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Thelwall, John

John Thelwall

1764 - 1834

John Thelwall is best known for his political activism during the French Revolution and he is among the few British Romantics who wrote Arthurian literature.

Thelwall's attempts to become an artist were thwarted by financial difficulties. For a short time he went to college to learn historical painting, returning home when his father died. To support his family, he worked as a shopkeeper. Meanwhile he read constantly and kept a candle in his pocket so he could continue reading while walking at night. He made an unsuccessful attempt at acting by converting the shop into a stage to perform The Tragedy of Barbarossa. Once his interest in business had completely waned, he began to study divinity with his brother-in-law to become educated enough to be a lawyer's assistant. He was a copier for John Impey in 1782 and quickly left that profession.

In 1787 Thelwall published his first book, Poems upon Various Subjects, which was favorably reviewed by Critical Review. Riding on this literary success, he became the editor for Biographical and Imperial Magazine. Also, he conducted and spoke regularly in public debating societies. A few years later he married Susan Vellum who financed his literary and political ventures. During this time he met many important Romantic literary figures: Robert Southey, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Hazlitt, Charles Lamb, and Crabb Robinson.

During the French Revolution Thelwall was an outspoken member of the London Corresponding Society advocating radical, Jacobin politics. He publicly criticized the government for waging a war against France and thereby causing a financial drain directly affecting working and lower classes. Noting


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Additional Information:


Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Ed. Carl Woodring. Vol. 14. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990.

Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. Sidney Lee. Vol. 19. London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1909. 590-593.

Jeffrey, Francis. "Thelwall's Poems." Edinburgh Review. 2 (April 1803 - July 1803): 197 - 202.

Thelwall, John. Poems Chiefly Written in Retirement. The Fairy of the Lake, a Dramatic Romance; Effusions of Relative and Social Feeling: and Specimens of the Hope of Albion; or, Edwin of Northumbria: An Epic Poem [includes a prefatory memoir]. Hereford: W.H. Parker, 1802.