Blair, Lord Liverpool, Castlereagh, and Shelley

This video from Britain is called Maxine Peake reads from Shelley’s Mask of Anarchy, 16th August 2015, Manchester.

From the Google cache:

Blair, Lord Liverpool, Castlereagh, and Shelley

Linking: 4 Comments: 10

Date: 8/22/05 at 1:54PM

Mood: Looking Playing: Get up, Stand up, by Bob Marley

From Media Lens, via Craig Murray’s blog:

[United Kingdom] “Prime Minister Liverpool equated Parliamentary Reform with treason.

At a peaceful and massive meeting – around 50-60,000 – in Manchester’s St. Peter’s Field in 1819, demanding Reform, troops attacked the assembly and killed nine men and two women, and wounded 400.

This event became known as the “Peterloo Massacre‘.

Far from reviewing the error of his resistance to reforms, Liverpool responded to Peterloo by rushing in the Six Acts.

This law forbade meetings of more than 50 people, extended the power of summary conviction by magistrates, made ‘blasphemous and seditious libel” a transportable [eg, to Australia] offence, and placed a heavy tax on newspapers.

There is a parallel today.

Blair‘s government, instinctively authoritarian as was Liverpool’s, seizes on catastrophic events, resulting from his own criminal policy, to take repressive measures and rush in laws against freedom of speech.

Lord Liverpool’s henchman and foreign secretary from 1812-1822 was Lord Castlereagh, about whom the redoubtable poet Shelley wrote after Peterloo:

I met Murder on the way
He had a mask like Castlereagh

His come-uppance was a bitter one. Deranged by power, Castlereagh suicided in 1822.

Chroniclers record that on the news the Capital’s “mob” celebrated in the streets, and at his funeral cheered.

Something perhaps for Blair and his henchmen to ponder?

Blair, cartoon by Martin Rowson

15 thoughts on “Blair, Lord Liverpool, Castlereagh, and Shelley

  1. Poet Shelley’s love affairs, and death seen in bio of Wollstonecraft

    Associated Press

    October 12, 2007 2:05 PM

    Two celebrated English writers with radical ideas about sex fascinated and scandalized the subjects of King George III, a strict family man who had one wife and 15 children.

    They gave him almost as much trouble as those 13 American colonies. His eldest son, who became Prince Regent and then George IV, had different tastes from his father’s. When he was still 16 he lamented his own indulgence in wine and women, indulgences he long continued, and with great intensity.

    Social critics can debate the connection between the thinkers and the scandals surrounding George IV. Janet Todd, a specialist in biographies of women writers, tells a complex story of how some extraordinary young people of the time — especially poet Percy Bysshe Shelley — acted out the writers’ ideas. It should enchant history buffs and poetry lovers.

    Todd’s “Death and the Maidens” deals with the children of the two writers: William Godwin, who predicted the abolition of marriage, and Mary Wollstonecraft, a feminist who shocked British conventions by living unmarried in revolutionary France and having a child there with Gilbert Imlay, an American writer and adventurer.

    The book focuses on their daughter, Fanny, who escaped the scandals but killed herself because of them. She may have been pining in vain for Shelley. Several in the circle thought so, though Todd writes that no one knew for sure because Fanny had no confidant.

    After Imlay abandoned Mary, she became Godwin’s lover. He ignored his principles by marrying her and adopted 3-year-old Fanny. Mary died soon afterward, following the birth of a daughter by Godwin, also named Mary. Four years later Godwin married another single mother and adopted her 3-year-old daughter, Claire.

    As the three girls grew, Mary became known for her beauty and cleverness. She was to write “Frankenstein,” as well as a biography of Godwin and other books. Claire had a beautiful singing voice and a daring temperament. Fanny, scarred with smallpox, became the ugly duckling: intelligent, diffident dependable.

    Shelley meanwhile had eloped with 16-year-old Harriet Westbrook. But he soon tired of Harriet and became a frequent visitor at the Godwins. He liked 16-year-old Mary, wooing her at the site of her mother’s nearby tomb with Claire as nominal chaperone. He went to Switzerland with both women while Fanny was away on a visit.

    Shelley wrote his wife Harriet from the continent, suggesting that she join them. Harriet, five months pregnant, did not reply but did help pay the fare for their return. Mary managed to get Claire to leave Shelley to herself. Claire, with help from Shelley, met the other great poet of the time, George Gordon, Lord Byron. She had no trouble seducing him. Byron, mired in scandal over treatment of his own wife, was preparing to leave for Geneva. Shelley, Mary and Claire got there before him. Fanny was ignored again.

    In Geneva, it became clear that Claire was pregnant, but the book leaves it unclear whether Byron or Shelley was the father. Byron accepted responsibility, on condition that Claire stop bothering him. Back in England, Shelley, Mary and Claire settled in Bath rather than London, to hide Claire’s pregnancy.

    Fanny at 22 was under pressure to decide what to do with her life — probably the unpleasant prospect of becoming a school teacher in Ireland. She wrote to Shelley and Mary, announcing she would visit. No letter or clear account of its content has survived, nor does any clear account of a meeting. The book says she was denied a visit out of fear that she would see Claire’s condition and tell the Godwins.

    Biographer Todd assumes she met Shelley somewhere in Bath and quotes a poem he wrote afterward: “Her voice did quiver as we parted, Yet knew I not that heart was broken. …”

    Fanny traveled to Wales, took a room at an inn and bought a bottle of laudanum, a tincture of opium used as a painkiller. She drank the laudanum and left a note that ended: “Perhaps to hear of my death will give you pain, but you will soon have the blessing of forgetting that such a creature ever existed. …”

    A few weeks later, Harriet Shelley drowned herself. Shelley drowned in a boating accident, not yet 30. Mary lived on for almost another 30 years. Claire lived to be 80.


  2. How terrible to read Shelley’s poem (not to mention the Egyptian
    peasant songs of 3,000 years ago), denouncing oppression and exploitation.
    Will they be read in a future still filled with oppression and exploitation,
    and will people say, “Even in those days…”
    —-Bertolt Brecht in 1938 on reading “The Masque of Anarchy,”


  3. Tariq Ali:

    “Renegades sit in every European government reminding one of Shelley’s gentle rebuke to Wordsworth who, after welcoming the French Revolution, retreated to a pastoral conservatism:

    In honoured poverty thy voice did weave

    Songs consecrate to truth and liberty,

    Deserting these, thou leavest me to grieve,

    Thus having been, that thou shouldst cease to be”.


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