Roy Vickers - Christian Election, Holy Communion and Psalmic Language in Ernest Jones's Chartist Poetry - Journal of Victorian Culture 11:1 Journal of Victorian Culture 11.1 (2006) 59-83

Christian Election, Holy Communion and Psalmic Language in Ernest Jones's Chartist Poetry

(Liverpool John Moores University)

Between 1846 and 1858 Ernest Jones was one of the foremost Chartist leaders. He has recently come under scrutiny for the 'particular version of his own life' ­ as a gentleman-leader and fallen aristocrat ­ which he created and protected to secure his place upon the popular political platform. His life, as Miles Taylor notes, is 'a case study of the increasingly contested role of gentlemanly radicalism in the nineteenth century'.1 The Christian discourses present in his poems, written mostly between 1846 and 1852, were an important means by which his role as a committed gentleman leader was mediated. Publicly feted at Chartist rallies, mass meetings and extensively published in the NorthernStar, Jones's speeches, journalism and poems reached large audiences during his rise to prominence.2 He was imprisoned between 1848 and 1850, but following his release he became the movement's leader and took Chartism in a more centralised direction.3 After his death in 1869, Jones was popularly remembered as a prison martyr, an industrious Chartist leader and latterly a Reform League leader and lecturer. He was revered by remaining grassroots Chartists, viewed as a man exhausted by his commitment to radical causes and remembered as martyr who attained a place in 'the pantheon of the elect', while the Liberal tradition also tried to claim him as a reformer.4 As such, his life and death became synonymous with competing trends within radicalism.

Just as Jones's death was associated with the Christian symbolism of his personal sacrifice, his poems often project in Christian terms the very virtues he was understood to have died for. This article will demonstrate the importance of Christianity to the models of political conduct Jones projected through his Chartist poetry. The specific Christian elements through which the poets of the movement conceived Chartist identities however, have been largely overlooked in Anne Janowitz's Lyric and Labour in the Romantic Tradition. The attention to Christianity [End Page 59] in Chartism so far has been on the appropriation and subversion of Christian forms and practices, and how the religious language already in circulation contributed to the political vocabulary and struggles of nineteenth-century radicals.5 This article builds on such work by considering the significance of Christian election, Holy Communion and psalmic language to the creation and representation of individual and collective Chartist identities in Jones's poetry. However, the effects of these discourses in Chartist Poems and Fugitive Pieces (1846) published during his rise to prominence, differ markedly from those in the prison poems published in his periodical, Notes to the People (1851-2). The Christian motifs, rites and language present in Jones's poetry were adapted to contemplate the experience of defeat after 1848, at a time when the national movement was in decline, leaving a strong agitational core in London.6

Jones's sense of calling as a Chartist poet and leader was by no means unique within the movement.7 Eileen Yeo has highlighted the importance of Christianity to the emphasis on political deliverance in Chartism, describing the phenomenon as 'the theology of liberation' in which the Bible unmistakably indicated that social and political emancipation was the will of God.8 The concepts of calling and election are fundamental Christian tenets. The book of Isaiah notes that both Abraham and his many descendants were singled out and called by God into the land of Canaan: 'for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him'.9 The New Testament opens up the Abrahamic covenant to include the gentiles within an elected remnant: 'if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise'.10 Christian identity is based on one's personal sense of election, which for some is attained through grace, while for others being 'worthy of God' means recognising and acting on their calling to undertake particular obligations, so securing their place among a wider chosen collective.11 God may elect a people or persons for specific purposes, but they in turn must recognise their election and respond to their calling to a life of discipleship.12 The election narrative in Jones's poetry, as this article will demonstrate, poeticizes the relationship between leader and led. The recognition of his election convinced Jones of his political calling, demonstrating the importance of this narrative to political identity among radicals. The election narrative emphasised the consonance between political calling and poetic spokesmanship in the secular realm of the struggle for the franchise.

Jones's education introduced him to a variety of Christian denominations and their organisational structures. During childhood, his private tutors in Germany had given him an appreciation of Lutheran [End Page 60] thinking, in which justification by faith transcends philosophical reasoning.13 While a young man living in London, the reformist tendencies he acquired as a youth drew him to the Presbyterian Church of England. It promoted parity between all of its pastors and presbyters, 'brotherly council' over and above 'autocratic jurisdiction' and the importance of the 'organic union' of the faithful as the basis for securing its well-being.14 Jones was not entirely in agreement with this dissenting tradition. Adopting a broad, non-sectarian Christianity, he became a fierce lifelong critic of the Anglican and Catholic churches and could appeal more effectively to the Methodistic, dissenting and Presbyterian elements within Chartism.15 His poem 'St. Coutt's' (1851) emphasises the 'holiness of flesh and blood' over and above the 'holiness of stone'.16

Jones's poetry generates a model of political conduct for his audience that echoes his own sense of 'earnestness'.17 'The Patriot's Test' (1848) makes clear the Christian dimension of earnestness when, in the pursuit of democracy, the nature of the true patriot is defined: 'We ask not the wealth of his acres broad, / Nor the sum of his thousands won: / But we ask of him how he has served his God, / And the worth of the work he's done'.18 The critiques of religious establishments in his prison poems enhanced his impeccable and principled place as Chartist leader, and demonstrated the double standards of the privileged classes. 'St Coutt's' (1851) is a fierce anticlerical attack on the hypocrisy of building charity churches, arguing that 'the seats in heaven are for the just / And neither bought nor sold'.19 Jones used Christian forms eclectically in appealing to Chartism's broad church. 'Easter Hymn' and 'Hymn for Ascension Day' (1851), printed consecutively in Notes to the People reprise the titles of consecutive Methodist Hymns in John and Charles Wesley's Hymns and Sacred Poems.20 'Easter Hymn' emphasises the collective suffering of all Chartists, associating Christ as a figure of supreme sacrifice with the remaining Chartist rump (Jones among them): 'Crucified, Crucified every morn; / Beaten and scourged and crowned with thorn; / Brothers! how long shall we bear their thrall?'21 'The Mariner's Compass' and 'The Steed and the Rider' seek to bolster his claim to the Chartist leadership, the latter asking whom else among Jones's rivals might 'mount the gallant courser?' and show enough 'Enterprise', 'Perseverance' and 'Prudence' to control a potentially unruly movement.22 They thus represent the fight for democracy as an elected duty; a Christian obligation that when carried out confirms one's sense of election to a particular vocation by having acted in accordance with God's promise or covenant. As such, Jones's use of poetry following his release from prison may be read as an attempt to re-establish his place [End Page 61] within the fragmented realm of working-class politics after 1848.

Christianity also infused Jones's media profile as a Chartist poet and cultural leader willing to intercede on behalf of the rank and file. At the same time, his belief in the ameliorative properties of poetry shows an affinity with the bardic tradition of the self-taught poet.23 In May 1847, during his rise as a prominent Chartist, a columnist in the Northern Star bestowed upon him the epithet 'the Poor Man's Poet and Advocate'.24 The title 'advocate' was by no means unique to Jones and had been applied to Chartist leaders from the beginnings of the movement.25 Bestowing that role upon him equated him with an established body of Chartist leaders. Jones echoed his depiction as an 'Advocate' four years later when, after his prison sentence, he again sought the mantle of leading Chartist poet in order to re-establish his political career. Reaffirming his devotion to the 'great cause' of 'the People versus their Oppressors' in G.J. Harney's Red Republican, Jones confided he had 'the honour to be one of the people's humble advocates'.26 The word 'advocate' has a specific religious significance, and is used in 1 John to describe Christ as the intermediary interceding on behalf of humankind to God. 'My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.'27

The legal and secular connotations of advocacy also suited Jones's status as a barrister and gentleman leader. To be an advocate is to be 'one summoned or "called to" another', especially 'one called in to aid one's cause ... to defend or speak for'.28 It confers a unique status, echoing the qualities that made poets 'separate from the run of men'; the status of poet 'implied refinement, sensitivity, imagination and learning, all qualities which were supposed to be foreign to the masses but were highly valued by cultured middle-class readers'.29 The advocate then is an intermediary, invested with great authority that elects and marks that person out from the rest of humankind.30 The election narrative provides an important strategy by which Jones's place as a Chartist poet and leader are aligned and represented. Furthermore, earlier radical poets demonstrate secularised applications of the election narrative to articulate the relationship between personal self-improvement and collectivism. Ebenezer Elliott's definition of poetry as 'impassioned truth' clearly springs from romantic discourses.31 Noting, however, that 'Men possess ... the power of co-operation', Elliott also implored his audience to:

Use that power, as true poets write their verses, earnestly, and without selfishness; let the exercise of it be 'its own exceeding great reward;' use it in a manner worthy of the living image of the everlasting God, remembering [End Page 62] that the great family of man is one family, and that God is that father. And then if any true hearted man tells you that he does not understand poetry, tell him, in reply, that it is the business of his life, and that he practises it every day.32

Elliott's lecture equated sustained collective social action and moral concern with the seemingly unique talents of the poet through the narrative of Christian election. Just as self-creation through writing poetry was its own reward, so too by comparison was the practice of literary appreciation, acquainting the reader with their wider responsibilities to society, giving an insight into how cultural leaders in bardic traditions felt poetry ought to be appreciated. Jones's depiction as an advocate in the Northern Star and the Red Republican echoes Elliott's awareness of the earnest, selfless poet and their responsibility to make 'worthy' use of their talents. This is further cemented by Jones's portrayal of himself to the Chartists, as Taylor notes, as a 'fallen peer' holding sincere democratic beliefs.33 Jones's self-representation as an advocate demonstrates his simultaneous cultural difference from and political affinity with the Chartist audience he addresses, whilst emphasising the collective dimension of Christian election. 'Onward and Upward' (1846) observes the importance of all Chartists shedding bourgeois religious attitudes in order to attain class consciousness, and reprises revivalist discourses to make afresh the relationship between God and his true subjects: 'Right upward the spirit is springing / From priestcraft to nature and God!'34 The poem represents changes in individual and collective cultural and political identity in the terms of the election of a chosen people into a new covenant with God that bypasses the established churches. Similarly the title of Jones's poem, 'Our Summons' (1846) emphasises the representation of collective political calling and obligation through the narrative of Christian election.35 Part of Jones's achievement therefore, unlike other less successful gentleman radicals, can be attributed to his willingness to adopt strategies acceptable to 'popular radicalism's cultural style'.36

As Janowitz notes, Jones's poetry is influenced by a romantic tradition, drawing in 'Shelleyan style' from its revolutionary spirit and democratic sentiment.37 Jones's poems however can be situated within a non-conformist Christian thematic. Such a tendency might seem at odds with Shelley's associations with the infidel traditions, but in the 1840s and 1850s his legacy as a fierce critic of theology was seen as the truest sign that his aspirations were consonant with true Christianity. In the Chartist press, Shelley was popularly represented as a 'champion of the oppressed' whose sense of mission and social aspirations were equated with Christ's.38 Non-conformists could embrace Shelley precisely [End Page 63] because of his theological criticism. He was situated within a loose set of non-conformist ideals capable of ironically subverting conservative politics, while also producing affirmative meanings for those radicals to whom Christianity was deeply significant.39 The 'image of the [romantic] poet' as defiant and heroic was vital to Chartism's rationale, symbolising the 'common voice' of a 'traditional culture' as well as the emergence of a self-validating independent subject.40

Jones's poem 'The Better Hope' (1846) draws from these myths and traditions and represents the poet as heroic leader and dissident whose political commitment has an important Christian basis. It employs Christian discourses to represent the incumbents' responsibility to embark upon the road to self-realisation as a form of self-production, highlighting the characteristic Chartist emphasis on self-governance. In this, the opening poem of Chartist Poems and Fugitive Pieces (1846), Jones seeks to justify to himself his conversion to Chartism by recounting how he felt elected to the movement and answered his calling as an activist, while soliciting his acceptance by others into the movement. The title draws inspiration from Hebrews 7:19, where faith in Christ (the 'better hope'), rather than obedience of Mosaic law, is acknowledged as the truly Christian path: 'For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God'.41 A clear parallel is made between making a new covenant with God through Christ unhindered by established religious practices, and Jones's sense of election to a project that challenges the political values of the state. The poem conforms to accepted Christian notions of the centrality of a relationship with God through Christ, even as it uses that narrative to challenge the basis of the established political order. For Jones, faith in one's ability to make the right moral choice, to choose Christ over and above the current laws that govern society and enter into a relationship with him, is the truly Christian path. The poem also demonstrates Jones's Christian moral independence as a gentleman leader, and shows that Chartism has a biblical precedent: that its battle with inequality and injustice is a Christian struggle.

'The Better Hope' echoes Saul's journey to Damascus and his subsequent conversion to Christianity on the way.42 On Jones's journey, 'The trees ... shrunk back on my venturous track', and as he walked, he witnessed how 'tyranny gloried in wrong'. Ceasing to describe the horrors he sees, the poet self-reflects and ruminates upon the injustice he has observed: 'Alas! for the change of what might have been fair, / And the gloom of what should have been bright!' These lines may be read as a direct address to the reader, but also as Jones addressing himself and paradoxically turning away from facing up to the very real [End Page 64] misery just observed. In the act of imagining a fairer world Jones despairs of achieving social, political or economic equality. Then in an act of self-reprimand and in recognition of his election to a place among the Chartists, Jones answers the call of his Christian duty; he takes up his 'armour' and begins to 'fight for the sake of right'.43 'The Better Hope' is an important poem that represents Jones's estrangement from a position of privilege, and his election and subsequent pursuit of his calling as a Chartist activist and leader. It effectively demonstrates his awareness of election to a long-term political task, his immediate acceptance of his calling, and provides a model of personal conduct by which his audience can assume their own self-governance as individuals and members of a collective.

To Jones, Christianity was a righteous cause around which the personal and collective political activism of the working classes could be represented and mobilised; it also demonstrated to the privileged classes that Chartists were worthy of the franchise. Christianity was clearly a language that could tap into 'people's material and other needs and grievances' and 'mobilize ... for change'.44 By virtue of articulating his personal sense of literary and political purpose, Jones's use of Christian discourses makes 'The Better Hope' seem self-addressed. This complicates the notion of the double address, whereby Chartist poets 'presume a double, perhaps ultimately a contradictory, readership: one influential but intransigently hostile, the other politically sympathetic but powerless' in their attempts to produce a 'significant, communal rhetoric'.45 As a symbolic language and a means of political expression, Jones's Christian discourses not only relate the workings of his personal conscience to the collective realm of political activism; they demonstrate his principled stance to the privileged classes as well. The Christian basis of the poem indicates a strong relationship between Jones's sense of personal appointment and his public duty. Moreover, the myth of Jones as a trustworthy advocate for the working classes, established in this poem, was to follow him his entire life, resulting in a 'burgeoning Jones cult' that survived many years after his death, demonstrating the continuities of radical collective memory that drew on religious imagery.46

In Jones's Chartist poetry, the dialectic between individual and collective identity in the romantic tradition is rivalled by the presence of affirmative Christian messages. 'The Better Hope' clearly demonstrates the enduring mutual interdependence between individual and collective political identities that, as Janowitz argues, is enacted in the encounter between print and oral culture. The meshing of the differing strictures and language patterns associated with these forms [End Page 65] produces the 'social and personal functions articulated at the macro-level of poetic thematics'.47 Jones's poeticised encounter and subsequent covenant with the working classes however, was also instrumental in the formation of individual and collective political identity. The religious discourses and mythic structures present produce forms of cultural and political representation of as much importance as the 'customary culture' of romanticism.48 Through the election narrative, Jones depicts himself as one following his personal sense of cultural appointment as a Chartist poet, heeding his emerging political conscience as a gentleman leader of Chartism, thus securing his place among a political collective. Such sentiments are echoed near the end of Jones's career when, in 'Democracy Vindicated' (1867), he argued it was the duty of all to 'think rightly and act honestly in the position that God has allotted to you in life'; and that 'democracy is but Christianity applied to the politics of our worldly life'.49

Other poems make use of religious forms such as Holy Communion, a rite that emphasises the importance of a clear conscience to all communicants, to illustrate the political legitimacy of the Chartist cause. 1 Corinthians indicates that communion cannot be taken unless the communicant's conscience is wholly resolved and does not waver: 'Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.'50 It depicts the importance of Christ's followers as a united body in and through Christ, thus entering into a communion with each other: 'But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.' It reminds Christ's followers of the true meaning of the last supper as a symbol of Christian collectivism: 'Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another.'51 Unlike the election narrative, there is an emphasis on fellowship attained through the active participants of individuals, rather than God making his choice apparent to an elected remnant.52 Jones's poem'Our Rally' (1846) echoes 'The Better Hope' by making an attack on the established church and highlights the contradictions of receiving Holy Communion on its terms. It demonstrates the lack of sympathy the broad and high church had with Chartism, and foregrounds the individual and communal duties of all good Christians to themselves, each other and their true Christian principles.53 Jones makes reference to (what he sees as) the misuse of the rite of Holy Communion not only to show the hypocrisy of Chartists taking communion on the terms of their political oppressors. It also shows that, without a thorough examination of their own political consciences, Chartists' attempts to attain their rights would remain [End Page 66] incomplete. Only with a knowledgeable and judicious working class might the Charter be gained.54 The poem fulminates against the barriers Jones feels the working classes put between themselves and their liberty. It simultaneously attacks the complicity of church and state in the oppression of the working classes, which mocks the relationship Chartists would enjoy with each other and God through Christ in a state of political liberty:

Down with the cup untasted!
Its draught is not for thee:
Its generous strength were wasted
On all, but on the free ­55

The poem rejects the communion rite of the established church, urging Chartists to leave the communion 'cup untasted'. The emphasis on separation between the chosen, those not chosen, and the hope of a new collectivism, echoes the biblical depiction of communion.

The Christian discourses in 'Our Rally' construct a class analysis that emphasises the differences between the privileged classes and Chartists. The latter are unable to uphold the offices of Christian institutions such as communion or marriage, for being aware of one's own inequality without challenging it is fundamentally unchristian: communion 'is not for thee' but only for those who have attained or seek their political rights. For Chartists to feel themselves Christians on the terms of the middle classes has to be a form of false consciousness. Here then is a key difference between Chartism and the Christian Socialist movement that would emerge in 1848. Just as Jones emphasised the centrality of religion to gaining political rights, the Christian Socialists would seek to bring the 'unchurched masses' to a 'conventional Anglicanism' that could act as an 'agent of social harmony' without granting political power to the working classes.56 Once again in Jones's poetry, the notion of Christian faith transcending accepted law or rite is a vital Chartist tactic. Only the strength of the working classes, whose 'hearts' are its 'godlike source', can make society 'free' of its political restrictions.57 Christian practices like communion and marriage are not wholly subverted in this poem; rather they are presented as of poor service to a working class urged to take its rights as part of its Christian duty. Such rites can only uphold the values of the middle-classes, who yet remain reluctant to share their privileges with a movement that was perceived not as political, but as the embodiment of 'bitter discontent grown fierce and mad'.58 As Yeo notes, any such contravention of 'justice for the defenceless' was viewed as a 'breach with men' and 'a rupture in communion with God'.59 [End Page 67]

In Jones's prison poems, the discourse of communion attains greater importance. It illustrates his desire to represent his role as a gentleman-leader and poet, even as incarceration prohibited the usual connections with audiences and literary culture that a poet ordinarily enjoyed.An allusion to communion appears in the Dedication that prefaces his prison poems. Writing after his release in 1850, Jones's retrospective disappointment at how prison severed the personal connections he had previously enjoyed with his literary influences is clear: 'Two years of books withheld ­ and pen denied. Two years of separation from the living, and not allowed communion with the dead.'60 Here again can be seen an emphasis on the active participation of the individual in the creation of a communion. In this instance the idea is secularised to suggest a cultural and intellectual tradition to which Jones wishes to contribute. Nor was Jones by any means the only poet to utilise communion as a metaphor for writing poetry. Several years earlier Ebenezer Elliott, the Corn Law Rhymer, noted that: 'poetry [was] the heart speaking to itself ... [an] earnest self-communion ­ on which all composition purporting to be poetry must stand'.61 While a prisoner, Jones similarly begins to engage in a form of self-communion, using it to overcome symbolically his disconnection from his political followers. The metonymic quality of communion in Jones's poetry conveys the unity of the individual with a collective in and through one shared body.

The communion metaphor, in which Christ's body is symbolically broken and his blood shared, signifies the promise of salvation to the guardians, administrators and followers of Christianity. Taylor contends that the tale of 'blood, sacrifice and salvation' Jones wove when recounting the composition of his prison poems, belongs to 'an altogether more salacious tradition of prison revelations (two parts Marquis de Sade to one part John Bunyan)'.62 Communion, however, is politicised in Jones's prison poetry and used to imagine a more inclusive political state secured by the sacrifice of generations of individual radical martyrs. On one level, the depictions of Jones as a figure of self-sacrifice do appear melodramatic in their attempts to prompt the Chartist rank and file into political action. Nevertheless, such images were also deployed by Jones to imagine and represent afresh his sense of cultural and political leadership and his relationship with his audiences.

In 'The Quiet Home' (1851), Jones awaits his imminent death. He considers his physical body as a vantage point from which to envisage an idealised society. His body may disintegrate, but it will feed 'golden wheat and roses'. Future generations of children, in a world without the need for social or political struggle, will pass the spot where Jones [End Page 68] is buried 'and know it not'.63 His body provides a model of political conduct to his Chartist audiences, encouraging them to see their own bodies as endowed with the same potential for effecting change. This idea that Jones's body would nourish society, providing an active bond between Chartists, draws explicitly upon the first communion, Christ's last supper. Other poems employ blood, rather than flesh images. In 'The Silent Cell' (1851), the blood that runs through Jones's veins courses in a 'thousand streams!'64

They told me that my veins would flag,
  My ardour would decay;
And heavily their fetters drag
  My blood's young strength away.

Like conquerors bounding to the goal,
  Where cold white marble gleams,
Magnificent red rivers! roll! ­
  Roll! all you thousand streams!65

Body, fluid and blood imagery provided Jones with a symbolic strategy for representing himself, and his belief in the symbolic capacity of poetry to unite poet and audience together in a new political collective.

The streams of blood that circulate in Jones's body are shared with the audience through the act of reading. This is highly significant given that Jones made the extraordinary claim that his prison poems were written with his own blood. This claim has, perhaps rightly, been met with some scepticism. Indeed Taylor has questioned whether these poems were in fact written in prison as Jones claimed. Irrespective of these debates, the symbolic power of blood imagery in his poems should not be underestimated.66 He first relates his story of poetry written in blood in the Red Republican (1850). His short account of his prison ordeal accompanied an advertisement for a series of four long poems written while in gaol.67 It detailed Jones's privations, how at certain times he was denied access to pen and ink, and how he wrote his prison poems 'with the aid of blood and memory'.68 Repeated later in Notes to the People, the account of writing his prison poems 'chiefly with my blood' can be read as a melodramatic sacrifice to the Chartist cause and as a metaphor for consanguinity with his Chartist audiences.69 Blood is shared between poet and audience, and is thus life giving and legitimising: a form of communion. 'Ernest Jones drew blood from his own veins, and that was the ink with which was written the hymns ... Red to the Red! Most appropriately these hymns will grace the columns of the Red Republican,' noted the paper.70

Jones's story is embellished somewhat in the years that followed.71 But [End Page 69] he clearly made a connection in his advertisement and in 'The Silent Cell' between the act of writing as a form of self-creation, and the letting of blood as a symbolic extension of his individual being, breaking the bounds of his physical body in order that it may commingle with his audiences. His readers and followers are attuned to his suffering, as well as the ability of his poetry to sustain them. They participate in a form of communion by virtue of Jones's Christ-like suffering that can only enhance and strengthen their collective resolve, reminding them of how they contribute to a supportive network in undertaking such cultural labour.72 The release of blood is also a conscious, willed radical act that seeks to break the physical bounds of the body determined by its incarceration. Jones affirms a kinship or consanguinity with the rank-and-file Chartist beyond ordinary social relations, and represents Chartism itself as a wider communion. As Paul indicates in Acts 17:26, God: 'hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth'.73

The poem 'The Prisoner to the Slaves' (1851) debates Jones's isolation, leadership and fellowship through the doubling of his own body. Jones represents himself as a member of the rank-and-file and a close comrade standing shoulder to shoulder in communion with his fellow Chartists, but also as an isolated figure, a leader, set apart from the rest of the Chartist body:

From my cell, I look back on the world ­ from my cell,
    And think I am not the less free
Than the serf and the slave who in misery dwell
    In the street and the lane and the lea.74

Jones's isolation is emphasised by the layout of the poem on the page. The opening line begins and ends with the same phrase, 'from my cell', and positions one phrase above the other. The circularity and repetition of the phrase suggests that his imprisoned condition is inescapable and unending. Yet Jones makes clear that he considers himself 'not the less free / Than the serf and the slave' who comprise his 'Fellow Sufferers': 'What fetters have I that ye have not as well, / Though your dungeon be larger than mine?'75 The uniqueness of Jones's cell is countered by the implication that it resembles the reader's 'dungeon'. The poet's suffering in prison is presented as a shared experience, symbolising the communal condition of the wider Chartist body and reminding readers of their own enslavement. The poem traces a gradual shift in perspective, outward from the contemplation of Jones's own personal condition, to those collectively of the 'serf and slave', finally equating the two conditions with each other as equal [End Page 70] affiliates to a larger common body. Further into 'The Prisoner to the Slaves', Jones's imagination grants him freedom of expression:

They may shut out the sky ­ they may shut out the light
    With the barriers and ramparts they raise:
But the glory of knowledge shall pierce in despite,
    With the sun of its shadowless days.76

Having lost the liberty to argue publicly for political reform, Jones's battle for the Chartist political agenda could no longer be carried out in the public sphere.77 Instead the struggle was taken to the realm of the interface between Jones's literary imagination and his physical body. His struggle to control and dictate the bounds of his physical body (the last vestige of any form of expressive autonomy by a political prisoner against the state) now acted as the basis upon which he re-formulated and represented his poetic role to himself and the audiences he was addressing.

The Psalms were a significant influence on, and an important element of Chartist meetings, expressing and legitimating Chartism in the face of its depiction as unruly and volatile. Their impact did not escape the notice of Benjamin Disraeli. In Sybil or The Two Nations (1845), the Chartist leader Walter Gerard, charged with seditious conspiracy, was released on bail and returned to Mowbray. Here he was met by a 'triumphant procession' in which some of the parties attending 'arrived without music or banners, but singing Psalms'. The passage indicates the spontaneity with which the Psalms could be taken up and sung, suggesting that they held a strong position in oral culture.78 Jones reworks the mythic structure of the Psalms in several of his poems. 'Our Warning' for example, is among several poems where, as Janowitz points out, his poetry echoes Shelley's popular poem 'Men of England'.79 Jones mockingly addresses the ruling powers: 'Ye lords of golden argosies! / And Prelate, prince and peer.' The ruling powers are told of the gathering of workers from across the British Isles and 'the green isle of the West':

We seek to injure no man;
    We ask but for our right;
We hold out to the foeman
    The hand that he would smite!80

However, the consequences of the state withholding those rights, or forcefully quelling Chartist activity, are represented later in the poem using revelatory and apocalyptic language to imagine the coming victory of the Chartists over the forces of oppression. The poem anticipates [End Page 71] what Jones would later describe as the need 'to break through these barriers of exclusiveness ­ to unlink the chains of prejudice':81

Then your armies shall be scattered,
    If at us their steel be thrust, ­
And your fortresses be battered,
    Like atoms in the dust.82

The poem alludes to Psalm 68: 'Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him.'83 The Old Testament thus provides the Chartist reader with both a precedent and a narrative through which the overturning of state power could be envisioned. 'Our Warning' is ambivalent about the nature of the power that will scatter the forces of oppression; it uses a passive form and future tense: 'Then your armies shall be scattered ...' It identifies the completion of the task at some future point but fails to ascribe agency to the apocalyptic events, portraying an unavoidable destiny rather than arguing a clear radical course of action through human, historical forces. The biblical allusion employed symbolises the unsettling notion (at least for the privileged classes) of the need for the physical destruction of the bastions of privilege.

Jones's use of psalmic language in his prison poems emphasises his sense of isolation and his struggles against a potentially overwhelming foe. The Psalms provided Jones with an accessible, Christianised model of resistance, in which the weak heroically face up to a despotic foe and in so doing, find succour in God. Not unlike the Psalms, Jones's prison poems make use of the first person as a mode of address. Shamai Gelander observes that 'the "I" in some Psalms represents a community with which the speaker identifies himself. Therefore the personal pronoun does not necessarily indicate a personal prayer'.84 The 'I' is similarly foregrounded in Jones's prison poetry, a phenomenon that Janowitz attributes to Jones's exploration of 'a collective subjectivity' based on 'his individual experience in jail'.85 According to Janowitz, Jones moved away from the 'collective struggle, modified by his own steeping in the lyricism of romantic solitude' while incarcerated. Though the romantic tradition was a vital component of Jones's poetic idiom, other influences such as Psalmic language also contributed to the new poetic 'I' that emerged in his prison poems and facilitated a renewed affinity between leader and the led.

Many Psalms are attributed to David, the Old Testament leader and king of Israel who had spent time in exile from the persecution of Saul. In Psalm 142, the exiled David, pursued by Saul's forces, calls on God to: 'Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low: deliver me from [End Page 72] my persecutors; for they are stronger than I'.86 He meditates upon the immediate conditions that threaten his life and safety in the face of overwhelming numbers. The besieged yet faithful voice of the Psalmist seeks God's condemnation of those who sin against the petitioner and his allegiance to God.87 Moments of crisis are overcome through the reaffirmed covenant between the Psalmist and God, expressed through the act of writing the Psalm itself. In Psalm 27 for example, the narrator speaks confidently at the beginning: 'The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?' but then experiences anxiety and fear when facing an enemy, and seeks assurance that God will stand by the Psalmist: 'Hide not thy face far from me ... leave me not, neither forsake me, O god of my salvation.'88 At the end of the ordeal, the Psalmist again finds resolve, and is strengthened by a faith that itself forms the platform upon which the Psalm is written and performed: 'Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.'89 The Psalmist discovers anew his election into God's chosen and passes the lesson on to his audience. The writing of the Psalm signifies a symbolic renewal of the Covenant between God and his chosen people.

Like the Davidian Psalms, Jones's prison poems chronicle moments of personal crisis, and in so doing confirm his political credentials. His poems are riddled with doubts and fears of being overcome or oppressed by a powerful foe, or of being let down by supposed allies and having to face his 'foes' alone. Despite the appropriation of Christian myth to represent political collectivism in other prison poems, 'Prison Fancies' (1851) reflects a major political crisis. Though Chartism at the time survived well enough in London after 1848, in the provinces it was in serious decline.90 In its preface, Jones tells how the poem was 'Composed when confined in a solitary cell, on bread and water, without books or writing materials, May 1849'.91


Troublesome fancies beset me
    Sometimes as I sit in my cell,
That comrades and friends may forget me,
    And foes may remember too well.

That plans which I thought well digested
    May prove to be bubbles of air;
And hopes when they come to be tested,
    May turn to the seed of despair.

But tho' I may doubt all beside me,
    And anchor and cable may part, [End Page 73]
Whatever ­ whatever betide me,
    Forbid me to doubt my own heart!
For sickness may wreck a brave spirit,
    And time wear the brain to a shade;
And dastardly age disinherit
    Creations that manhood has made.

But, God! let me ne'er cease to cherish
    The truths I so fondly have held!
Far sooner, at once let me perish,
    'Ere firmness and courage are quelled.

Tho' my head in the dust may be lying,
    And bad men exult o'er my fall,
I shall smile at them ­ smile at them dying:
    The Right is the Right, after all!92

Jones is physically and psychologically isolated in prison. The psychological barriers, the 'troublesome fancies' that preoccupy him seem to strengthen the solid certainties of the prison walls. The poem however, also represents Jones's triumphant affirmation as self-reliant and fully independent, retaining his sense of self-governance as a model of political conduct for his audience. Jones presents himself as a major presence in London's radical activity, even as 'anchor and cable' parted and Chartism continued to wane in the regions, allowing popular movements more attuned to liberal political solutions to prosper.93 At the end of the third stanza, Jones addresses an external agent through whom he seeks legitimacy as a political subject and poet. The imperative in the line 'Forbid me to doubt my own heart!' echoes the momentous turn in 'The Better Hope' where Jones sensed his election as a chosen instrument of Chartism and immediately answered the call by putting on his armour to face 'the rough world'.94 Both poems take great pains to poeticize Jones's sense of election as a Chartist leader, as a central cultural figure, and his subsequent undertaking of his calling.

At this turning point in 'Prison Fancies, Jones represents himself as an addressee, called upon by the unshakeable power of Chartist principles that get deified as an entity that does the forbidding. The imperative 'Forbid' marks a key point at which Jones no longer feels himself alone in prison. Jones is an obedient and true servant to that which elects him to his political duty. His rediscovered political resolution echoes the experience of the isolated psalmist seeking and finding solace in God's promise of a place within an elected remnant, as depicted in Psalm 27. In the act of recognising that which forbids him concede, Jones is once again made certain of his election as a leading [End Page 74] Chartist and a dutiful and obedient servant to those principles. Jones's ostensibly secular depiction of duty is in fact influenced by a religious discourse that shapes the nature of his political faith. Moreover, the distance between Jones as a cultural leader and the rank-and-file Chartists is narrowed in his attempts to demonstrate his unshakable credentials at a time when, during the aftermath of 10 April 1848, sectarianism was increasing within the Chartist movement.95

The defiant poem 'Prison Bars' (1851) also alludes to the Psalms in its first two lines:


Ye scowling prison bars
    That compass me about,
I'll forge ye into armour
    To face the world without.

Bold Aspiration's furnace
    Shall fuse ye with its heat,
And stern Resolve shall fashion
    With steady iron beat.

Experience' solid anvil
    The burning mass shall hold;
And Patience' bony fingers
    Each groove exactly mould.

Then with my modern armour
    Above my ancient scars,
I'll march upon my foemen
    And strike with prison bars.96

The phrase 'compass me about' appears many times throughout the Psalms.97 In Psalm 118, the psalmist describes being besieged by seemingly powerful enemies, who are to be overcome with the aid of faith in God: 'All nations compassed me about: but in the name of the Lord I will destroy them. They compassed me about; yea they compassed me about: but in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.'98 The Davidian Psalm 142 emphasises intense, private worship as a path towards salvation: 'Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me.'99 'Prison Bars' also puns on the rhythmic bars of poetry and the bars of the prison cell, making the poem balance the forces of destruction and creation. The pun alludes to the musical dimension of Chartist songs sung communally by the rank-and-file that emphasised political collectivism. The poem thus seeks to unite the poet with the audience [End Page 75] in a common objective: the reformation of the political and material landscape of Britain. Writing provides a way for the poet to reshape the world, thus making a major claim for the radical potential of Chartist poetry among its audiences. Psalmic language is intrinsic to Jones's resistance. He equates his prison experience with those Chartists living in the illusion of liberty, reminding them that they languish in their own symbolic prison in the political climate following the submission of the last great Chartist petition. 'Prison Bars' echoes the metonymic quality of the symbolic flow of blood in 'The Silent Cell', and his tales of prison poems written in his own blood. Both poems are self-affirming in the face of coercion. They resist the seemingly insurmountable pressure that prison imposes on the individual and which defines the boundaries of the physical body, confining it to a cell.

From 1852 onwards Jones wrote much less poetry and focused instead on prose fiction. He would at times however use poetry to evoke both the persona of the elected Chartist leader and the continuities of radical culture while trying to re-energise a movement that had shifted away from mass platform politics.100 Jones republished two of his earlier poems in The People's Paper in 1853. The first, 'Blackstone Edge' (1846), is about a mass Chartist meeting Jones attended in the north of England in 1846. The second was 'The Better Hope'. They reappeared in the build up to the annual meeting at Blackstone Edge held on the 19th of June 1853 to rally support.101 Their republication emphasised the vital importance of poetry to the construction of collective cultural memory and in perpetuating the continuities of popular radicalism, having both appeared in his Chartist Poems of 1846.

Reprinting 'Blackstone Edge' gave the poem a commemorative function, reminding readers of earlier Chartist mass meetings, as well as the first big rally Jones had attended while touring the north of England, where his impact had been enormous.102 Jones intended the 1853 meeting at Blackstone Edge to be a 'people's resurrection' that would re-energise Chartism.103 Reprinting 'The Better Hope' reminded his readers of his entry into the movement in 1846 by again using poetry as a vehicle for radical collective memory. The reprinting of these poems located the reader within the history of Chartist and radical activity, the political crisis late Chartism faced in the growth of liberalism, and debates about the government's strict control of the public spaces in London previously used by Chartists for open-air meetings.104 The reappearance of his poems sought to reaffirm Jones's radical credentials, reputation and election as political leader who was now directing a new Executive following Feargus O'Connor's mental illness.105 Reprising his poetry highlighted Jones's years of commitment to Chartism, his [End Page 76] response to his elected duty to soberly employ his cultural talents to energise the movement, and emphasised the notion of complete political renewal through the resurrection. Cementing the support of what remained of the mass platform was vital. Despite defections, Jones and his followers held firm to a 'social agenda' based on 'the fundamental relation of social and political reform'.106 Jones drew upon his literary representation as an elected poet to thwart what he saw as the possibility of a 'double counteraction in our ranks' that would split and neutralise Chartism.107

These literary highlights from Jones's corpus were important tools in mapping Chartist history in the press. By the early 1850s, however, Jones was moving away from employing the narrative of Christian election in his poetry to energise the mass meeting. Chartist demands continued to be ignored by the government and Jones experimented with melodrama because of its consonance with 'class identity and conflict'.108 As a particularly inspirational literary form, poetry had been vital to the representation of Chartism's principled political stance, of which Christianity was a key element. In the face of more appealing literary forms in the popular press, Jones was eager to hang on to an audience that might otherwise abandon the Chartist press altogether.109 Jones's literary attempt to revive the Chartist mass platform using the eschatological metaphor of resurrection, gave way to another literary form that sought to make radicalism part of the popular.110 Nevertheless Jones's nonconformity as Reform League leader, as 'Democracy Vindicated' demonstrates, continued to permeate his political writings and speeches. His lecture used a series of Christian lessons to demonstrate that democracy was a fundamentally Christian ideal. He denied that religious teachings were for the realm of the spiritual only. He argued that the open and free election of a new Apostle to replace Judas following Christ's betrayal, death and resurrection was a demonstration of 'the gospel of liberty on earth as well as in heaven'.111 Despite the failure of the Chartist mass platform, Jones continued to depict political collectivism using liberation theology when addressing political meetings in his later career.

As Janowitz notes, the 'poetic vocation' Jones inherited from romanticism, allied to his radical political activism infused his use of 'communitarian lyric forms'.112 At the same time however, Jones's literary use of religious discourses and the representation of the personal mission to bring others to their political inheritance drew from Chartism's sense of its Christian and constitutional legitimacy, by which he consolidated his role as a gentleman leader.113 Critical though Jones's poems are of religious establishments, they do not follow Shelley's view of the bible [End Page 77] as a flawed document, influenced by the prejudices of its authors.114 Jones's poetry does not deviate from the orthodox understanding of the Bible as is often the case with the romantic poets and their use of biblical allusion.115 The religious tropes in Jones's poetry are not woven into a new or alternative mythology to the received biblical meanings associated with them, nor is the authority of the bible subverted, such as in the work of Shelley, Jones's most important poetic hero.116

By professing a Christian morality, Jones's poems enact a model of political conduct; they show the hypocrisy of the privileged classes' attachment to their own sham existence and their inability to live by the morals set out in the Bible. As such, Jones's poems demonstrate in Christian terms the principled basis of Chartism to the morally debased privileged classes. His poems show how Christian discourses could act as important authorities by which the working classes might justify their fitness for the franchise, using the Bible as an argument for complete political renewal. Jones's nonconformist Christianity was a major pillar in his attempt to establish Chartism's legitimate credentials. By addressing a variety of target audiences, the religious dimensions of Jones's poems contribute to the double address that is characteristic of Chartist poetry, producing a tacit class analysis. In representing the gaining of the franchise as his elected political mission, Jones associates himself with an already established cadre of gentleman radicals who, like Feargus O'Connor, presented themselves as 'driven by the people'.117 The narrative of Christian election in Jones's poetry equates with the radical political mission Chartist delegates felt as advocates on behalf of their constituents, while energising the relationship between personal poetic vocation and the 'communitarianism' that characterised the plebeian romantic sensibility.118

Roy Vickers teaches in the Department of English at Liverpool John Moores University. He is also editor of the forthcoming Conduct Literature for Women Part V, 1830-1900 (Pickering and Chatto, 2006).


1. Miles Taylor, Ernest Jones, Chartism and the Romance of Politics 1819-1869 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 9.

2. Jones's Chartist Poems and Fugitive Pieces was in its fourth edition by February 1847. See The Northern Star, 6 February, 1847, 4.

3. Miles Taylor, Ernest Jones, 135; John Breuilly, Gottfried Niedhart and Antony Taylor (eds), The Era of the Reform League: English Labour and Radical Politics 1857-1872 (Mannheim: J & J Verlag, 1995), 16.

4. Antony Taylor, 'Radical Funerals, Burial Customs and Political Commemoration: The Death and Posthumous Life of Ernest Jones', Humanities Research, 10:2 (2003), 29-39, 32-4.

5. Eileen Yeo, 'Christianity in Chartist Struggle 1838-1842', Past and Present, 91, May 1981, pp.109-39; Eileen Groth Lyon, Politicians in the Pulpit: Christian Radicalism in Britain from the Fall of the Bastille to the Disintegration of Chartism (Aldershot: Ashgate, [End Page 78] 1999).

6. Antony Taylor, 'After Chartism: Metropolitan Perspectives on the Chartist Movement in Decline, 1848-1860', in Michael J. Turner (ed.), Reform and Reformers in Nineteenth Century Britain (Sunderland: University of Sunderland Press, 2004), 119.

7. Chartism had been dominated by a series of evangelical leaders prior to Jones's emergence. See Miles Taylor, Ernest Jones, 255.

8. Eileen Yeo, 'Chartist Religious Belief and the Theology of Liberation', in J. Obelkevich, L. Roper and R. Samuel (eds), Disciplines of Faith: Studies in Religion, Politics and Patriarchy (London: Routledge, 1987), 410-14.

9. Isaiah, 51:2, Holy Bible.

10. Galatians, 3:29, Holy Bible.

11. 1 Thessalonians, 2:12, Holy Bible.

12. 'Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give to you.' St John, 15:16, Holy Bible. See also David Noel Freedman (ed.), The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992).

13. Miles Taylor, Ernest Jones, p. 38; Edward Craig (ed.), Routledge Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, vol. 6 (London: Routledge, 1998), 1.

14. Rev. A.H. Drysdale, History of the Presbyterians in England (London: Publication Committee of the Presbyterian Church of England, 1889), 7.

15. Miles Taylor, Ernest Jones, p. 68;Ernest Jones, 'Evenings with the People. No. 4. The State Church. Part II', in Gregory Claeys (ed.), The Chartist Movement in Britain 1838-1850 (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2001), 184.

16. Ernest Jones, 'St Coutts's', Notes to the People, vol. I (1851), 69.

17. Miles Taylor, Ernest Jones, 9.

18. Ernest Jones, 'The Patriot's Test', Northern Star, 29 January 1848, 3.

19. Ernest Jones, 'St Coutts's', Notes to the People, vol. I, 69.

20. See 'Hymn for Easter Day' and 'Hymn for Ascension Day', in John and Charles Wesley, Hymns and Sacred Poems (London: mdccxxxix), 209-11.

21. Ernest Jones, 'Easter Hymn', Notes to the People, vol. I, 69.

22. Ernest Jones, 'The Steed and the Rider', Notes to the People, vol. I, 65.

23. Self-taught poets in the bardic tradition were highly conscious of the 'social function' their poetry fulfilled. See Brian Maidment, The Poorhouse Fugitives. Self-Taught Poets and Poetry in Victorian Britain (Manchester: Carcanet, 1989), 324.

24. Northern Star, 15 May 1847, 1.

25. Robert G. Hall, 'A United People?: Leaders and Followers in a Chartist Locality 1838-1848', Journal of Social History, 38:1 (2004), 179-203, 186.

26. John Saville and George Julian Harney (eds), The Red Republican (1850), vol. I (London: Merlin Press, 1966), 64.

27. 1 John 2:1, Holy Bible.

28. Oxford English Dictionary.

29. Nigel Cross, The Common Writer: Life in Nineteenth-Century Grub Street (London: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 146.

30. 'Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgement to the Gentiles.' Isaiah, 42:1, Holy Bible.

31. For a discussion of Ebenezer Elliott, J.S. Mill, W.J. Fox and the origins, purposes and definitions of radical poetry, see Odile Boucher Rivalain, '"Bringing Out the [End Page 79] Sympathies of Mankind": Reviewing Radical Poetry in Tait's Edinburgh Magazine and The Westminster Review in the 1830s and 1840s', Victorian Periodicals Review, 30:4 (1997), 351-67.

32. Ebenezer Elliott, 'Lecture on the Principle that Poetry is Self-Communion', Tait's Edinburgh Magazine, vol. IV, 1837, 763.

33. Miles Taylor, Ernest Jones, 89.

34. Ernest Jones, 'Onward and Upward', Chartist Poems and Fugitive Pieces, fourth edition (London: Northern Star Office, 1846), 16.

35. Ernest Jones, 'Our Summons', Chartist Poems, 2.

36. See John Belchem and James Epstein, 'The Nineteenth-Century Gentleman Radical Revisited', Social History, 22:1(1997), 174-93, 181-2.

37. Anne Janowitz, Lyric and Labour in the Romantic Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 12, 160.

38. Bouthaina Shaaban, 'Shelley in the Chartist Press', Keats-Shelley Memorial Bulletin, 34 (1983), 41-60, 48-51.

39. Eileen Groth Lyon, Politicians in the Pulpit: Christian Radicalism in Britain from the Fall of the Bastille to the Disintegration of Chartism (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1999), 195-6.

40. Anne Janowitz, Lyric and Labour, 30: 151.

41. Hebrews, 7:19, Holy Bible.

42. 'And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.' Acts, 9:3-5, Holy Bible.

43. Ernest Jones, 'The Better Hope', Chartist Poems, 2.

44. John Belchem, 'Radical Language, Meaning and Identity in the Age of the Chartists', Journal of Victorian Culture, 10:1 (2005), 1-14, 2.

45. Brian Maidment, The Poorhouse Fugitives, 23.

46. Antony Taylor, 'Radical Funerals', 37. The work of romantics such as Volney and Condorcet also demonstrate the 'biblical colouring of the radicals' vision of a future world' in their arguments for a more rational and egalitarian society. See Bryan Shelley, Shelley and Scripture: The Interpreting Angel (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994), 26.

47. Anne Janowitz, Lyric and Labour, 12: 179-80.

48. Anne Janowitz, Lyric and Labour, 12.

49. Ernest Jones, 'Democracy Vindicated' (Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot, 1867), 16, 23.

50. 1 Corinthians, 10:21, Holy Bible.

51. See 1 Corinthians, 1:30; 1 Corinthians 11:33, Holy Bible.

52. 'Whether any do inquire of Titus, he is my partner and fellowhelper concerning you: or our brethren be inquired of, they are the messengers of the churches, and the glory of Christ.' 2 Corinthians, 8:23, Holy Bible.

53. For an analysis of the fraught relationship between Chartists and the church, see Eileen Yeo, 'Christianity in Chartist Struggle 1838-1842', Past and Present, 91 (May 1981), 109-39.

54. As Jones would later write, 'you shall be taught; and therefore be free!' Notes to the People (1851), 113.

55. Ernest Jones, 'Our Rally', Chartist Poems, 4.

56. Ernest Jones urged his readers to follow the example of the early Christians by organising social gatherings as a way to 'endear the movement to its members'. Notes to the People (1851), vol. I, p. 91; Edward Norman, The Victorian Christian [End Page 80] Socialists (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 10, 32.

57. Ernest Jones, 'Our Rally', Chartist Poems, 4.

58. Thomas Carlyle, 'Chartism', cited in Gareth Stedman Jones, 'The Language of Chartism', James Epstein and Dorothy Thompson (eds), The Chartist Experience: Studies in Working-Class Radicalism and Culture 1830-1860 (London: Macmillan, 1982), 3-4.

59. Eileen Yeo, 'Chartist Religious Belief and the Theology of Liberation', Jim Obelkevich et al. (eds), Disciplines of Faith, 414.

60. Ernest Jones, Notes to the People, vol. I, 62.

61. Ebenezer Elliott, 'A Lecture on the Principle that Poetry is Self-Communion', Tait's Edinburgh Magazine, XLVIII: IV (1837), 757.

62. Taylor, Ernest Jones, 136.

63. Ernest Jones, 'The Quiet Home', Notes to the People, vol. I, 68.

64. Ernest Jones, 'The Silent Cell', Notes to the People, vol. I, 67.

65. Ernest Jones, 'The Silent Cell', Notes to the People, vol. I, 67.

66. For an account of the circumstances surrounding the composition of his prison poems, see Taylor, Ernest Jones, 134-6.

67. The four poetic works Jones advertised were, 'The New World, a Political Poem'; 'Beldagon Church, a Religious Poem'; 'The Painter of Florence, a Domestic Poem' and 'The Black Jury, or The Judgement of Europe, a Political Poem'. See The Red Republican, 64. Only the first three of these works were published as part of Jones's Notes to the People.

68. The Red Republican, vol. I, 64.

69. Ernest Jones writes that his epic poem 'The New World', was 'written chiefly with my blood while a prisoner in solitude and silence'. Ernest Jones, Notes to the People, vol. I, 4; see also The Red Republican, vol. I, 37; Timothy Randall notes that such melodrama 'made for exciting narrative'. Timothy Randall, 'Towards a Cultural Democracy', DPhil, University of Sussex: 1994, 70.

70. The Red Republican, vol. I, 37.

71. Miles Taylor, Ernest Jones, 134.

72. 'And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root but the root thee.' Romans, 12:17-18, Holy Bible.

73. Acts 17:26, Holy Bible. Jones also echoes this passage in order to illustrate the common bond of all humankind in an anecdote about his visit to Exeter on a Chartist tour. See Notes to the People, vol. I, 448.

74. Ernest Jones, 'The Prisoner to the Slave', Notes to the People, vol. I, 339.

75. Ernest Jones, 'The Prisoner to the Slave', Notes to the People, vol. I, 339.

76. Ernest Jones, 'The Prisoner to the Slave', Notes to the People, vol. I, 339.

77. Jones had previously experienced a positive reaction to his poems when on tour in the north of England and addressing large public meetings in 1846. He felt that he was 'forming the tone of the mighty mind of the people'. See Ernest Jones' Diary, 1844-47, 8 October, 1846, Ms 923 2 J18, Manchester Central Library.

78. See Benjamin Disraeli, Sybil or The Two Nations (1845), World's Classics, Sheila M. Smith (ed.) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981), 338; 341.

79. Anne Janowitz, Lyric and Labour, 165-6.

80. Ernest Jones, 'Our Warning', Chartist Poems, 4.

81. Ernest Jones, 'Soldier and Citizen', Northern Star, 1 April 1848, 8.

82. Ernest Jones, 'Our Warning', Chartist Poems, 4. [End Page 81]

83. Psalms 68:1, Holy Bible.

84. Shamai Gelander, 'Convention and Originality: Identification of the Situation in the Psalms', Vetus Testamentum, XLII: 3 (1992) pp. 302-16, 305. See also John Alexander Lamb, The Psalms in Christian Worship (Faith Press: London), 3.

85. Janowitz, Lyric and Labour, 185.

86. For Saul's persecution of David see 1 Samuel, 19-24; Psalm 142, Holy Bible.

87. Shamai Gelander, 'Convention and Originality', 302.

88. Psalm 27:9, Holy Bible.

89. Psalm 27:14, Holy Bible.

90. Antony Taylor, 'After Chartism', in Michael J. Turner (ed.), Reform and Reformers in Nineteenth Century Britain, 125.

91. Ernest Jones, 'Prison Fancies', Notes to the People, vol. I, 64.

92. Ernest Jones, 'Prison Fancies', Notes to the People, vol. I, 64.

93. Antony Taylor, 'After Chartism', in Michael J. Turner (ed.), Reform and Reformers in Nineteenth Century Britain, 127.

94. Ernest Jones, 'The Better Hope', Chartist Poems, 2.

95. Antony Taylor, 'Modes of Political Expression and Working-Class Radicalism 1848-1874: The London and Manchester Examples', DPhil, University of Manchester: 1992, 69-73.

96. Ernest Jones, 'Prison Bars', Notes to the People, vol. I, 64.

97. See Psalms 18, 22, 32, 88, 109, 116, 118, 140, Holy Bible.

98. Psalm 118, Holy Bible.

99. The Psalm is subtitled 'Maschil of David: A Prayer when he was in the cave'. See also 1 Samuel, 24, Holy Bible.

100. As Robert G. Hall notes, many Chartists 'struggled on long after 1848 to keep alive Chartist memories and ideals; however the way that they chose to do so also intensified the decentralization trend in Chartist politics', 'A United People?: Leader and Followers in a Chartist Locality 1838-1848', Journal of Social History, 38:1 (2004), 179-203, 195.

101. Ernest Jones (ed.), The People's Paper, no. 55, 21 May 1853, 1; The People's Paper, no. 56, 28 May 1853, 6. Chartist meetings at Blackstone Edge had by 1853 become a regular event. See Kate Tiller, 'Late Chartism: Halifax 1847-58', James Epstein and Dorothy Thompson (eds), The Chartist Experience, 329.

102. Ernest Jones, Ms Diary, 1844-47, 8 October 1846; Miles Taylor, Ernest Jones, 82.

103. Ernest Jones (ed.), The People's Paper, no. 55, 21 May 1853, 1.

104. Antony Taylor, 'Modes of Political Expression', 170-1; John Belchem, 'Radical Language, Meaning and Identity in the Age of the Chartists', 7.

105. G.D.H. Cole, Chartist Portraits, 1941 (Guildford: Cassell History, 1989), 349.

106. Margot C. Finn, After Chartism: Class and Nation in English Radical Politics, 1848-1874 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 133. See also Trygve R. Tholfsen, Working Class Radicalism in Mid-Victorian England (Croom Helm: London, 1976), 86.

107. Ernest Jones People's Paper, 8 May 1852, in John Saville Ernest Jones: Chartist (London: Lawrence and Wishart, 1952), 125.

108. Sally Ledger, 'Chartist Aesthetics in the Mid Nineteenth Century: Ernest Jones, a Novelist of the People', Nineteenth Century Literature, 57:1 (2002), 31-63, 32.

109. Sally Ledger, 'Chartist Aesthetics', 42.

110. Sally Ledger, 'Chartist Aesthetics', 63.

111. Ernest Jones, 'Democracy Vindicated' (Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot, 1867), 21; Acts 1:23-6, Holy Bible.

112. Anne Janowitz, Lyric and Labour, 173. [End Page 82]

113. As Eileen Yeo notes, 'the radical Christian and constitutional outlooks' within Chartism were 'mutually reinforcing'. Eileen Yeo, 'Christianity in Chartist Struggle 1838-1842', 112.

114. Bryan Shelley, Shelley and Scripture, 57.

115. Bryan Shelley, Shelley and Scripture, viii.

116. Bryan Shelley, Shelley and Scripture, p. 56; Anne Janowitz, Lyric and Labour, 160.

117. Paul Pickering, 'Class without words: Symbolic Communication in the Chartist Movement', Past and Present, No. 112, August 1986, 150.

118. Eileen Yeo, 'Christianity in Chartist Struggle 1838-1842', 114; Anne Janowitz, Lyric and Labour, 13; 170.

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