The Romance of the ‘Whig Dungeon’

Synopsis

This long essay is an updated chapter from my PhD thesis (University of New England, 2000). It examines the rhetoric and symbolism of the radical propaganda mobilised around Chartist leader Feargus O’Connor at his trial for seditious libel at York in 1840, his imprisonment at York Castle and the extensive celebrations that followed his release from prison (dressed in a fustian suit) in 1841. Chartism’s political fortunes traditionally have been attributed to material deprivation and, more recently, the first revival of the movement in 1841–42 to the organisational innovation that accompanied the formation of the National Charter Association in 1840. I argue that the ‘romance of the “Whig dungeon”’ constructed around O’Connor’s travails was also a significant factor of renewal in this instance. Continue reading “The Romance of the ‘Whig Dungeon’”