« PreviousContinue »
For JULY, 1846.
Art. I. Passages in the Life of a Radical, By Samuel Bamford.
2 vols. Fourth Edition. London: Simpkin, Marshall, & Co. SAMUEL Bamford's evident and proper wish to make his literary labours profitable, would have been much more amply gratified had he learned, or been willing, to make suitable arrangements with the booksellers. His book was first introduced to us by the Quarterly Review ; and we immediately determined to bring it without delay before the notice of our readers. But no copy could we anywhere procure ; nor could we learn where one ought to be obtained. Other books demanded notice; and had not our good will towards Mr. Bamford, and, still more, our regard for his 'order', been too lively to require a remembrancer, we should most likely have dismissed the matter from our mind. But the extracts we had seen in the Quarterly Review had stirred up many thoughts within us, and we wanted to express them. After a few months' interval, therefore, we tried the London Trade again, but with as little success as formerly. We sent to Lancashire, but the Manchester booksellers were as helpless as their London brethren. At last, through a friend, who happened to hear of our distress, a stationer in an isolated Lancashire village undertook to obtain a copy; but, after all, he got it viâ London, and through whom we know not. Mr. Bamford's book is worthy to be sold by thousands; and long before this time it might, with proper
management, have secured him an independent maintenance for life.
Had we written this article when it was first planned, we should have made it twice as long as at present.
But as most of our readers, we apprehend, are by this time acquainted with the book, we shall say but little of its literary merits, and shall refrain from quoting to any great extent. In the hope, however, of yet assisting somewhat in the sale, we shall give as brief a sketch as possible of the numerous and various contents, and shall extract a page or two from a crowd of very striking and instructive passages. Dismissing then our author and his work with a few valedictory remarks, our remaining space will be devoted to some thoughts that glow within us, respecting the condition and the requirements of the artisans of Lancashire.
Mr. Bamford commences his book thus :
• This work will be found to contain narratives of, and observations on, some of the most remarkable events which took place in the manufacturing districts of Lancashire, and other parts of England, during the years 1816 to 1821, inclusive. It will record the proceedings of the parliamentary reformers and their opponents; and will present personal and biographical notices of active and distinguished individuals in the ranks of reform, and elsewhere. The writer was a partaker in most of the scenes he will describe. They are vividly impressed on his memory; some of them are also interwoven with the feelings of his heart.'—p. 3.
He adds, pp. 5, 6,
• The writer does not pretend to make his work a strict record, but a narrative only of evenis in most of which he was personally concerned. His course he conceives to be obvious, and untrammelled by the particularities of strict chronology.
Some fervid and superior mind will in time arise, to give the history of a great nation careering through a long war; her princes, nobles, priests, and all the wealthy of her land, dazzled by glory, and intoxicated with triumph. Suddenly their pleasures are shaken by a portentous sound. It is her artisans and labourers, who, struggling through adversity, and directed by an extraordinary genius, are pealing the shouts of Liberty, liberty! At such a period the author proceeds.'
And he first sketches the disturbed condition of the country through the years 1815 and 1816; mentions the influence of Cobbett's writings; and records the rise of 'Hampden Clubs,' of one of which in Middleton, near Manchester, he became secretary, 'having been instrumental in its formation, being a tolerable reader also, and rather an expert writer.' We present the following epitome of what succeeded, at least as recorded
by our author. Delegates from the surrounding districts, from the Hampden Clubs, we suppose, met frequently at Middleton. "The leading reformers of Lancashire were generally seen together at these meetings; among the names of which leaders, seventeen in number, we find William Ogden, of Manchester, letter-press printer, afterwards immortalized by Canning, as 'the revered and ruptured Ogden, and Samuel Bamford, of Middleton, silk weaver.' Missionaries were now sent 'to other towns and villages, particularly to Yorkshire ;' and resolutions were passed declaratory of the objects and demands of the reformers. A general meeting of delegates from Hampden elubs was then convened, under the auspices of Sir Francis Bardett, at the Crown and Anchor; and Bamford was chosen to represent the club in Middleton. He attended accordingly, not noticing 'the abuse which this small honour brought upon his shoulders.' In London, he saw Hunt, O'Leary, the secretary of the London Club, the worthy old Major Cartwright,' who, sir Francis being in the country, took the chair at the meeting; Cobbett, Lord Cochrane, and, at last, Sir Francis Burdett; and of each of these we are presented with a remarkably truthful and vivid description. One or two London adventures are recorded ; and scenes at Trades' clubs, and in the House of Commons, graphically sketched. Soon after witness. ing one of the latter, Mr. Bamford left the great Babylon, heartily tired of it, and returned to Middleton, where events rapidly pressed on his attention. The Habeas Corpus Act was now suspended; the infatuated Blanket expedition was essayed ; other schemes were broached, more mischievous, if less absurd; 'unity of action among the reformers was relaxed ; spies mingled with them; traitors appeared among themselves; and at last poor Bamford, with his most amusing friend, the famous Doctor Healy, found it expedient to imitate the conduct of other leading reformers,' and 'to quit their homes, and seek concealment where they could obtain it.' The account of their adventures now succeeds, not omitting a description of their personal appearance; and rarely have we met, in equal compass, with a richer compound of drollery and pathos, of pleasant sense and decent nonsense, of spice for broad grins, and of food for mournful musing, than what is furnished by these forty pages. Soon after his return home, however, though with admirable prudence he had escaped the snares prepared for him by spies in the pay of the government, and with equally admirable sagacity and firmness had exposed and resisted the treasonable wishes of weak brethren, he was, after all, arrested on suspicion of high treason, and conveyed to the New Bailey in Manchester. The description of the arrest, the journey to Manchester, the treatment suffered there, the longer journey to London, and the appearance at Bow Street, occupies no fewer than about thirty pages. But they are thoroughly readable ; and, too, to be enjoyed, they must be read in full. No abridgment could preserve, no description would convey, the racy freshness of the original itself. The same, too, may be said of the next fifty pages; containing, among countless matters of inferior but still pleasant interest, an account of several examinations before the Privy Council, a description of the stateprisoners' life in Cold Bath Fields' Prison, a brief summary of what befel his fellow-prisoners, and a very particular repetition of most marvellous tales imposed upon him by a stranger, George Plant, 'a great reader, a botanist, a dreary-minded wanderer in lonely dells, on moors and heaths,' who for some time was imprisoned with him.
At last Mr. Bamford was discharged, the Privy Council not finding cause for further procedures; and on the 2nd of May, 1817, he arrived at home. He ‘now went to work, bis wife weaving beside him, and his little girl, now become doubly dear, attending school, or going short errands for her mother.' But it was not long before, in the absence of wholesome monition' respecting the ignorance and corruption of the people, with a strong though discreetly tempered zeal, he determined to go forward in the cause of parliamentary reform. Yet the next events that happened were not of a very exhilarating nature. 'Instigated to crime, and then betrayed, by a government agent,' the infamous Oliver, Brandreth, Turner, and Ludlam, three of his former associates, were found guilty of high treason and were hanged at Derby, while fifteen others were transported for life. Some of the state prisoners, too, who had been his companions in Coldbath-fields, particularly Leach and Healey, appear to have seriously annoyed him after their release, propa. gating, or conniving at, “reports that he had acted as a spy for the government, and had purchased his own liberation by betraying others. All, however, was forgotten when the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act terminated, and 'the agitation for reform was renewed. A public meeting on the subject was held at Westminster;
numerous meetings followed in various parts of the country;
and even female political unions were formed, with their chairwomen, committees, and other officials. In this state of things Hunt arrived in Manchester, but apparently effected little except a disturbance at the theatre. The crisis, however, was rapidly approaching : for after great meetings in Spafields and Birmingham, it was determined to gather that concourse in St. Peter's Field, Manchester, on August 16, 1819, which occasioned the arrest of Hunt, Bamford, and others, on a charge of high treason, and the still more memorable and most enormous outrage, the murderous massacre at Peterloo. The preparations for the meeting; its design and character; the errors of its managers ; its assembling and procedures; the unprovoked and most horrible attack upon it by the yeomanry; its dispersion; its immediate consequences; all are described by Mr. Bamford with an evident completeness, accuracy, candour, and artistical power, such as leave little, if anything, to be desired for a satisfactory apprehension of the entire tragedy.
The charge of high treason was ultimately withdrawn, at least suspended, and the prisoners were indicted for a misdemeanor. Two of them obtained immediate bail: Hunt, Bamford, and five others, in present default thereof, were committed to Lancaster Castle. Hunt and another, however, were soon bailed; and after true bills had been found against them all, bail was procured for the whole party, the trial being postponed till the next assizes. The examinations at Manchester ; the journey to Lancaster; the prison scenes; the appearance before the court; the return home; these, and a rich variety of pleasant or otherwise affecting incidents, all are described as circumstantially and feelingly as any of the occurrences preceding. Soon after his return home, Mr. Bamford, encouraged or deceived by Mr. Finnerty, a reporter to The Morning Chronicle, with whom during the late disturbances he had formed an acquaintance, resolved to go again to London, with the hope of procuring permanent employment at the Chronicle office. On his way he visited Sir Charles Wolseley, who had invited him to stay a week or two at Wolseley Bridge. Thence to Oxford he travelled in a gig with Mr. Finnerty : from Oxford to London he proceeded alone, and chiefly on foot. Men and manners, nature and art, all, meanwhile, are closely watched with a perspicacious eye; the impressions are singularly true; and the communication of them is as singularly happy. We extend the ame remark to his second series of metropolitan adventures; in the course of which he saw what Hunt was in his 'family'; was introduced to that worthy gentleman and scholar, Sir Richard Phillips'; had an interview with Earl Grosvenor, and another, less pleasing, with Alderman Waithman; came pretty well to understand that rather remarkable man,' Mr. Finnerty; engaged in copying for Mr. Pearson, the attorney for the accused; became too ill to remain at the desk; was reduced to extreme straits; obtained ten pounds from Mr. Galloway, treasurer to the London committee for the relief of the sufferers at the Manchester meeting ; petitioned parliament; and found that he had come to London but to throw away his