A remarkably perceptive and vivid life of one of England's greatest radicals.
The early years of the 19th-century were ones of misery and oppression. The common people were forced into conditions of extreme poverty by enclosures and the Agricultural Revolution, and the long Tory administration of Lord Liverpool saw its task as keeping law and order at all costs. The cause of reform was a dangerous one, as William Cobbett was to find.
Cobbett is best known for his ‘Rural Rides', a classic account of early-19th-century Britain which has never been out of print. But he was a much greater figure than that implies, being the foremost satirist and proponent of reform of the time. He had a taste for provoking the deceit and vanity of the supposedly good and great, and had an abiding hatred of the establishment, or ‘The Thing', as he christened it. In the pages of his ‘Political Register' he lambasted corruption and excoriated hypocrisy, and was forever in fear of prosecution for libel, for which he was sent to Newgate prison for two years, which was the cause of his bankruptcy and forced him to flee to America.
For all that the establishment loathed and feared him, the people loved him, and he was greeted by adoring crowds wherever he went. He was a hero of his time, and Richard Ingram's admirable biography is both judicious, moving, sometimes funny and always utterly engaging.
'This is a wonderful portrait of a great Englishman ! Richard Ingrams's biography does a fantastic job of fleshing out this bold, bacon-eating, bloody-minded and often very funny writer.' Independent on Sunday 'The publicity hype -- "a perfect match of author and subject'" -- really is spot-on. Both are supreme satirists, masters of the vituperative arts and excellent writers of plain, vigorous English.' Mail on Sunday 'It is a packed and combative life, and Richard Ingrams, who knows all about people trying to silence you with libel writs, is the ideal man to write it. He does so spiritedly and entertainingly.' Daily Mail 'CK Chesterton remarked: "The man who does not find one of Cobbett's books amusing is doomed to find every book dull". The same applies to anyone who reads this entertaining biography.' Independent 'There have been many biographies of Cobbett but the story is a good one, full of adventures, and few can have told it with the succinctness of Ingrams.' Guardian 'Cheerful and enthusiastic !an entertaining read. Ingrams ! shows us a man of quite extraordinary passion, energy and principle.' Daily Telegraph 'Cobbett has found the ideal biographer in one of today's great contrarians!an affectionate portrait of a man whom The Times called in its obituary 'a more extraordinary Englishman than any other of this time.' The Observer 'At his death, Cobbett was haiiled by one and all as an English genius!Ingrams (describes his life) with gusto. He has done his hero proud.' New Statesman 'Engaging!crisp and balanced!it is easy to see how Cobbett's life appealed to Richard Ingrams, embattled editor and libel veteran.' Sunday Times 'Ingrams presents (Cobbett) in this admirably concise biography as a great journalist, who fearlessly exposed curruption in high places and championed the freedom of the press. In fact Cobbett in many ways resembles his biographer - the two men even look a bit alike!Ingrams's purpose in this!highly readable book is not to criticise Cobbett but to celebrate him.' Spectator 'Richard Ingrams's new life of Cobbett is vivid and informative, and grounded in good knowledge of his writings!Ingrams is a thoughtful guide to the character of the man!He is one of those larger-than-life characters that one would dearly like to have met. Making his acquaintance through Ingrams's book maybe the next best thing.' Sunday Telegraph 'This is the fourth biography of William Cobbett to have appeared during the last two decades, yet the freshest in tone!it remains different and original, and what is more important, necessary!it is the vitality of his life which, at this distance, awes us!What an amazing man.' The Tablet