1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Thelwall

Stephen Jones, in Biographia Dramatica; or, A Companion to the Playhouse (1812) 1:705.



JOHN THELWALL was intended for the law, and articled to an attorney; but whether he ever practised in the courts we know not. Upon the publication of Paine's Rights of Man, Mr. Thelwall was one of the first to display a zealous attachment to his principles; and he soon afterwards began to deliver a course of lectures of an inflammatory tendency, at Beaufort Buildings, in the Strand. In the year 1794 these discoveries were interrupted by the hand of Government, and the orator was conveyed to the Tower to take his trial, together with Hardy, Horne Took, and a few other suspected subjects. During his confinement, Mr. Thelwall wrote some poems, which were published after his release, having been tried at the Old Bailey in November 1794, and acquitted with the other prisoners. As an author, Mr. Thelwall made his first appearance in 1787, when he published Orlando and Almeyda, a legendary tale in the manner of Goldsmith; and also Poems on various subjects, in two volumes. Mr. Thelwall did not seek the press again till the year 1794, when No. I of his Political Lectures made its appearance, and these were carried on to 3 vols. In the following year he published The natural and constitutional Right of Britons to annual Parliaments, universal Suffrage, and the Freedom of popular Association, the speech which he intended to have delivered on his trial. His subsequent productions were chiefly political pamphlets of a similar cast, and The Peripatetic, in 3 vols, 12mo. He is recorded here, however, as an author of, 1. The Incas. Hist. Op. 1792. N.P. 2. The Fairy of the Lake. 8vo. 1802. Mr. Thelwall has for some years quitted the troubled ocean of politics, and set up as a teacher of elocution, and a corrector of defects in the organs of speech; which we hope he has found a much more profitable pursuit.