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Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Pitt The Younger

Today I'm a guest on fellow Pen & Sword author Catherine Curzon's wonderful Georgian blog. William Pitt the Younger was a reforming spirit in his early days as a politician, but changed his mind in the aftermath of the turbulent French Revolution and war with France. Pitt became an implacable opponent of parliamentary reform, and his spies kept close watch on the corresponding societies which grew up to discuss Radical ideas like those of Thomas Paine.

Images: France; Freedom. Britain: Slavery
An unusual opposition print, 1789. On the left can be seen Jacques Necker, the French finance minister, in a land of 'Freedom’; on the right, Pitt rules over a land of ‘Slavery’. Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-USZC2-3583

Britannia between Scylla & Charybdis
Pitt steers a small boat carrying Britannia, The Constitution, towards a castle with a flag inscribed "Haven of Public Happiness". They are pursued by ‘sharks’ Sheridan, Fox, and Dr Priestley (the Radical). James Gillray, 1793.Courtesy Library of Congress, LC-USZC4-3137

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Thomas Paine

Paine by John Kay.

Another 'person of interest' to the British government was Thomas Paine (1737–1809), the son of a Thetford staymaker. His writings were truly revolutionary. His first great work, Common Sense (1776), was a plea for American independence.

His second major work, Rights of Man (part I) was a riposte to Edmund Burke’s Reflexions on the Revolution in France (1790), a powerful attack on French revolutionary ideals, and a plea for maintaining the current status quo.
Edmund Burke

But it was the second part of Paine’s Rights of Man (1792) which arguably had the largest influence on men’s thinking. He attacked the institution of monarchy: ‘Man has no power over posterity in matters of personal right; and therefore no man, or body of men, had, or can have, a right to set up hereditary government...we cannot conceive a more ridiculous figure of government, than hereditary succession’. 

He advocated the abolition of the poor laws. The state should provide for the poor, babies and old people. To add fuel to the flames, Paine’s Age of Reason (1794–5) lambasted organized religion.

Paine’s pioneering ideas spread like wildfire. His works had a massive circulation and were eagerly adopted by the Society of Constitutional Information (which he had joined), and by the so-called ‘corresponding societies’.

Tom Paine laces Britannia into a revolutionary corset.
In May 1792, Paine's Rights of Man was banned by the British government, but this act of censorship simply boosted sales of his work. Pitt's government now charged Paine with seditious libel; he fled to France, but was found guilty in absentia. Britain now became a very dangerous place for those who wanted to disseminate Paine's works, as we shall see.  

Illustrations: Thomas Paine, Kay's Original Portraits, courtesy the Internet Archive. 
Edmund Burke. Collotype after the painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds. Dr Johnson’s Mrs Thrale, T.N. Foulis, 1910. Author’s collection. 
'Fashion before ease'. Gillray cartoon, 1793, courtesy Library of Congress, LC-USZC4-3146.


Monday, 4 January 2016

Book Giveaway - Regency Spies!

I hope you all had a lovely peaceful Christmas and New Year! What better way to beat those January blues than a book giveaway? There's a chance to win a free signed copy of my new book Regency Spies on Goodreads! The competition, open to UK residents only, ends on 10 February 2016.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Regency Spies by Sue Wilkes

Regency Spies

by Sue Wilkes

Giveaway ends February 10, 2016.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway