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John Thelwall in Time and Text

1.        The most significant obstacle to a full understanding and balanced evaluation of the work of John Thelwall has always been the absence of a complete modern biography. The two early biographies (by Cecil Thelwall 1837 and Charles Cestre 1906) are both out-of-date, and extremely partial; leaving out almost half of Thelwall's life, they leave the impression that his later elocutionary and literary achievements are irrelevant, thereby contributing to the neglect they were intended to overcome. The shorter biographical sketches included in more recent studies have begun to compensate, but are necessarily limited by and to the specific contexts or subjects that they address. As new archival information has emerged, it is finally possible to imagine writing a comprehensive biography of one of the most dramatic, varied and heroic lives in British history, but such a book is still several years away. In the meanwhile, however, there is a urgent need to gather, collate and circulate existing biographical and bibliographical information, in an accessible location and a clear format, to serve the growing community of Thelwall Studies.

2.        Thelwall in Time and Text is intended to address that need. It grows out of a session at the Art and Act conference devoted to pooling the resources of Thelwall scholars, each of whom, in the Thelwallian spirit, brought to the table his or her "mite of information" so that all might "work for themselves in those grand enquiries in which it is the happiness and interest of man to be engaged." The results, collated and augmented with information summarized from a range of published sources, have been tabulated in this chronology. While still skeletal, it represents a significant resource, which we look forward to updating, correcting, and fleshing out on an ongoing basis, with contributions from readers and users of Romantic Circles.

3.        This chronology is also a bibliography, and it goes beyond dates, events and writings to include: locations where Thelwall lived or visited (revealing the transnational range of his intellect and the persistence of his peripatetic habits), media in which he worked (lectures are included as well as publications, journalism and unpublished writing), his correspondence (though much has been lost, what remains gives some idea of the scope of his networks), related events (with an emphasis on political and literary contexts and publications), and locations where primary texts can be found (since so much of the archive remains unpublished and scattered). The chief sources used to construct the timeline are also given, with a key to abbreviations (below).

Key to sources:

  • Andrews = Alan Andrews in conversation
  • AST Thoughts = Algernon Sydney Thelwall, Thoughts in Affliction (1831)
  • BL = British Library
  • Claeys = Gregory Claeys, The Politics of English Jacobinism (1995)
  • Corfield = Penelope Corfield & John Evans, 'John Thelwall in Wales' (1986)
  • Crabb Robinson memoirs = Diary, Reminiscences and Correspondence of Henry Crabb Robinson (1869)
  • DNB = Dictionary of National Biography
  • DWD Letters = Damian Walford Davies, Presences that Disturb (appendix) (2002)
  • EPThompson = E.P. Thompson, The Romantics (1997)
  • HCT Life of JT = Henrietta Cecil Thelwall, Life of John Thelwall (1837)
  • JTSP = Judith Thompson, John Thelwall in the Wordsworth Cirlce: The Silenced Partner (2012)
  • Kelly = Thomas Kelly, George Birkbeck, Pioneer of Adult Education (1957)
  • MM = Monthly Magazine
  • O'Boyle = Patty O'Boyle in conversation
  • Rockey = Denyse Rockey, 'John Thelwall and the Origins of British Speech Therapy' (1979)
  • Roe = Nicholas Roe, 'The Road to Nether Stowey' (1990) and 'The Road to Nether Stowey Revisited' (2010)
  • Scrivener = Michael Scrivener, Seditious Allegories (2001)
  • Scrivener Letters = Michael Scrivener, 'John Thelwall's Letters in the British Library' Romanticism 16 (2010)
  • WW Letters = William Wordsworth, Letters
  • Zimmerman = Sarah Zimmerman, conference papers and in conversation

Published @ RC

August 2012