Professor Rohan McWilliam gives his own account of how he was introduced to the life and work of George W M Reynolds
What would a Chartist republic look like in practice? Very few Chartist novelists discussed this question in depth, as most of them merely shined a light on social issues of the day. G W M Reynolds, however, used the fictional Italian state of Castelcicala in The Mysteries of London as a ‘laboratory’ in which his progressive theories of government might be tested.
Written by G.W.M. Reynolds in 1837 and originally published in The Monthly Magazine: On Sarnia’s shores the gales are soft / And all the maids are passing fair / That wander in her gardens oft, / To meet their own true lovers there.
Having made vast inroads on the copious repast which was shortly placed upon his table, and having thought it expedient to wash down the same with a couple of bottles of old Chambertin, Sans-géne not only felt himself considerably refreshed, but also made a point of communicating that important fact to the waiter, whose toilet he had so materially disarranged a short time before. He then wrote a very short note, in a very unsteady hand, to a certain quarter, which missive was immediately despatched, and the following reply was returned:—
The individual who occupied the second place in the Calais mail was a man who had probably seen fifty summers. His cheeks were florid, his hair still dark, his teeth well preserved, and his large black eye seemed capable of piercing to the very soul, and of scanning the secret thoughts of the most wary and the most skilful in concealing their intentions beneath a mask of hypocrisy.
There have been many brief and detached accounts of the Bastille current in the English sphere of literature; but this is the first connected and important history that has hitherto satisfied the curiosity of the public regarding an event that must be considered with no ordinary degree of attention. The throne of him whom the French deemed a despot was only to be essentially shaken by the destruction of the worst engine of its tyranny; and when the adamantine bars of the gates of that terrible castle were destroyed—when the secrets of the prison-house were displayed—when the dark dungeon of slavery was illuminated by the torch of popular vengeance—then emanated from that dismal abode young Liberty.
Originally written by G.W.M. Reynolds and published in The Monthly Magazine in 1837: List awhile, and I will tell / Crimes that caus’d a doom so fell / I Know, then, that as we led afar / The Saviour unto Golgotha, / Where, as the ban of all our race, / The cross was rear’d tow’rds heay’n’s face.