852 RARE: The Weekly Special – Radical Reading

Recently a tattered volume of twenty one English pamphlets, a gift of Dean Roscoe Pound to the Law Library in July 1929, crossed my desk in need of cataloging.  All the pamphlets were printed between 1832 and 1837, most in London, a few in Newcastle.  The title of the first work, from about 1835, gives an indication of the “radical” nature of the volume’s contents:  George Edmonds’ appeal to the labourers of England, an exposure of aristocrat spies, and the infernal machinery of the poor law murder bill. Accompanied by appalling proofs of the alarming progress of cruelty, cannibalism, gluttony, ignorance, prodigality, lying, slandering, atheism, blasphemy, sedition, and sexual profligacy, in the high-priced aristocrat press, and especially the six shilling Quarterly review.

Title page of George Edmonds' appeal to the labourers of England

The pamphlets report on meetings and public dinners at taverns and music halls and reproduce stirring speeches (including that of Irish rebel Robert Emmet (1778-1803) two days before his execution for high treason). They reprint articles from “The Radical” and include long poems such as Wat Tyler; a dramatic poem, in three acts about a leader of the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt and Lord Byron’s controversial Cain; a mystery. Interestingly, several of the pamphlets are clearly marked across the title page as the property of the reading room of a “Working Men’s Association.”
Title page of The speech of Robert Emmet, Esq. published by Hetherington in 1836
The London Working Men’s Association was founded in 1836 by four men with a radical bent: Henry Hetherington (1792-1849) “penny press” publisher; printer/publishers James Watson (1799-1874) and John Cleave (1794 or 1795–1850), and cabinet maker turned writer, William Lovett (1800-1877).
A few pamphlets in this volume are identified as having belonged, in 1837, to the Newcastle Working Men’s Association.Together this collection of pamphlets provides an intriguing look at writings reflecting the British working class labor movement and the stirrings of the Chartist movement.
An 1837 pamphlet, the subtitle of which (p.3) reads "Some remarks on a bill, called by those who would know better, a bill for pulling down our churches."
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