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The Friends and Following of Richard Carlile
Michael Laccohee Bush
published by Twopenny Press - 2016
Richard Carlile (1790-1843)
An extreme radical, deist and publisher and dedicated to republicanism and infidelity, it was Richard Carlile who dared to republish the banned works of Tom Paine. After the Peterloo Massacre in 1819, Carlile advocated tyrannicide. It was too much for the state. He was found guilty of blasphemy and sent to prison.
A banner sign hung outside his London shop throughout the six years: THE SHOP IN FLEET STREET WILL NOT BE CLOSED AS A MATTER OF COURSE. Volunteers including shopmen, printers and newsvendors, men ‘who were free, able, and willing to serve in General Carlile’s Corps’, made sure of that. Women, too, flocked to support him. His wife, Jane, shared his prison cell. Despite her loyalty, Jane would be tossed aside and replaced by Eliza Sharples, who became his ‘moral wife’, as Carlile called it. He had a relaxed attitude to marriage and sex. In What is Love, he advocated the use of contraception to control the number of children produced, but also to make sex more enjoyable. His convictions won him huge support among the people and huge outrage among the establishment. Three biographies have been written – in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Michael Bush now presents a colourful, outrageous and action-packed life using contemporary records that, until now, have been largely unexploited. There was, for example, the Soho bookseller, who ran a penny weekly subscription society and hoped Carlile would continue his efforts ‘till the dust of priests and kings is stripped off every one’s eyes.’ A ‘few humble individuals’ from Carlisle donated £1.4.0. One woman who subscribed referred to herself as ‘a real deist’ who had ‘the misfortune to be the wife of a christian’. These were among thousands of brave men and women throughout the country who dared to support Richard Carlile.
Professor Bush has published a clutch of work on related subjects, including Richard Carlile's Philosophy of Sex (Verso Press, 1998) and The Casualties of Peterloo (Carnegie Press, 2005).
Designed and produced by Gilmour Print, Stewarton Ayrshire Scotland
paperback, 478 pages
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