Waterloo to Peterloo

Waterloo to Peterloo

Waterloo to Peterloo

Waterloo to Peterloo

Excerpt

This book was begun many years ago in an attempt to lay the ghost of the man whose portrait is to be found opposite page 178. Jeremiah Brandreth, and two of his associates, suffered death by the rope and the axe for high treason on November 7th, 1817. One of his associates, William Turner, cried out on the scaffold: This is all Oliver and the Government. . . . Brandreth's last words were: "God bless you all--and my Lord Castlereagh, too. . . ."

I lived for the first twenty-five years of my life in the Derby and Notts. border-country where these things took place, and where their memory still lingered on among the grandchildren of the men who made The Pentrich Revolution. It became a necessity of the imagination, almost an obligation of the heart, to attempt to re-discover and re-live the thoughts and feelings of that vanished society, where a poor stocking-knitter could suffer the penalty generally reserved for traitors of noble birth, and where a broken-down master builder could figure as the villain in a drama which Shelley saw fit to raise to the level of a national calamity. Jeremiah Brandreth, Oliver the Spy, Shelley . . . a Masque of Anarchy to challenge the mind and heart of a "native". And the challenge ended in a study of the whole troubled scene that occupied the four years between Waterloo and Peterloo. The Derbyshire Rising of 1817 remains the pivot of this book, but the subject ranges widely back and forth, before and after that event. Only so was it possible to understand it.

I have not attempted to write a history of Regency England. Nor is this book a study of parliamentary and party politics. Least of all is it concerned with the history of England in Europe at that time. It is a study in social transition, an essay in what may be called "suspended revolution". The materials on which it is based have all been used before, with the exception of certain local material employed for the writing of Chapter XIV. It makes but a small claim, therefore, to be a work of discovery. It may rather be described as a work of re-interpretation.

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