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Unusual SuspectsPitt's Reign of Alarm and the Lost Generation of the 1790s$
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Kenneth R. Johnston

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199657803

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199657803.001.0001

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The End of Controversy

The End of Controversy

Gilbert Wakefield (1756–1801)

Chapter:
(p.184) (p.185) 10 The End of Controversy
Source:
Unusual Suspects
Author(s):

Kenneth R. Johnston

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199657803.003.0010

Gilbert Wakefield was a professional ‘controversialist,’ a polemical writer on disputed topics in religion, literature, education, and politics. His radical independence of expression led him to resign his Anglican ministry, but he soon found even Dissenting academies too constrictive. In 1798, he attacked Richard Watson, the Bishop of Llandaff, for his fawning Address to the People of Great Britain, approving Pitt’s institution of an income tax to pay for the war. He was charged with seditious libel—by the government, not by Watson. He was sentenced to three years in the harsh Dorchester jail. He tried to improve the conditions of other prisoners, eventually contracting the typhus from which they suffered, causing his own death months after he was released in 1801. Wordsworth covertly alludes to Wakefield in his description of The Solitary in The Excursion, because Wordsworth had also written against Watson, but had been dissuading from publishing it.

Keywords:   Gilbert Wakefield, End of liberty of the press, Controversialist writers, Political apostasy, Renegadism, Legal tyranny, Sedition trails, Fear of French invasion

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