
still—but Hebrew. At length, I
almost raved about it while talking to O'Neill—who kindly and
affectionately watched his opportunity, when he saw my health was giving
way, and I was becoming incapable;
and then he took all my Hebrew books into his own possession, and told me
I must give it up, or I should lose my senses. I had common sense enough
to perceive, in a
day or two, that I was wrong; and so I tore myself away from the study of
Hebrew, and never attended to it again, except with great caution, while I
remained in the gaol.
During the three months my passion had lasted, to the best of my memory, I
went through about two-thirds of my Hebrew Bible.
Good old Daddy Richards left us on the 4th of May, 1844; Linney left us on
the 29th of June; O'Neill's time of imprisonment ended on the 10th of
August; and on the 30th of
September, 1844, Capper left me, a lonely prisoner, for I had yet seven
months to serve.
I had broken down the stupid custom of sending
us to our sleeping cells at six in the evening, before O'Neill came into
the gaol; and soon after I obtained leave to buy candles for my use, that
I might read or write till nine
o'clock, when we were taken to our sleeping cells. Now I was left alone, I
began to feel very apprehensive for the consequences, if I should have to
sleep another winter on the
bag of straw and iron slab, in that cold shivering hole, where the water
trickled down the walls in damp weather. I was tormented with neuralgia of
the head; I was often
obliged to lie on my back a whole day, with neuralgia of the heart; and I
told the governor and the surgeon that I believed it would end my life, if
I had no better
sleeping-place. To my unspeakable relief, the governor said I should sleep
in my day-room, so that I could keep the fire in, through the night, if I
pleased. Thus, I believe,
my life was preserved by Him who has the hearts of all men in His keeping;
and whose loving watchfulness has so often shown itself in the
preservation of my life.
That "God helps them who help themselves," however, I am fully convinced.
If I had not shown both resolution and perseverance, I should never have
secured any deliverance
from the torturous inflictions of what is called "gaol discipline."
"I admire your pluck, Cooper," said the dear old governor to me one day,
in an undertone, a short time before I left the gaol: "your day-room was
the dayroom of the Reverend
Humphrey Price, the 'good
parson of Needwood Forest,' as he was called. He was a clergyman who
sympathised, like you, with the poor; and for defending the poor wretched carpet-weavers of
Kidderminster, had to pass a year in this prison. But he was never allowed
a single privilege. He had to go to bed every night at six o'clock, was
never allowed the use of a
candle, and had to submit to the common dietary of the prison. The poor
man seemed to take it all like a martyr. What he might have gained if he
had shown as
much spirit as yourself, I cannot tell; but he never seemed to have the
spirit to ask for anything."
The magistrates looked in upon me, now and then, when I was left alone. One day, I had a very agreeable and distinguished visitor. It was Lord Sandon, now Earl of
Harrowby. He addressed me with so much courtesy and kindness, that I
responded cheerfully. After a few minutes his interest increased, and he
sat down to talk.
My old German-printed Hebrew Bible (given to me by good Mr. Lumley, the
bookseller) happened to catch his eye; and I opened it, and showed him the
arrangement of the
Chamesh Megilloth (Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, and
Esther) immediately after the Torah, or Pentateuch. My noble visitor
remarked that he had never
seen an arrangement like it—for he had been intent on studying Hebrew at
one time himself. We diverged to other subjects; and when the courteous
was gone, I found that nearly half an hour had elapsed since he entered my
The behaviour of Earl Ferrers was of a different order. He came one day to
the little window in the passage, and looked at me through his
quizzing-glass. I put on my cap and
went close to the window to look at him with a pair of eyes on flame, and
that meant, "Who are you, you rude rascal?" He dropt his quizzing-glass,
and slunk away!
The chaplain—not the reverend gentleman whom I used so roughly at the
beginning of my imprisonment—paid me two remarkable visits, but a short
time before my term of
imprisonment ended. He desired me to walk out into the day-yard with him,
as he wished to have a particular conversation with me.
"Mr. Cooper," he said, very suddenly, "you would like to go to Cambridge?"
"To the University?" said I, quickly; "I should think so. What of that,
"You can go direct from this gaol, on the day that your time expires, I
undertake to say—if you choose," he replied.
"Go to Cambridge, from this gaol!" I repeated in wonder.
"Yes: all your wants will be provided for. You will have no trouble about
anything—only—" and he stopped and smiled.
"Only I must give up politics?" said I; "I see what you mean."
"That's it," said he; that's all."
"I would not degrade or falsify myself by making such a promise," I
replied, "if you could ensure all the honours the University could
bestow, although it has been one of the
great yearnings of my heart—from a boy, I might say—to go to a
The kindly chaplain blamed me for my unwillingness; assured me that all
who conversed with me lamented to see me in such a case, and wondered how
a man with such a
nature and such attachments ever became a Chartist. But he took his leave
without accomplishing the purpose for which he had been sent. By whom he
had been sent, he
would not say, though I asked him during his second visit—when he was
still more earnest, and seemed distressed when he found I would not yield. He would not say
by whom he had been sent; but I had a shrewd guess about it when I thought
of my noble visitor, and our conversation over the ancient Hebrew Bible. I
to say that the good chaplain (Rev. Thos. Sedger, now curate of Bracon
Ash, near Norwich) presented me with a valuable copy of Horace de Arte Poeticâ, before I left the
gaol; and, a few years ago, sent me a copy of his translation of Grotius
The romance that I mentioned, and which was begun in Lincoln, and the MSS.
partially shown to a celebrated author when I first went to live in
London, I finished in the gaol;
and also wrote
several tales to complete a volume, if I could find a publisher. These and
my "Prison Rhyme " I took out of prison with me as my keys for unlocking
the gates of fortune.
I was in rags; for although Leicester friends had impoverished themselves
to send me money to pay for my extra fire, candles, washing, and writing
materials, I could not
expect more of them. A kind friend in London, whom I must not name, sent
me ten pounds, fourteen days before my time expired; and so I got a suit
of clothes and a hat,
and other things I wanted.
I left Stafford Gaol at six o'clock on the morning of the 4th of May, 1845; and reached London, and slept that night at the house of the friend who
had sent me the ten
I must now go back, and enter on the recital I have delayed to begin, and
which I dread to touch. But it must be given.
SCEPTICISM IN THE GAOL:
LONDON, AND DISAPPOINTMENTS:
WHEN I first took upon me to talk to Leicester Chartists, in the little
room at All Saints' Open, on those Sunday evenings during the spring of
1841, religion formed the staple
of my discourse. I had felt so deep a sense of unworthy treatment when I
left the Methodists in 1835, that—as I said at the close of my ninth
chapter—"I sought occupation for
thought that should not awake tormenting remembrances;"—and so I had
avoided religious literature, and conversation on theological topics, as
much as possible. And it was
not until I began to talk to poor suffering men about religion that I
became conscious of any change in my belief, or in the state of my
religious conscience—to adopt one of
the phrases of the day.
If any one had asked me what I considered myself to be in point of
religious belief, six years after I left the Wesleyans, I should have
answered that I was a Wesleyan still.
But I had not spent many months in talking to the Leicester Chartists,
before my "religious conscience" began to receive a new "form and
pressure" from its new surroundings. I could not preach eternal
punishment to poor starving stockingers. But
when the belief in eternal punishment is given up, the eternal demerit of
sin has faded from the preacher's conscience; and then what consistency
can he see in the doctrine of Christ's atonement?
Whenever I looked inward—though, alas! I had little
leisure for reflection during all the fiery excitement of my Leicester
life—I found that I had ceased be orthodox in my belief. Yet I
never ceased to worship the perfect moral beauty of Christ; and, thank
God! I never ceased to enthrone the goodness and purity and love of
Christ in the minds and hearts of the Leicester poor. To the last
hour of my teaching in Leicester, I also maintained, in the hearing of the
crowds who listened to me, that the miracles and resurrection of the
Saviour were historical facts.
But, before I left Leicester, clouds of unspoken doubt began
to roll across my reason, of a darker and more horrible shade than even a
disbelief of the Gospel records. I gave the reader a hint of what I
mean towards the end of my sixteenth chapter. The coarse atheism
expressed by some of the stronger spirits among working men, I often felt,
found an echo in my own mind, that startled me. When I could not
sleep after a day of more than ordinary excitement, atheistic reasonings
would arise, as I thought of the sufferings of the poor, the extreme
differences in men's condition, and the cruel lot of all in every age who
contend for truth and right. These distressing doubts and reasonings
for many months passed away when they arose, leaving no conscious lodgment
in my mind. Yet they would come again.
It was not until I entered on my last imprisonment—in May,
1843,—that I was conscious of atheistic reasonings becoming habitual.
How swift is the process of depravity, even in the understanding, as well
as in the heart! How rapidly the mind and heart take up an
entrenched position in unbelief, none can tell but those who speak from
experience. I believe those two months of torture, at the beginning
of my two years' imprisonment, served, most fearfully, to bring my
atheistic reasonings to a head. I was conscious of incorruptible
disinterestedness in my advocacy of the rights of the poor. I
regarded my imprisonment, with its harsh treatment, as a grievous wrong.
My tender wife was enduring suffering that brought her near to death.
And the poor were suffering still! I had not lessened their evils an
atom by my struggles. It was a world of wrong, I now reasoned; and
there could not be in it the Almighty and beneficent Providence in which I
had all my life devoutly believed. I must give it all up as a dream!
I had never given up the practice of prayer; and I Knelt
beside my iron slab and bag of straw, though I hardly felt I
prayed—until, one night, I sprang up from my knees, and said, "I'll pray
no more!" Nor did I ever kneel to pray again so long as I remained
in prison. My angered and distempered mind set itself, now,
defiantly to resist the thought of a God. And in the morbid
condition of feeling and thought that grew to be natural in the prison, I
fell into trains of reasoning about moral evil and the pain I supposed to
be so prevalent in creation—such as the reader will occasionally find in
my Prison Rhyme.
As the end of my imprisonment drew nearer, my gloom began to
lessen and hope to brighten. I felt less inclined to dwell on
doubts, and wished I were not troubled with them at all. When the
railway train began to bear me towards London, on that beautiful May
morning of my release; I burst into tears, and sobbed with a feeling I
could not easily subdue, as I once more saw the fields and flowers and
God's glorious sun. The world was so beautiful, I dared not say
there was no God in it; and the old, long-practised feeling of worship
welled up in my heart, in spite of myself.
Nor did I, after my release from imprisonment, yield
helplessly to atheistic reasonings. They would arise in my mind,
perforce of old habit; but I did not settle down in them. I never
proclaimed blank atheism in my public teaching. And I feel certain
that I should have broken away from unbelief altogether, had I not
fastened on Strauss, and become his entire convert. I read and
re-read, and analysed, the translation in three volumes, published by the
Brothers Chapman: the translation begun by Charles Hennell, and finished
by the authoress of "Adam Bede." I became fast bound in the net of
Strauss; and at one time would have eagerly helped to bind all in his net:
nor did I feel thoroughly able to break its pernicious meshes, or get out
of it, myself, for twelve years.
I was so ill during the first week after my release, that I
could not quit my lodging. The kind friend who had sent me pecuniary
relief before I quitted prison, still supplied my wants. As soon as
I had strength for it, I called on Mr. Duncombe, who was then lodging in
the Albany, Piccadilly. He received me with extreme kindness; and
asked what I purposed doing. I told him I had written a poem and
other things, in prison, and wished he could introduce me to a publisher.
"A publisher!" said he, "why, you know, Cooper, I never published anything
in my life. I know nothing of publishers.—Oh, stop!" said he,
suddenly, "wait a few minutes. I'll write a note, and send you to
He wrote the note, and read it to me. As nearly as I
can remember, it ran thus:
"MY DEAR DISRAELI,—I
send you Mr. Cooper, a Chartist, red-hot from Stafford Gaol.
But don't be frightened. He won't bite you. He has written a
poem and a romance; and thinks he can cut out 'Coningsby,' and
'Sybil'! Help him if you can, and oblige, yours
T. S. DUNCOMBE.
"But you would not have me take a note like that?" I
"Would not I?" he answered; "but I would. It's just the
thing for you; get off with you, and present it at once. You'll
catch him at home, just now. Grosvenor Gate—close to the
Park—anybody will tell you the house—now, away with you at once!"
It was Sunday at noon, and away I went to Grosvenor Gate.
A tall Hebrew in livery came to the door, with a silver waiter in his
"This is Mr. Disraeli's, I believe?" I said.
"Yes: but Mr. Disraeli is not at home," was the answer, in
"Then, when will he be at home?" I asked, "as I wish to
present this note of introduction to him, from Mr. Duncombe."
"Mr. Duncombe, the member of Parliament?" asked the man in
livery. And when I answered "Yes," he presented the waiter, and
said, "You had better give me the note: Mrs. Disraeli is at home."
I gave him the note; and he closed the door, I waiting in the
hall. He soon returned, saying, "Mr. Disraeli will see you.
You understand it was my business to say 'Not at home.' You will
"Why don't you bring the gentleman up?" cried a light silvery
voice from above.
The servant led me up the staircase; and, at the top, Mrs.
Disraeli very gracefully bowed, and withdrew; and the servant took me into
what was evidently the literary man's "study"—a small room at the top of
One sees paragraphs very often, now, in the papers about the
expressionless and jaded look of the Conservative leader's face, as he
sits in the House of Commons. Yet, as I first looked upon that face
twenty-six years ago, I thought it one of great intellectual beauty.
The eyes seemed living lights; and the intelligent yet kindly way in which
Mr. Disraeli inquired about the term of my imprisonment, and treatment in
the prison, convinced me that I was in the presence of a very shrewd as
well as highly cultivated and refined man.
"I wish I had seen you before I finished my last novel," said
he; "my heroine, Sybil, is a Chartist."
I gave into his hands the MSS. of the First Book of my
"Purgatory of Suicides."
"I shall be happy to read it," he said; "but what do you wish
me to do?"
"To write to Mr. Moxon," said I, "and recommend him to
publish it—" if you think it right to do so, when you have looked it
"But Mr. Moxon is not my publisher," said he; "and I offered
him a poem of my own, some years ago, but he declined to take it.
Why do you wish me to write to Mr. Moxon so particularly?"
"Because he publishes poetry; and as he has published poetry
of his own—"
"Ah, poet-like!" said the future Prime Minister of
England,—"you think he must sympathise with you, because he is a poet.
You forget that he is a tradesman too, and that poetry does not sell
nowadays. Well, I'll write to Mr. Moxon, when I have looked at your
He then directed me to call on a certain day in the week
following, when he promised a note should be ready for Mr. Moxon.
I presented the note; and Mr. Moxon smiled, and said, "Mr.
Disraeli knows that poetry is a drug in the market. He does not
offer me one of his own novels."
Mr. Moxon declined to receive my poem, assuring me that he
dared not venture to publish any poem of a new author, for there was no
prospect of a sale. He was very courteous, and seemed to wish me to
stay and talk. He also showed me a portrait which he valued highly
in one of his rooms. I think it was a portrait of Charles Lamb.
He also told me that Alfred Tennyson and the venerable Wordsworth had
passed an hour together in that room lately. He looked at Mr.
Disraeli's note, and read it again; and I gave the manuscript of the first
book of my "Prison Rhyme" into his hands; and he read parts of it, and
still detained me, to show me something else; and when I left him, he
"I certainly would publish your poem, Mr. Cooper, if I saw
anything like a chance of selling it; but I repeat to you, that all poetry
is a perfect drug in the market, at present; and I have made up my mind to
publish no new poetry whatever."
I wrote to Mr. Disraeli, and told him that I had failed, and
desired him to take the trouble to write me a note to his own publisher,
Mr. Colburn, as he had offered to do at first.
By the next post, I had the note for Colburn, and soon waited
on him. I sent up the note to his room; and on being invited up-stairs was
met by the little shrewd-looking publisher himself, and his trusty adviser
"We publish no poetry whatever: it is a perfect drug in the
market," said Mr. Schoberl; "but Mr. Disraeli says here, in his note, that
you have written a romance. What is the subject of it, pray?"
I gave him a brief description of it; and, turning to Mr.
Colburn, he said, "I think Mr. Cooper might as well send us the
manuscript, and let us look at it."
"By all means," said Mr. Colburn.
I took the manuscript; and they kept it a few days, when they
sent it back, with a very polite refusal to publish it.
And now I ventured to call upon Mr. Disraeli the second time.
He seemed really concerned at what I told him; and when I asked him to
give me a note to Messrs. Chapman and Hall, he looked thoughtful, and
"No: I know nothing of them personally, and I should not like
to write to them. But I will give you a note to Ainsworth, and
desire him to recommend you to Chapman and Hall."
I took the note to Mr. Ainsworth's house, at Kensal Green.
He was not at home; but his sweet-looking daughter received Mr. Disraeli's
note and my MSS. from my hands very courteously, and assured me she would
give them to her father.
I called again two days after, and was invited into the
drawing-room, into which Mr. Ainsworth entered from his garden. He
was a handsome, fresh-looking Englishman, and showed a very pearly set of
teeth as he smiled. He conversed about my imprisonment; and said the
poetry was excellent, but all poetry sold badly now, and he was afraid
Messrs. Chapman and Hall would not be much inclined to take my poem.
"I think," he said, "I had better give you a note to John
Forster of the Examiner. They consult him about everything
So I next took the MSS., with Mr. Ainsworth's letter, to Mr.
John Forster, and left my parcel at his office, or chambers, in Lincoln's
Inn Fields, for they said he was not in. When I called, two or three
days afterwards, I was met by a stout, severe-looking man, who began to
examine me with the spirit of a bitter Whig examining a poor Chartist at
the bar. He seemed not to hear anything I said, unless it was an
answer to one of his lawyer-like questions; and he usually interrupted me
if I spoke before he put another question to me. I knew that was the
practice of lawyers; but I thought a man with the intellect of John
Forster should sink the character of lawyer—should forget his
profession—while talking to a poor literary aspirant.
"I suppose you would have no objection to alter the title you
give yourself," he said; " I certainly should advise you to strike 'the
"Nay, sir," I replied; "I shall not strike it out. Mr.
Disraeli advised me not to let any one persuade me to strike it out; and I
mean to abide by his advice. I did not resolve to style myself 'the
Chartist' upon the title-page of my book, without a good deal of
My offended interlocutor frowned, and bit his lip; and seemed
determined to get quit of the thing.
"Well, Mr. Cooper," he said, in conclusion, "I will give you
a note to Messrs. Chapman and Hall. There can be no question as to
the excellence of your poetry; but I do not know how far it may be
advisable for Messrs. Chapman and Hall to connect themselves with your
I could not see that any publisher would necessarily connect
himself with my Chartism by publishing my poem; but I said no more to the
Whig literary man for I wanted to be gone.
Messrs. Chapman and-Hall seemed to take great interest in me,
when I went to them. At their own request, I fetched the entire MSS.
of my Prison Rhyme, the Romance, and the Tales, from my lodging, and put
them all into their hands, that they might form their own judgment of
them, as I supposed. But, I have no doubt, the entire parcel was
transferred to Mr. John Forster. About a week passed, and I was told
my Poem and Romance were declined; but they, perhaps, might take
the Tales, if I would wait till some volumes they were then issuing, or
about to issue, in a series, were published. I turned away,
disappointed, in this instance; for the eager interest with which
Messrs. Chapman and Hall first received me, and the manner in which they
requested me to show them all the MSS. I had, had rendered me sanguine
that they would really become my publishers.
DIFFICULTIES AND SUCCESS:
"THE PURGATORY OF SUICIDES" IS PUBLISHED:
I HAD kept aloof from Chartists and Chartism since
my release from imprisonment, for I had learned that O'Connor, in a fit of
jealousy, had denounced me. Somebody, it seemed, had filled him with
the belief that I meant to conspire against him when I got loose. A
few petty subscriptions which had been raised for me in Nottingham, and
elsewhere, were withdrawn in consequence of his denunciations of me in his
Northern Star; and I sent back two or three sums which were sent to
me as Chartist subscriptions.
My disgust at O'Connor's conduct was so great that I had
resolved never to speak to him again. But I was moved to alter my
mind in a way that I could not foresee. I went to call on my old
friend Mr. Dougal Macgowan, the printer of the Kentish Mercury,—whom
I had not seen since I ceased to edit that paper, and left London, in
November 1840. He was now printing the Northern Star, for
O'Connor; for the paper was nearly ruined, like Chartism itself, about
this time, and O'Connor had transferred the publication of the paper from
Leeds to London, with the hope of restoring its circulation. Mr.
Macgowan assured me that O'Connor was sorry for having written against me,
and wished I would call on him at his lodgings in Great Marlborough
Street, as he wished to apologise to me, and renew his friendship with me.
I told Mr. Macgowan that since O'Connor had not signified his recantation
in the Northern Star, I should decline calling upon him.
About a week after I met Mr. Macgowan, and he was very urgent
with me to go and see O'Connor. He assured me that O'Connor took
great interest in my poem, and wished me to read some parts of it to him.
"To tell you the whole truth," said Mr. Macgowan, "he affirms
that if you will give the manuscript into my hands, he himself will pay
for the printing of it. And, surely, if it be printed, we can get it
published, somehow. Do go and see him, and hear what he says, that
you may judge for yourself."
This occurred the very day after my manuscripts had been sent
back by Chapman and Hall, following on the heel of all the other failures.
Macgowan's hint seemed to open the way for escape from difficulty to a man
who was set fast. It was not the way I wanted my poem to get before
the eyes and minds of readers; but when a man is in a strait, he feels he
cannot afford to despise any offer of help.
I went and saw O'Connor, and he apologised with great
apparent sincerity; and said he would make an open apology in his paper.
What rendered me the more ready to forgive him, was the sight of several
letters which had been sent him from Chartists for whom I had done acts of
kindness at considerable cost to myself. The gratuitous malice of
some people would be a puzzling anomaly in the history of human nature, if
experience did not show it to be a history of contradictions. I was
astonished at what I read. Such a twisting of minute, unimportant
facts, and such skill in misinterpreting my motives! I could not
have thought the writers capable of such ingenious and profitless
wickedness, if I had not known their handwriting.
I had to read parts of my "Purgatory" to O'Connor. He
had had the education of a gentleman, and had not lost his relish for
Virgil and Horace, at that time of day; and, while I read, he listened,
and made very intelligent criticisms. He begged that I would permit
him to bear the expense of printing my poem; and that I would put it into
Macgowan's hands immediately. As for a publisher, he felt sure, he
said, that there would be no difficulty in finding one.
So I took my manuscript to Mr. Macgowan, and soon began to
see the proof-sheets. Occasionally, I called on O'Connor, and
conversed with him; and he invariably expounded his Land Scheme to me, and
wished me to become one of its advocates. But I told him I could
not; and I begged of him to give the scheme up, for I felt sure it would
bring ruin and disappointment upon himself and all who entered into it.
He did not grow angry with me at first, but tried to win me by assurances
of his esteem and regard, and of his kindly intentions towards me. I
could not, however, be won; for all he said in explication of his scheme,
only served to render it wilder and worse, in my estimation.
When Macgowan had got as far as the end of the Fourth Book
with the printing of my poem, he proposed that we should take the printed
part and try some of the publishers with it.
"Because," said he, "although O'Connor has given me his word
to pay the cost of printing and binding five hundred copies, yet the book
will need advertising. We ought, therefore, to get some publisher to
take the book, that he may advertise it."
So we set out; and as I had a lingering belief that Messrs.
Chapman and Hall reluctantly gave up their wish to publish my poem through
the influence of their literary adviser, I proposed that we should call on
them first. Mr. Edward Chapman, however, did not seem at all
favourably disposed; and Macgowan was so much disheartened with our
rebuff, that he said he could not proceed further, that day. He
returned to Great Windmill Street, Haymarket; and I turned from Chapman
and Hall's door, in the narrow part of the Strand, to walk to my lodging
in Blackfriars Road. Under the postern of Temple Bar, I ran against
John Cleave; and he caught hold of me in surprise.
"Why, what's the matter, Cooper?" he asked; you look very
miserable, and you seem not to know where you are!"
"Indeed," I answered, "I am very uneasy; and I really did not
see you when I ran against you."
"But what is the matter with you?" he asked again.
"I owe you three-and-thirty pounds," said I; "and I owe a
deal of money to others; and I cannot find a publisher for my book.
Is not that enough to make a man uneasy?"
And then I told him how I and Macgowan had just received a
refusal from the publishing house in the Strand. More I needed not
to tell him; for I had told him all my proceedings from the time I left
prison, and ever found him an earnest and kind friend.
"Come along with me," said he; "and I'll give you a note to
Douglas Jerrold; he'll find you a publisher."
"Do you know Douglas Jerrold?" I asked.
"Know him!" said the fine old Radical publisher; "I should
think I do. I've trusted him a few halfpence for a periodical, many
a time, when he was a printer's apprentice. If he does not find you
a publisher, I'll forfeit my neck. Jerrold's a brick!"
So I went to the little shop in Shoe Lane, whence John Cleave
issued so many thousands of sheets of Radicalism and brave defiance of bad
governments, in his time; and he gave me a hearty note of commendation to
Jerrold, and told me to take it to the house on Putney Common. I
went without delay, and left Cleave's note, and the part of the
"Purgatory" which Macgowan had printed, with Mrs. Jerrold, and intimated
that I would call again in three or four days.
I called, and received a welcome so cordial, and even enthusiastic, that I
was delighted. The man of genius grasped my hand, and gazed on my face, as
I gazed on his, with
"Glad to see you, my boy!" said he; "your poetry is noble—it's manly;
I'll find you a publisher. Never fear it. Sit you down!" he cried,
ringing the bell; "what will you take? some
wine? Will you have some bread and cheese? I think there's some ham—we
It was eleven in the forenoon: so I was in no humour for eating or
drinking. But we drank two or three glasses of sherry; and were busy in
talk till twelve.
"I had Charles Dickens here last night," said he; and he was so taken
with your poem that he asked to take it home. I have no doubt he will
return it this week, and
then I will take it into the town, and secure you a publisher. Give
yourself no uneasiness about it. I'll write to you in a few days, and tell
you it is done."
And he did write in a few days, and directed me to call on Jeremiah How,
132, Fleet Street, who published Jerrold's "Cakes and Ale," Mrs. S. C. Hall's "Ireland and its
Scenery, etc.," the Illustrated "Book of British Ballads," and other
popular novelties of the time. Mr. How
agreed at once to be my publisher; and when he learned from me that I did
not like the thought of O'Connor paying the printer, and that I meant to
repay O'Connor, being
unwilling to receive a favour from him, since we had begun to differ very
unpleasantly concerning the Land Scheme,—Mr. How immediately offered to
go with me to Mr.
Macgowan and take the responsibility of the printing upon himself. Mr. Macgowan readily took an acceptance for the money from Mr. How; I think it
was £45, being the cost
of 500 copies—paper, printing, and binding. It might be a trifle more or
The growth of O'Connor's Land Scheme rendered him haughty towards me, when
he found he could not reckon on me as one of his helpers—of whom he
readily found plenty.
I ceased to visit him at last—for I was either told he was not at home,
or his bearing was unpleasant to me. I forbear to enter into the recital
of the quarrel—the real and fierce
quarrel—I had with O'Connor, afterwards, about his land scheme. Any of my
readers who wish for information regarding it may consult the "History of
the Chartist Movement,"
by Dr. Gammage of Sunderland. I would have mentioned Dr. Gammage's work
earlier and often, if there had not been so many little mistakes in it. Yet
I know no person living who could write a History of Chartism without
making mistakes. I am sure that I could not; and I endeavour, in this
memoir, to keep out of the stream
of its general history; and only refer to Chartism when it becomes
absolutely necessary for making my narrative intelligible.
My "Purgatory of Suicides: a Prison Rhyme, in Ten Books; by Thomas
Cooper the Chartist"—as it was entitled, was published towards the end of
August, 1845. Some will
think, perhaps, that I have been too minute in narrating the sinuosities
of my experience in attempting to get my book before the reading public. Yet I humbly judge that I am
simply making legitimate contributions to literary history, by giving the
details of my experience. The narrative may be of real service to some
poor literary aspirant in the
The first trumpet-blast that was heard in praise of my poem was that from
the Britannia newspaper of August 30th. This periodical had been edited by
Dr. Croly and had risen
to considerable literary reputation and influence. The criticism on my
poem was not written by Dr. Croly, as people have reported; but by the
editor who succeeded him, Mr.
David Trevena Coulton. Mr. Coulton was a most kind-hearted man, and a
great enthusiast in aught that he approved; but his commendation of my
poem was too
undistinguishing, and was greater than it deserved. William Howitt's
generosity led him to write a very enthusiastic eulogy
of my "Prison Rhyme" in the Eclectic Review; and he also sent a very
noble congratulatory letter to me, and I went to see him and good Mary Howitt. Our friendship has
continued till I am growing old, and he is really an old man. None of the
great or leading periodicals of the day noticed my existence; but the
commendations of my
book in smaller periodicals were countless; and the 500 copies which
formed the first edition were sold off before Christmas.
Mr. How seemed kindly desirous of bringing me before the reading public as
fully as possible; and soon proposed to bring out the simple tales I had
written in prison.
Douglas Jerrold had published one of them—and that, perhaps, the very
simplest, "Charity begins at Home"—in his "Shilling Magazine"—for which
I also wrote a few other
things, in prose and verse. Mr. How thought the Tales I had in manuscript
were too numerous for one volume, and persuaded me to give him the
fragment of a story which
was partly autobiographical, in order to make two volumes. These he issued
about eight weeks after the publication of my "Purgatory," and insisted
on calling them "Wise
Saws and Modern Instances"—though I wished them to bear the unpretending
title of "Simple Stories of the Midlands and Elsewhere."
Next, Mr. How proposed that I should issue a Christmas Book; and I agreed
on condition that it should be in rhyme. So "The Baron's Yule Feast"
came to be published. But, as it was not brought out till the middle of
January, the sale was very slow—for the proper opportunity for sale was
Alas! my poor publisher's money was exhausted. He had spent a nice little
fortune on publishing. And now the great printer on whom he had leaned,
and from whom he had
expected credit—even the millionaire, as he was accounted to be—had gone
into the shade, on account of unprosperous railway speculations. In short,
my publisher failed;
and my seemingly bright literary prospects were blighted!
I received thirty-two pounds from Mr. How for the two volumes of Tales;
but not a farthing for the "Purgatory." In fact, though we
talked of my
having £500 for the copyright of
it, we never drew up any agreement in writing, for either the "Purgatory" or "The Baron's Yule Feast": so that my poems were still entirely my
own when Mr. How failed.
Let no one suppose, however, that my literary labours produced me only
disappointment and disaster. One of the first to call public attention to
my "Prison Rhyme" was the
eloquent W. J. Fox, at that time one of the most popular speakers in
London and the country, and afterwards M.P. for Oldham. In addition to his
Sunday morning discourses
at South Place, Finsbury Square, he was at that period also delivering
lectures, on Sunday evenings, on literary and other topics, in the
National Hall, Holborn. He made my "Purgatory" the subject of one of these
Sunday evening lectures; and said more kind things about me than I can
repeat. He also invited me to his house; and from that time honoured me
with a most kind, and I
might almost say a paternal friendship.
Through the commendation of me by Mr. Fox, the Committee of the National
Hall—(among whom were William Lovett, James Watson, Richard Moore, Henry
Charles Hodson Neesom, and other well-known Chartists, of the
anti-O'Connor school)—invited me to lecture. Among the hearers was Mr.
William Ellis, then a plain citizen of
London, but afterwards well-known and most deservedly respected as the
founder of the Birkbeck Schools. He accompanied me to my lodgings in
Blackfriars Road, one
night at the close of October, 1845, and wrote me out a cheque on a
Lombard Street bank for £100.
I paid brave John Cleave his £33; sent part payment to the lawyer for the
expenses of my Trials, "Writ of Certiorari," effecting of "Bail," etc.
etc.,—and also sent sums to
others to whom I was indebted; and felt happier when I had paid away the
£100 than I did when I received it. I had many additional proofs of Mr.
Ellis's munificent kindness
I was favoured with interviews by the Countess of Blessington—to whom,
through Mr. How's persuasion, I dedicated my Christmas Rhyme, or "Baron's
Yule Feast;" and also
by Charles Dickens, with whom I
afterwards corresponded, and for one of whose periodicals I wrote a
little. But the most illustrious man of genius to whom my poem gave me an
introduction was Thomas
Carlyle. I had dedicated my volume to him without leave asked, and from
simple and real intellectual homage—in a sonnet composed but a day or two
before I quitted the
gaol. At first, I meant to prefix a sonnet as a dedication to each book,
and I wrote three or four of the sonnets—one to my playfellow, Thomas
Miller, another to Thomas
Moore (who was then living), and another to Harriet Martineau. But I put
this thought aside—fearing it would be deemed too formal (though there is
a separate dedication
to each book of "Marmion"), and resolved to dedicate the volume to Mr.
Carlyle. I sent him the poem; and he sent me a letter so highly
characteristic of his genius
that I insert it here:—
"Chelsea, September 1, 1845.
"I have received your Poem; and
will thank you for that kind gift, and for all the friendly sentiments you
towards me,—which, as from an evidently sincere man, whatever we may
think of them otherwise, are surely valuable to a man.
"I have looked into your Poem, and find indisputable traces of genius in
it,—a dark Titanic energy struggling there, for which we hope there will
be clearer daylight by-and-by! If
I might presume to advise, I think I would recommend you to try your next
work in Prose, and as a thing turning altogether on Facts, not Fictions. Certainly the
music that is
very traceable here might serve to irradiate into harmony far profitabler
things than what are commonly called 'Poems,'—for which, at any rate, the
taste in these days seems
to be irrevocably in abeyance.
We have too horrible a Practical Chaos round us; out of which every man is
called by the birth of him to make a bit of Cosmos: that seems to me the
real Poem for a man,—especially at present. I always grudge to see
any portion of a man's musical talent (which is the real intellect, the real vitality, or life
expended on making mere words rhyme. These things I say to all my Poetic
friends, for I am in real earnest about them: but get almost nobody to
hitherto. From you I shall get an excuse at any rate; the purpose of my
so speaking being a friendly one towards you.
"I will request you farther to accept this Book of mine, and to
appropriate what you can of it. 'Life is a serious thing,' as Schiller
says, and as you yourself practically know!
These are the words of a serious man about it; they will not altogether
be without meaning for you.
"Unfortunately, I am just in these hours getting out of town; and, not
without real regret, must deny myself the satisfaction of seeing you at
"Believe me to be,
"With many good wishes,
"Yours very truly,
A copy of "Past and Present" came by the same postman who brought me
this letter—containing Mr. Carlyle's autograph. The reader may remember
that the motto to "Past and Present" is from Schiller—"Ernst ist das Leben"—Life is a
I owe many benefits to Mr. Carlyle. Not only richly directoral thoughts in
conversation, but deeds of substantial kindness. Twice he put a five-pound
note into my hand, when I
was in difficulties; and told me, with a look of grave humour, that if I
could never pay him again, he would not hang me.
Just after I sent him the copy of my Prison Rhyme, he put it into the
hands of a young, vigorous, inquiring intelligence who had called to pay
him a reverential visit at Chelsea.
The new reader of my book sought me out and made me his friend. That is
twenty-six years ago, and our friendship has continued and strengthened,
and has never stiffened
into patronage on the one side, or sunk into servility on the
other—although my friend has now become "Right Honourable," and is the
Vice-President of "Her
Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council."
At the very moment that I read the revise of this chapter, my friend has
become about the "best-abused" man in England. But I am so sure of his most
conscientiousness and sterling political integrity, that I fully believe
his most determined foes at the present will become his most devoted
friends in the future.
JOURNEY FOR JERROLD'S PAPER:
INTERVIEW WITH WORDSWORTH: 1846.
IN spite of the difference between O'Connor and myself, I tried to help
the sufferers by Chartism. I had instituted a "Veteran Patriots' Fund,"
and an "Exiles' Widows' and
Children's Fund;" and I endeavoured to keep these funds in existence,
until I was driven out of my purpose by sheer abuse. This, however, did
not prevent me from
ministering to the relief of the sufferers, so far as I was able, myself. I also held it a duty to join in every effort for effecting the recall of
those who had been exiled for political
struggles. On the 10th of March, 1846, noble Thomas Slingsby Duncombe made
a motion, in the House of Commons, for the recall of Frost, Williams, and
with William Ellis, who had been reckoned my fellow-conspirator. The
venerable Richard Oastler, James Watson, Richard Moore, and others, made
efforts to win members of
Parliament to vote for the motion.
We were eager to learn what success we should have; and I went with Mr.
Oastler to the lobby of the
House of Commons, and waited till the division was over. We had the
promise of a vote from Mr. Disraeli; and at a quarter to twelve we
learned the pitiful result, as he came
out of the House into the lobby.
"We have polled but thirty-one," said he; "and there were one hundred and
ninety-six against us. Macaulay made a most bloodthirsty speech."
In the spring of 1846, Douglas Jerrold informed me that he was about to
commence a weekly newspaper, and wished me to contribute to it. He, and
his intelligent adviser,
Mr. Tomline, at length determined that I should go out for three months
through the manufacturing counties, and collect accounts of the
industrial, social, and moral state of
the people. The Times had had its "Commissioner," a short time before,
giving such accounts; and it was proposed that
I should furnish weekly articles to the new paper. It was June before the
arrangements were made for my beginning. I visited the midland and
English-counties, and sent articles to the newspaper, entitled "Condition
of the People of England."
During the first week in September, while at Carlisle, the weather being
as fine as in July, I set out to walk through the Lake country; and as I
drew near Rydal Mount, I could
not resist the desire of making an attempt to see the patriarchal Poet
Laureate. I think it better to insert here the "Reminiscence of
Wordsworth" I inserted in Cooper's
Journal than to write the sketch over again. The reader will please to remember that the article was written and published in May, 1850.
I saw the patriarchal poet who has just departed, in his own home, in
September, 1846; and cannot forbear recording, very briefly, the pleasing
remembrances of that
interview, now that every lover of poetry is dwelling with emotion on the
fact of his death. I had set out from my friend James Arthur's, at
Carlisle, for a four days' walk through
the mountain and Lake country, taking simply my stick in my hand, and a
map of the district in my pocket. On the second day
I climbed Skiddaw; and on the third, having left beautiful Keswick in the
morning, I reached Rydal Lake in the afternoon.
There was a magnet in the very name of Rydal Mount: how was I to get past
it without attempting to see and talk with Wordsworth? I asked, at a
house by the highway
side, where he lived; and was immediately pointed to his cottage, lying upwards and to the left, a
little out of the direct road to Ambleside. I began to walk in that
direction; but I was somewhat puzzled
as to whether my purpose was not too romantic to be carried out.
I had no introduction,—a fact which would have settled the question at
once had I been in London, and the wild thought had entered my head of
attempting to make a call so
unceremoniously on any of the great men of letters living there. But
Rydal Mount, thought I, does not come, cannot come, under the same
category with London: it is an out-of-the-way place; and many must have
come on pilgrimage to it, who
had no introduction. Yes,—I reasoned again,—in their carriages they
might come, and would then seem to assert their right to be attended to;
but what will be said to me,
covered with dust, and having nothing to recommend me, except—but I
scarcely dared to hope it—the patriarchal Poet Laureate should have heard
that a Prison Rhyme was
sent forth last year, by a Chartist,—and yet what sort of a
recommendation would that be to Wordsworth? That was my forlorn hope,
however; and, determined not to fail for
want of trying, I boldly strode up to the door, and knocked.
Behold, a servant-maid came to the door, and when I asked "Is Mr.
Wordsworth in?" and she answered "Yes,"—I was for one moment completely
at a loss—for she looked at
me from head to foot with an expression which told me she was surprised
that I should come there covered with dust, and so plainly dressed. To
send in a request, verbally, I
felt at once would not do.
" Stop a moment!" I said; took off my hat, drew a slip of paper from my
pocket, and resting it on my hat-crown, I wrote instantly—"Thomas Cooper,
author of 'The Purgatory
of Suicides,' desires to pay his devout regards to Mr. Wordsworth." I
requested the maid to present it; and, in half a minute, she
returned, and said, with an altered expression of face, "Come in, sir, if
In another half minute I was in the presence of that majestic old man, and
I was bowing with a deep and heartfelt homage for his intellectual
grandeur—with which his striking
form and the pile of his forehead served to congrue so fully—when he
seized my hand, and welcomed me with a smile so paternal, and such a
hearty "How do you do? I am
very happy to see you"—that the tears stood in my eyes for joy.
How our conversation opened I cannot remember and yet I think every word
he uttered I can recollect—though not the order in which the remarks came
from him. This I
attribute partly to our conversation being broken by the visit of a very
intelligent and amiable lady—(the widow of a great and good man, the late
Dr. Arnold, of
Rugby)—accompanied by her little daughter; and also by my being invited
to take some refreshment in the adjoining room, and at the kind
solicitation of Mrs.
Wordsworth,—whose conversation was of too great excellence for me to
forget it. It related chiefly to Southey, whose bust was in the room; and
for whose genius and
industry—in spite of the Toryism of his manhood—I had a deep admiration,
to say nothing of the noble strains for freedom written in his youth.
What the great author of "The Excursion" said
respecting my Prison Rhyme I shall not relate here; but, remembering what
he said, I can also bear the remembrance that the Quarterly, Edinburgh,
Westminster, and Times, have
hitherto, and alike, judged it fit to be silent as to there being such a
poem in existence.
Nothing struck me so much in Wordsworth's conversation as his remark
concerning Chartism—after the subject of my imprisonment had been touched
"You were right," he said; "I have always said the people were right in
what they asked; but you went the wrong way to get it."
I almost doubted my ears—being in the presence of the "Tory"
Wordsworth. He read the inquiring expression of my look in a moment,—and
immediately repeated what he
"You were quite right: there is nothing unreasonable in your Charter: it
is the foolish attempt at physical force, for which many of you have been blamable."
I had heard that Wordsworth was vain and egotistical, but had always
thought this very unlikely to be true, in one whose poetry is so
profoundly reflective; and I now felt
astonished that these reports should ever have been circulated. To me, he
was all kindness and goodness; while the dignity with which he uttered
every sentence seemed
natural in a man whose grand head and face, if one had never known of his
poetry, would have proclaimed his intellectual superiority.
There was but one occasion on which I discerned
the feeling of jealousy in him: it was when I mentioned Byron. "If there
were time," he said, "I could show you that Lord Byron was not so great a
poet as you think him to
be—but never mind that now." I had just been classing his own sonnets and
"Childe Harold" together, as the noblest poetry since "Paradise Lost;"
but did not
reassert what I said: I should have felt that to be irreverent towards
the noble old man, however unchanged my own judgment remained.
"I am pleased to find," he said, while we were talking about Byron, "that
you preserve your muse chaste, and free from rank and corrupt passion. Lord Byron degraded poetry
in that respect. Men's hearts are bad enough. Poetry should refine and
purify their natures; not make them worse."
I ventured the plea that "Don Juan" was descriptive, and that Shakspeare
had also described bad passions in anatomising the human heart, which was
one of the great
vocations of the poet.
"But there is always a moral lesson," he replied quickly, "in
Shakspeare's pictures. You feel he is not stirring man's passions for the
sake of awakening the brute in them:
the pure and the virtuous are always presented in high contrast; but the
other riots in corrupt pictures, evidently with the enjoyment of the
I diverted him from a theme which, it was clear, created unpleasant
thoughts in him; and asked his opinion of the poetry of the day.
"There is little that can be called high poetry," he said. "Mr. Tennyson
affords the richest promise. He will do great things yet; and ought to
have done greater things by this
"His sense of music," I observed, "seems more perfect than that of any of
the new race of poets."
"Yes," he replied; "the perception of harmony lies in the very essence
of the poet's nature; and Mr. Tennyson gives magnificent proofs that he is
endowed with it."
I instanced Tennyson's rich association of musical words in his "Morte
d'Arthur," "Godiva," "Ulysses," and other pieces—as proofs of his
possessing as fine a sense of
music in syllables as Keats, and even Milton; and the patriarchal poet,
with an approving smile, assented to it.
I assured him how much I had been interested with Mrs. Wordsworth's
conversation respecting Southey, and told him that James Montgomery of
Sheffield, in an interview I
had with him many years before, had spoken very highly of Southey.
"Well, that is pleasing to hear," he observed; "for Mr. Montgomery's
political opinions have never resembled Southey's."
"That was Mr. Montgomery's own observation," I rejoined, "while he was
assuring me that he lived near to Mr. Southey for a considerable time, at
one period of his life, and
he never knew a more estimable man. He affirmed, too, that when people
Mr. Southey's change of political opinions to corrupt motives, they
greatly wronged him."
"And, depend upon it, they did," Wordsworth answered, with great dignity:
"it was the foulest libel to attribute bad motives to Mr. Southey. No
man's change was ever more
sincere. He would have hated himself had he been a hypocrite; and could
never afterwards have produced anything noble."
He repeated Mrs. Wordsworth remarks on Southey's purity of morals, and
immense industry in reading almost always with the pen in his hand; and
his zeal in laying up
materials for future works. With a sigh he recurred to his friend's mental
decline and imbecility in his latter days—and, again, I led him to other
"There will be great changes on the Continent," he said, "when the
present King of the French dies. But not while he lives. The different
governments will have to give
constitutions to their people, for knowledge is spreading, and
constitutional liberty is sure to follow."
I thought him perfectly right about Louis Philippe; and which of us would
not have thought him right in 1846? But yet I had mistaken his estimate of
the "King of the
"Ay, he is too crafty and powerful," said I, "to be easily overthrown;
there will be no extension of French liberty in his days."
"Oh, but you are mistaken in the character of Louis
Philippe," he observed, very pointedly; "you should not call him crafty:
he is a very wise and politic prince. The French needed such a man. He
will consolidate French
character, and render it fit for the peaceable acquirement of rational
liberty at his decease."
I remembered the venerable age and high mental rank of him with whom I was
conversing, and simply said—"Do you think so, sir?"—without telling him
that I thought he
scarcely comprehended his subject. But how the events of 1848 must have
made him wonder!
He had the same views of the spread of freedom in England in proportion to
the increase of knowledge; and descanted with animation on the growth of
"The people are sure to have the franchise," he said, with emphasis, "as
knowledge increases; but you will not get all you seek at once—and you
must never seek it again
by physical force," he added, turning to me with a smile: "it will only
make you longer about it."
A great part of the time he was thus kindly and paternally impressing his
thoughts upon me, we were walking on the terrace outside his
house,—whither he had conducted
me to note the beautiful view it commanded. It was indeed a glorious spot
for a poet's home. Rydal Lake was in view from one window in the cottage,
from another—with all the grand assemblage of mountain and rock that intervened. From the terrace the view of Windermere was magnificent.
The poet's aged and infirm sister was being drawn about the courtyard in a
wheeled chair, as we walked on the terrace. He descended with me, and
introduced me to her—as
a poet!—and hung over her infirmity with the kindest affection, while she
talked to me.
When I hastened to depart—fearing that I had already wearied him—he
walked with me to the gate, pressing my hand repeatedly, smiling upon me
so benevolently, and
uttering so many good wishes for my happiness and usefulness, that I felt
almost unable to thank him. I left him with a more intense feeling of
having been in the presence of
a good and great intelligence, than I had ever felt in any other moments
of my life.
LITERARY AND LECTURING LIFE, IN LONDON;
WHEN I returned from the journey on which I had been
sent to collect matter for the articles on the "Condition of the People,"
furnished to Douglas Jerrold's paper, I was told by Jerrold himself that
he was very sorry to inform me they had not room for me on the paper: it
was sinking in circulation, and they must reduce their staff:
My publisher, Mr. How, had now removed to 209, Piccadilly,
and from what he had said to me before I set out on my journey, I had
hoped, by the time of my return, he would have been able to publish a
second edition of my Prison Rhyme. He requested me not to offer my
book to any other publisher, assuring me he should be in a better position
soon. I waited long: my poem remained out of print a full
year—which was a real loss to myself.
My good friend W. J, Fox, falling ill at the beginning of
1847, he requested me to take his place at South Place, Finsbury Square,
till his recovery. I took it without hesitation; and it caused a few
severe remarks from some Cockney critics. But I saw no inconsistency
in what I did. It was not because I thought I was my peerless
friend's equal in eloquence, that I ventured to stand in his place—for he
had no equal in England. But I thought I could say something worth
hearing, even by Cockneys; and I had not learned to pretend that I feared
to supply the place of another speaker, whoever he might be.
My friend was soon well again, and returned to South Place,
but intimated to me that he should retire from his post as Sunday evening
lecturer at the National Hall; and that he had told the committee he
wished me to succeed him. And so I commenced lecturing on Sunday
evenings in the Hall, so well known at that time in Holborn.
I had on several occasions seen it right to speak strongly
against the old Chartist error of physical force. For the more I
reflected on the past, the more clearly I saw that the popular desire for
freedom had failed through those errors. One night, the elder Mr.
Ashurst, a leading attorney of the city of London, had been among my
hearers; and he desired Lovett to ask me if I would deliver two lectures
in the National Hall on "Moral Force," as a special theme. I
consented; and the "Two Orations against the taking away of Human Life"
were first spoken, and then published, in a pamphlet, by the Brothers
Chapman, who were then publishers in Newgate Street.
Calling on my old friend and playmate, Thomas Miller, one
day, he told me that a series of boys' books was being brought out by
Chapman and Hall, and he had written two or three of the books—but other
writers were wanted; that, as the books were highly illustrated, Mr. Henry Vizetelly, the engraver, was entrusted with arrangements, and I might
apply to him. I called on Mr. Vizetelly, and engaged to write "The
Triumphs of Perseverance" for £25. It was but poor pay. But I
was waiting still for Mr. How; and the lectures at the National Hall were
always suspended in summer: so I was glad to get any employ. Mr.
Vizetelly afterwards gave me £10 to alter the "History of Enterprise"
which had been written by another person. Eventually, the two
volumes were made into one by some other writer, and so published by
During the summer of 1847, I was invited to lecture at the
John Street Institution, Tottenham Court Road. It was still held, in
lease, by Socialists; and I could not help wondering at the strange
changes of my life which had brought me to stand, as a teacher, in the
pulpit at South Place, and on the platform at John Street, where I had
heard Robert Owen and W. J. Fox, on those two Sundays in 1839.
The last administration of Sir Robert Peel was now broken up,
and the general election came on in August. So now, again, I had to
take the place of my eloquent friend, W. J. Fox, on Sunday mornings, at
South Place, that he might be free to contest the borough of Oldham—for
which he was speedily returned M.P.
The political atmosphere, almost everywhere, began now to
show disturbance. In Ireland, the writing and speeches of John
Mitchell caused considerable alarm. Continental affairs also began
to be very unsettled. The really popular course taken by Pope Pio
Nono, in the autumn of 1847, created great hope. There were also
signs of a struggle for increased liberty in Switzerland. I had no
personal acquaintance, up to this time, with the great and good Mazzini;
but, at the request of my friend W. J. Fox, I joined a new society which
Mazzini had projected. It was called "The People's International
League;" and we held our meetings, usually weekly, in the parlour of our
secretary, Mr. W. J. Linton, the engraver, in Hatton Garden,—who has, it
is feared, settled in America.
Mazzini himself was our great source of inspiration. He assured us—months
before it came to pass—that a European Revolution was at hand—a
revolution that would hurl
Louis Phillippe from his throne, and endanger the thrones of others. He
affirmed this as early as in September 1847, when it seemed so unlikely
to some of us. But his
eloquence and enthusiasm had a marvellous effect upon us. He wished, he
said, to rouse intelligent Englishmen to a right feeling and understanding
questions, that we might show our sympathy with the right—when we really
understood where it lay.
There were three or four Poles and Hungarians who were members with us, of
whom Capt. Stolzman was the chief. In addition to my friend W. J. Fox, and
Mr. W. J. Linton
and myself, the English members were—the elder and younger Mr. Ashurst,
the elder and younger Mr. P. A. Taylor, Mr. James Stansfeld, Mr. Sidney
Hawkes, Mr. Shaen,
Mr. Richard Moore, Mr. James Watson, Mr. Henry Hetherington, and Mr.
Goodwyn Barmby. Dr. (now Sir John) Bowring and my friend William Howitt,
members—but neither of them ever attended our meetings. The younger P. A.
Taylor is now the incorruptible and unsubduable M.P. for my native town of
Leicester; Mr. James
Stansfeld is the "Right Honourable President of the Local Government
Board;" and Goodwyn Barmby is a Unitarian Minister at Wakefield.
The wondrous events of the next year put an end to our meetings; but while
they lasted they were deeply interesting. I remember, one evening, Mazzini
had been describing
to us the strong hope he had that an effective, but secret, movement for
the overthrow of Austrian tyranny, was being organized in his beloved
Italy. He then made a strong
appeal to us, whether English lovers of liberty should not show their
sympathy with his patriotic countrymen by subscribing to furnish them with
I ventured to say that I felt doubtful whether it was consistent for some
of us who were lamenting the physical force folly of some in our own
were often and openly protesting against it, to conspire for aiding
another people with arms. Young Peter Taylor followed me on the same side.
But before any other could
speak, Mazzini sprang up.
"Mr. Cooper, you are right about your own country," he said—and those
wondrous eyes of his were lit up with a power that was almost
overwhelming; "you are right about
your own country. You have had your grand decisive struggle against
Tyrannous Power. Your fathers brought it to the block; and you have now a
and you have Charters and Written Rights to appeal to. You need no
physical force. Your countrymen only need a will and union
to express it, and you can have all you need. But what are my countrymen
to do, who are trodden down under the iron heel of a foreign tyranny?—who
seized, and imprisoned before anyone knows what has become of them? What
are my countrymen to do, I ask you? They have no Representation—they have
Charters—they have no Written Rights. What must my countrymen do?
They must fight!"
We were all subdued—for he was unanswerable. And when February brought
the French Revolution, it seemed to me as if I had listened to one who
possessed a degree of
prophetic foresight which is given to few among men. And the wonders that
followed, in the year 1848, rendered it the most remarkable year of the
century,—unless the last year, 1870, be deemed still more remarkable
I resumed my Sunday evening lectures at the National Hall, in September,
1847, and continued them till February, 1848—when I gave offence to
Lovett and his
fellow-committeemen, by changing the subject of my lecture that I might
describe the struggle in France, as the majority of my hearers wished me
to do. I was soon
solicited to transfer my work to the John Street Institution; and there I
continued to lecture for a long time.
We lodged in Blackfriars Road when my Prison Rhyme was published;
afterwards in Islington; and then in Devonshire Street, Red Lion Square. But on the 10th of February,
1848, I ventured once more to become a householder; and from that time,
for seven years following, I lived at 5, Park Row, Knightsbridge. It was
the pleasantest house I had
ever had in my life. The access to it was through "Mill's Buildings," a "long square" tenanted chiefly by workpeople and washerwomen, and,
therefore, not likely to attract
fashionables. But the houses forming "Park Row," though somewhat old, were
large and roomy, and must have been tenanted by "considerable" sort of
We had no access to Hyde Park, but we looked into it from our really
beautiful parlour; and had daily views of the Guards, and Royalty, and
great people, passing by, in the
Finding at length that poor How was sinking into greater difficulties, and
that I could not hope to see
his name again on any book of mine, as the publisher, I yielded to a
request which was pressed upon me greatly by working men, that I would let
my Prison Rhyme be
issued in numbers at twopence each, that they might have it within their
power to purchase it. I made arrangements with James Watson to bring it
out in numbers; and we
were to have shared the profits. But some time after, when I was greatly
in want of money, I sold the copyright to Watson for £50. In the year
1860, however, a young
intellectual friend (Mr. Thomas Chambers, of H. M. Customs, who possesses
the original MS. of my Prison Rhyme) bought back the copyright from him,
and presented it to
me, so that the copyright of my poetry remains my own. I ought also to say
that Watson gave leave to Chapman and Hall, for a fixed sum, to publish a
given number of
copies, of a superior appearance to his own, or "The People's Edition." So
Chapman and Hall's edition was called the "Third Edition."
Being so thoroughly separated from O'Connor and his party, I was entirely
kept out of the "Tenth of April" trouble, and all the other troubles of
the year 1848. I was visited,
however, by all sorts of schemers, who wished to draw me into their plots
and plans; for plotters and planners were as plentiful as blackberries in
1848. The changes on the
Continent seemed to have unhinged the minds of thousands. It was not only
among O'Connor Chartists, or Ernest Jones Chartists, and the Irish Repealers, that there
were plots, open and secret. I got into the secret of one
plot of which a grave old politician of great intelligence had become a
member. I was amazed at the infatuation displayed by himself and a fine
young fellow who lodged with
him. I saved them both; but had some difficulty in doing it. I will
describe the affair—but must not mention names.
A tall, dark-looking man came to visit me one day, addressing me with an
air of amazing frankness: assuring me that he had been in the Detective
Police Force, and knew
all about their system; but that he hated the government, and wanted to
overthrow it and all other tyrannies upon the earth. He was proceeding to
tell me what were his plans
for a revolution; but I would not hear them. He seemed determined to
proceed; but I assured him he had come to the wrong man, and refused to
listen. He was
evidently maliciously disappointed; and I was glad when he was gone.
I had not mentioned his visit to any one. But, four days after, meeting
the grave, matured politician I have already referred to, in Fleet
Street,—he drew me into one of
the courts, and began to tell me that he had entered into a solemn promise
to assist in
"ending the present state of things" promise one bold stroke. I asked
what he really meant; and he began to inform me that one was at the head
of the plot who had
formerly been in the Detective Force, and knew all the secrets of the
police. I scented the personality he referred to—but let him go on. A
young friend of his, he said, had
undertaken to be one of five who should fire London, in different places,
with a chemical composition which would burn stone itself: nothing could
resist it. In the confusion that must arise, the head of the plot that he
had referred to would mount a
horse and gallop through the town, proclaiming himself the Dictator.
The Irish Confederates, he said, had promised to bring out all their force; and when resistance had been overcome—if any were offered—a Republican
government would be
I never felt more astonished in my life than I did at the complete
infatuation of the man. I walked home with him; and asked what time his
young lodger would be in. "In
about another hour," he said, "he
would come to his dinner." So I determined to stay and see him, and talked
on till he came. The young man seemed more completely infatuated than the
The plot was to be executed on the next night but one—and so I knew there
was no time to lose. I asked the young man if he knew what the composition
was that would
burn stone. He instantly mentioned some chemical—the name of which
I have forgot, and said if it were placed on a stone, and sugar of lead
were put to it, it would burn up the stone. I asked if he had tried
it—for I saw
I must proceed quietly. He confessed he had not. I said I should like to
see it tried: would he go out and purchase the chemicals at two or three
different shops? He
consented—went out—and soon returned.
We went downstairs, and then into what Londoners call a "back place,"
which had a brick floor—but there was one large stone in the floor. The
young man eagerly put a
portion of the chemical on the stone. Then, tying a spoon to a stick, he
filled the spoon with sugar of lead; and, standing at a distance from the
stone, he stretched out the
stick and poured the sugar of lead on the chemical. There was a sudden
pink-coloured blaze, and all was over. The stone was scarcely tinged with
black. I urged him to try it
again; and then to try it on wood,—but it would not fire either!
The young man looked mortified and ashamed; and I took him upstairs to the
elder man and communicated the result of our trial; and the elder man
looked vexed and
ashamed. But I saw now that I had some advantage in talking to them.
"How came you to believe such a wild tale without trying it?" I said. "I can venture my head on the assertion that no man in the world knows of a
which you can place on the stones of the street and set them on fire—or
burn stone houses, or brick houses, either. This scoundrel who has drawn
you into this mad plot
came to me, before he came to you—"
"Came to you?"
"Came to me, and told me the same tale of his having been in the
Detective Force; but I stopped him—although I had to use threatening in
order to do it. He seeks to ruin
"I'll shoot him if he plays me false," exclaimed the younger man.
"You had better have no more to do with him; but tell him, when he calls
to-night, to walk off."
"Oh no! I shall not do that," said the younger man; "the job will be done
to-morrow night, and I mean to go through with it."
The elder man now joined the younger in denouncing my attempt to put them
off their foolish scheme. It was time the bad state of things was altered,
he said. He had been
struggling all his life against bad governments; and now a determined
stroke was to be played, he would not draw back.
I left them; but returned at night, and renewed my entreaties. I reminded
the elder man that he knew the names of Castles, and Oliver, and Edwards,
the old spies and
bargainers for "blood-money" in Castlereagh and Sidmouth's time, as well
as I did; and he might be sure the brood of such vermin was not extinct
yet. As the fellow did not
come at nine o'clock, according to promise, the younger man said he would
go out, and try to find him.
"Nay," I said; "you had better stay. Let him come, and let me confront
Ten o'clock struck; but he did not come. No doubt he had seen me enter the
house; and so felt it would destroy his scheme to meet me, if I had not
destroyed his scheme
already. I told the two deluded men that the fellow most likely knew that
I was in
the house, and would not come in. The younger man jumped up, and said he
should like to know if it were so, and would go to the house of a friend
who lived near, and
ask if he had called there.
The young man returned, but not with any news of the whereabouts of the
mysterious would-be Dictator. Yet he had learned that the Irish
Confederates had signified they
could not "come out" the next night: so, most likely, the thing would be
put off for the present.
I went again the next day, and found that a night's reflection had
produced a change. Neither the young man nor the elder one talked so
confidently as before. They seemed
greatly to wonder that their chief had failed to call.
"If he has been laying a lying information against us, and means to visit
us to-day and bring some of the Force with him," said the elder man, "he
can prove nothing against
"He could only assert that he had visited you in your houses," I said;
"and it would be strange evidence to give against you—though you were
unwise to listen to him. I feel
sure you are in no danger from him, if you refuse to let him enter your
house when he calls again; and tell him you will have nothing more to do
They did not promise—but I saw they would take my advice. So long as the
old politician lived, he never met me without a blush.
Let me add another reminiscence—but of a very different character—before
I conclude this chapter. I mentioned the fact that I met my old Italian
instructor Signor D'Albrione on
the day of the riot in the Potteries; and in the latter part of 1845 I
found him again, in London. We agreed that he should resume his old office
as my French and Italian
teacher; and we kept the agreement till I went out into the North of
England for Jerrold's paper in 1846. When I returned, as we went into a
new lodging, he failed to find me;
and as I had no knowledge of where he lived—for he was always reticent
about it—I could not find him.
One forenoon in the close of 1847, I was passing over Blackfriars Bridge
when I caught sight of a tall figure, almost in rags, bending over the
parapet, with such a look of
misery that, at first, I did not recognize in it the noble face of the
brave old Carbonaro and soldier of Napoleon. Believing it to be the face
of D'Albrione, I called him by
his name. He did not speak, but turned upon me a glance of despair that I
can scarcely describe—while he sobbed, and the tears rolled down his
"My good friend," I said, "what are you doing here?" He pointed
significantly to the river beneath.
"Oh, nay, come away," I said, "come away, and tell me about
yourself—don't think of that!"
He told me his dark tale of distress, and it was dark indeed. His teaching
had fallen off, till, at last, he could not get food, and his strength
sank; and when he had pawned everything but the rags he wore, he did not
feel strength or courage to apply for employment in his profession as a
teacher of languages. I helped to keep him on his legs—though his
constitution was gone—until the political earthquake came in 1848; and
then he asked me to raise him a little money, and give him an introduction
to Mazzini, who, he felt sure, would complete the means of getting him
home to his native Turin. The noble heart of Mazzini was touched
with the misfortunes of his countryman, and he effectually opened the
exile's path back to his birthplace. Doubtless the poor wanderer has
long since been borne to his rest on his native soil.
LITERARY AND LECTURING LIFE CONTINUED:
IN the year I848, I think, Chartists were wilder
than we were in 1842, or than the members of the First Convention were in
1838. Experience had rendered me a little wiser than to suffer
myself to be mixed up again with any plot, however plausible: so I kept
out of them all. If the reader would know the wild Chartist history
of 1848, and learn how imprisonment, and death in prison, were the lot
that fell to some of its victims, he can consult Dr. Gammage, as I told
him before. As I had nothing to do with the monstrous "National
Petition," or the meeting on Kennington Common, or the "glorious 10th of
April," or any of the "monster meetings" of the year, I am cut off,
happily, from the later Chartist history of violence and failure.
Mention of that memorable "10th of April" calls up one
agreeable reminiscence. On the evening before the day, I was kindly
invited by my highly intelligent friend Dr. Garth Wilkinson to join a
party, in his house at Hampstead, to meet Emerson, the illustrious American. He was the only American in whose company I ever felt
real enjoyment. The few Americans I have ever met displayed too much of my
own native mood—the
imperative—to render them pleasant companions. I met Margaret Fuller
twice, during the time she was in London—once at W. J. Fox's, and the
other at Hugh Doherty's; but
felt only a modified pleasure in her company. She talked in a nasal tone,
and lifted up her head to shout, so as to be heard by all in the room—behaviour
so utterly foreign
to an Englishman's notions of womanliness! Emerson did not talk in his
and why any American should, I cannot see. Why
do they not master the bad habit? Emerson's talk was gentle and good;
and his manners were those of a quiet English gentleman. I walked into
London with him—as he
had intimated a wish to walk. It was Sunday evening; and he made
observations on a host of subjects, as we gently walked on—for he would
not hurry. Religion,
Politics, Literature—ours, and America's: he seemed eager to learn all
he could, and willing to communicate all he could. He seemed to think and
talk without pride or
conceit, and with remarkably good common-sense, so far as my humble
I could say anything to him—but I could not talk to Margaret Fuller. I
remember that my friend. Mr. Fox left his arm-chair to come to the
opposite side of his drawing-room,
and remind me that I had not
yet spoken to his American guest. And if he had not done so, I do not
think I should have exchanged words with her—though my friend Willie Thom
stood and conversed with
her a long time.
Poor Willie Thom! how melancholy it seems to look back upon the close of
the history of the weaver poet of Inverury! especially when one calls to
mind what his natural
endowments were, despite his lowly condition. Mr. Fox used to say that
Willie Thom had the richest powers of conversation of any man he had ever
known; and Mr. Fox had
been intimate with Leigh Hunt, and Macready, and Pemberton, and Talfourd.
And, indeed, it required an effort to free yourself from the conviction
that you were conversing with a thoroughly educated man when you talked
with Willie Thom. The thought in every word he used was wondrous, even on the commonest
And then he sang so sweetly! We got up a weekly meeting, at one time, at
the Crown Tavern, close to the church of St. Dunstan's-in-the-West, Fleet
Street; and it was
chiefly that we might enjoy the society of Willie Thom. Julian Harney,
and John Skelton (now Dr. Skelton), and old Dr. Macdonald, and James
Devlin, who wrote "The
Shoemaker," and Walter Cooper, and Thomas Shorter, and a few others were
members of our weekly meeting. Willie Thom usually sang us his "Wandering
Willie," or "My ain wee thing:" and sometimes I sang them my prison
songs, "O choose thou the maid with the gentle blue eye," and "I would
not be a crowned king."
The poor poet's singings soon came to an end. After the publication of his
first and only volume, he was induced (as he always said, by Gordon of Knockespock) to come
and settle in London, under false promises. Money had been subscribed for
him by Scottish merchants in India and others—I think to the amount of
£400. But he made no
proper use of it. He yielded to people who urged him to sit up singing and
drinking whisky the whole night through. And although he had some
constitution left when I first
knew him, it soon faded. Again and again, I carried invitations to him,
from Douglas Jerrold, to contribute to the Shilling Magazine, and also
from William Howitt, to
contribute to his periodical; but it was in vain.
"Nay-nay!" he used to say, with an air of wretchedness; "I can do nae
such thing as they ask, although they promise me siller for it. I threw
off my lilts
o' the heart in auld time, when I had a heart; but I think I've none left,
At last, he was reduced to absolute starvation, in London. He had married
his servant after the death of his first wife; and when she was in a
condition that needed some
amendment of life, they were at the lowest. She actually brought forth her
child without any help from a medical man, her own husband in the
room,—and they were
without food! George Jacob
Holyoake, living near them, was the first to learn the fact; threw them
his last sovereign, and ran out to seek the proper help the poor woman
I went to Mr. P. A. Taylor (the present M.P. for Leicester) so soon as I
heard the sorrowful facts; and he promised to renew the help he and his
friends had formerly rendered
the poor poet. It was perceived, however, that there was no hope for him
in London. So, by the interest of Sir Wm. Forbes, £40 was obtained from
the Literary Fund, and he
was sent down to Dundee, under a promise that he would return to the loom. He lived but a few months, and his wife but a few months after him; and
they lie buried together
in Dundee Cemetery, not far from the grand river Tay.
During the stirring year of 1848, I kept on at my lecturing work, on
Sunday evenings, at the John Street Institution. I had large audiences, to
listen to history and foreign and
home politics, mingled with moral instruction. One great charm of these
evenings, for myself, was the music. There was a good organ, and I strove
to direct the taste
of the choir to Handel and Mozart and Haydn and Beethoven; and the result
was that we soon had some thorough good chorus-singing.
I had crowds to listen to me in the winter of 1848-9. And I might have
done great good if I had continued simply to teach history, and to deal
with the stirring politics of the time. But I had now become a thorough adherent of Strauss. I believed his "Mythical System" to
be the true interpretation of what was called Gospel History. So, in my
evil zeal for what I
conceived to be Truth, I delivered eight lectures, on successive Sunday
evenings, on the teachings of the "Leben Jesu." I soon repeated them in
the "Hall of Science,"
City Road—for I began in October, 1848, to lecture, alternately, at that
place and at John Street. There is no part of my teaching as a public
lecturer that I regret so deeply
as this. It would rejoice my heart indeed if I could obliterate those
lectures from the Realm of Fact. But it can
not be. We must bear the guilt and take the consequences of all our acts
which are contrary to the will of Him Who made us, and Who has a right to
In December, 1848, Mr. Benjamin Steill, of 20, Paternoster Row, asked me
if I were willing to conduct a weekly penny periodical, to be devoted to
Radical politics and
general instruction. I answered "Yes;" for I could have no doubt that the
original publisher of Wooler's Black Dwarf and I would well agree in our
political views. Mr. Steill
allowed me to choose a name for the new serial; and, without knowing that Hazlitt had formerly conducted a periodical, or rather published a series
of papers under that title,
I determined to call it "THE PLAIN SPEAKER."
Mr. Steill gave me but two pounds per week, and
expected me to write the greater part of the contents. But with the third
number he introduced Wooler, the aged editor of the famous old Black
Dwarf, of the times of Hunt and
Cobbett. Yet Wooler did not help me effectually.
"He was, at one time, the finest epistolary writer in England," said Mr. Steill in his commendation. But the stilted style of the
however it had been relished by
the men of a former generation, was not in favour with the men of my
generation, and they could see no resemblance to "Junius" in him. Nor
was Wooler's conversation
more animated than his style: it was "flat, stale, and unprofitable."
The best papers I wrote in the Plain Speaker were my "Eight Letters to the
Young Men of the Working Classes." They were afterwards published as a
and sold in thousands. I do not think I ever wrote anything that was
instrumental of so much real good as those Letters.
Letters to Richard Cobden, the Duke of Grafton, the Bishop of London,
Joseph Hume, Lord Ashley, the Duke of Beaufort, Lord John Russell, the
Earl of Carlisle, the Earl of
Winchilsea, Sir Robert Inglis, Sir Robert Peel, the Archbishop of
Canterbury, James Garth Marshall of Leeds, Sir E. N. Buxton, John Bright,
Benjamin Disraeli, the Marquis of
Granby, R. Bernal Osborne, Sir Joshua Walmsley, Lord Stanley, the Duke of
Rutland, Lord Brougham, and others, all more or less political, form the
of my writing for the Plain Speaker. But the letters to the "Right
Reverend the Lord Harry of Exeter" were considered to be the most amusing
part of the series.
In the spring of 1849, I lectured in Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester,
Liverpool, Bolton, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Shields, Sunderland, Carlisle, Leeds,
and York; and still kept up
my writing for the Plain Speaker. In the month of May, the kind and true
friend to whom Thomas Carlyle showed my Prison Rhyme, asked me to go over
with him to Paris.
I hesitated; but my dear wife said I should, perhaps, never have such
another offer in my life; and when I consulted Mr. Steill, he said I
could write from Paris. So I
consented. Under the titles "Five Days in Paris" and "A Sunday in
Calais," I gave a sketch of my experiences, in the current numbers of the
That was the only time I was ever on the Continent; and I feel myself
under lasting obligations to my friend for affording me the opportunity of
seeing Paris, and Versailles,
and St. Denis, and Calais with my own eyes.
I went over to Leicester in 1849, and addressed meetings, at the request
of several old friends, who wished me to present myself again as a
candidate for the representation
of my native town in Parliament. I speedily gave up the project, clearly
discerning that no poor man, unconnected with aristocracy, or powerful
local influences, can succeed
in such a purpose.
During this year I also lectured at Cheltenham and Northampton, and other
In August, 1849, I ceased to write for the Plain Speaker. The paper was
not got out at the proper time of the week (the proprietor not being able
to buy the materials), and so
the circulation sank. To enable Mr. Steill to cope a little better with
difficulties, I gave up half of my salary as editor; but he still was too
late in the week with the
publishing; and, seeing no hope of amendment, I withdrew. Wooler and he
struggled on with the paper to the end of the year.
I cannot close my account of the year 1849 without
recording a slight incident connected with the memory of a man of real
genius. My friend George Searle Phillips (or "January Searle ") was on a
visit to Ebenezer Elliott, and, in my name, presented him with a copy of
my " Purgatory of Suicides," and also intimated my wish to see him. The
poet (who died very soon after) sent me his mind in a note which is, at
once, so characteristic of the man, that I present it to the reader:—
"Hargate Hill, near Barnsley,
"9th September, 1849.
"DEAR MR. COOPER,
"Stone deaf, as I am at present, and agonized with unintermitting pain, I
could not welcome a visit from Dante himself, even if he brought with him
a sample of the best brimstone pudding which may be prepared for me in the low country.
But if I should recover, and you then happen to be in my neighbourhood, you will need no introduction but your name; and I will promise
you a hearty welcome, bacon and eggs, and a bed.
" I am, dear sir,
"Yours very truly,
Before the end of the year, I was strongly urged by all my friends to
commence a weekly penny periodical on my own account; and so on Saturday,
January 5th, 1850, the
first number of Cooper's Journal was published by James Watson, who lived
then at "3, Queen's Head Passage," one of the passages between Paternoster
Newgate Street. I regret deeply that I was persuaded by my freethinking
friends to publish my Lectures on Strauss's "Leben Jesu," in the new
periodical. I had many
misgivings about it; but some of them urged it so strongly, that I
committed myself to a promise, and then felt bound to fulfil it.
Of course, I had to furnish the greater portion of writing for each number; but I was kindly assisted by friends in filling up the weekly pages of
Cooper's Journal. My best
contributors of poetry were Gerald Massey (some of whose
first appeared in my periodical), J. A. Langford (now Dr. Langford) of
Birmingham, and poor William
Jones of Leicester. There were scattered pieces of rhyme by W. Moy Thomas
(now editor of Cassell's Magazine), William Whitmore of Leicester, and
others. My best
and most productive prose contributor was Frank
Grant—a young man of very considerable powers of mind, but an invalid for
years, by paralysis of his lower limbs. He was the son of an excellent
clergyman in the
Staffordshire Potteries, but was a free thinker—and that most
conscientiously. Other contributors were my beloved friend Samuel M. Kydd
(now a barrister-at-law), George
Hooper (author of "The Battle of Waterloo," and an active member of the
London newspaper press), my very old intellectual friends, J. Yeats of
Hull, and Richard Otley of
Sheffield, Thomas Shorter (secretary of the Working Men's College), and a
There were sold, altogether, of the first number, 9,000; but the sale
soon began to decline. At the end of June I suspended the publication, by
announcement, for three
months. But the recommencement, in October, was so unsuccessful, as to
lead me to close the publication entirely at the end of that month.
During the months of January, February, March, April, and May, 1850, I
lectured, on Sunday nights, alternately, at the John Street Institution,
Tottenham Court Road, and
the Hall of Science, City Road. And during these months I also lectured,
on other nights of the week, in several of the smaller Institutes of
London. The months of June, July,
and August were devoted to travelling—when I lectured at Coventry, Hull,
Newcastle-on-Tyne, Sunderland, North Shields, Alnwick, Carlisle,
Middlesborough, York, Leeds, Keighley, Wakefield
Huddersfield; Bradford, Sheffield, Rotherham, and Doncaster, together with
Pudsey, Heckmondwike, Cullingworth, and other smaller towns in Yorkshire;
and afterwards at
Cheltenham, Norwich, and Southampton. The subjects on which I lectured in
these journeyings were—the Lives and Genius of Milton, Burns, Byron, and
Shelley; the Genius
of Shakspeare; the Commonwealth and Cromwell; the Wrongs of Ireland; and
sometimes I lectured on the political changes at home and on the