3.5.1 Rhetoric, Radical Politics and Rainfall: John Thelwall in Breconshire, 1797-1800 (2008), Pdf14
John Thelwall (1764-1834), Britain’s amazing polymath – a democratic activist, political theorist, Romantic poet, and later a pioneering elocutionist – remains an outstanding and under-appreciated figure. This essay analyses a significant turning point in his career. After the Pitt government’s repression of the campaign to gain votes for all adult males, John Thelwall essayed a green ‘return to the land’ as a farmer in the small village of Llyswen in Breconshire (1797-1800). His motivations and experiences are reassessed, as he continued to write poems, plays and essays, seeking to ‘bear witness’ as a man of letters. Ultimately Thelwall’s alternative career as a small farmer was drowned out, following local hostility and the heavy rainfall of three of the wettest years of the century. But his stay in Llyswen was a significant moment – not only for himself; but also as part of the cultural history of Anglo-Welsh encounters; and part of the wider history of cultural resistance to repressive regimes. To be read in conjunction with 3.5.2 and 3.5.3.
3.5.2 Thelwall versus Wordsworth: Alternative Lifestyles in Repressive Times (2012), Pdf22
This essay further analyses William Wordsworth’s jealous response to the radical John Thelwall’s ‘green’ retreat to mid-Wales. While there, Thelwall continued his literary outpourings as well as farming the land. By contrast, Wordsworth’s retreat to the Lakes made him a cultural guru and later a ‘green’ icon. But he was no son of the soil. He lived off a family legacy and aristocratic patronage, long before he made money as a poet. Wordsworth’s conflicted views over these rival radical lifestyles are revealed in key poems: read this essay, reread Wordsworth’s Anecdote for Fathers (written in 1798) and then see if you agree. To be read in conjunction with its companion-piece 3.5.1 and 3.5.3.
3.5.3 John Thelwall: Chamption of Democracy against Repressive Regimes (2019) Pdf54
This short summary of John Thelwall’s career as a democratic campaigner in Britain in the 1790s – in pre-democratic times – puts him in the context of other historical figures who have been potent non-violent democratic campaigners against repressive regimes. Tactical options range from the use of oratory and organisation to political journalism, prison testimony, a manifesto, tactical retreat, cultural politics, adult education, and sheer pertinacity. Boldly, doggedly, optimistically, John Thelwall tried them all.
Penelope J. Corfield
Penelope J. Corfield is a historian, lecturer and education consultant. She currently serves as the President of the International Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ISECS).
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