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John Thelwall: Critical Reassessments


Yasmin Solomonescu
University of Notre Dame


1.         Almost two centuries after his death, the Romantic-period political reformer John Thelwall is undergoing a remarkable critical renaissance. In the past five years alone he has been the subject of three conferences, a four-volume selected writings, an inaugural collection of essays, diverse articles and chapters, a dramatic premiere, a special issue of the journal Romanticism, and a campaign to restore his grave. [1]  In the recent opinion of one scholar, Michael Scrivener, “a strong argument can be made that one does not understand Romanticism in sufficient depth if one has not engaged seriously the oeuvre of Thelwall” (Rev. of Peripatetic). The discovery in 2004 of a three-volume faircopy of Thelwall’s poetry that includes several previously unknown compositions, notably a satire on the leading poets of the day, makes only the most recent addition to that strikingly diverse oeuvre. [2]  A quintessential Romantic polymath, Thelwall also composed political lectures and pamphlets; a controversial essay on the principle of life; five collections of poetry; [3]  three anti-imperialist plays; an abolitionist, feminist novel; a novelistic miscellany in verse and prose; periodical essays and reviews; and copious writings on elocution and speech therapy.

2.         That these works have gone largely unremarked for so long is owing partly to their rarity, and partly to their author’s “radical” stigma. Along with Thomas Hardy and John Horne Tooke, Thelwall was a key defendant at the Treason Trials of 1794, when the Pitt government attempted to suppress the radical reform movement by depriving it of its leaders—and its leaders of their heads. (The penalty for “compassing” and “imagining” the king’s death was hanging.) [4]  Although the prosecution’s claims that the defendants had been conspiring to depose the king and establish a French-style republic would not stick, the “acquitted felon” label stayed with them for life [5]  (for a time, however, friends like Coleridge preferred to think of Thelwall as a “virtuous High-Treasonist” [Letters 1: 259]).

3.         With the exception of Charles Cestre’s 1906 study, John Thelwall: A Pioneer of Democracy and Social Reform in England during the French Revolution, based partly on six manuscript volumes purchased at auction in 1904 and now lost, [6]  Thelwall was largely relegated to the footnotes of history until the mid-twentieth century, when he emerged as a hero of the British left in E. P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class (1963). Since then, he has become a recurrent figure in studies of late eighteenth-century political culture. Singling him out as the foremost republican writer in Britain after Paine’s flight to France in 1792, Gregory Claeys argues in The Politics of English Jacobinism: Writings of John Thelwall (1995) that Thelwall’s adaptation of the Lockean natural rights tradition in response to widespread poverty resulted in a “new vision of economic justice” that laid a foundation for the development of socialist and liberal thought in the nineteenth century (liii). [7]  Meanwhile, Thelwall’s equally innovative and prolific literary and elocutionary works have attracted increasing attention since the publication in 2001 of both Michael Scrivener’s Seditious Allegories: John Thelwall and Jacobin Writings and Judith Thompson’s edition of Thelwall’s verse-and-prose work The Peripatetic of 1793. In the intervening decade, scholars have begun to challenge earlier dismissals of Thelwall as a “mediocre poet” (Thompson, Making 172) and a prosodist-elocutionist who would have been “none the worse of a hanging” (Saintsbury 157). The most recent additions to a growing body of Thelwall scholarship include Incle and Yarico and The Incas: Two Plays by John Thelwall (2006), edited by Scrivener and Frank Felsenstein; the four-volume Selected Political Writings of John Thelwall (2009), edited by Corinna Wagner and Robert Lamb; and the collection John Thelwall: Radical Romantic and Acquitted Felon (2009), edited by Steve Poole. The latter grew out of two Thelwall conferences held in 2007 to mark the end of a successful campaign to restore his weathered gravestone in Bath, where he died of “some affection of the heart” while on an elocutionary lecture-tour in February 1834, age sixty-nine (“Mr. Thelwall”).

4.         Like the gravestone, Thelwall’s oeuvre stands in need of further attention. Indeed, we are only just beginning to appreciate the diversity, originality, and coherence of a career that spanned four decades and brought Thelwall into contact with the leading Romantic writers, artists, thinkers, and activists. E. P. Thompson accurately remarked that Thelwall “straddled the world of Wordsworth and of Coleridge, and the world of the Spitalfields weavers” (Making 172). A leading representative of “romantic sociability,” [8]  Thelwall also belonged to overlapping Romantic circles centred variously around Godwin and Holcroft; the radical publishers Daniel Isaac Eaton and Richard Phillips; the democrat-physicians Henry Cline, Astley Cooper, and Peter Crompton; the Norwich intellectuals William Taylor, Anne and Annabella Plumptre, and John and Amelia Opie; the Derby Philosophical Society members Erasmus Darwin and William and Joseph Strutt; the Westminster reformers Francis Place, Francis Burdett, John Hobhouse, and John Cartwright; and other figures including “the disputation metaphysical Hazlet [sic],” “poor Gilly” [Gilbert] Wakefield, Robert Southey, Charles Lamb, Thomas Noon Talfourd, and Henry Crabb Robinson. [9]  Yet Thelwall’s practice is not in the end strictly comparable to any of theirs. He drew self-consciously on all the major traditions and discourses of the day to create a body of work as “radical” and heterogeneous as the conjunction of political, medical, and cultural discourses that informed it. If, as Thelwall maintained, “style is the shadow of mind” (Peripatetic 71), it is notable that his was consistently humane and democratizing, even when repression forced him to take a vow of “inviolable silence” on political issues (Retirement xxxvi).

5.        The range of Thelwall’s interests and the scope for new archival discoveries are manifest in a “find” I made in the National Art Library at the Victoria and Albert Museum, just as I was completing the editing of this collection: a copy of George Wilkins’s play The Miseries of Inforst Marriage (1629), owned and annotated by Thelwall. [10]  The play may have been part of the large library that Thelwall amassed on the success of his career as an elocutionist in the early nineteenth century, the contents of which were sold at auction in 1820, as detailed in Patty O’Boyle’s essay in this collection. In addition to underlining and marginal scoring, Thelwall’s copy of the play bears two evaluative notes. The first, written on the flyleaf and signed “J. T.” (with “John Thelwall” added by a different hand), praises the “witty foolery” of the first scene, “which reminds us so strongly of the characteristic humour of Shakespeare’s Clowns,” and regrets that later scenes fall short of this standard; the second note, written on the back of the last page, remarks that it was “miserable want of judgment in the author” not to give the play a “tragical catastrophe.” The volume thus adds to the growing body of Thelwall annotations and inscriptions—including those on Bowles’s Sonnets, Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria, and Wordworth’s Excursion—that candidly supplement what we already know of his professional and personal opinions. The volume also suggests how Thelwall was remembered in the later nineteenth century. A note by Alexander Dyce (1798-1869), the literary scholar who bequeathed the play and thousands more works to the South Kensington Museum, identifies its previous owner as “John Thelwall,—a person of some talents in literature, & of great notoriety in consequence of his having been tried for high treason.”

6.         Capitalizing on this conjunction of new material and renewed critical momentum, the present volume aims to help restore Thelwall to his rightful place in history and Romantic studies by publishing a varied selection of papers from a two-day conference that Judith Thompson and I co-organized at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, in October 2009. “The Art and the Act: John Thelwall in Practice” sought to highlight the conjunction of arts and acts in Thelwall’s theory and practice, while bringing together the British and North American Thelwall communities in a geographically and historically significant location. An Atlantic midway point between the UK and the US, Halifax was the site of a Canadian, and more specifically Nova Scotian, conjunction of literature, oratory, and reform, manifest in the achievements of the nineteenth-century journalist and politician Joseph Howe, the inventor and speech scientist Alexander Graham Bell, and the adult educator and co-operative movement pioneer Moses Coady.

7.         Both the conference and this volume take inspiration from Thelwall’s ideal of unrestricted intellectual exchange in an expanded public sphere. Insisting on the futility of government attempts to silence the radical movement through arrests, surveillance, harassment, and “gagging” laws, Thelwall remarked that

a sort of Socratic spirit will necessarily grow up, wherever large bodies of men assemble. Each brings, as it were, into the common bank his mite of information, and putting it to a sort of circulating usance, each contributor has the advantage of a large interest, without any diminution of capital. (“Rights” 401)
Adapting Thelwall’s metaphor to the present day, we see Romantic Circles as the “common bank” to which scholars can each contribute their mite to enact “a sort of Socratic spirit” through the electronic circulation of ideas. This collaborative effort will, we hope, generate a “large interest” both by attracting a wider audience for Thelwall’s works and by taking advantage of the unique capacity of Romantic Circles to re-connect the printed word with image, voice, and gesture in the dynamic way for which Thelwall himself was renowned.

8.         In addition to this “Praxis” volume, the larger project John Thelwall: Recovery and Reassessments will include two components in the “Scholarly Resources” section. “John Thelwall in Time and Text” combines a chronology of Thelwall’s life and times with the fullest bibliography to date of his published works, letters, and manuscripts. The result of a collaborative pooling of “mites” of information at the Thelwall conference in Halifax, this “common bank” offers a much-needed resource for the study of Thelwall, especially in the continuing absence of a modern or complete biography. [11]  We hope that it will be updated to reflect new discoveries and connections, perhaps in conjunction with biannual Thelwall conferences.

9.         The second scholarly resource to be offered here is “John Thelwall in Performance: The Fairy of the Lake,” which documents the first full production of a Thelwall play, his Arthurian romance The Fairy of the Lake of 1801, a politically and autobiographically resonant allegory of the times. A co-production by the Dalhousie University Theatre Department and the Halifax-based Zuppa Theatre Company, the play opened in October 2009 in conjunction with the Thelwall conference. Footage of the performance brings to life the oral and performative dimensions of Thelwall’s practice discussed in several contributions to this volume. The accompanying interviews explore the challenges and decisions involved in updating a piece of radical Romantic theatre for modern audiences, while the essay by Judith Thompson illuminates the Fairy’s origins and literary contexts, and locates it within Thelwall’s oeuvre.

10.         Together these three components of “John Thelwall: Recovery and Reassessments” take advantage of Romantic Circles’ interconnected hypermedia platforms to offer an online equivalent to the multiple platforms erected at the mass meetings of the reform societies in the mid-1790s, where Thelwall’s voice reached thousands. (Thelwall objected to the political system of “virtual representation” championed by Burke, but had he known it as a digital phenomenon, he would surely have embraced it as yet another means of expanding the public sphere.) The caricaturist James Gillray’s depiction of Thelwall addressing the crowd that gathered in the fall of 1795 at Copenhagen Fields, outside London, has become iconic in studies of radical Romanticism. [12] 

A line inscribed below the image has him declaring, “I tell you, Citizens, we mean to new-dress the Constitution, and turn it, and set a new Nap upon it.” [13]  In fact he called on his audience to speak out in a “manly, determinate, and constitutional way” in defence of their liberties without fear of reprisals, while reminding them that even William Blackstone, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England, had regarded the resistance of oppression as a constitutional right (Speech-Nov 19, 9). With characteristic rhetorical flourish he added, “it is better to have your throats cut like the Pigs you have been compared to, than to be hanged like the Dogs to which you have not yet been assimilated” (18). As Steve Poole notes in his contribution to this collection, Gillray depicts Orator Thelwall ambiguously: he faithfully captures Thelwall’s physiognomy and elevates him in dress and position above the other figures, but he also expresses a potentially incendiary anger in Thelwall’s clenched fists and open mouth.

11.         Yet firebrand orator was only one of Thelwall’s many modes and personas. Echoing Machiavelli, Thelwall declared that

[u]niformity of principle and versatility of means are perfectly reconcilable; and he who wishes to promote the public cause must vary his mode of action with the change of time and circumstances: as the same line of conduct may be at one time beneficial, and at another injurious. (Speech-Nov i) [14] 
Following Thelwall through his diverse “modes of action” is one of the main challenges for Thelwall scholars today. How specifically did he adapt his practice to the times, and in keeping with what principles? In seeking to answer those questions, the essays collected here also aim to reassess existing Thelwall scholarship.

12.         Both objectives come into focus in Nicholas Roe’s opening contribution, which considers what factors might have drawn Thelwall westwards in the summer of 1797, when he made his watershed visit to Wordsworth and Coleridge in Somerset. In his groundbreaking 1990 essay “Coleridge and John Thelwall: The Road to Nether Stowey,” Roe recovered the story of a close friendship and political affinity that Coleridge tried later to suppress. Returning to this important moment in literary history, Roe now takes stock of two newly republished essays that Thelwall composed at this time: “A Pedestrian Excursion through Several Parts of England and Wales during the Summer of 1797” and “The Phenomena of the Wye, during the Winter of 1797-8.” For Roe, the essays’ non-chronological publication and conspicuous silence on the subject of the Stowey visit reflect the depth of Thelwall’s disappointment when his hope of friendship and intellectual fellowship among the poets failed to materialize. Roe’s essay thus contributes to the recent case for continuity in Thelwall’s practices before and after 1797, when he retreated into “exile” on a small farm in Wales, from which he re-emerged four years later a self-made professor of elocution and speech therapist. In Roe’s view, Thelwall’s excursion of 1797 did not mark a retreat from metropolitan radicalism so much as a reorientation toward the “more subjective mediated vision” of the “Wye” essay that would find fuller expression in Thelwall’s Poems Chiefly Written in Retirement of 1801.

13.         As Roe’s essay makes clear, the “Pedestrian Excursion” and “Wye” essays are also noteworthy for giving voice to the remarkable diversity of identities that Thelwall adopted throughout his life and career: not only writer and orator, theorist and therapist, journalist and critic, but also agriculturalist, antiquarian, historian, economist, industrialist, painter, pedestrian, and picturesque traveller. That last, still largely unfamiliar persona comes to the fore in Mary Fairclough’s essay on the evolution of Thelwall’s engagement with the politics of the picturesque, notably in the “Pedestrian Excursion” and “Wye” essays. Challenging E. P. Thompson’s view that the essays’ “conventional rehearsals” of the discourse of the picturesque demonstrate Thelwall’s failure to sustain his radicalism in the face of persecution, Fairclough argues that they in fact carry forward an attempt begun in The Peripatetic to “rethink and recalibrate such engagement” and develop alternative means of “seeing” the landscape. In Fairclough’s view, Thelwall achieves a material exploration of the landscape and its social configurations that at least partially reconciles it with his political radicalism and anticipates his renewed public engagement in the next decade, also on materialist principles.

14.         The pervasive influence of Thelwall’s scientific materialism—his belief that all life is a result of the modification of matter [15] —is the subject of Molly Desjardins’s essay on the political, elocutionary, and therapeutic implications of Thelwall’s associationist understanding of the human mind. Reading Thelwall’s observations on the treatment of speech impediments in A Letter to Henry Cline (1810) alongside the earlier materialist arguments of An Essay towards a Definition of Animal Vitality (1793) and the associationist premises of a much later essay “On the Influence of the Scenery of Nature,” Desjardins calls attention to the consistency of Thelwall’s aims across decades and modes of action: both as a political activist and an elocutionist, she argues, Thelwall employed his electrifying powers of speech as a sort of “vital stimulus” to form and re-form associations within and between minds in an expanded public sphere.

15.         Thelwall’s attention to the individual body as an instrument of communication and microcosm of the body politic is a recurrent focus of the essays in this volume and of other recent scholarship. [16]  With Emily Stanback’s contribution, however, a new dimension comes into view: the impaired body as the site of an ideological struggle that shaped modern attitudes towards disability over the next two centuries. Analysing Thelwall’s little-known writings on the treatment of speech impediments and “idiocy” in the context of the history of medicine, Stanback calls attention to alternative manifestations of Thelwall’s humanizing, democratizing ideals. At a time when attitudes toward illness and impairment were still inconsistent yet often pathologizing and marginalizing, she argues, Thelwall offered a strikingly progressive and egalitarian approach guided by a lingering Jacobin faith in the human capacity for self-improvement. In the process, Thelwall seems to have anticipated a modern definition of autism and ventured some of its earliest recorded descriptions.

16.         Thelwall’s interest in “the enfranchisement of the fettered organs” (Cline 9) was no doubt influenced by his own efforts to overcome the speech impediment for which he was nicknamed the “Lisping Orator” (Mrs. Thelwall 40); it was also shaped by his struggles with the legal and political impediments to free expression imposed throughout his career. Despite both forms of impairment, Thelwall became renowned as a powerful speaker. His epitaph records that “[i]n his utterance Englishmen experienced the full beauty and energy of their native speech. His oratorical powers were only surpassed by his devoted zeal and unflinching efforts to promote the best liberties of his fellow men.” Hazlitt described Thelwall more ambiguously, as “[t]he most dashing orator I ever heard [. . .], a volcano vomiting out lava” (264). [17]  Those who objected to his politics, meanwhile, saw Thelwall’s oratory as a ready target for satire. He appeared in the anti-Jacobin novels of the day as Citizen Ego, John Bawlwell, and the regicidal Mr. Rant. [18]  As Nicola Trott remarks of this last portrayal, so we might say of them all that they amounted to a second and arguably more successful trial for high treason (xii). And this “trial” was not confined to literature.

17.         In an unprecedented analysis of the role of visual satire in shaping Thelwall’s public profile, Steve Poole examines the often contrasting strategies by means of which loyalist caricaturists, notably James Gillray and Isaac Cruikshank, “negotiated and accommodated” Thelwall’s uniquely recognizable features and demonstrative oratorical manner. A complex and ambiguous symbol of radical energy until his retreat to Wales in 1797, Thelwall thereafter became “a cartoon signifier of radical defeat and deflation.” Poole’s essay illuminates the iconography of the period as well as the philosophical and physiognomical debates that informed it, in which Thelwall himself was engaged. Taken together, Poole notes, these caricatures offer a visual commentary on what E. P. Thompson referred to as the hunting of the “Jacobin fox” (“Hunting”). Indeed, Poole regards Thelwall’s return to politics in the 1810s and 1820s as “relatively unconvincing.” In his view Thelwall did not so much redirect his earlier energies as dissipate them in uncontroversial “professional” channels.

18.         Clearly, the nature and extent of Thelwall’s radicalism after 1800 remains an open question, and answering it demands closer attention to his later pursuits. This is precisely what Angela Esterhammer provides in her essay on Thelwall’s short-lived monthly periodical the Panoramic Miscellany. Launched on the model of the Monthly Magazine after Thelwall’s cursory dismissal from its editorship in 1825, the Panoramic aimed to continue the Monthly’s mission of public information and improvement. Esterhammer shows that while observing many common journalistic practices of the time, Thelwall’s Panoramic stood out for its international outlook and, above all, its “dialogic orientation.” In various ways, the Panoramic sought to provoke quasi-conversational exchange with its male, middle- and working-class contributors and readers, while taking a more deliberately didactic approach to female readers. For Esterhammer, the Panoramic demonstrates the persistence of Thelwall’s commitment to public education, criticism, and unrestricted communication even as late as 1826. Her essay complements Michael Scrivener’s earlier analysis of Thelwall’s journalism in the Tribune, the Champion, and the Monthly Magazine (“The Press”), and should also be read alongside Scrivener’s republication of several of Thelwall’s letters from this period, both for a sense of the financial aspects of his late ventures and for his pained awareness that by 1832 he was already slipping out of the “liberal remembrances of the now triumphing advocates of Reform” (“Letters” 149).

19.         Although the Panoramic Miscellany was to be Thelwall’s last published work, his legacy as a writer, lecturer, artist, lover, and peripatetic adventurer found new and sometimes paradoxical expression in his children, and especially his son Weymouth Birkbeck (1831-1873). In her often surprising closing contribution to this volume, Patty O’Boyle reconstructs the story of the life and career of this “son of John Thelwall” as he continued and subverted his father’s talents and principles, carrying early nineteenth-century Romantic idealism into the colonial heart of darkness in Central Africa. By lifting the pall of anonymity that has long rested on this last direct descendant of John Thelwall—whose middle name was a tribute to the founder of the mechanics’ institutes at which Thelwall lectured around the time of Weymouth’s birth in 1831—O’Boyle also sheds light on his father’s life and achievements from a longer historical perspective. In tandem with the essays by Poole and Esterhammer, O’Boyle’s essay begins to address the vexed question of Thelwall’s eclipse and persistence in the nineteenth century.

20.         All together, the essays collected here mark both continuity and new directions in the rapidly emerging field of Thelwall studies. Much like Thelwall and Coleridge in the mid-1790s, they “answer and provoke” [19]  each other on topics of mutual interest, notably Thelwall’s scientific materialism; his use, figuration, and treatment of the speaking body, both real and imagined; the connection between his printed and spoken words; his historical legacy; and the adaptability of his modes of action. In the context of the recent surge of interest in Thelwall, these essays also testify to the continuing relevance and appeal of his “radical” principles. Efforts are now underway to launch a Thelwall Society and erect a commemorative English Heritage “Blue Plaque” in London, where in 2014 a major Thelwall conference will explore his relation to medical science and mark the 250th anniversary of his birth. The launch of a Thelwall Web site, a modern edition of his abolitionist, feminist novel The Daughter of Adoption (1801), and the publication of two monographs on his work all promise to help sustain the pace of this ongoing recovery. [20]  If, as Steve Poole has noted, it can no longer be maintained that by 1800 the “Jacobin fox” was dead (Introduction 11), this volume and the larger network of activities to which it belongs confirm that Thelwall and his body of work are finally finding new life.


Judith Thompson and I wish to thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the University of King’s College, and Dalhousie University for their support of the conference “The Art and the Act: John Thelwall in Practice” on which this Romantic Circles project is based.

Works Cited

Allard, James Robert. “‘Great Vital Organs’: Thelwall’s The Peripatetic, Radical Materialism, and the Body Politic.” Romanticism, Medicine, and the Poet’s Body. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007. 63-86. Print.

Barrell, John. Imagining the King’s Death: Figurative Treason, Fantasies of Regicide, 1793-1796. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2000. Print.

Bisset, Robert. Douglas; or, The Highlander. 1800. Ed. Richard Cronin. London: Pickering & Chatto, 2005. Print. Vols. 4-5 of Anti-Jacobin Novels. W. M. Verhoeven, gen. ed. 10 vols. 2005.

Claeys, Gregory. Introduction. The Politics of English Jacobinism: Writings of John Thelwall. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 1995. xiii-lviii. Print.

---. “The Origins of the Rights of Labour: Republicanism, Commerce, and the Construction of Modern Social Theory in Britain, 1796-1805.” Journal of Modern History 66 (1994): 249-90. Print.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. The Collected Letters of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Ed. Earl Leslie Griggs. 6 vols. Oxford: Clarendon, 1956-71. Print.

Davies, Damian Walford. Presences that Disturb: Models of Romantic Identity in the Literature and Culture of the 1790s. Cardiff: U of Wales P, 2002. Print.

D’Israeli, Isaac. Vaurien: Or, Sketches of the Times. 1797. Ed. Nicola Trott. London: Pickering and Chatto, 2005. Print. Vol. 8 of Anti-Jacobin Novels. W. M. Verhoeven, gen. ed. 10 vols. 2005.

Duchan, Judith Felson. “The Conceptual Underpinnings of John Thelwall’s Elocutionary Practices.” Poole 139-45.

Fairer, David. “A Matter of Emphasis: Coleridge and Thelwall, 1796-7.” Organising Poetry: The Coleridge Circle, 1790-1798. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. 236-59. Print.

Hampsher-Monk, Iain. “John Thelwall and the Eighteenth-Century Radical Response to Political Economy.” The Historical Journal 34 (1991): 1-20. Print.

Hazlitt, William. “On the Difference between Writing and Speaking.” The Complete Works of William Hazlitt. Ed. P. P. Howe. Vol. 12. London: Dent, 1930-34. 262-79. Print.

Lamb, Robert. “Labour, Contingency, Utility: Thelwall’s Theory of Property.” Poole 51-60.

McCann, Andrew. “Romantic Self-Fashioning: John Thelwall and the Science of Elocution.” Studies in Romanticism 40 (2001): 215-32. Print.

“Mr. Thelwall.” The Gentleman’s Magazine ns 2 (1834): 549-50.

The Parliamentary History of England, from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803. Ed. William Cobbett, T. C. Hansard, and J. Wright. Vol. 31. London, 1818. Print.

Poole, Steve. Introduction. Poole 1-11.

---, ed. John Thelwall: Radical Romantic and Acquitted Felon. London: Pickering and Chatto, 2009. Print. The Enlightenment World 11.

Roe, Nicholas. “Coleridge and John Thelwall: The Road to Nether Stowey.” The Coleridge Connection: Essays for Thomas McFarland. Eds. Richard Gravil and Molly Lefebure. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1990. 60-80. Print.

---. “The Lives of John Thelwall: Another View of the ‘Jacobin Fox.’” Poole 13-24.

---. The Politics of Nature: William Wordsworth and Some of His Contemporaries. 2nd ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002. Print.

Russell, Gillian, and Clara Tuite, eds. Romantic Sociability: Social Networks and Literary Culture in Britain, 1770-1840. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2002. Print.

Saintsbury, George. A History of English Prosody from the Twelfth Century to the Present Day. Vol. 3. London: Macmillan, 1910. Print.

Scrivener, Michael. Rev. of John Thelwall’s The Peripatetic, ed. Judith Thompson. Romantic Circles Reviews. Ed. Jasper Cragwall. University of Maryland. 1 Oct. 2009. Web. 24 June 2010.

---. “John Thelwall and the Press.” Romanticism, Radicalism and the Press. Ed. Stephen C. Behrendt. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 1997. 120-36. Print.

---. “John Thelwall’s Letters in the British Library.” John Thelwall Special Issue. Spec. issue of Romanticism 16.2 (2010): 139-51. Print.

---. Seditious Allegories: John Thelwall and Jacobin Writing. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 2001. Print.

Sheldon, Richard. “‘A Loud, a Fervid, and Resolute Remonstrance with Our Rulers’: John Thelwall, the People and Political Economy.” Poole 61-70.

Sutton, David, ed. Location Register of English Literary Manuscripts and Letters: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries. 2 vols. London: British Lib., 1995. Print.

Thelwall, John. An Essay towards a Definition of Animal Vitality; Read at the Theatre, Guy’s Hospital, January 26, 1793; in which Several of the Opinions of the Celebrated John Hunter are Examined and Controverted. London, 1793. Print.

---. A Letter to Henry Cline, Esq., on Imperfect Development of the Faculties, Mental and Moral, as well as Constitutional and Organic; and on the Treatment of Impediments of Speech. London, 1810. Print.

---. The Peripatetic. Ed. Judith Thompson. Detroit: Wayne State UP, 2001. Print.

---. Poems Chiefly Written in Retirement. 1801. Oxford: Woodstock, 1989. Print.

---. “The Rights of Nature, against the Usurpations of Establishments.” 1796. The Politics of English Jacobinism: Writings of John Thelwall. Ed. Gregory Claeys. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 1995. 389-500. Print.

---. The Speech of John Thelwall, at the Second Meeting of the London Corresponding Society, and Other Friends of Reform, Held at Copenhagen-House, on Thursday, November 12, 1795. London, 1795. Print.

---. “The Tribune, No. XI. Saturday, 23d May, 1795. On the Humanity and Benevolence of the Dutch Revolution, and the Causes of the Excesses in France. The Third Lecture on the Moral and Political Influence of the Prospective Principle of Virtue.” 1795. The Politics of English Jacobinism: Writings of John Thelwall. Ed. Gregory Claeys. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 1995. 116-37. Print.

Thelwall, Mrs. [Henrietta Cecil Boyle]. The Life of John Thelwall. Vol. 1. London, 1837. Print.

Thompson, E. P. “Hunting the Jacobin Fox.” Past and Present 142 (1994): 94-140. Print.

---. The Making of the English Working Class. 1963. London: Penguin, 1991. Print.

Thompson, Judith. “Citizen Juan Thelwall: In the Footsteps of a Free-Range Radical.” Studies in Romanticism 48 (Spring 2009): 67-100. Print.

Trott, Nicola, ed. Vaurien: Or, Sketches of the Times. By Isaac D’Israeli. London: Pickering and Chatto, 2005. Print. Vol. 8 of Anti-Jacobin Novels. W. M. Verhoeven, gen. ed. 10 vols. 2005.

Walker, George. The Vagabond. 3rd ed. 2 vols. London, 1799. Print.


[1] In addition to the works and editions listed below, see the recent chapters on Thelwall in Davies, Allard, and Fairer. BACK

[2] On Judith Thompson’s discovery of the volumes, see her “Citizen Juan Thelwall.” This was a “discovery” for Thelwall scholars, since not even E. P. Thompson appears to have been aware of the volumes’ survival. Their existence was of course known to the staff of the Derby Local Studies Library, which probably acquired them from the late nineteenth-century Derby printer Mr. Bemrose. The volumes are listed in the Location Register of English Literary Manuscripts and Letters: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, edited by David C. Sutton, and in the online index of the National Register of Archives. For the most part only the recto pages of the volumes are inscribed, although the verso pages carry some emendations and, in volume 3, portions of the satirical poem Musalogia. BACK

[3] Poems on Various Subjects (1787), Poems Written in Close Confinement (1795), Poems Chiefly Written in Retirement (1801), The Vestibule of Eloquence (1810), and The Poetical Recreations of The Champion (1822). BACK

[4] See Barrell. BACK

[5] This is how the Secretary of State for War, William Windham, referred to the defendants on their release. See Parliamentary History col. 1029. BACK

[6] On the likely contents of the volumes and their fate, see Roe, “Lives.” BACK

[7] On Thelwall’s “new vision of egalitarian commercial republicanism,” see also Claeys, “Origins” 266. For a comparable reading of Thelwall’s part in the transition from the “nostalgic” radicalism of the eighteenth century to the “progressive and forward-looking” radicalism of the nineteenth, see Hampsher-Monk (20). Robert Lamb has recently consolidated the case for the coherence of Thelwall’s political thought by examining his theoretical defence of private property rights, particularly his seemingly contradictory debts to natural rights, utilitarianism, and the Scottish Enlightenment’s “four-stages” account of economic development, while Richard Sheldon has questioned the extent to which Thelwall’s pro-commercial republicanism was “proto-socialist.” BACK

[8] See, for instance, Russell and Tuite’s collection by that title. BACK

[9] For the references to Hazlitt and Wakefield, see the letters by Thelwall reprinted in Davies, Presences 318, 301. BACK

[10] The volume is listed in the library catalogue but, to my knowledge, has not yet come to critical attention. See Dyce 26 Box 50/12, National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum, London. BACK

[11] In 1837 Thelwall’s second wife published the first volume of a posthumous Life of John Thelwall, focusing on his rise to political notoriety and cutting off in 1795 with the passage of the Two Acts. The projected second volume, “containing an account of his domestic history and of his labours in the field of literature, and of the Science of Elocution,” was never published (xii). The autobiographical “Prefatory Memoir” that accompanied Thelwall’s Poems, Chiefly Written in Retirement of 1801 fills in the story of his path to retirement in Wales at the end of the decade but deliberately avoids open discussion of his politics. BACK

[12] Gillray’s Copenhagen House appears on the covers of both Nicholas Roe’s Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Radical Years (1988) and the recent volume Unrespectable Radicals? Popular Politics in the Age of Reform, edited by Michael T. Davis and Paul A. Pickering (2008). In both cases the image has been cropped to focus on the central figure of Thelwall. BACK

[13] The line is attributed to Shakespeare. BACK

[14] For direct quotations from Machiavelli to the same effect, see, e.g., Thelwall, “Tribune” 126-27. BACK

[15] See, notably, Thelwall’s Essay towards a Definition of Animal Vitality 34-35. BACK

[16] See Roe, Politics of Nature; McCann; Scrivener, Seditious Allegories; Allard; and Duchan. BACK

[17] Hazlitt contrasted Thelwall’s fiery oratory with the “dry cinders” of his printed works and described him uncharitably as “the flattest writer I ever read” (264). BACK

[18] For Citizen Ego, John Bawlwell, and Mr. Rant, see Walker, Bisset, and D’Israeli respectively. BACK

[19] The phrase, from Coleridge’s “The Nightingale,” also figures in the title of Gurion Taussig’s chapter on Coleridge and Thelwall’s “oppositional friendship” in Coleridge and the Idea of Friendship, 1789-1804 (2002). BACK

[20] Judith Thompson’s monograph John Thelwall in the Wordsworth Circle: The Silenced Partner will be published in 2012; my own, provisionally entitled The Correspondent Flame: John Thelwall and the Reformist Imagination, is nearing completion. BACK

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Published @ RC

September 2011