Computing and Library Services - delivering an inspiring information environment

Radical sympathy: Periodical Circulation and the Peterloo Massacre

Fairclough, Mary (2010) Radical sympathy: Periodical Circulation and the Peterloo Massacre. Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net (RaVoN), 57-58. ISSN 1916-1441

Metadata only available from this repository.


This essay analyses representations of sympathy in radical periodicals in the immediate aftermath of the Peterloo Massacre of August 1819. Recent accounts of the Regency radical press have noted that cheap journals employ a studied language of rational enlightenment in order to counter charges that they provoke unrest. I argue that these periodicals also employ a language of feeling. Through references to the suffering body, radical journals display moral outrage at the atrocity of Peterloo, but they also put the language of feeling to instrumental political use. Using sympathy as a figure for the transmission of riotous emotion within a crowd, these texts signal the physical power of the masses, but significantly, sympathy is also made a model for the processes of distribution through which these texts are diffused throughout the nation. Radical writers exploit the function of sympathy as a physiological process, through which disruption in one part of a body causes instant disruption in another. In a brief moment after Peterloo, the press becomes the circulatory medium through which both national emotional distress and political response can be co-ordinated. My analysis focuses on the often short-lived radical journals produced in the immediate aftermath of Peterloo, The Cap of Liberty, The London Alfred, The White Hat and The Democratic Recorder. I discuss these titles alongside the longer-running Hone’s Reformist Register, The Black Dwarf, The Gorgon, and The Medusa. In signalling the ephemeral and embattled nature of their existence, these journals mark the uncertain distinction between textual diffusion, emotional exchange and physical unrest at this moment of crisis.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Schools: School of Music, Humanities and Media
Related URLs:
Depositing User: Mary Fairclough
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2012 11:50
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2021 11:12


Downloads per month over past year

Repository Staff Only: item control page

View Item View Item

University of Huddersfield, Queensgate, Huddersfield, HD1 3DH Copyright and Disclaimer All rights reserved ©