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Unusual Suspects: Pitt's Reign of Alarm and the Lost Generation of the 1790s [NOOK Book]

Overview

Robespierre's Reign of Terror spawned an evil little twin in William Pitt the Younger's Reign of Alarm, 1792-1798. Terror begat Alarm. Many lives and careers were ruined in Britain as a result of the alarmist regime Pitt set up to suppress domestic dissent while waging his disastrous wars against republican France. Liberal young writers and intellectuals whose enthusiasm for the American and French revolutions raised hopes for Parliamentary reform at home saw
their prospects ...
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Unusual Suspects: Pitt's Reign of Alarm and the Lost Generation of the 1790s

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Overview

Robespierre's Reign of Terror spawned an evil little twin in William Pitt the Younger's Reign of Alarm, 1792-1798. Terror begat Alarm. Many lives and careers were ruined in Britain as a result of the alarmist regime Pitt set up to suppress domestic dissent while waging his disastrous wars against republican France. Liberal young writers and intellectuals whose enthusiasm for the American and French revolutions raised hopes for Parliamentary reform at home saw
their prospects blasted. Over a hundred trials for treason or sedition (more than ever before or since in British history) were staged against 'the usual suspects' - that is, political activists. But other, informal, vigilante means were used against the 'unusual suspects' of this book: jobs lost,
contracts abrogated, engagements broken off, fellowships terminated, inheritances denied, and so on and on. As in the McCarthy era in 1950s America, blacklisting and rumor-mongering did as much damage as legal repression. Dozens of 'almost famous' writers saw their promising careers nipped in the bud: people like Helen Maria Williams, James Montgomery, William Frend, Gilbert Wakefield, John Thelwall, Joseph Priestley, Dr. Thomas Beddoes, Francis Wrangham and many others. Unusual
Suspects tells the stories of some representative figures from this largely 'lost' generation, restoring their voices to nationalistic historical accounts that have drowned them in triumphal celebrations of the rise of English Romanticism and England's ultimate victory over Napoleon. Their stories are compared
with similar experiences of the first Romantic generation: Coleridge, Wordsworth, Southey, Lamb, Burns, and Blake. Wordsworth famously said of this decade, 'bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven!' These young people did not find it so-and neither, when we look more closely, did Wordsworth.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"When I'm trying to orient new readers in the field and its current scholarship, among the first ten books I'll tell them to start with are de Bolla's The Architecture of Concepts, Bugg's Five Long Winters, and Johnston's Unusual Suspects." —Frances Ferguson, Studies in English Literature 1500-1900

"[A] fascinating book...no one before Johnston has understood the poetry of the Romantic period so centrally in the context of Pitt's alarm." —London Review of Books

"a magnificent foundation for further work"—Michael Scrivener, Review 19

"[Johnston] begins to trace what he calls the lost generation of the 1790s, and in doing so he pieces together a story that has waited a long time to be told Johnston has distilled the narrative to a dozen fascinating case studies, for each person whose gruesome encounter with political repression is uncovered and recounted here we could add a dozen more ... Johnston has written a book that is part investigative history and part elegy ... and in doing so he pieces together a story that has waited a long time to be told. We might think of Unusual Suspects as a cross between William Hazlitt's The Spirit of the Age and E.P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class: group biography meets radical history ... for each person whose dire encounter with political repression is recounted here we could add a dozen more. This, too, is the history of the Romantic era."—John Bugg, Times Literary Supplement


"Written in highly accessible prose and with energetic engagement in terms of applicability to later eras of suppression and opposition, this book rights many wrongs and encourages readers to view heretofore neglected works as well as works and authors who seem all too familiar as possible victims of politics and fear ... Highly recommended."—E. Kraft, CHOICE

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780191631986
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford
  • Publication date: 7/25/2013
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 6 MB

Meet the Author

Kenneth R. Johnston received his PhD from Yale University and spent his entire academic career at Indiana University, where he was honored for distinguished teaching and scholarly achievement, while also heading its Department of English. He is author of Wordsworth and 'The Recluse' and The Hidden Wordsworth: Poet, Lover, Rebel, Spy, and editor of Romantic Revolutions. The Hidden Wordsworth won the 1999 Barricelli Prize for outstanding contribution to Romantic studies, and was named to several Book of the Year lists in both UK and US. He now resides in Chicago.

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Table of Contents

Preamble: 'Who are these people?'
I. The Red Decade
Usual and Unusual in 1790s Britain
Before and After Lives: John Thelwall and William Godwin
II. The Forces of Public Opinion
Joseph Priestley, 'Dr. Phlogiston'
James Montgomery, Radical Moravian
III. Keeping the University and Church Safe from Reform
William Frend, 'Frend of Jesus, friend of the Devil'
Thomas Beddoes, Sr., No Laughing Matter
IV. Other Voices, Other Places
The Suspect Gender: Helen Maria Williams, Our Paris Correspondent
Suspect Nations: William Drennan, 'Let Irishmen remain sulky, grave and watchful'
Generic Suspicions: Robert Bage, The Novelist Who Was Not
V. End-Games
Gilbert Wakefield, The End of Controversy
James Mackintosh, The Great Apostate: Judas, Brutus, or Thomas?
VI. The Romantic Poets and the Police
Spy Nozy in Somerset: 'A Gang of Disaffected Englishmen'
Coleridge and Thelwall: 'Whispering Tongues Can Poison Truth'
Wordsworth, The Prelude, and Posterity
Robert Southey, More Radical Than Thou
Charles Lamb, Radical in a lamb's cloak
Robert Burns, 'A Man for a' That'
Blake's America: The Prophecy that Failed
Coda: 'What does it signify?'
Appendix 1: Trials for Sedition and Treason, 1792-1798
Appendix 2: Wakefield's Juvenal

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