Readership: Students and scholars of Romantic literature; students and scholars of the British revolutionary era; general readers of Romantic literature and British history; students and scholars of the French and American Revolutions and their
inter-relations with British Parliamentary reform. Those interested in treason and sedition, past and present, and the supression of socio-political minorities. Readers of biography.
Kenneth R. Johnston, Kenneth Johnston is Ruth N. Halls Professor of English Emeritus at Indiana University
Kenneth R. Johnston received his PhD from Yale University and spent his entire academic career at Indiana University, where he was honored for distinguished teaching and scholarly achievement, while also heading its Department of English. He is author of Wordsworth and 'The Recluse' and The Hidden Wordsworth: Poet, Lover, Rebel, Spy, and editor of Romantic Revolutions. The Hidden Wordsworth won the 1999 Barricelli Prize for outstanding contribution to Romantic studies, and was named to several Book of the Year lists in both UK and US. He now resides in Chicago.
"Johnston is not merely setting some ideal record straight in attending to the disappeared of the period. He foregrounds the cumulative effects of government repression on our sense of literary history ... [and presents] the case for a new conception of historical textualism more explicitly than many of the other authors."
"His is a large synoptic or summary work that all students of the period will find themselves raiding for its judicious narration of some famous and more obscure careers and for ways in which written texts of all kinds participate in and do not merely respond to political change." - Stephen Bygrave, European Romantic Review
"[Johnston] begins to trace what he calls the lost generation of the 1790s, and
in doing so he pieces together a story that has waited a long time to be told Johnston has distilled the narrative to a dozen fascinating case studies, for each person whose gruesome encounter with political repression is uncovered and recounted here we could add a dozen more ... Johnston has written a book that is part investigative history and part elegy ... and in doing so he pieces together a story that has waited a long time to be told. We might think of Unusual Suspects as a cross between William Hazlitt's The Spirit of the Age and E.P. Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class: group biography meets radical history ... for each person whose dire encounter with political repression is recounted here we could add a dozen more. This, too, is the history of the Romantic era."
- John Bugg, Times Literary Supplement
"fascinating book ... thinking afresh about the huge damage a tyranny such as Pitt's can do, not just to a generation of writers, but to the development of a whole culture." - John Barrell, London Review of Books
"a magnificent foundation for further work" - Michael Scrivener, Review 19
"The book's greatest contribution is to show how the reign of alarm shaped the ideas and writing of these extraordinarily talented writers. That many of them are now scarcely known even to literary academics reinforces one of Johnston's recurrent points, namely, that Pitts repression worked, either by moving writers like Wordsworth and Coleridge from radicalism toward Romanticism, or by
driving radical writers into oblivion ... Johnston contends that this reign not only caused the ruin of personal lives and the deferral of political reforms but also hampered the genesis of great literature, including Romanticism itself ... Johnston tells a good story in a prose style self-consciously American and more colloquial than one usually finds in academic writing." - Michael Scrivener, Review 19
"Written in highly accessible prose and with energetic engagement in terms of applicability to later eras of suppression and opposition, this book rights many wrongs and encourages readers to view heretofore neglected works as well as works and authors who seem all too familiar as possible victims of politics and fear ... Highly recommended." - E. Kraft,
Preamble: 'Who are these people?'
I. The Red Decade
Usual and Unusual in 1790s Britain
Before and After Lives: John Thelwall and William Godwin
II. The Forces of Public Opinion
Joseph Priestley, 'Dr. Phlogiston'
James Montgomery, Radical Moravian
III. Keeping the University and Church Safe from Reform
William Frend, 'Frend of Jesus, friend of the Devil'
Thomas Beddoes, Sr., No Laughing Matter
IV. Other Voices, Other Places
The Suspect Gender: Helen Maria Williams, Our Paris Correspondent
Suspect Nations: William Drennan, 'Let Irishmen remain sulky, grave and watchful'
Generic Suspicions: Robert Bage, The Novelist Who Was Not
Gilbert Wakefield, The End of Controversy
James Mackintosh, The Great Apostate: Judas, Brutus, or Thomas?
VI. The Romantic Poets and the Police
Spy Nozy in Somerset: 'A Gang of Disaffected Englishmen'
Coleridge and Thelwall: 'Whispering Tongues Can Poison Truth'
Wordsworth, The Prelude, and Posterity
Robert Southey, More Radical Than Thou
Charles Lamb, Radical in a lamb's cloak
Robert Burns, 'A Man for a' That'
Blake's America: The Prophecy that Failed
Coda: 'What does it signify?'
Appendix 1: Trials for Sedition and Treason, 1792-1798
Appendix 2: Wakefield's Juvenal