Cobbett laying low one of his detractors outside his bookshop in
Cobbett beating the drum for the radical candidate for Middlesex in the General Election of 1806.
Newgate gaol, London, where Cobbett served a two year sentence for sedition.
Pastel portrait of William Cobbett by John Raphael Smith (1752-
Cobbett entering the town of Coventry, where he stood unsuccessfully as a radical candidate in the General Election of 1820.
Cobbett in exile on his farm on Long Island, where he continued to write his weekly newspaper.
Cobbett in his seat in the House of Commons.
For even more, see:
Author and journalist Penny Young explains how the radical writer William Cobbett lambasted and lampooned corrupt politicians and political structures in 18th and 19th century England. His attacks on sleaze and his championing of radical political reform are just as relevant today as ever.
See her You Tube video interview with journalist Patrick Chalmers:
Contemporaries of William Cobbett, who was born in Farnham and is buried in St Andrew’s churchyard, would have known of him as a radical politician and the foremost political journalist of the age. Writing in the 1790's under the pseudonym of Peter Porcupine in the United States, and then under his own name in England from 1800 onwards, Cobbett was the scourge of successive governments. In pamphlets, newspapers and books he mercilessly exposed corruption and maladministration in high places, cried out about the miserable conditions of the labouring people, and, undeterred by fines and imprisonment, repeatedly called for a radical reform of Parliament and the Church. His efforts were rewarded by the passing of the Reform Bill in 1832, and he spent the last two and a half years of his life as the Member of Parliament for Oldham, fighting on the floor of the House of Commons for his "beloved countrymen", the labourers of the United Kingdom.
Today, Cobbett is probably best remembered for such books as Cottage Economy, The English Gardener and A Grammar of the English Language, though the 89 volumes of his weekly newspaper The Political Register are greatly valued, as much by social historians as by students of nineteenth century politics. Best known of all is his book Rural Rides, an account of a series of rides on horseback in the 1820's in which he combines brilliant political polemic with marvellous descriptions of the English countryside.
COBBETT SKETCHES HIS
“Talk of rocks and breakers and quagmires and quicksands, who has ever escaped from amidst so many as I have! Thrown on the wide world (by my own will indeed) at an early age without money to support and without book-
From Advice to Young Men, published in 1829
In Newgate Gaol 1810-
By courtesy of the
National Portrait Gallery
‘View of Mr Cobbett’s House, Botley, Hants’.
Published in 1817
The print may have been made to assist with the finding of a buyer for the house, as by 1817 Cobbett was in financial difficulties and contemplating the disposal of his property. Cobbett had made substantial alterations to the house, including the addition of a portico and the erection of eight feet-
Hampshire Record Office, To p37/2/2
There can be few residents of Farnham who are by now unfamiliar with the battle of wills which has been developing in the town regarding the arrogant and undemocratic ways of Waverley Borough Council, with regard to the wishes and best interests of the town in relation to East Street development and the groups which WBC has inaccurately identified as the “vocal minority so describing them because these groups oppose the official view which is held in Godalming.
That critical term, for a start, tells us that you cannot trust the council with calculations, but as part of the continuing war of attrition, Mike Bryan’s non-
NPG had arranged for a speech to be read by a 2013 version of William Cobbett, who probably best represents, as a Radical politician, the town’s simmering desire for fairness and honesty in town financial dealings and in relationships with the townspeople, both of which seem to have declined progressively since that fatal day in 1973 when the reorganization of local authorities took place and (involuntary shudder) Waverley District Council was born. The stunt took place outside the William Cobbett pub in Bridge Square, and as the weather was more than a little inclement, the speech-
WILLIAM COBBETT’S STANCE ON WATERLOO
by Dr James Grande
(The Farnham Herald, 29 May 2015)
June 18, 2015 sees the 200th anniversary of the victory of the Duke of Wellington’s British and Allied army over Napoleon Bonaparte’s forces at the Battle of Waterloo. It marked the final defeat of the French emperor and the end of a generation of Europe-
When the official dispatch reached London three days later, cannons were fired and shops, houses and public buildings illuminated. But not everyone in Britain was celebrating. William Cobbett, the outstanding journalist of the day and one of Farnham’s most famous sons, took a very different view of events.
Cobbett had been a prominent supporter of the war during its early years, when Napoleon’s ‘Army of England’ gathered on the French coast in preparation for an invasion. He had been an outspoken critic of the short-
But as the threat of invasion receded, Cobbett began to take a more critical position on the war. He used his newspaper, ‘Cobbett’s Weekly Political Register’, to show how the war was funded through loans from government supporters in the City, adding millions to the national debt and leading to high inflation and heavy taxation. The struggle with Napoleon had become a fight against principles of liberty at home and abroad, becoming a convenient way to silence calls for reform.
After a series of defeats in 1812-
Needless to say, the government ignored his calls for peace and Britain, Prussia, Russia and Austria declared war; But Cobbett’s opposition continued even after Waterloo, as he told his readers that a ‘new crusade against France and against liberty has commenced’. When a government newspaper declared, in coolly aristocratic tones, that ‘The play is over; let us go to supper’, Cobbett angrily replied: “The play” may be over; but, oh! no! we cannot ‘go to supper’. We have something to do. We have 45 millions a year for ever to pay for the play. This is no pleasant thing. But, indeed, the play is not over. The first act is perhaps, closed. But, that grand revolution, that bright star, which first burst forth in the year 1789, is still sending forth its light over the world. In that year, feudal and ecclesiastical tyranny, ignorance, superstition, received the first heavy blow; they have since received others; and in spite of all that can be now done in their favour, they are destined to perish.”
Cobbett now saw the French Revolution as beacon of hope > and an inspiration to reformers in England. Celebrations turned out to be short-
A large number of Cobbett’s Political Registers, and books written by or about him are held at the Museum of Farnham. For a complete list click