William Hone and Peterloo

Gardner, John (2014) William Hone and Peterloo. Manchester Region History Review, 23. Return to Peterloo. ISSN 0952-4320

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William Hone, the London based reforming pamphleteer, produced four main publications that relate to the government-sanctioned killings at St. Peter’s Field in Manchester on 16 August 1819. His three best-selling and most influential pamphlets, The Political House that Jack Built, The Man in the Moon, and A Slap at Slop, all address the outrage in Manchester. Produced in collaboration with a young George Cruikshank, later made even more famous with his illustrations for Dickens and latterly the temperance movement, these three pamphlets were so successful that they had combined sales of around 250 000 copies , and were read by the full spectrum of society, from Cabinet ministers to soldiers. However Hone also produced another less well-known poem on the massacre that pretends to be by Lord Byron,, Don Juan Canto the Third. Hone was a prolific writer and publisher; between 1815 and 1821 he produced around175 publications, the main focus of which is injustice and hypocrisy. Perceived by the authorities as a seditious radical, in 1817 Hone was tried three times for the same charge: twice for blasphemous and seditious libel, and once for blasphemous libel, for printing The Late John Wilkes’s Catechism, The Political Litany and The Sinecurist’s Creed. The following parody of the Ten Commandments is from The Late John Wilkes’s Catechism: VI. Thou shalt not call starving to death murder. VII. Thou shall not call Royal gallivanting adultery. VIII. Thou shalt not say, that to rob the Public is to steal. In court Hone defended himself by arguing that his parodies attacked the state and not the word of God. His acquittal, after three days of questioning, was a great victory for the radical press. It prompted Leigh Hunt to praise him in The Examiner on 21 December 1817, and Keats to write to his brothers: ‘Hone the publisher’s trial you must find very amusing; and as Englishmen very encouraging – his Not Guilty is a thing’. Hone’s victory did not please everyone though; Dorothy Wordsworth wrote, ‘The acquittal of Hone is enough to make one out of love with English Juries.’ By 1819 Hone was viewed as a publisher who was difficult to convict and as such his publications became powerful vehicles to transmit radical and reformist ideas. This article will concentrate on examining Hone’s four Peterloo publications in the order that they were released, and in particular how they shaped the representation of Peterloo in the minds of the public.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Peterloo
Faculty: ARCHIVED Faculty of Arts, Law & Social Sciences (until September 2018)
Depositing User: Repository Admin
Date Deposited: 16 Apr 2014 10:02
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2021 16:16
URI: https://arro.anglia.ac.uk/id/eprint/315860

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