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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency (I include those who were born before 1811 and who died after 1795), today I continue with one of the many period notables.

The Morning Post
1772 – 1937

The Morning Post was founded by John Bell. Originally a Whig paper, it was purchased by Daniel Stuart in 1795, who made it into a moderate Tory organ. A number of well-known writers contributed, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Lamb, James Mackintosh, Robert Southey, and William Wordsworth. In the seven years of Stuart’s proprietorship, the paper’s circulation rose from 350 to over 4,000.

From 1803 until his death in 1833, the owner and editor of the Post was Nicholas Byrne; his son William Pitt Byrne later held these roles.

Later the paper was acquired by a Lancashire papermaker named Crompton. In 1848 he hired Peter Borthwick, a Scot who had been a Conservative MP for Evesham 1835-1847, as editor.

The paper was noted for its attentions to the activities of the powerful and wealthy, its interest in foreign affairs, and in literary and artistic events.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Thomas Bowdler
11 July 1754 – 24 February 1825

Thomas Bowdler was born at Box, near Bath, Somerset, the youngest son of the six children of Thomas Bowdler (c. 1719–1785), a banker of substantial fortune, and his wife, Elizabeth, née Cotton (d. 1797), the daughter of Sir John Cotton of Conington, Huntingdonshire. Bowdler studied medicine at the universities of St. Andrews and Edinburgh, where he took his degree in 1776, graduating with a thesis on intermittent fevers. He spent the next four years in travelling in continental Europe, visiting Germany, Hungary, Italy, Sicily and Portugal. In 1781 he caught a fever in Lisbon from a young friend whom he was attending through a fatal illness. He returned to England in broken health, and with a strong aversion to his profession. In 1781 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) and a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians (LRCP), but he did not continue to practise medicine. He devoted himself instead to the cause of prison reform. Bowdler was a strong chess player and once played eight recorded games against the best chess player of the time, François-André Danican Philidor, who was so confident of his superiority that he played with handicaps. Bowdler won twice, lost three times, and drew three times.

Bowdler’s first published work was Letters Written in Holland in the Months of September and October, 1787 (1788), which gave his eye-witness account of the Patriots’ uprising. In 1800 Bowdler took a lease on a country estate at St Boniface, on the Isle of Wight, where he lived for ten years. In September 1806, when he was 52, he married Elizabeth Frevenen or Trevennen, the widow of a naval officer. The marriage was unhappy, and after a few years Bowdler and his wife lived apart. They had no children. After the separation, the marriage was never referred to by the Bowdler family, and in the biography of Bowdler by his nephew, Thomas Bowdler, there is no mention of Bowdler’s ever marrying.

In 1807 the first edition of the Bowdlers’ The Family Shakspeare was published, in four small volumes. From 1811 until his death in 1825, Bowdler lived at Rhyddings House, overlooking Swansea Bay, from where he travelled extensively in Britain and continental Europe. In 1815 he published Observations on Emigration to France, With an Account of Health, Economy, and the Education of Children, a cautionary work propounding his view that English invalids should avoid French spas and go instead to Malta. In 1818 Bowdler published an enlarged edition of The Family Shakspeare, which had considerable success. By 1827 the work had gone into its fifth edition. In his last years, Bowdler prepared an expurgated version of the works of the historian Edward Gibbon, which was published posthumously in 1826. His sister Jane Bowdler (1743–1784) was a poet and essayist, and another sister Henrietta Maria Bowdler (Harriet) (1750–1830) collaborated with Bowdler on his expurgated Shakespeare.

Bowdler died in Swansea at the age of 70 and was buried there, at Oystermouth. He bequeathed donations to the poor of Swansea and Box. His large library, consisting of unexpurgated volumes collected by his ancestors Thomas Bowdler (1638–1700) and Thomas Bowdler (1661–1738), was donated to the University of Wales, Lampeter. In 1825 Bowdler’s nephew, also called Thomas Bowdler, published his Memoir of the Late John Bowdler, Esq., to Which Is Added, Some Account of the Late Thomas Bowdler, Esq. Editor of the Family Shakspeare.

In Bowdler’s childhood, his father had entertained his family with readings from Shakespeare. Later, Bowdler realised that his father had been omitting or altering passages he felt unsuitable for the ears of his wife and children. Bowdler felt it would be worthwhile to publish an edition which might be used in a family whose father was not a sufficiently “circumspect and judicious reader” to accomplish this expurgation himself.

In 1807 the first edition of the Bowdlers’ The Family Shakspeare was published, in four duodecimo volumes, containing 24 of the plays. In 1818 the second edition was published. Each play is preceded by an introduction where Bowdler summarises and justifies his changes to the text. According to his nephew’s Memoir, the first edition was prepared by Bowdler’s sister, Harriet, but both were published under Thomas Bowdler’s name, probably because a woman could not then publicly admit that she understood Shakespeare’s racy passages. By 1850 eleven editions had been printed. The spelling “Shakspeare”, used by Bowdler, and also by his nephew Thomas in his memoir of the older man, was changed in later editions in the mid-19th century to “Shakespeare”.

The Bowdlers were not the first to undertake such a project, but, despite being considered a negative example by some, their editions made it more acceptable to teach Shakespeare to wider and younger audiences. The poet Algernon Charles Swinburne said, “More nauseous and foolish cant was never chattered than that which would deride the memory or depreciate the merits of Bowdler. No man ever did better service to Shakespeare than the man who made it possible to put him into the hands of intelligent and imaginative children.” Bowdler’s commitment not to augment Shakespeare’s text was in contrast with the practice of some earlier editors and performers. Nahum Tate as Poet Laureate had rewritten the tragedy of King Lear with a happy ending. In 1807 Charles Lamb and Mary Lamb published Tales from Shakespeare for children with synopses of 20 of the plays, seldom quoting the original text.

Some examples of alterations made by Bowdler’s edition:

  • In Hamlet, the death of Ophelia was referred to as an accidental drowning, omitting the suggestions that she may have intended suicide.
  • In Macbeth, Lady Macbeth’s famous cry “Out, damned spot!” was changed to “Out, crimson spot!”
  • “God!” as an exclamation is replaced with “Heavens!”
  • In Henry IV, Part 2, the prostitute Doll Tearsheet is omitted entirely; the slightly more reputable Mistress Quickly is retained.
  • The Family Shakespeare, Volume One, The Comedies, ISBN 0-923891-95-1
  • The Family Shakespeare, Volume Two, The Tragedies, ISBN 0-923891-98-6
  • The Family Shakespeare, Volume Three, The Histories, ISBN 0-923891-99-4
  • The Family Shakspeare, in which nothing is added to the original text; but those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family by Thomas Bowdler in 10 volumes, Facsimile reprint of 2nd edition, revised, in 1820, Eureka Press, 2009. ISBN 978-4-902454-16-1

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Francis Stephen Cary
10 May 1808 – 6 January 1880

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Francis Stephen Cary

Francis Stephen Cary was born in Kingsbury in Warwickshire, a younger son of the Rev. Henry Francis Cary, (author, and translator of Dante) who was the local vicar. His brother Henry became a judge in New South Wales in Australia.

Cary was educated at home, chiefly by his father, before becoming a pupil of Henry Sass at the latter’s well-known art academy in Bloomsbury, London. He later became a student at the Royal Academy and for a short time painted in the studio of Sir Thomas Lawrence. Lawrence died before he could have become a pupil.

In 1829, Cary studied in Paris and afterwards in Italy and in the Art School at Munich. In 1833, 1834 and 1836, he accompanied his father on a foreign tour. In the following years he exhibited several pictures at the Society of British Artists and other venues.

In 1841, he married Louisa, daughter of Charles Allen Philipps of St. Bride’s Hill, Pembrokeshire. The following year he took over the management of Sass’s Art School in Bloomsbury, founded by Henry Sass on the model of the Italian Bolognese School of painting. – the school at which he had previously studied. Cary continued to exhibit pictures for some years at the Royal Academy and elsewhere, and was a candidate in the Westminster Hall competitions for the decoration of the Houses of Parliament, held in 1844 and 1847.

At the Bloomsbury Art School many of the prominent painters and sculptors of the day, such as Charles West Cope, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Henry Hugh Armstead, James Hayllar etc., received their early art education, as did several female artists such as Anna Mary Howitt and Jane Benham Hay, at a time when other such opportunities were still closed to them.

In 1874, Cary retired to Abinger in Surrey, where he died on 6 January 1880. He left no family. In the early part of his life, through his father’s social connections, he enjoyed much of the literary society of that day. He painted an interesting portrait of Charles and Mary Lamb, commissioned by John Mathew Gutch.

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Regency Personalities Series

In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

John Scott (Editor)
24 October 1784 – 27 February 1821

John Scott edited several liberal newspapers: The Statesman, which Leigh Hunt founded; the Stamford News, published by John Drakard; Drakard’s Paper (a London edition of this), which he renamed The Champion; and the most notable, the London Magazine, which he revived, as a monthly, in January 1820.

Under his direction, the magazine included works by such luminaries as Wordsworth, Charles Lamb, de Quincey, John Clare, Thomas Hood, Carlyle, Keats, Leigh Hunt, and Hazlitt. He also agreed to write a third of the magazine himself, which he did mostly under pseudonyms.

He attended Aberdeen Grammar School, as did Lord Byron, who was some years younger; he spent 1795-8 at Marischal College, but left without graduating. When Byron published an account of his marriage in 1816, Scott called this publication indelicacy; Leigh Hunt quarreled with him over this.

He died as the result of a duel, one of the side effects of the Cockney School controversy. John Gibson Lockhart had been abusing many of Scott’s contributors in Blackwood’s Magazine (under a pseudonym (Z), as was then common). In May 1820, Scott began a series of counter-articles, which provoked Lockhart into calling him “a liar and a scoundrel”. In February 1820, Lockhart’s London agent, Jonathan Henry Christie, made a provocative statement, and Scott challenged him.

They met on 16 February 1821, at a farm between Camden Town and Hampstead. Christie did not fire in the first round, but there was a misunderstanding between the seconds, resulting in a second round. Scott was hit in the abdomen, and died 11 days later. Christie and his second were tried for wilful murder and acquitted; the collection for Scott’s family was a notable radical cause.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge
21 October 1772 – 25 July 1834)

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Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Samuel Taylor Coleridge was born on 21 October 1772 in the town of Ottery St Mary in Devon, England. Samuel’s father was the Reverend John Coleridge (1718–1781), the well-respected vicar of St Mary’s Church, Ottery St Mary and headmaster of the King’s School, a free grammar school established by King Henry VIII (1509-1547) in the town. He had previously been Master of Hugh Squier’s School in South Molton, Devon, and Lecturer of nearby Molland. John Coleridge had three children by his first wife. Samuel was the youngest of ten by the Reverend Mr. Coleridge’s second wife, Anne Bowden (1726–1809), probably the daughter of John Bowden, Mayor of South Molton, Devon, in 1726. Coleridge suggests that he “took no pleasure in boyish sports” but instead read “incessantly” and played by himself.

After John Coleridge died in 1781, 8-year-old Samuel was sent to Christ’s Hospital, a charity school which was founded in the 16th century in Greyfriars, London, where he remained throughout his childhood, studying and writing poetry. At that school Coleridge became friends with Charles Lamb, a schoolmate, and studied the works of Virgil and William Lisle Bowles. In one of a series of autobiographical letters written to Thomas Poole, Coleridge wrote: “At six years old I remember to have read Belisarius, Robinson Crusoe, and Philip Quarll – and then I found the Arabian Nights’ Entertainments – one tale of which (the tale of a man who was compelled to seek for a pure virgin) made so deep an impression on me (I had read it in the evening while my mother was mending stockings) that I was haunted by spectres whenever I was in the dark – and I distinctly remember the anxious and fearful eagerness with which I used to watch the window in which the books lay – and whenever the sun lay upon them, I would seize it, carry it by the wall, and bask, and read.”

Throughout his life, Coleridge idealised his father as pious and innocent, while his relationship with his mother was more problematic. His childhood was characterised by attention seeking, which has been linked to his dependent personality as an adult. He was rarely allowed to return home during the school term, and this distance from his family at such a turbulent time proved emotionally damaging. He later wrote of his loneliness at school in the poem “Frost at Midnight”: “With unclosed lids, already had I dreamt/Of my sweet birthplace.”

From 1791 until 1794, Coleridge attended Jesus College, Cambridge. In 1792, he won the Browne Gold Medal for an ode that he wrote on the slave trade. In December 1793, he left the college and enlisted in the Royal Dragoons using the false name “Silas Tomkyn Comberbache”, perhaps because of debt or because the girl that he loved, Mary Evans, had rejected him. Afterwards, he was rumoured to have had a bout of severe depression. His brothers arranged for his discharge a few months later under the reason of “insanity” and he was readmitted to Jesus College, though he would never receive a degree from the University.

At the university, he was introduced to political and theological ideas then considered radical, including those of the poet Robert Southey. Coleridge joined Southey in a plan, soon abandoned, to found a utopian commune-like society, called Pantisocracy, in the wilderness of Pennsylvania. In 1795, the two friends married sisters Sarah and Edith Fricker, in St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, but Coleridge’s marriage with Sarah proved unhappy. He grew to detest his wife, whom he only married because of social constraints. He eventually separated from her. Coleridge made plans to establish a journal, The Watchman, to be printed every eight days to avoid a weekly newspaper tax. The first issue of the short-lived journal was published in March 1796; it had ceased publication by May of that year.

The years 1797 and 1798, during which he lived in what is now known as Coleridge Cottage, in Nether Stowey, Somerset, were among the most fruitful of Coleridge’s life. In 1795, Coleridge met poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy. (Wordsworth, having visited him and being enchanted by the surroundings., rented Alfoxton Park, a little over three miles [5 km] away.) Besides the Rime of The Ancient Mariner, he composed the symbolic poem Kubla Khan, written—Coleridge himself claimed—as a result of an opium dream, in “a kind of a reverie”; and the first part of the narrative poem Christabel. The writing of Kubla Khan, written about the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan and his legendary palace at Xanadu, was said to have been interrupted by the arrival of a “Person from Porlock” – an event that has been embellished upon in such varied contexts as science fiction and Nabokov’s Lolita. During this period, he also produced his much-praised “conversation” poems This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison, Frost at Midnight, and The Nightingale.

In 1798, Coleridge and Wordsworth published a joint volume of poetry, Lyrical Ballads, which proved to be the starting point for the English romantic age. Wordsworth may have contributed more poems, but the real star of the collection was Coleridge’s first version of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It was the longest work and drew more praise and attention than anything else in the volume. In the spring Coleridge temporarily took over for Rev. Joshua Toulmin at Taunton’s Mary Street Unitarian Chapel while Rev. Toulmin grieved over the drowning death of his daughter Jane. Poetically commenting on Toulmin’s strength, Coleridge wrote in a 1798 letter to John Prior Estlin, “I walked into Taunton (eleven miles) and back again, and performed the divine services for Dr. Toulmin. I suppose you must have heard that his daughter, (Jane, on 15 April 1798) in a melancholy derangement, suffered herself to be swallowed up by the tide on the sea-coast between Sidmouth and Bere [sic] (Beer). These events cut cruelly into the hearts of old men: but the good Dr. Toulmin bears it like the true practical Christian, – there is indeed a tear in his eye, but that eye is lifted up to the Heavenly Father.”

Coleridge also worked briefly in Shropshire, where he came in December 1797 as locum to its local Unitarian minister, Dr Rowe, in their church in the High Street at Shrewsbury. He is said to have read his Rime of the Ancient Mariner at a literary evening in Mardol. He was then contemplating a career in the ministry, and gave a probationary sermon in High Street church on Sunday, 14 January 1798. William Hazlitt, a Unitarian minister’s son, was in the congregation, having walked from Wem to hear him. Coleridge later visited Hazlitt and his father at Wem but within a day or two of preaching he received a letter from Josiah Wedgwood II, who had offered to help him out of financial difficulties with an annuity of £150 (approximately £13,000 in today’s money) per year on condition he give up his ministerial career. Coleridge accepted this, to the disappointment of Hazlitt who hoped to have him as a neighbour in Shropshire.

In the autumn of 1798, Coleridge and Wordsworth left for a stay in Germany; Coleridge soon went his own way and spent much of his time in university towns. During this period, he became interested in German philosophy, especially the transcendental idealism and critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant, and in the literary criticism of the 18th century dramatist Gotthold Lessing. Coleridge studied German and, after his return to England, translated the dramatic trilogy Wallenstein by the German Classical poet Friedrich Schiller into English. He continued to pioneer these ideas through his own critical writings for the rest of his life (sometimes without attribution), although they were unfamiliar and difficult for a culture dominated by empiricism.

In 1799, Coleridge and Wordsworth stayed at Thomas Hutchinson’s farm on the River Tees at Sockburn, near Darlington.

It was at Sockburn that Coleridge wrote his ballad-poem Love, addressed to Sara Hutchinson. The knight mentioned is the mailed figure on the Conyers tomb in ruined Sockburn church. The figure has a wyvern at his feet, a reference to the Sockburn Worm slain by Sir John Conyers (and a possible source for Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky). The worm was supposedly buried under the rock in the nearby pasture; this was the ‘greystone’ of Coleridge’s first draft, later transformed into a ‘mount’. The poem was a direct inspiration for John Keats’ famous poem La Belle Dame Sans Merci.

Coleridge’s early intellectual debts, besides German idealists like Kant and critics like Lessing, were first to William Godwin’s Political Justice, especially during his Pantisocratic period, and to David Hartley’s Observations on Man, which is the source of the psychology which is found in Frost at Midnight. Hartley argued that one becomes aware of sensory events as impressions, and that “ideas” are derived by noticing similarities and differences between impressions and then by naming them. Connections resulting from the coincidence of impressions create linkages, so that the occurrence of one impression triggers those links and calls up the memory of those ideas with which it is associated (See Dorothy Emmet, “Coleridge and Philosophy”).

Coleridge was critical of the literary taste of his contemporaries, and a literary conservative insofar as he was afraid that the lack of taste in the ever growing masses of literate people would mean a continued desecration of literature itself.

In 1800, he returned to England and shortly thereafter settled with his family and friends at Keswick in the Lake District of Cumberland to be near Grasmere, where Wordsworth had moved. Soon, however, he was beset by marital problems, nightmares, illnesses, increased opium dependency, tensions with Wordsworth, and a lack of confidence in his poetic powers, all of which fuelled the composition of Dejection: An Ode and an intensification of his philosophical studies. He also sprinkled cayenne pepper over his eggs, which he ate from a teacup.

In 1802, Coleridge took a nine-day walking holiday in the fells of the Lake District. Coleridge is credited with the first recorded descent of Scafell to Mickledore via Broad Stand, although this was more due to his getting lost than a keenness for mountaineering.

In 1804, he travelled to Sicily and Malta, working for a time as Acting Public Secretary of Malta under the Commissioner, Alexander Ball, a task he performed quite successfully. He lived in St Antons’ Palace in the village of Attard. However, he gave this up and returned to England in 1806. Dorothy Wordsworth was shocked at his condition upon his return. From 1807 to 1808, Coleridge returned to Malta and then travelled in Sicily and Italy, in the hope that leaving Britain’s damp climate would improve his health and thus enable him to reduce his consumption of opium. Thomas de Quincey alleges in his Recollections of the Lakes and the Lake Poets that it was during this period that Coleridge became a full-blown opium addict, using the drug as a substitute for the lost vigour and creativity of his youth. It has been suggested, however, that this reflects de Quincey’s own experiences more than Coleridge’s.

His opium addiction (he was using as much as two quarts of laudanum a week) now began to take over his life: he separated from his wife Sarah in 1808, quarrelled with Wordsworth in 1810, lost part of his annuity in 1811, and put himself under the care of Dr. Daniel in 1814. His addiction caused severe constipation, which required regular and humiliating enemas.

In 1809, Coleridge made his second attempt to become a newspaper publisher with the publication of the journal entitled The Friend. It was a weekly publication that, in Coleridge’s typically ambitious style, was written, edited, and published almost entirely single-handedly. Given that Coleridge tended to be highly disorganised and had no head for business, the publication was probably doomed from the start. Coleridge financed the journal by selling over five hundred subscriptions, over two dozen of which were sold to members of Parliament, but in late 1809, publication was crippled by a financial crisis and Coleridge was obliged to approach “Conversation Sharp”, Tom Poole and one or two other wealthy friends for an emergency loan to continue. The Friend was an eclectic publication that drew upon every corner of Coleridge’s remarkably diverse knowledge of law, philosophy, morals, politics, history, and literary criticism. Although it was often turgid, rambling, and inaccessible to most readers, it ran for 25 issues and was republished in book form a number of times. Years after its initial publication, The Friend became a highly influential work and its effect was felt on writers and philosophers from J.S. Mill to Emerson.

Between 1810 and 1820, Coleridge gave a series of lectures in London and Bristol – those on Shakespeare renewed interest in the playwright as a model for contemporary writers. Much of Coleridge’s reputation as a literary critic is founded on the lectures that he undertook in the winter of 1810–11, which were sponsored by the Philosophical Institution and given at Scot’s Corporation Hall off Fetter Lane, Fleet Street. These lectures were heralded in the prospectus as “A Course of Lectures on Shakespeare and Milton, in Illustration of the Principles of Poetry.” Coleridge’s ill-health, opium-addiction problems, and somewhat unstable personality meant that all his lectures were plagued with problems of delays and a general irregularity of quality from one lecture to the next. As a result of these factors, Coleridge often failed to prepare anything but the loosest set of notes for his lectures and regularly entered into extremely long digressions which his audiences found difficult to follow. However, it was the lecture on Hamlet given on 2 January 1812 that was considered the best and has influenced Hamlet studies ever since. Before Coleridge, Hamlet was often denigrated and belittled by critics from Voltaire to Dr. Johnson. Coleridge rescued the play’s reputation, and his thoughts on it are often still published as supplements to the text.

In August 1814, Coleridge was approached by Lord Byron’s publisher, John Murray, about the possibility of translating Goethe’s classic Faust (1808). Coleridge was regarded by many as the greatest living writer on the demonic and he accepted the commission, only to abandon work on it after six weeks. Until recently, scholars were in agreement that Coleridge never returned to the project, despite Goethe’s own belief in the 1820s that he had in fact completed a long translation of the work. In September 2007, Oxford University Press sparked a heated scholarly controversy by publishing an English translation of Goethe’s work that purported to be Coleridge’s long-lost masterpiece (the text in question first appeared anonymously in 1821).

In April 1816, Coleridge, with his addiction worsening, his spirits depressed, and his family alienated, took residence in the Highgate homes, then just north of London, of the physician James Gillman, first at South Grove and later at the nearby 3 The Grove. It is unclear whether his growing use of opium (and the brandy in which it was dissolved) was a symptom or a cause of his growing depression. Gillman was partially successful in controlling the poet’s addiction. Coleridge remained in Highgate for the rest of his life, and the house became a place of literary pilgrimage for writers including Carlyle and Emerson.

In Gillman’s home, Coleridge finished his major prose work, the Biographia Literaria (mostly drafted in 1815, and finished in 1817), a volume composed of 23 chapters of autobiographical notes and dissertations on various subjects, including some incisive literary theory and criticism. He composed a considerable amount of poetry, of variable quality. He published other writings while he was living at the Gillman homes, notably the Lay Sermons of 1816 and 1817, Sibylline Leaves (1817), Hush (1820), Aids to Reflection (1825), and On the Constitution of the Church and State (1830). He also produced essays published shortly after his death, such as Essay on Faith (1838) and Confessions Of An Inquiring Spirit (1840). A number of his followers were central to the Oxford Movement, and his religious writings profoundly shaped Anglicanism in the mid nineteenth century.

Coleridge also worked extensively on the various manuscripts which form his “Opus Maximum”, a work which was in part intended as a post-Kantian work of philosophical synthesis. The work was never published in his lifetime, and has frequently been seen as evidence for his tendency to conceive grand projects which he then had difficulty in carrying through to completion. But while he frequently berated himself for his “indolence”, the long list of his published works calls this myth into some question. Critics are divided on whether the “Opus Maximum”, first published in 2002, successfully resolved the philosophical issues he had been exploring for most of his adult life.

Coleridge died in Highgate, London on 25 July 1834 as a result of heart failure compounded by an unknown lung disorder, possibly linked to his use of opium. Coleridge had spent 18 years under the roof of the Gillman family, who built an addition onto their home to accommodate the poet.

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

James Sheridan Knowles
12 May 1784 – 30 November 1862

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James Sheridan Knowles

James Sheridan Knowles was born in Cork. His father was the lexicographer James Knowles (1759–1840), cousin of Richard Brinsley Sheridan. The family moved to London in 1793, and at the age of fourteen Knowles published a ballad entitled The Welsh Harper, which, set to music, was very popular. His talents secured him the friendship of William Hazlitt, who introduced him to Charles Lamb and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He served for some time in the Wiltshire and afterwards in the Tower Hamlets militia, leaving the service to become a pupil of Dr Robert Willan (1757–1812). He obtained the degree of M.D., and was appointed vaccinator to the Jennerian Society.

Although Dr Willan offered him a share in his practice, Knowles decided to give up medicine for the stage, making his first appearance as an actor probably at Bath, and played Hamlet at the Crow Theatre, Dublin. At Wexford he married, in October 1809, Maria Charteris, an actress from the Edinburgh Theatre. In 1810 he wrote Leo, a successful play in which Edmund Kean appeared; another play, Brian Boroihme, written for the Belfast Theatre in the next year, attracted crowds; nevertheless, Knowles’s earnings were so small that he was obliged to become assistant to his father at the Belfast Academical Institution. In 1817 he moved from Belfast to Glasgow, where, besides keeping a flourishing school, he continued to write for the stage.

His first important success was Caius Gracchus, produced at Belfast in 1815; and his Virginius, written for Edmund Kean, was first performed in 1820 at Covent Garden. In William Tell (1825), Knowles wrote for William Charles Macready one of his favourite parts. His best-known play, The Hunchback, was produced at Covent Garden in 1832, and Knowles won praise acting in the work as Master Walter. The Wife was brought out at the same theatre in 1833; and The Love Chase in 1837.

In his later years he forsook the stage for the pulpit, and as a Baptist preacher attracted large audiences at Exeter Hall and elsewhere. He published two polemical works: the Rock of Rome and the Idol Demolished by Its Own Priests in both of which he combated the special doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. Knowles was for some years in the receipt of an annual pension of £200, bestowed by Sir Robert Peel in 1849. In old age he befriended the young Edmund Gosse, whom he introduced to Shakespeare. Knowles makes a happy appearance in Gosse’s Father and Son. He died at Torquay on 30 November 1862.

A full list of the works of Knowles and of the various notices of him will be found in the The Life of James Sheridan Knowles (1872), privately printed by his son, Richard Brinsley Knowles (1820–1882), who was well known as a journalist. It was translated into German.

Plays

  • Leo; or, The Gipsy (1810)
  • Brian Boroihme; or, The Maid of Erin (1811)
  • Caius Gracchus (1815)
  • Virginius (1820) A Tragedy in Five Acts
  • William Tell (1825)
  • The Beggar’s Daughter of Bethnal Green (1828)
  • Alfred the Great; or The Patriot King (1831)
  • The Hunchback (1832)
  • A Masque (in one act and in verse on the death of Sir Walter Scott) (1832)
  • The Wife; A Tale of Mantua (1833)
  • The Beggar of Bethnal Green (1834)
  • The Daughter (1837)
  • The Love Chase (1837)
  • Woman’s Wit; or, Loves Disguises (1838)
  • The Maid of Mariendorpt (1838)
  • Love (1839)
  • John of Procida; or, The Bridals of Messina (1840)
  • Old Maids (1841)
  • The Rose of Arragon (1842)
  • The Secretary (1843)
  • The Bridal (1847) (An adaptation of The Maid’s Tragedy)
  • Alexina; or, True unto Death (1866)

Novels and short stories

  • The Magdalen and Other Tales (1832)
  • Fortescue (1847)
  • George Lovell (1852)
  • Old Adventures (1859)
  • Tales and Novelettes etc. (1874)

Poetry

  • A Collection of Poems on Various Subjects (1810)
  • Fugitive Pieces
  • The Senate, or Social Villagers of Kentish Town, a Canto (1817)

Theological writings

  • The Rock of Rome; or, The Arch Heresy (1849)
  • The Idol Demolished by Its Own Priest (1852) (An answer to Cardinal Wiseman’s Lectures on Transubstantiation.)
  • The Gospel Attributed to Matthew in the Record of the Whole Original Apostlehood (1855)

Non-fiction

  • The Elocutionist (1831) (A collection of pieces in prose and verse; peculiarly adapted to display the art of reading…)
  • A Treatise on the Climate of Madeira (1850)
  • The Debater’s Handbook (1862)
  • Lectures on Dramatic Literature (1875)

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Regency Personalities Series
In my attempts to provide us with the details of the Regency, today I continue with one of the many period notables.

George Frederick Cooke
17 April 1756 – 26 September 1812

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George Frederick Cooke

George Frederick Cooke claimed to have been born in Westminster, it seems likely that he was the illegitimate child of a British soldier in Dublin. He was raised in Berwick-upon-Tweed, where in 1764 he was apprenticed to a printer. However, early exposure to strolling players made an impact. By the end of the decade he had gotten himself released from his apprenticeship and become an expert.

He made his first appearance on the stage in Brentford at the age of twenty as Dumont in Nicholas Rowe’s Jane Shore. His first London appearance was at the Haymarket Theatre in 1778; he played in benefit performances of Thomas Otway’s The Orphan, Charles Johnson’s The Country Lasses, and David Garrick and George Colman’s The Clandestine Marriage. Almost immediately, however, he returned to the country, and he spent the next decade and more touring, from Hull to Liverpool. He first performed with Sarah Siddons in York in 1786; by that time he had earned a substantial provincial reputation. In 1794 in Dublin, as Othello, he first attained high rank in a national capital; by 1800, London critics had dubbed him the Dublin Roscius. His unusually long provincial apprenticeship in many ways served him well. After an initial concentration on romantic leads, particularly in comedy, he gradually found his metier playing rakes and villains. As a regional star, he performed with Siddons, Dorothy Jordan and other London celebrities; he had over 300 roles in his repertoire.

At the same time, he developed a drinking problem, and a reputation for unreliability inevitably followed. A binge drinker, Cooke would abandon his duties for weeks at a time, often spending whatever money he had in the process. Shortly after his first triumph in Dublin, he disappeared from the stage for over a year. At some point in 1795, he had enlisted in the British Army, in a regiment due for deployment to the Caribbean. He was extricated from the military by the efforts of theatre owners in Manchester and Portsmouth, and he returned to Dublin in 1796.

In 1801, he appeared at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden as Richard III; this role would become his most famous. That year he also played Shylock (The Merchant of Venice), Iago (Othello), Macbeth, Kitely (Ben Jonson’s Every Man in His Humour), and Giles Overreach, and became the rival of Kemble, with whom, however, and with Mrs. Siddons, he acted from 1803. In 1802 he added roles in Edward Moore’s The Gamester and Charles Macklin’s Man of the World.

After Kemble and Siddons came to Covent Garden in 1803, the rivalry between the two actors unfolded on one stage instead of two. Fittingly, they debuted in Richard III, though Kemble played the title role and Cooke Richmond. Shortly later they acted in John Home’s Douglas: Cooke played Glenalvon to Kemble’s Old Norval, and Siddons was Lady Randolph. Washington Irving records seeing the group in Othello (Cooke was Iago, and Charles Kemble was Cassio); he called the performance delightful.

For the next decade, Cooke was an erratic star in London. Already a confirmed alcoholic when he arrived, he grew steadily less reliable as his career progressed. Already in 1801, he was unable to perform because he was drunk; such failures became more frequent in later years. In 1807, after failing to appear for his summer season in Manchester, he was jailed in Westmorland for several months. In the last years of the decade, he managed to curb his excesses to some extent; he was, for instance, frequently on stage during the Old Price riots.

However, he was unhappy with his treatment by the London press, and he was easily persuaded to travel to the United States in 1810. American audiences received him enthusiastically. He premiered as Richard III in New York on 11 November. Escorted by William Dunlap, he remained sober and performed in Boston, where he played opposite English tragedienne Mary Ann Duff, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Providence. Thomas Sully painted him as Richard; the result is generally considered Sully’s best painting of a human figure. He earned 20,000 dollars for his efforts, but the windfall reaped by the theater-owners (more than $250,000) left him feeling bitter and exploited. By 1812, he had accepted an invitation to return to Covent Garden. The outbreak of the War of 1812 stranded him in New York. He died of cirrhosis at the Mechanics’ Hall in Manhattan on 26 September.

A monument to his memory was erected in St. Paul’s chapel (on Fulton Street) by Edmund Kean during his first American tour in 1821. Barry Cornwall claimed that Kean brought Cooke’s big toe back to England, where his disgusted wife subsequently threw it away. Other biographers claim Kean stole a finger rather than a toe, and a relatively unreliable American writer claims that after Cooke’s skull was used as the skull of Yorick in a performance of Hamlet, members of a private New York club (including Daniel Webster and Henry Wheaton) subjected the skull to phrenological examination.
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Cooke’s personal life was, unsurprisingly, markedly chaotic. Even apart from his binges, he was profligate and generous with his money, so that he rarely enjoyed a prolonged period of security. He married late. In September 1808 in Edinburgh he married Sarah Lamb. She accompanied him to London for the 1808 season, but in February 1809 Sarah returned to her family in Newark-on-Trent and was not associated with the actor thereafter. In New York, he married Violet Mary Behn, the daughter of a coffee-house owner. He left at his death $2000, all that remained of a lifetime as a famous actor.

Cooke may be called the first fully romantic actor in England. He drew on the style of Garrick and Macklin, both of whom he saw in his youth; he expanded on their naturalness and informality of style. That Kean idolized him is perhaps sufficient to suggest his style; there are also the contrasts that period critics saw between his style and that of the refined, dignified Kemble.

Cooke was about 5’10”, with a commanding stage presence and a long, aquiline nose. His stage presence was generally described as commanding, although many observers noted that his voice tended to become hoarse in the later acts of challenging plays. He was, like Garrick, a restless, physically dynamic performer; critics also noted his skill in using his eyes to convey complex thoughts or emotions, and his ability to project stage-whispers even in a large venue.

Little record of response to his early romantic roles exists; however, his technique in his mature tragic roles is abundantly recorded. He was at his best in roles of suave or energetic villainy or hypocrisy. In comedy, his Macsarcasm (from Macklin’s Love à la Mode) and Shylock were considered unsurpassable. In tragedy, in addition to Richard, he was a notable Iago. Though King Lear was not one of his signature roles, his interpretation of Lear’s madness influenced that of Kean and other actors.

Yet his performance in roles that required refinement or restraint was almost universally disparaged—perhaps inevitably, given the looming shadow of Kemble. His Hamlet was a failure. As Macbeth, he was said to manage nothing better than “low cunning.” Henry Crabb Robinson reports that Cooke failed in Kotzebue’s The Stranger; Robinson expressed a common opinion when he concludes that however compelling a presence, Cooke was too coarse for the greatest tragic roles. Leigh Hunt agreed, arguing that Cooke reduced all of his characters to their lowest motives. Of Cooke’s famous style of declamation (like Macklin, he delivered soliloquies as if thinking aloud), Hunt complained that it merely turned Shakespeare’s poetry into indignant prose.

As Richard III, Cooke offered an interpretation that both differed from and excelled Kemble’s rather staid performance. In such melodramatic scenes as the murder of Henry VI, Cooke excelled in conveying Richard’s horrid glee (as, indeed, had Kemble); unlike Kemble, however, Cooke was also able to convey a sense of Richard’s disgust with himself. This aspect of Richard was most notable in his discussion of his hunchback and in his response to Norfolk’s doggerel in 5.2. Where Kemble had simply brushed the bad news aside, Cooke pondered the verse carefully before rejecting it without force. The effect was to deepen Richard’s characterization, providing him with a gradually increasing awareness of his own villainy. Cooke’s Richard was, then, something more than the fairy-tale ogre described by Charles Lamb.

On the whole, though, the limits of Cooke’s talent are indicated by the probably apocryphal story related by Macready and others. Wishing to impress well-born visitors with his mimetic talent, Cooke made a number of faces meant to represent various emotions. One of his looks stumped the visitors. They guessed rage, anger, and revenge before Cooke, exasperated, told them it was meant to be love.

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