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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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‘A gang of disaffected Englishmen’

‘A gang of disaffected Englishmen’

Spy Nozy and the Somerset Gang

Chapter:
(p.228) (p.229) 12 ‘A gang of disaffected Englishmen’
Source:
Unusual Suspects
Author(s):

Kenneth R. Johnston

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199657803.003.0012

James Gillray’s ‘New Morality’ cartoon of August, 1798, illustrating George Canning’s poem of the same name in The Anti-Jacobin, is in effect a police line-up of many of the suspects, both ‘usual’ and ‘unusual,’ of the 1790s pro-parliamentary reform movement. It represents writers and intellectuals as leading a procession of British politicians in transports of enthusiasm for ‘French principles.’ The Home Office sent an agent to Nether Stowey in Somerset to investigate reports that Coleridge and Wordsworth, joined by the radical orator John Thelwall, were prospecting landing sites for a French invasion, supported by Thomas Poole, benefactor of a local Poor Man’s Benefit Club. Coleridge wrote a comic send-up of the incident for his Biographia Literaria (1817), by which he hoped to re-start his literary career after the defeat of Napoleon. He called the agent ‘Spy Nozy,’ claiming that he had misconstrued Coleridge and Wordsworth’s conversations on Spinoza.

Keywords:   Unusual suspects, Lost generation, 1790s, Alfoxden House, John Thelwall, Thomas Poole, ‘Spy Nozy’ (Spinoza), Coleridge

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