You are here

Abstracts 92.2

 “‘Moral Force’ and ‘Physical Force’ in the Poetry of Chartism” by H. Gustav Klaus

This article compares and contrasts the political allegiances and artistic sensibilities of two Scottish shoemakers turned poets as part of their active involvement in the campaign for universal suffrage and the emancipation of the working class. The “moral force” position embraced by Mitchell and underpinned by strong religious belief enabled him to occupy a high moral ground, which in turn translated into an elevated moralizing diction characterized by great philosophical and political abstractions such as “freedom”, “justice”, and “truth”. Wright’s poems, less steeped in the Romantic tradition, engage the reader through a more often defiant rather than ardent tone, appeals to human agency instead of a higher authority, and a sharper focus on the economic sites of the struggle for social and cultural betterment. Even in his nature poetry Wright’s voice is not one of inward-turned lyric subjectivity.

“Working-Class Women’s Writing in the Nineteenth-Century Radical Periodical Press: Chartist Threads” by Meagan Birchmore Timney

“Working-Class Women in the Radical Periodical Press,” discusses working- class women (E.H., F. Saunderson, and “Marie”) who published in Chartist, labour, and trade union journals between roughly 1830 and 1850. In this essay, I argue that, through the nineteenth-century periodical press, working-class women not only reflected working-class politics, but also actively participated in its creation. Within each of the journals I discuss, I trace the politics of working-class women’s poetry within the context of Chartism, and examine the potential of these poets to identify with a particular working-class poetic intertextuality. I show that working-class women’s poetry engaged with nineteenth-century politics by employing many of the same literary strategies as the Chartists: the invocation of community and collective voices, religious and emancipatory rhetoric, and the deployment of differing poetic forms (e.g., pastoral poetry, medieval romance, polemical poetry), and that each of these poets participates in a type of literary labour politics.

“Chartist Revolutionary Strategy in Thomas Wheeler’s Sunshine and Shadow” by Margaret A. Loose

Unique not only among social problem novels, Wheeler’s serialized novel Sunshine and Shadow (1849–50) stands alone among midcentury working-class fiction in confronting from within Chartism, based on current events and conditions, the possibility of an imminent English revolution.  This essay argues that Wheeler’s blend of history and fiction makes a truly distinctive contribution to political theory through its contention that workers must break from reliance on the middle class, seek revolution and not simply reform, and organize themselves in a tightly cohesive party for the greatest effectiveness in achieving their aims.  Those aims, for Wheeler, ultimately outstrip the People’s Charter itself.  Unlike other social problem novelists, Wheeler regards revolutionary consciousness not as a regrettable illusion to be overcome by his protagonist Arthur Morton, but as the starting point for strategizing.  The novel’s tone of disappointment and hope make possible its orientation not just to the Chartist movement’s past, but to its future.

“Modes and Methods in Three Nineteenth-Century Mineworker Poets” by Bridget Keegan and John Goodridge

“Under Physical Siege: Early Victorian Autobiographies of Working-Class Women” by Florence Boos

This article examines two of the rare surviving early Victorian memoirs by working-class women. In each case, the author wrote or dictated her memoir in response to injustice and violence, and was sustained by forms of medical, familial, and religious support without which she could not have pled her worthy case. Elizabeth Storie wrote to expose the legal biases which prevented a poor woman from gaining reparation for the gross medical malpractice which had rendered her life painful and precarious, and the former slave Mary Prince described the brutal conditions to which she had been subjected in Antigua, Bermuda, and nearby Turks Island. Students of Victorian middle-class women’s autobiographies have argued that with rare exceptions, these memoirists defined themselves primarily in terms of their domestic ties with their families and friends, but for Storie and Prince it was the rupture of those bonds which preoccupied them. Both Storie’s and Prince’s memoirs bore eloquent witness to the complexities and perversities of the actual social order in which they lived, and their acts of resistance have deepened and extended our notions of the range of nineteenth-century working-class writing.

“M.R. Lahee and the Lancashire Lds: Gender and Class in Victorian Lancashire Dialect Writing” by Taryn Hakala

“From Voice to Print: Lancashire Dialect Verse, 1800–70” by Brian Hollingworth

This paper explores the development of Lancashire dialect verse in its written form during the nineteenth century from its roots in the oral vernacular tradition.  Dialect poetry was especially popular among working people in this area of England where cotton spinning and weaving were the basic industries.  In England its cultural significance could be rivalled only by the literature of Tyneside and the North East.  As the paper suggest, it sill has a place in Lancashire culture today.