Uses of Shelley in Working-Class Culture: Approximations and Substitutions

I’ve let the blogging my thesis project slide, so this is an article published in Keywords 13 (2015) that sets out the theoretical commitments of the thesis, with a section on actual usage of Shelley’s poetry in Chartist and Owenite socialist newspapers and periodicals in a particularly interesting period during 1839. It’s my thesis in a nutshell. I made minor tweaks because I just couldn’t help myself, but it’s basically the Keywords article.

Reading it over, I was struck by similarities in the way in which the typical working-class reader of Shelley in this period has been viewed — as in M. Siddiq Kalim’s description of them as idolizing Shelley while being an ‘ignorant worker [who] may not be able to grasp the real meaning of the verse even when explained to him’ — and contemporary supporters of Jeremy Corbyn as hero-worshipping fan boys and girls with a shaky grasp on political and economic ‘realities’. In my experience, there are few of those people about; most are able to combine support for Corbyn with taking a critical view at certain aspects of current approaches adopted by the leadership. This is more or less what I argue about working-class Chartists’ relationship with Shelley — it was positive appreciation, but an active form that mobilised and altered his poetry as suited them in particular conjunctures.

My copy of Kalim’s work, sprinkled liberally with comments such as the one above, contains many a rude remark that I pencilled in the margins, considering his views on the actual reception and transmission of Shelley in the cultures of these audiences as being not just wrong-headed but positively insulting. Imagine my disgust at being characterised as a naive Corbynista. (You can’t write such things in academic articles.) The article is fairly long, sorry.


It has become something of a critical orthodoxy that the nineteenth-century political and social movements Owenite socialism and Chartism held the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in high esteem. While it serves as a useful shorthand indicating the importance of Shelley to the movements, to refer to his poem Queen Mab as their ‘gospel’ or ‘bible’ risks courting a limiting perspective on the relationship between the poet and these audiences. In order to challenge this orthodoxy, I focus in this article on a period between the winter of 1838 and the summer of 1839 as one in which Owenism’s and Chartism’s main publications — the New Moral World and the Northern Star, respectively — used Shelley’s poetry as a resource in responding to the same political context, but in different ways. Clear differences between Owenite and Chartist ‘Shelleys’ emerged dialectically in this period as the Owenite ‘Shelley’ took the form it did, in part, because it was not the Chartist ‘Shelley’, and vice versa. I argue that this use evidences a critical and creative process of reception rather than a passive transmission of Shelley’s ideas at the expense of their own.

A cluster of related concepts from Raymond Williams’s Marxism and Literature helps illuminate these developments: his concepts ‘selective traditions’ and ‘structures of feeling’ acknowledge the possibility of admiration and influence co-existing with critical thought. His definitions of ‘residual’, ‘dominant’ and ‘emergent’ elements as historical indicators of cultural developments underpin my section ‘Shelley in Context: December 1838 to July 1839’. This part of the article shows how Shelley’s poetry provided the Owenites and Chartists with material to argue for values they wished to endorse and to challenge dominant ones. Despite the potential that Williams’s concepts offer my research, however, his own comments on the relationship between Shelley and the working class of the 1830s betray a less confident perspective on their capacity for critical independence. I conclude the article by considering these comments in Politics and Letters: Interviews with New Left Review, a record of interviews conducted by members of the periodical’s editorial committee.

Queen Mab as the Owenites’ ‘Gospel’ and the Chartists’ ‘Bible’

The critical orthodoxy I want to question is grounded in undeniable material facts of early nineteenth-century publishing and has impressive credentials. Pirated extensively from 1821, Shelley’s poem Queen Mab was a key weapon for radicals asserting the right to read and circulate ideas that challenged political, social and religious hegemonies.1 Owenism’s and Chartism’s intellectual cultures grew out of this milieu, and members of the movements produced their own editions of the poem in the 1830s.2 In his account of meeting Robert Owen and some of his followers, Thomas Medwin, Shelley’s cousin, described Queen Mab as ‘the gospel of the sect’.3 According to Medwin, Owen described Shelley’s assertion in Queen Mab that marriage ought not to outlast affection as ‘the basis of [Owen’s] chief tenets’.4 At the end of the century, George Bernard Shaw and members of Marx’s circle reported similar claims for the poem’s centrality to Chartism. The now infamous claim that Queen Mab ‘was known as The Chartists’ Bible’ originated in Shaw’s account of a lecture, an occasion on which an ‘old Chartist’ remembered that Shelley’s poetry had given him ‘the ideas that led him to join the Chartists’.5 The lecturer, the Fabian Henry S. Salt, cited Eleanor Marx on her father’s opinion that Shelley ‘had inspired a good deal of that huge but badly managed popular effort called the Chartist Movement’.6 She also informed Salt that, according to Engels and the Chartist George Julian Harney, the Chartists were given to ‘Shelley-worship’; Engels had said ‘we all knew Shelley by heart then’.7 The material record, people close to Shelley and the movements and members themselves all confirm Queen Mab’s importance in the history of working-class movements.

The most frequently cited modern sources on the subject themselves rest on the testimonies of Medwin, Shaw and Eleanor Marx. Bouthaina Shaaban’s frequently cited article ‘Shelley in the Chartist Press’ originated in doctoral work seeking to provide ‘specific evidence to support [the] truth’ of Medwin’s and Shaw’s claims.8 While her work began to establish the extent of Shelley’s presence in Chartist newspapers and periodicals, it also sought to explain their ‘“worshipping” Shelley more than any other Romantic poet’ rather than to question this characterisation of the relationship.9 Shelley was ‘loved and honoured by the Chartists’, and this love and honour resulted ‘not surprisingly, in the Chartists echoing Shelley’s arguments and ideas in their own writings’.10 M. Siddiq Kalim argued that Shelley’s poetry was valuable for Owenism because emotionally engaging poetry sugared the theoretical pill for Owen’s followers. Shelley ‘alone was in perfect accord’ with Owenism and strategic use of his poetry in Owenite propaganda enabled Owenite truths to ‘go deep down into the heart’ of the ‘ignorant worker [who] may not be able to grasp the real meaning of the verse even when explained to him’.11 The Owenites ‘loved, adored, and idolized [Shelley] as a poet, thinker, and man’.12 For both critics, the movements found Shelley’s poetry doctrinally valuable because it stimulated emotion and his influence on them was characterised by strong affection reaching its zenith in ‘idolization’.

More recent scholarship has cited Shaaban and Kalim, often wishing only to note Shelley’s popularity among these audiences, but David Duff made the orthodoxy’s ramifications explicit by arguing that ‘as a didactic poem, history had judged Queen Mab to have been a remarkable success, ultimately achieving positively dogmatic status as the “gospel” of the Owenites, and later the “Chartists’ Bible”’.13 It is this perception of a ‘dogmatic’ authority endowed on Shelley by Owenism and Chartism that I want to question. It suggests that Owenites and Chartists accepted Shelley’s politics, via his poetry, wholesale and uncritically. I do not wish to deny the importance of Shelley but to argue that respect and admiration could and did co-exist with healthy powers of discrimination. I argue that the movements’ journals and newspapers show that they emphasised or downplayed various aspects of Shelley’s poetry as suited contributors in particular contexts. In my analysis of such examples, I approach the transmission and reception of Shelley’s poetry within Owenism and Chartism in terms of an active hermeneutics rather than a passive acceptance of his poetics, politics or both. If we think in terms of an active and creative reception in which faith can be compatible with critical inquiry, then characterisations of these movements as engaging in ‘Shelley-worship’ may no longer convince.

The ‘Selective Tradition’ and ‘Structures of Feeling’

As a concept, the ‘selective tradition’ enables me to reconceive the supposed canonical status of Queen Mab and Shelley’s other poems in working-class culture of this period. As The Long Revolution had it, literary traditions were not natural and given but the result of ‘a continual selection and reselection of ancestors’.14 This selection was, moreover, an ‘interpretation’ on which rested ‘particular contemporary values’.15 Williams developed these ideas in Marxism and Literature, introducing a much sharper sense of class difference by moving away from The Long Revolution’s proposal that the agents creating ‘selective traditions’ were successive ‘generations’ producing ‘a general human culture’.16 The purpose of a hegemonic selective tradition was to function as ‘an actively shaping force’ offering ‘a version of the past which is intended to connect with and ratify the present’.17 Counter-hegemonic selective traditions, therefore, would have to make the same move but in the service of different values. Shelley’s work thus emerges as a self-selected ‘bible’ for the radical culture of the 1820s from which Owenism and Chartism developed. Shelley had by no means been embraced by his own class or ‘respectable’ middle-class readers, so the pirating of Queen Mab in the 1820s really was a choice signifying rejection of hegemonic values rather than recognition of a generally celebrated writer. This sense continued in the 1830s and ’40s, as the Owenites and Chartists developed their own versions of Shelley while members of Shelley’s circle, such as Mary Shelley and Leigh Hunt, were fighting a rearguard action in attempting to restore Shelley’s literary and moral reputation.18

The radical or working-class selective tradition emerging in the 1820s and ’30s, then, was constructed consciously in order to articulate distinct literary and political values.19 Given this active relationship with the texts of a working-class canon, I suggest it is unlikely that working-class readers received Shelley’s Queen Mab and his other poems as if they were holy writ demanding submission to the letter. Even if the Owenites and Chartists themselves had accepted descriptions of Queen Mab as their gospel or bible, we need not assume that a text functioning as a ‘Bible’ or ‘gospel’ for a social or political movement had a positively dogmatic status. We know from studies on the relationship between religious nonconformism and working-class literacy that the Holy Bible was not only (or even necessarily) a source of gospel truth for autodidacts, it was also an intellectual resource and a starting point for discussion rather than an end. In Bread, Knowledge and Freedom, for instance, David Vincent shows how ‘tiny libraries […] largely composed of works connected with the Protestant religion […] constituted an essential foundation for the pursuit of knowledge’.20 If the Bible enabled working-class people to acquire literacy, and thus a greater stock of knowledge from other sources, then its own status as a source could be undermined by this process. While a shift from faith to free thought was not guaranteed – Vincent notes the existence of ‘layers of secularization which the pursuit of knowledge engendered’ – what was fundamental to that Protestant, and especially dissenting, tradition was commitment to an active rather than a passive relationship with the Bible.21 In other words, even those who did not renounce Christianity retained the right to read and interpret their Bible without deference to authority. As a ‘bible’ in this sense, Shelley’s poetry provided his Owenite and Chartist readers with tools for understanding and argumentation rather than a programme to follow.

Recognising this process is not to deny an emotional response in Owenites or Chartists reading Shelley’s poetry. Rather, it is to reject the premise that evident emotional responses signify the absence of an intellectual (perhaps a critical intellectual) response. Marxism and Literature’s iteration of Williams’s recurring concept ‘structure of feeling’ is useful in this respect. What was at stake for him in the late 1970s was recognition of class rule as a phenomenon saturating ‘the whole process of living’, experienced emotionally and intellectually, as well as the continuing relevance of his concept during a period in which Antonio Gramsci’s theory of ‘hegemony’ was being read and taken seriously by Anglophone intellectuals.22 Gramsci’s ‘hegemony’, for Williams, was distorted by theorists tending to use the term as a synonym for ‘ideology’ or ‘superstructure’ subordinated to the more important material ‘base’.23 In other words, using ‘hegemony’ to denote a fixed analytical structure rather than a dynamic process effectively squandered the term’s promise. If the concept was to be a Marxist one then it could not be content to recognise and describe the hegemonic via critical analysis but must facilitate the development of a counter-hegemonic project able to challenge the terms of the dominant formation successfully.

One of the biggest dangers faced by those with an interest in challenging prevailing hegemonic practices, therefore, was an inability to draw connections between present experience identified as personal and subjective and the social formation on which that experience depended. Williams proposed that his concept ‘structure of feeling’ would encourage recognition of lived experience:

The term is difficult, but ‘feeling’ is chosen to emphasize a distinction from more formal concepts of ‘world-view’ or ‘ideology’. It is not only that we must go beyond formally held and systematic beliefs, though of course we have always to include them. It is that we are concerned with meanings and values as they are actively lived and felt.24

The importance of stressing ‘feeling’ was that it allowed the ‘affective elements of consciousness and relationships’ to have critical value. The concept did not oppose emotion and thought but understood cognition as ‘not feeling against thought, but thought as felt and feeling as thought: practical consciousness of a present kind, in a living and interrelating continuity’.25

I suggest that the Chartists were operating with a similar sense of the importance of ‘subjective’ feeling in motivating the development of ‘objective’ political programmes. A characteristically Chartist expression of the political value the movement found in emotion and poetry occurred in a lecture on poetry reported in the Chartist newspaper the Charter.26 For the lecturer, Mr Spencer, the ‘Value of Poetry’ lay in its ability to ‘regenerate mankind. Poets […] were the representatives of the undeveloped parts of human nature, as leaders in the career of progression. This view was illustrated by references to the poetry of Shakspeare (sic), Byron, and Shelley’. Poetry’s remit went beyond the aesthetic narrowly conceived: ‘poetry, to fulfil its end, must pursue the perfect in all things – in the regions of philosophy it must seek unadulterated truth; in politics, justice; in religion, charity’. In its link to the social and political, Spencer does not conceive poetry as a world apart but as a source of inspiration depending on human action to achieve its ends:

Surely among the millions who groan and sweat and toil, there are some less overcome than others who will seize the harp of prophecy, and sing the great truths that time has wrought out to be a joy and deliverance to the people. We need to be touched to be awakened; the trammels of custom must be broken, the net-work of conventionalism destroyed.27

In his definition of poetry’s social role, Spencer suggests it has the capacity to articulate hopes for the future and to inspire people to reach for them. He stresses the importance of feeling for political movements – ‘we need to be touched to be awakened’ – and that the feeling subject both came from and spoke to ‘the millions’. The agents of this change will be the subordinated (those who ‘sweat and groan and toil’), and the change will be qualitative – customary restrictions will be ‘broken’ and conventional values ‘destroyed’. I suggest that this example evidences a conscious attempt by Chartists to grasp the potential of the aesthetic and political in order to challenge the hegemonic. Spencer did not propose that his audience take their political programme from Shakespeare, Byron and Shelley but that they take on the poet’s role of awakening others and provoking action.28

Shelley in Context: December 1838 to July 1839

1839 was an especially active year for Chartism, both politically and in terms of publishing. Major events such as the presentation of the first National Petition to Parliament in May and August’s planned but curtailed General Strike were followed by the Newport Insurrection in November. It was also a boom period for Chartist publishing, with the already established Northern Star being joined by smaller newspapers and journals around the country, such as the Welsh Western Vindicator, the Scottish Chartist Circular and the metropolitan London Democrat. Chartist newspapers played an important role in sustaining the movement politically, helping it to cohere nationally around shared values and aims.29 They also helped to develop the movement’s literary practices: publishing original poetry, favourite poems by Shelley and others, and literary criticism.30

Shelley’s presence in Chartist discourse in this period was not incidental to Chartist politics and publishing, but central. Firstly, Shelley’s poetry became more readily available to Chartists via their own newspapers and editions of his poetry. ‘Song: To the Men of England’, for example, was written in 1819 but published for the first time in the Mary Shelley-edited collection of 1839, The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley, which cost twenty shillings for four volumes.31 When the Northern Star printed the poem in April 1839, it made the poem available to readers with less disposable income than was necessary to purchase Poetical Works.32 Chartists subsequently used phrases from the poem to articulate their political positions in editorials, letters and speeches appearing in their newspapers and journals. Chartists valued Shelley’s poetry, therefore, as both literature and as a resource for political rhetoric.

It was in this sense that Shelley belonged to a counter-hegemonic selective tradition: connecting with present concerns in order to challenge the hegemonic rather than to ratify it. Shelley’s centrality to the most urgent events and questions of Chartist strategy in 1839 proves that his writing contributed semantic figures for Chartists developing their own structures of feeling. Focusing on the specificities of this usage, not only recognisably Chartist but also specific to particular historical moments, also bears out Williams’s argument that we need a way of understanding political and cultural change on a historical (rather than an epochal) level. If ‘hegemony’ has too often been used to denote a reductive sense of ‘ideology’, then a related problem has been the tendency to view social change as the succession of epochs rather than as occurring within particular historical conjunctures.33 Definitions of ‘bourgeois society’ and ‘bourgeois art’ could distract from the important issue of how to understand the present with all its inconsistencies in order to produce change. In order to tackle this problem, Williams offered the ‘residual’, ‘dominant’ and ‘emergent’ as categories able to name changes in the ongoing process of hegemonic self-reproduction, as well as opposition to hegemony, with greater historical precision.

Residual social and cultural forms are ‘effectively formed in the past’ but are ‘still active in the cultural process’.34 As Mike Sanders argues, while Williams ‘privileges those artworks most closely connected with “emergent” formations’, Chartist poetry shows how ‘the residual facilitates working-class resistance in this period’.35 I argue that this insight can also be applied to Chartist use of Shelley, and that his poetry was useful and inspiring for Chartists but required adjustment if it was to be relevant for their movement. Shelley’s poem on exploitation of the working class at the point of production, ‘Song: To the Men of England’, was used in 1839 to argue for a concept elaborated more fully after Shelley’s death, the General Strike, which the Chartists threatened if their political demands were not met.36 In terms of chronological progression, Shelley’s poem of 1819 was obviously prior to Chartism’s strategy of 1839. It is evident, however, that the specificities of Chartist use of ‘Song: To the Men of England’ in 1839 means that their own version of the poem should be thought of in terms of the emergent: as an ‘adaptation of form’ if not as a significant new form in itself.37

Newspapers and periodicals not only provide evidence of such forms but must also be theorised as actively shaping the respective ‘Shelleys’ produced by Owenites and Chartists. While it is true that people in this period could be both Chartists and hold Owenite views regarding, for example, the desirability of religious secularism, it is not possible to claim that the Chartist Northern Star and the Owenite New Moral World had the same ideological commitments or discursive strategies. Print culture makes visible those differences, since formulations could be either welcome or unwelcome, and therefore published or not published. Owenism’s main periodicals the Crisis (1832-34) and the New Moral World (1834–45) were not exact contemporaries of their Chartist equivalent, the Northern Star (1837–52), but the period covered by this article occurs in the overlap between the latter two publications.

I argue that such differences between the New Moral World and the Northern Star set parameters enabling me to distinguish between Owenite and Chartist ‘Shelleys’. The choices that Owenites and Chartists made within Shelley’s oeuvre as it was available to them illustrate differences between them at the level of political and social commitments. The two movements’ use of different poems in print, or different sections of the same poem, illustrates Owenism’s commitment to the liberation of women and Chartism’s greater attraction to a more robust and physical form of popular politics. British Owenites had been making use of Shelley’s poetry in the Crisis and New Moral World from 1833, primarily to articulate their commitment to women’s freedoms. The emergence of a provokingly different Chartist use of Shelley’s poetry in 1839, I argue, threw into relief the Owenites’ use and became its rival for the attentions of the working class. This dynamic relationship between the movements’ presentation of Shelley makes the period under consideration especially significant.

Prometheus Unbound and The Revolt of Islam in the New Moral World

The New Moral World series ‘A Review of Modern Poets, and Illustrations of the Philosophy of Modern Poetry’ began on 1 December 1838. It aimed to address poetry ‘which is identified with, and prophetic of, the redemption of the human race, from the present miserable system to one of intellect, virtue, and happiness’.38 Shelley was in fact the only ‘modern poet’ to feature in the ‘Review’ over its seven instalments, the first five of which addressed his lyrical drama Prometheus Unbound.39 Owenites believed that the route to social regeneration lay not in exploiting conflict between classes but in cultivating peace, and the ‘Review’ quoted Prometheus Unbound in support of this belief.40 The crucial difference between Shelley’s poem and Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound, which Shelley took as his model, was in Shelley’s Prometheus’s repudiation of the curse he had laid on his oppressor.41 The series singled this act out for special notice; the journalist quotes those lines before stating: ‘Here spoke the philanthropist, and, in Prometheus, Shelley spoke the feelings of his own benevolent bosom’.42

After a break of four months, the ‘Review’ went on to address another of Shelley’s epic poems, The Revolt of Islam.43 The poem is as Shelley described it in the Preface: a meditation on the events of the French Revolution. As Shelley saw it, the event demonstrated the great difficulty of realising the revolution’s worthy principles while avoiding terror: ‘Can he who the day before was a trampled slave, suddenly become liberal-minded, forbearing, and independent?’.44 The instalments covering Revolt describe the childhood of the two main characters, Laon and Cythna, before quoting liberally from passages in which Laon persuades soldiers to stop murdering revolutionaries and then the victorious revolutionaries to spare the life of the despot.45 The other aspect of the poem valued by Owenites was the active role played by Laon’s female counterpart, Cythna. The ‘Review’, therefore, quoted Cythna’s ‘splendid ode to equality’ as well as the question she posed that appeared frequently in Owenite discourse: ‘Can man be free if woman be a slave?’.46 Owenites found Revolt, especially Cythna’s feminist statements, a valuable resource for their own articles and parables.47

The Revolt of Islam in the Northern Star

Chartists found Revolt less rhetorically useful, judging by the weight they gave the poem in relation to some of Shelley’s other poems, such as The Mask of Anarchy and ‘Song: To the Men of England’. This section discusses the two references to Revolt I found in the Northern Star in 1839; it would not reappear in the paper before 1847.48 Chartists were far less inclined than Owenites to use the poem, and Shelley’s poetry generally, as a feminist resource. The only example of which I am aware was in the ‘Address of the Female Political Union of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne to Their Fellow Countrywomen’, published in the Northern Star in February 1839.49 The ‘Address’ called for Chartist women to support men in their efforts to obtain the Charter, using the following lines from Revolt as its epigraph:

Well ye know

What woman is, for none of woman born

Can choose but drain the bitter dregs of woe

Which ever from the oppressed to the oppressors flow.50

The ‘Address’, however, did not quote the lines faithfully; it had the final two lines as ‘Can choose but drain the bitter dregs of woe / Which ever to the oppressed from the oppressors flow’.51

In Shelley’s version, oppression’s negativity rebounds on the oppressors: in this instance husbands who enslave their wives by denying them equality. A month before the appearance of the Chartist women’s address, a New Moral World article ‘Woman as She is, and as She Ought to Be’ had quoted the lines accurately in support of its argument that if women do not have ‘equal rights, power, and importance in the social scale with man’ then all of society, including men, suffers.52 The Chartist version in the ‘Address’, however, changes the dynamic of the original lines by switching the prepositions ‘from’ and ‘to’. This alteration reverses the direction of the woe’s movement and de-genders Shelley’s critique; the lines become a more straightforward description of oppression causing working-class suffering. The Female Political Union of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne demanded the right to occupy the ‘field of politics’ in order to ‘help our fathers, husbands, and brothers to free themselves and us from political, physical, and mental bondage’. They did not also demand the extension of the franchise to women; as in Chartism more generally, a woman’s right to the franchise was subordinated to a man’s.53 Alteration of Shelley’s lines in this context suggests that suppression of an imbalance of power within the working-class family helped them to locate the source of oppression outside that family. This source of oppression acted on the family negatively as a unit; domestic disharmony was a result of political tyranny experienced by the working class as a whole.

If Chartists downplayed Revolt’s feminism, another use of the poem laid greater emphasis on the threat of popular violence in self-defence. Lines from Revolt appeared in the Northern Star’s poetry column of 20 July 1839 under the title ‘The Arguments of Tyranny (From Shelley’s Revolt of Islam)’.54 The lines depict a battle between the forces of revolution and counter-revolution, a battle in which the former discover a cache of ‘rude pikes / The instrument of those who war but on their native ground / For natural rights’, to the ‘shout of joyance’.55 Laon, the great pacifist in Owenite readings of the poem, also experiences this joy and it appears as if they will repel their assailants. The counter-revolutionaries, however, are encouraged by the realisation that they are more powerful martially, ‘and then the combat grew / Unequal but most horrible’, until only Laon survives.56 The fact that the Northern Star quoted these lines under the title ‘The Arguments of Tyranny’ then requires explication. It is plausible that the scene is supposed to illustrate the idea that ‘might is right’ is a tyrannical argument. While it is possible to defend Shelley’s avowed commitment to non-violence in the poem’s Preface on the basis that an oppressed people must also reject this argument of tyranny, the lines that the Northern Star chose to print do not suggest that Laon and his comrades were wrong to defend themselves.

Much then depends on what a legitimate counter-argument to tyranny might be, since the Chartists were clearly not minded to accept tyrannical arguments. The immediate political context for Chartists reading these lines in the Northern Star included the violent disruption of the Chartist Convention in Birmingham by the London Metropolitan Police just two weeks earlier.57 Key debates in the Convention at that point were on the right to bear arms and the related issue of what ‘ulterior measures’ ought to be taken in the (expected) event that Parliament would reject the first national petition in July. One of these measures was preparation for a ‘sacred month’, or General Strike, in August which Chartists believed the state would attempt to break. As Malcolm Chase argues, in these circumstances: ‘the sacred month was […] not an action short of outright insurrection, it was insurrection’.58 The Northern Star, therefore, offered its readers Shelley’s description of war between those who fought for ‘natural rights’ and the forces of ‘tyranny’ sixteen days after the state attacked the Convention and eight days after Parliament had rejected their petition. The next anticipated milestone in Chartism was strike action that Scottish Chartists expected would cause ‘nothing short of physical revolution’.59 When the Northern Star quoted these lines from Shelley’s Revolt in this context, it was clear that they were intended to speak to this moment.

Contemporary Chartist readers, however, could have drawn several conclusions from the lines in this context. On one level, the lines dramatised a confrontation between proponents of a just cause and oppression in a manner valorising the former. In this way, the lines supported morale. On another level, the conclusion of the battle illustrated the costs that the people incurred in facing an enemy better prepared for the fight. The lines might therefore have been read as illustrating the lack of preparation for confrontation that some in the Convention argued necessitated the postponement or curtailment of the sacred month. The Chartist leader Feargus O’Connor’s editorial in the Northern Star of 2 August argued that it was not the right time to embark on a sacred month, proposing a three-day strike instead: the people ‘are not a tenth part of them in possession of the means of self-defence’.60 This inequality meant that the arguments of tyranny, if this did mean ‘might is right’, could not be answered in kind by Chartists with any prospect of success. Use of these lines in this context was possibly also preparing the ground for a recovery before the defeat had occurred. If the Chartists were the equivalent of Laon’s righteous army then a short-term defeat did not reflect on the cause’s worthiness. Injustice was temporary — as Revolt’s conclusion had it, ‘all power and faith must pass’ — while the memory of the defeat sustained faith in values that were eternal: ‘to long ages shall this hour be known; / And slowly shall its memory, ever burning, / Fill this dark night of things with an eternal morning’.61 For all of these readings, Shelley’s lines in this context upheld the principle of self-defence; the question for Chartism was a strategic one.

‘The Arguments of Tyranny’ is a possible response, therefore, to the reading offered by Owenites in the New Moral World, since the ‘Review’ did not deliver on its promise in what transpired to be its final instalment to continue discussion of Revolt in future issues. The ‘Review’ had covered the content of Prometheus Unbound from the poem’s beginning to its conclusion over five instalments. Discussion of Revolt, on the other hand, was limited to discussion of the Preface and the first five cantos, meaning that the ‘Review’ did not cover the poem’s final seven cantos. As ‘The Arguments of Tyranny’ appeared in the Northern Star a month after the last instalment of the ‘Review’ appeared in the New Moral World, it is possible that the Northern Star’s editors deliberately picked up the baton by excerpting lines from Revolt’s sixth canto.

Cian Duffy has described a ‘persistent – one might go so far as to say a defining – tension at the heart of Shelley’s political writing between gradualism and revolutionism, quietism and violence’.62 I concur with this reading of Shelley, and suggest that this is precisely the kind of ambiguity in his poetry on the subject of political violence that Owenites would have found troubling. The New Moral World of 10 August 1839 (when Chartist strike action was imminent) printed ‘Extracts from Our Contemporaries’, newspapers such as the Morning Chronicle, which speculated on the ‘connection between the two bodies’.63 The editor of the New Moral World responded to this in an afterword, stating that ‘the objects of the Chartists and the Socialists, as well as the means adopted by each for their advancement, are totally opposed to each other’. The New Moral World criticised the Chartists’ conduct and stressed the differences between that movement and Owenism frequently throughout 1839.64 It is not surprising, therefore, that the ‘Review’ ended when it did, on 22 June 1839, without discussing the lines that Chartists went on to use the following month in a manner that would have offended Owenite principles. Owenism and Chartism were in this period using the same poem by Shelley in order to imagine opposing actions: conciliation and confrontation, respectively, between the oppressed and their political opponents.

Duffy’s insight also allows us to avoid concluding that the reason Shelley’s poetry could be made to illustrate different political positions is that it had no coherent policy of its own. In this view, Shelley’s poetry could be the ‘gospel’ or ‘Bible’ of Owenism and Chartism because they were faithful in their own ways to different aspects of his oeuvre. If, on the other hand, Owenites and Chartists can be shown to have abstracted either quietist or aggressive aspects from a whole that existed in tension, then what we have are truly creative responses to Shelley’s poetry. These responses have characters different to that of the original source, as well as to one another.

‘Song: To the Men of England’ in the Northern Star

The same issue of the Northern Star in which ‘The Arguments of Tyranny’ appeared also featured what I argue is another motivated use of Shelley’s poetry, this time in the context of a political speech rather than a poetry column or article on poetry. The article ‘Meeting of Chartists at Stockport’ reported a number of speeches made by Chartists in response to Parliament’s recent rejection of the national petition on 12 July and in expectation of the sacred month in August.65 At a meeting on 15 July 1839, the Chartist Bronterre O’Brien used images similar to those in Shelley’s ‘Song: To the Men of England’ in presenting the strike as a decisive crisis. Without mentioning the poem by name, O’Brien said:

Let not the anvil be struck within the length and breadth of the land. Let not a needle nor a spade be used unless to dig some tyrant’s grave. Let not a shuttle move, unless to weave the winding sheet of some monster-robber, some profit-monger, who dared to attack the People’s Parliament. All will then soon be over.66

In his poem, which Michael Scrivener described as representing an ‘uncompromising view on labour alienation’, Shelley depicts the appropriation of wealth produced by the working class: ‘The robes ye weave, another wears; / The arms ye forge, another bears’.67 He then recommends its members stop participating in their own exploitation: ‘Weave robes – let not the idle wear: / Forge arms in your defence to bear.’68 This last line could be adduced as evidence for Stephen Behrendt’s claim that ‘this poem comes as close as Shelley ever comes to sanctioning violence as a last resort’.69 The poem appeared frequently in the Chartist press over the course of 1839.70 By using Shelleyan images in reference to an anticipated general strike, O’Brien applied the economic logic of Shelley’s lines to the immediate conditions faced by Chartists. He even engaged with the poem’s final stanza, in which Shelley described the consequences of the workers not doing as he recommended:

With plough and spade and hoe and loom

Trace your grave and build your tomb,

And weave your winding-sheet – till fair

England be your Sepulchre.71

In transforming Shelley’s final stanza, O’Brien not only counters its pessimism, he might also have been suggesting that Chartists take revenge for the recent attack on the Convention in Birmingham. In O’Brien’s formulation, the grave and winding-sheet were to be cut to the shape of the ‘tyrants’ and ‘profit-monger’, to those ‘who dared to attack the People’s Parliament’, rather than to the people themselves. For all the ambiguity in poems such as Revolt or The Mask of Anarchy on the use of violence in self-defence at critical moments, Shelley was quite clear that he thought vengeance unequivocally wrong. As Mask, the other poem very popular in Chartism, had it: ‘Blood for blood – and wrong for wrong – / Do not thus when ye are strong.’72 In their frequent use of the poem, Chartists did not quote these lines and they exaggerated Mask’s more aggressive aspects. According to my findings, use of ‘Song’ comparable to O’Brien’s did not occur in the New Moral World; I found no references to the poem in the Owenite journal though it was still in print six years after ‘Song’ was published for the first time.

What matters, if we are to take Shelley’s poem seriously as concerned with questions of political strategy, is what constitutes a position of strength. A possible reading of the line in Mask is that Shelley equates the position of strength with unequivocal victory and that his injunction against revenge, therefore, is not incompatible with use of violence in self-defence at the moment of confrontation. It would then become a question of whether responding in kind to the state’s ‘attacks’ on the Convention, which was still meeting when O’Brien spoke, constituted self-defence or revenge. Such questions recognise the lack of straightforwardness inherent in Shelley’s images of political struggle; his poems do not give unambiguous instructions to his intended readers. There was no clear didactic content for Owenites and Chartists in this period; interpretation in such circumstances was always creative.

The analysis of deliberate use of Shelley in the Owenite and Chartist press offered above demonstrates the importance of considering omissions as well as presences of Shelley in the movements’ cultures. The Chartists did not ‘echo’ Shelley’s poetry faithfully if they omitted his celebrations of women’s political agency or represented it as a force benefitting men in the first instance and women only secondarily.73 Women’s liberty was at least as important in Shelley’s politics and at least as prominent in his poetry as his denunciations of political, economic and religious tyranny over the many by the few. Such facts evidence clear critical selection among Shelley’s poetry, determined by the wider concerns of Chartism, which did not prioritise the emancipation of women in the way that Owenite ideology did explicitly. This is no straightforward ‘echoing’ of Shelley, but a deliberate and selective use of his poetry within specific contexts. Likewise, it cannot be claimed that Owenites were in ‘perfect accordance’ with Shelley if they presented him in such a way that suggested he, like them, was against violence in every circumstance.74 Owenites had to suppress the ambiguity regarding political violence in Shelley’s poetry if they were to present him as ‘a philanthropist in fullest sense of the word, who warred not against men, but false principles’, and a poet whose ‘every line […] breathes a spirit of love and affection for the whole human race’.75 This not only suppressed Shelley’s mixed feelings regarding the use of violence in self-defence and his recognition of class interests, but also overlooked his frequent use of invective levelled at figures such as ‘The King, the wearer of a gilded chain / That binds his soul to abjectness, the fool / Whom courtiers nickname monarch’.76 Where Owenism, under the direction of Owen, felt moved to exclude the unpalatable aspect of Shelley, Chartism effectively suppressed it by including it in a reconfigured form.

Williams on Shelley and the Working Class in Politics and Letters

While working-class appreciation of Shelley’s poetry has been celebrated by some as a laudable affective response to a Romantic genius, a critic like Williams, committed to working-class agency, viewed their use of Shelley as problematic. Interviews with the New Left Review, published in the volume Politics and Letters, feature the only comments to my knowledge that Williams made on concrete instances of working-class responses to Shelley in the period I consider.77 In those interviews, Williams suggested that the appearance of Shelley in working-class culture of the 1830s was a ‘paradox’ and evidence that their structure of feeling was only partially articulated:

a dominant set of forms or conventions – and in that sense structures of feeling – can represent a profound blockage for subordinated groups in a society, above all an oppressed class […] For example, it seems probable that the English working class was struggling to express an experience in the 1790s and 1830s which in a sense, because of the subordination of the class, its lack of access to means of cultural production, but also the dominance of certain modes, conventions of expression, was never fully articulated. If you look at their actual affiliations, what is striking is a great grasping at other writings. Working people used Shelley; they used Byron, of all people; they responded very strongly to Mrs Gaskell. Should they or should they not have? These works could only have been approximations or substitutes for their own structure of feeling.78

For Williams, the existence of an identifiably working-class experience with at least the potential for articulation in the 1830s (and even the 1790s) was not in doubt. What was in question was the adequacy of existing linguistic formulations and registers to articulate that experience. While Williams posits use of Shelley by working people as an open question worth considering, he also stated that working-class people ‘struggled’ to express their experience because ‘certain modes, conventions of expression’ were hegemonic, and that these were drawn from ‘other writings’.

By this point in his development of the ‘structure of feeling’ as a concept, Williams wanted ‘to use the concept much more differentially between classes’; this statement appears a few pages before his comments on working-class use of Shelley.79 The implication here, given Williams’s desire to make the subject of his latest iteration of the ‘structure of feeling’ a class subject rather than a generational one, was that a working-class culture worthy of the name had to make a decisive break with the cultural products of other classes. The class origins of Shelley, Byron and Gaskell’s works, then, rendered them inadequate as resources for the expression of a working-class structure of feeling. This view is obviously unfruitful for my study as it meant, if correct, that establishing Chartist use of Shelley disqualified them as working-class subjects. The terms ‘approximation’ and ‘substitution’, however, are not synonyms. An approximation can be very close to the original, but its difference from the source can be productive in the sense of the emergent as ‘adaptation of forms’, as noted above. What is useful in the original can be retained and augmented with what is necessary in the new historical context. Approximations can also change further over time, if necessary. A substitution, on the other hand, could only be the replacement of one thing for another.

One reason that Williams could make these comments was the lack of available research showing, for example, that Chartists did not lack ‘access to means of cultural production’ but had a serviceable outlet for political poetry in the Northern Star.80 Williams also appears to have mistaken Shelley in the 1830s as an example of work encoding ‘a dominant set of forms or conventions’, whereas he was actually not part of the dominant literary tradition in this period. As St Clair and others have since shown, although Shelley was an aristocrat, his reputation was very far from being secure in respectable circles, which did not see him as articulating their own values.81 Williams’s statement above conflates class origins and the ‘dominant tradition’. As he stated himself in Marxism and Literature, a hegemonic formation can incorporate facets of working-class culture into its own version of the selective tradition in order to ‘recognise’ it, thereby neutralising any threat it posed. Similarly, there is nothing to prevent working-class cultural expropriation of middle- or upper-class culture in an oppositional manner; analysis of this phenomenon was a concern of classic early texts in British cultural studies.82 Williams also, I argue, conceded too much to his interviewers’ searching questions on the validity of ‘structure of feeling’ as a concept.83 As Christopher Norris noted, the interviewers placed a great deal of pressure on Williams to defend his theories from the perspective of structuralist Marxist positions he had disavowed.84 On his own terms, Williams could not reasonably require ‘full articulation’ of working-class experience in this period. It was his dissatisfaction with the concept of ideology, in which ‘it is the fully articulate and systematic forms which are recognizable as ideology’, that led Williams to propose structure of feeling as a concept better able to register ‘tensions, shifts, and uncertainties’ while recognising resistance to class rule.85 The potential of his theories for studies such as my own, however, outweighs the significance of these local problems, and Williams can hardly be held responsible for failing to do the empirical research that his own theoretical work made possible.


This essay is based on research funded generously by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.


1 See Iain McCalman, Radical Underworld: Prophets, Revolutionaries and Pornographers in London, 1795–1840 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993) and William St Clair, The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

2 Notable editions are John Brooks’s Owenite editions of 1829 and 1833, and Chartist editions published from 1839 onwards by John Watson and Henry Hetherington.

3 Thomas Medwin, The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley (London: Humphrey Milford, 1847), 100.

4 Medwin, Percy Bysshe Shelley, 98.

5 George Bernard Shaw, ‘Shaming the Devil about Shelley’, in George Bernard Shaw, Pen Portraits and Reviews (London: Constable and Company, 1949), 244.

6 Shaw, ‘Shaming the Devil’, 244.

7 Henry S. Salt, Company I Have Kept (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1930), 51.

8 Bouthaina Shaaban, ‘Shelley in the Chartist Press’, Keats-Shelley Memorial Bulletin 34 (1983): 41–60 and ‘Shelley’s Influence on the Chartist Poets with Particular Emphasis on Ernest Charles Jones and Thomas Cooper’ (PhD diss., University of Warwick, 1981), viii.

9 Shaaban, ‘Chartist Press’, 42.

10 Shaaban, ‘Chartist Press’, 52, 56.

11 M. Siddiq Kalim, The Social Orpheus: Shelley and the Owenites (Lahore: Government College, 1973), i.

12 Kalim, The Social Orpheus, 121.

13 David Duff, Romance and Revolution: Shelley and the Politics of a Genre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 70–1 (original emphasis). Shaaban’s article in particular has attracted citations in works important and influential in the field, such as Paul Thomas Murphy, Toward a Working-Class Canon: Literary Criticism in British Working-Class Periodicals, 1816–1858 (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1994), 12; St Clair, The Reading Nation, 336; and James Bieri, Percy Bysshe Shelley: A Biography (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), 673.

14 Raymond Williams, The Long Revolution (Cardigan: Parthian, 2011), 73.

15 Williams, The Long Revolution, 74.

16 Williams, The Long Revolution, 72.

17 Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 115, 116.

18 Leigh Hunt’s Preface to the first edition of The Mask of Anarchy (1832) and Mary Shelley’s notes to The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1839) were important milestones in this history.

19 See Murphy, Toward a Working-Class Canon.

20 David Vincent, Bread, Knowledge and Freedom: A Study of Nineteenth-Century Working Class Autobiography (London: Europa, 1981), 110–1. See also Jonathan Rose, The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 9.

21 Vincent, Bread, Knowledge and Freedom, 178. For an account of dissenting religion as an intellectual tradition informing the development of political radicalism, see E.P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968), 28–58.

22 Williams, Marxism, 110.

23 Williams, Marxism, 112.

24 Williams, Marxism, 132.

25 Williams, Marxism, 132.

26 ‘Lambeth Mutual Instruction Society’, Charter, 8 March 1840, 11.

27 ‘Lambeth Mutual Instruction Society’, 11.

28 There is a possible indirect reference here to Shelley’s essay A Defence of Poetry, which ends with the famous description of poets as ‘the unacknowledged legislators of the World’. When the Charter printed Spencer’s lecture, the essay had recently been published for the first time in the collection Essays, Letters from Abroad, Translations and Fragments (1840). However, I found no direct reference to the essay in any of the Chartist newspapers and periodicals that I examined. ‘A Defence of Poetry’, in Shelley’s Poetry and Prose: Authoritative Texts, Criticism, ed. Donald H. Reiman and Neil Fraistat (New York: Norton, 2002), 535.

29 Dorothy Thompson, The Chartists (London: Temple Smith, 1984), 16–7.

30 Mike Sanders, The Poetry of Chartism: Aesthetics, Politics, History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), and ‘“Tracing the Ramifications of the Democratic Principle”: Literary Criticism and Theory in the Chartist Circular’, Key Words: A Journal of Cultural Materialism 8 (2010), 62–72.

31 St Clair, The Reading Nation, 682.

32 For analysis of such material aspects of the Northern Star, see James Epstein, The Lion of Freedom: Feargus O’Connor and the Chartist Movement, 1832–1842 (London: Croom Helm, 1982), 68.

33 Williams, Marxism, 112.

34 Williams, Marxism, 122.

35 Sanders, The Poetry of Chartism, 25.

36 See Iorwerth Prothero, ‘William Benbow and the Concept of the “General Strike”’, Past and Present 63 (1974), 132–71.

37 Williams, Marxism, 126.

38 ‘A Review of Modern Poets, and Illustrations of the Philosophy of Modern Poetry’, New Moral World, 1 December 1838, 83.

39 See the New Moral World issues of 1, 8, and 22 December 1838; 5 January 1839 and 16 February 1839.

40 Eileen Yeo, ‘Robert Owen and Radical Culture’, in Robert Owen: Prophet of the Poor. Essays in Honour of the Two Hundredth Anniversary of His Birth, ed. Sidney Pollard and John Salt (London: Macmillan, 1971), 84–114.

41 Cian Duffy, Shelley and the Revolutionary Sublime (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 152.

42 ‘A Review of Modern Poets, and Illustrations of Philosophy of Modern Poetry’, New Moral World, 8 December 1838, 103. The lines quoted from Prometheus Unbound were I, 262– 305 in P.B. Shelley, The Poems of Shelley, vol. 2, ed. Kelvin Everest and Geoffrey Matthews (London: Longman, 2000).

43 ‘Review of Modern Poets and Poetry. Shelley’s Revolt of Islam’, New Moral World, 15 June 1839, 533–5.

44 The Poems of Shelley, vol. 2, 36.

45 ‘Modern Poets: Shelley’s Revolt of Islam. Act II’, New Moral World, 22 June 1839, 550–2.

46 Revolt, ii, 36 in The Poems of Shelley, vol. 2, where the poem is included under its original title Laon and Cythna.

47 See ‘For the Crisis’, Crisis, 9 November 1833, 83–4; W.W. Pratt, ‘On the Necessity and Pleasures of Agricultural Employment’, New Moral World, 16 June 1838, 265–6; ‘Woman as She is, and as She Ought to Be’, New Moral World, 26 January 1839, 210–1; and ‘The Pleasures and Advantages of Knowledge’, New Moral World, 12 September 1840, 166–8; John Goodwyn Barmby, ‘The Inferiority of Fourier’s Classification of Society’, New Moral World, 5 December 1840, 355–6.

48 Thomas Frost, ‘Scott, Byron and Shelley’, Northern Star, 2 January 1847, 3.

49 ‘Address of the Female Political Union of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne to Their Fellow Countrywomen’, Northern Star, 9 February 1839, 6.

50 Revolt, viii, 3330–3.

51 My emphasis. Consulting the editions of the poem available to the Female Political Union of Newcastle-upon-Tyne suggests it is likely that this alteration to Shelley’s line was their own (or the Northern Star’s compositor’s) and was not merely copied from an unfaithful edition. John Brooks’s 1829 edition of Revolt, popular among Owenites, and Poetical Works agree that the line is ‘Which ever from the oppressed to the oppressors flow’.

52 Pratt, ‘Woman as She is’, 177.

53 Jutta Schwarzkopf, Women in the Chartist Movement (London: Macmillan, 1991), 89.

54 ‘The Arguments of Tyranny (From Shelley’s Revolt of Islam)’, Northern Star, 20 July 1839, 7; Revolt, vi, 2425–60, 2473–8, 2488–96.

55 Revolt, vi, 2444–6.

56 Revolt, vi, 2456–7.

57 For a history of this period in Chartism, see Malcolm Chase, Chartism: A New History (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2007), 57–87.

58 Chase, Chartism, 80, emphasis in original.

59 Chase, Chartism, 81.

60 Chase, Chartism, 86.

61 Revolt, xii, 4704, 4708–10.

62 Duffy, Shelley and the Revolutionary Sublime, 10, emphasis in original.

63 ‘Extracts from Our Contemporaries’, New Moral World, 10 August 1839, 669–70.

64 See ‘The Chartists and the Socialists’, New Moral World, 2 March 1839, 296; James Lindsay, ‘Chartism v. Socialism’, New Moral World, 8 June 1839, 516–7; ‘Birmingham Town Mission’, New Moral World, 22 June 1839, 552–4; ‘Mr Owen to the Social Missionaries’, New Moral World, 11 July 1839, 593–7; W. Hawkes Smith, ‘Chartism and Socialism’, New Moral World, 10 August 1839, 670–1; ‘Physical, versus, Moral Revolution’, New Moral World, 7 December 1839, 929–31.

65 ‘Meeting of Chartists at Stockport’, Northern Star, 20 July 1839, 1.

66 ‘Meeting of Chartists at Stockport’, 1.

67 Michael Scrivener, Radical Shelley: The Philosophical Anarchism and Utopian Thought of Percy Bysshe Shelley (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1982), 232; ‘Song: To the Men of England’, 19–20 in P.B. Shelley, The Poems of Shelley, vol. 3, ed. Jack Donovan, Cian Duffy, Kelvin Everest and Michael Rossington (London: Longman, 2011).

68 ‘Song: To the Men of England’, 23–4.

69 Stephen Behrendt, Shelley and his Audiences (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989), 195–6.

70 Percy Bysshe Shelley, ‘To the Men of England’, Northern Star, 27 April 1839, 7; ‘Tait’s Magazine for April, 1839’, Brighton Patriot, 7 May 1839, n.p.; ‘Poets our Best Teachers’, London Dispatch, 12 May 1839, 6; Shelley, ‘Song to the Men of England’, Northern Liberator, 5 October 1839, 7; ‘Percy B. Shelley’, Chartist Circular, 19 October 1839, 16; and Shelley, ‘To the Men of England’, Western Vindicator, 14 December 1839, 6.

71 ‘Song: To the Men of England’, 29–32.

72 Mask, 195–6 in The Poems of Shelley, vol. 3.

73 Shaaban, ‘Chartist Press, 56.

74 Kalim, The Social Orpheus, i.

75 ‘A Review of Modern Poets’, New Moral World, 1 December 1838, 84.

76 Queen Mab, iii, 30–2 in P.B. Shelley, The Poems of Shelley, vol. 1, ed. Kelvin Everest and Geoffrey Matthews (London: Longman, 1989).

77 Raymond Williams, Politics and Letters: Interviews with New Left Review (London: Verso, 1979), 100–3, 110–2, 164–5. Williams’s comments were in response to questions about his discussion of Shelley in ‘The Romantic Artist’ in Culture and Society: 1780–1950 (New York: Anchor Books, 1960), 33–52.

78 Williams, Politics and Letters, 111, 164–5.

79 Williams, Politics and Letters, 158.

80 Sanders, The Poetry of Chartism, 69–86.

81 Besides St Clair and McCalman, see Neil Fraistat, ‘Illegitimate Shelley: Radical Piracy and the Textual Edition as Cultural Performance’, PMLA 109 (1994), 409–23; and Stephen C. Behrendt, ‘Shelley and his Publishers’, in The Oxford Handbook of Percy Bysshe Shelley, ed. Michael O’Neill and Anthony Howe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 83–97.

82 See Tony Jefferson, ‘Cultural Responses of the Teds’, in Resistance through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain, ed. Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson (London: Hutchinson, 1976), 81–6; and Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style (1979; London: Routledge, 2005).

83 Williams, Politics and Letters, 133–74.

84 Christopher Norris, ‘Keywords, Ideology and Critical Theory’, in Raymond Williams Now: Knowledge, Limits, and the Future, ed. Jeff Wallace et al. (London: Macmillan, 1997), 28.

85 Williams, Marxism, 109, 129.


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