Anglia Ruskin University
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On the Eve

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conference contribution
posted on 2023-08-30, 20:16 authored by John Gardner
This paper examines literature and violence at the end of the Romantic period. William Benbow and Francis Macerone are two Regency radicals who carried revolutionary politics into the 1830s. Published in 1831, on the eve of the Reform Bill, Benbow’s Grand National Holiday and Macerone’s Defensive Instructions for the People pointed to the 1830s being a time of class conflict. In an 1822 edition of his semi-pornographic Rambler's Magazine, Benbow politicises pirating literature: ‘The enormous high price of books has long prevented the humble in place and purse from acquiring information, and we are not sorry to see the “gates of knowledge” opened so that all ranks may enter therein for a mere trifle’. Consequently, Benbow published cheap editions of poetry for the working classes. In 1826 Benbow pirated Mary Shelley's edition of her husband's Posthumous Poems, adding a number of poems, and sold the volume for only a third of the book’s original price. Benbow also produced a cut-price edition of Byron’s Don Juan. Colonel Francis Macerone, a Mancunian Italian engineer who had been aide-de-camp to Napoleon’s brother-in-law Murat, produced works that would be banned today, such as Defensive Instructions for the People, which was published by Benbow. This pamphlet shows amateurs how to make pikes, bullets, incendiary devices, and bombs, as well as ways to engage in street-fighting. In April 1831 the National Union of the Working Classes was formed with Benbow and Macerone among the founding members. Benbow then began to champion his 'Grand National Holiday'. This 'Holiday' was to be a month-long general strike, which Benbow thought would turn into a revolution. This paper will examine the revolutionary pre-Chartist moment of the early 1830s through Benbow and Macerone’s works.



British Association of Romantic Studies

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British Association of Romantic Studies

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New Romanticisms


Edge Hill University

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Faculty of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

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