Galt’s two great political novels date from around the passing of the Reform Act of 1832.
The Member has claims to be the first political novel in the English language and is a tour de force of wit, observation, and a devastating critique of political self-seekings. Its hero is a Scot, newly returned from India, who purchases a seat in a rotten borough. As a study of the corruption of the pre-reform parliament it is unsurpassed.
The Radical is a study of narrow-minded, humourless fanaticism.
Galt’s aim is to demonstrate the fragility of the existing order and the closeness of anarchy to the surface of society. This is the first republication of The Radical since its original edition.
John Galt was born in 1779 in the town of Irvine on the Ayrshire coast. Having published a Life of Cardinal Wolsey and a volume of tragedies in 1812, Galt turned to writing full-time after his marriage in 1813. His reputation as a writer of humour and subtle social observations was solidified after the publication of The Provost (1822). Ringan Gilhaize (1823), however, took a darker turn in a unique psychological and historical study of Covenanting fervour and the ‘killing times’ in the 17th century. His Life of Lord Byron (1830) was a controversial success and the novels The Member and The Radical (both 1832) took a searching look at his country’s political life. Galt died in 1839.