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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.
"No one before Johnston has understood the poetry of the Romantic period so centrally in the context of Pittâs alarm ... This fascinating book is one way of thinking afresh about the huge damage a tyranny such as Pittâs can do, not just to a generation of writers, but to the development of a whole culture." - John Barrell, London Review of Books
"Johnston has written a book that is part investigative history and part elegy ... a story that has waited a long time to be told. We might think of Unusual Suspects as a cross between William Hazlittâs The Spirit of the Age and E.P. Thompsonâs The Making of the English Working Class:
group biography meets radical history." - Times Literary Supplement
"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 ... 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,
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"A study of huge scope and persuasive argument which will be of benefit to literary scholars and historians alike." - Mary Fairclough, Literature and History
"A new thorough-going treatment of a whole generation ... written with attractive informality of style ... that all students of the period will find themselves raiding for its judicious narration of ways in which texts of all kinds participate in and do not merely respond to political change." - European Romantic Review
"A deeply moving book ... reveals the appalling extent to which William Pittâs Reign of Alarm impacted upon the history of
Romanticism during the 1790s ... providing overwhelming evidence that innumerable writing careers were brought to a shuddering halt in the 1790s ... a wonderful resource for these lost writers." - Review of English Studies
"Generally ... when academics try to write for a broader, popular audience, we fail ... because we try too hard. But not Kenneth Johnston [who] has been developing [his] style since writing The Hidden Wordsworth ... a style charged with moral urgency ... that is not so much popular as populist ... his model is the writings of a usual suspect, mentioned often in the book: Thomas Paine." - Bruce Graver, The Age of
"[An] exceptional study ... an invaluable resource to students of Romanticism." - Tim Whelan, The Coleridge Bulletin
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