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The Life and Adventures of William Cobbett…

The Life and Adventures of William Cobbett

by Richard Ingrams

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It's easy to see why Richard Ingrams, founder and sometime proprietor of satirical magazine Private Eye, should identify with a scourge of the establishment and frequent libel defendant like William Cobbett. Actually, I say "scourge of the establishment", but one of the things Ingrams succeeds in demonstrating is the extent to which Cobbett defies easy categorisation. Like many others, before and since, Cobbett's political beliefs were subject to significant change over the course of his life; but rather than taking the typical journey from radical youth to more conservative middle age Cobbett, broadly speaking, moved in the other direction. From being a fierce critic of Thomas Paine, he went on to be the person who brought Paine's bones back from the United States for burial in England - even if the bones were subsequently lost. Throughout his life, though, he remained a staunch defender of the established Church of England, even if he was less enamoured of many of its clergymen and had a respect for the Catholic Church that was highly unusual for his time.

Ingrams has written a lively book, that escapes from the sometimes plodding conventions of the biographical form. He quotes extensively, and effectively, from Cobbett's writings and journalism. It could just as appropriately titled 'life and times' because it provides a good overview of some of the big events of his day, from the political unrest in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars to the trouble surrounding George IV and Princess/Queen Caroline. Cobbett's, ultimately successful, attempts to enter Parliament also provide an insight to what Parliamentary elections were like in the early nineteenth century. ( )
  dsc73277 | Jun 5, 2011 |
Wonderfully inspiring - if maddeningly biased - biography of the 18th and 19th century writer, polemicist and publisher William Cobbett. Not only is it obvious why Ingrams idolises the man, but you can see how this driven, contradictory man has in many ways sculpted Ingrams' own career. As such it's almost a companion volume to Harry Thompson's Ingrams' biography. Full of fascinating historical cameos and facts (I had no idea Cobbett founded Hansards for a start) and wonderful moments of Cobbett's wit - the rant about the poor and potatoes is very, very funny but also, like the best of "Private Eye", has a very serious point. I thought this would be an enjoyable dip into the past but instead I found myself wanting to rad as much as I could by this extraordinary man. Highly recommended. ( )
1 vote irkthepurist | Oct 4, 2007 |
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A perceptive and vivid life of William Cobbett, one of England's greatest radicals. Cobbett is best known for his 'Rural Rides', that classic account of early-nineteenth century Britain. But he was a much greater figure than that implies, being the foremost satirist and proponent of reform of the time.… (more)

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