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Britannia,
Aug. 30, 1845.


"THOMAS COOPER is one of those great poets stamped by Nature's own hand ― not fashioned by schools, not taught by labour to string rhymes together, but pouring forth from the fulness of his own mind and heart a torrent of burning and impetuous eloquence.  We may greatly disapprove of his conceptions, but we are compelled by the law of our being that constrains admiration to do homage to the richness and fertility of his imagination, and to that amazing command of language and supreme faculty of expression that makes his verse, while full, various, and eminently poetic, the perfect expositor of his thought.  The impression forced on the mind by his verse is, that it is the work of inspiration rather than of labour.  It never stops or falters in its magnificent flight.  It has no feeble passages, no week rhymes, no compromise of strength to rhythm.  It is a genuine and ardent outpouring of a great spirit, irritated by envy or fancied wrong, depressed and pained by calamity, dark with imperfect knowledge, distorted by feelings of hate, fired by illusory ideas of man's equality, but still retaining, even in its greatest faults, unquestionable power of intellect of the very rarest and highest kind.  Our judgment may be disputed ― the world may disregard this mighty and daring effort of an irregular genius, though we do not think it will, ― yet still we shall hold to our opinion that this Prison Rhyme is the most wonderful effort of intellectual power produced within the last century . . . .

    "There is nothing mean, low, vicious, or lascivious in the verse of this Chartist.  He has the finest feeling for the beauty of the New Testament, for the sublimity of the Old; but the doubts of neglected youth cling to him, and shake his soul with the agony of unbelief . . . .

    "The poem is written in the Spenserian stanza.  Grander and more nervous than 'Childe Harold,' which in its reflective passages it somewhat resembles evidencing much deeper reading, much profounder thought, much greater power of the forcible and the terrible in expression, though with less beauty of poetic imagery this Prison Rhyme comes nearer than any other poem in our language to the grand work of Milton.  The spirit of that mighty master, which hitherto has looked so coldly and contemptuously on all its worshippers, has found out this imprisoned Chartist, and breathed upon him in his cell.  Wonder of wonders, this self-taught shoemaker is hardly less versed in curious and mystic lore than the sightless bard, to whose mental vision all antiquity, and its fables, its heroes, and its creeds, seemed revealed . . . .

    "With wonderful pomp and luxuriance of language does the author recall the great names of antiquity, and invest the form of each with peculiar and distinctive characteristics.  The stanza, so difficult of management in an inferior hand, is by him wrought, even in the most elaborate and difficult descriptions, with as much ease as a skilled hand weaves osier rods into basket-work.  He is master of his verse, and uses it as a master, not a servant.  He makes it subservient to his thought; with a boldness more to be admired than condemned, he employs rhymes and words unauthorised by authority rather than suffer his muse to be fettered by commonplace rules . . . .

    "The second book opens with an address to the Lyre, and the poet recalls those great names of his fatherland whose verses form the brightness blazonry of her glory.  His address to Milton, his poetic master, is rich in the passionate language of admiration.  Such a strain has not been sung in England for two hundred years.  Knowing that this verse has been written in a prison cell, that the author has been self-taught, that he was a poor Chartist shoemaker, we read in all the wonderment of an inexplicable dream . . . .

    "Through the whole ten books are the spirits of renowned suicides brought together their forms, their attributes, their instincts, feelings, passions, described in glowing verse and made to argue and dispute with each other on those great themes of life which from the beginning until this day have engaged the attention of the world the life, the government, the destiny, and the hereafter of man.  No extract of detached passages, no general description of the scope and aim of the poem, can give an adequate idea of its general character, or of the amazing poetic energy it exhibits.  It concludes with a glorious vision.  All heaven seems as a portal to a world stretched beyond it, where mankind regenerated dwell in blissful freedom."


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Sentinel,
Oct. 12, 1845.


"The Prison-Rhyme is no mean gift . . . .  It reveals the presence of an active, well-instructed head ― a resolute will ― an imagination lofty and daring ― and hopes that brave all things in a good cause; it discovers also the promise of future and much higher excellence, greater mastery in art, a more subtile and profound appreciation of the beautiful, truer knowledge of truth, a higher, wider, more healthful sympathy with man, including the multifarious and progressive life of the past, with this our little, evanishing world of to-day, and that great and sublime future which all the truer and more fervent spirits of the time delight to herald and to hasten.  But, if we compare Mr. Cooper's poem with the ordinary offspring of the modern muse, ― the verses, not of millennium-singers and world-betterers, but of gentlemen rhymesters, writers of love-lorn ditties and May-fair fancies, ― if, even, we compare it with nine-tenths of the fancy verse dedicated to Nature, wherein her everlasting hills and skies, fairy-haunted dells, and love-murmuring brooks make an eternal jingle, we shall find that we are on higher ground, and breathe a purer air.  We shall find ourselves transported, by the wand of no mean magician, from the realms of hackneyed sentiment to the wonder-land of mighty spirits, sages, and heroes, giant shadows, voices of the past, whose awful tones swell up, through the roar of congregated ages, melancholy oracles, sublime warnings, preaching the undying majesty of Truth and Reason, and the ever-glorious virtues of Justice, Knowledge, and Freedom.  Such a singer as this is at least worth listening to, if it were only to make us forget for a while that we live in the golden age of mediocrity and money-worship.  Listened to not the less, nor the more, because the singer is a Chartist, and a working, self-educated man.  Listened to, not simply because, having been tried for conspiracy, and having suffered imprisonment for it, the writer comes out from his dungeon with this book in his hand, saying, 'Thus much, and something more, I have done even in a prison.'  These are not the grounds upon which we recommend a perusal of this poem; though, undoubtedly, such considerations do add much interest, of a personal kind, to its publication.  We recommend it, because it embraces a lofty subject, because its execution evidences considerable knowledge, and great daring and sustained power of thought; because it seems to us a natural prelude to something else from the same source, still more elevated in purpose and conception, and much more complete in artistic execution.  In fact, judging from this as a first effort of his muse, we are inclined to hail the writer as a new power in the world of poetry, the ruler of a new domain, as yet but little known; but, which the public cannot fail to recognise, when its kings of thought shall put on their singing robes, and, with fresh voice and soul, speak its praises to the world."


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Anthenĉum,
Sept. 6, 1845.


"The book possesses mind ― mind which makes itself felt and understood, and which therefore demands respect. . . .  The author's case claims for his poem the recognition of an historical monument, which, if its merits were but a tithe part of what they are, we should feel ourselves precluded from dismissing with a brief notice."


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 Illuminated Magazine,
Oct. 1, 1845.


"Noteworthy, independently of all outward circumstances; for the the poem is well-conceived, wrought out with no ordinary amount of power, clearly and concisely expressed, and not altogether wanting in imagination."


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Kentish Independent,
Oct. 11, 1845.


"We have now before us one of the most extraordinary literary productions of the present day ― we may say of the present age ― a work which, if we do not greatly err, will gain for its author a reputation at, lasting, if not as great, as that of Byron, Spenser, and Milton, a mingling of whose finest characteristics is to be found in these 963 Spenserian stanzas.  In estimating truly the greatness of this poem, we must consider the circumstances under which it was written.  The author is a self-educated man, one of the humbler classes, who has had to struggle and toil for his daily bread, and at times very hardly too, as we have good reason to know; his own indomitable energy and overmastering genius has alone sufficed to conquer every obstacle which impeded his progress in intellectual growth; the serpents which twined and wreathed their voluminous folds around his truly herculean mind, he has destroyed, and now stands forth in this, the manifestation of his inner man, like the Sampson of his wondrous dreams.  * * * * *

    A form majestic, yet terrible, is that in which the spirit of this lately imprisoned Chartist now exhibits itself to the public gaze: truly a star has arisen in the poetical horizon, and if the light which it now sheds be somewhat baleful, let us consider that the fogs of neglect and persecution, and the noisome dungeon vapours, yet hang about it, and obscure its brightness.  * * * * *

    We have been by turns delighted and amazed at the vision, or series of visions, here presented to us; at the richness, the originality, the grandeur, and, at times, the loveliness of the conceptions, expressed in language the most nervous and energetic, flowing on and on in such a full tide of majestic rhythm; the extensive acquaintance with ancient and modern history, with the laws which regulate mind and matter, with the facts and terms and hypotheses of science; in short, the knowledge so universal as to seem intuitive and not acquired, reminding us most strongly of Dante and Milton, the former of whom we are assured our author has never read, although a recent reviewer of this poem founded his observations throughout on the supposition that it is a direct imitation of the Inferno, and the latter of whom is Cooper's acknowledged master of the lyre.  How the sightless bard would rejoice in a pupil who could apostrophise him thus:  * * * * *

    We will venture to say that more noble stanzas than these were never addressed to one enthroned amid the deathless sons of song by a human worshipper.  More passionate thoughts, and enthusiastic aspirations after liberty, were never breathed."


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Nottingham Review,
Oct. 17, 1845.


"This is a poem of no ordinary character; the production of a man terribly in earnest, who speaks out his thoughts without reserve or fear, and who appears to possess one of those vigorous, untameable spirits, whose influence, for evil or for good, is in every age so commanding.

                            *                            *                            *                            *

 
    The natural poetry which lived in this man's soul appears to have made him a democrat in principle: indeed, in the true sense of the term, the poet is ever a democrat, for he deals with the universal, the eternal, and not with the conventional, local, or transient: you could not, try ever so hard, or long, make the true poet a decent and devout conformist to the things which are; the poet and the prophet are, in most instances, very nearly related to each other, and hence the man who sings the praises of the lovely and the true, is well-nigh certain to wage war with the repulsive and the false.  *  *  *  *  *

    He tells us in the preface to his poem, that he bent over the last, and wielded the awl, till three-and-twenty, that amid want and bodily weakness he searched for truth, and that his education has been the work of himself during hours of leisure.  Well, all this proves the vigour of his aspiration after intellectual culture, and the native power of the faculties which he sought to cultivate, whilst it serves to account for the force and beauty which mark to so large an extent the poem before us.  It is not necessary to read many stanzas to discover that the spirit, with whose thoughts and feelings you are becoming familiar, is of no commonplace stamp, and is destined to fulfil a mission such as is not allotted to men in general.  He is no mental pigmy who studies languages whilst pining for food, or tortured by disease, and who produces, during his two years and eleven weeks' imprisonment, a poem in ten books ― part of an historical romance ― a series of tales, and an Hebrew guide.  In all this a mental power speaks out, which demands notice and appreciation; and however little many persons may sympathise with the man's aims and opinions, yet surely all must commend his diligence, admire his vigour, and confess that though wrong on some points, he is still a genius, whom to pass by with contempt is impossible, for he wields a power which must be felt, and will be responded to by masses, to whom this same Thomas Cooper will appear as a kind of prophet, calling them to thought, to energy, and hope.  *  *  *  *  *

    It must not he imagined, however, that the spirit of mere antagonism is the only spirit which pervades this poem ― the true poet's love of nature and of man is visible ― touches of a tenderness most exquisite are scattered through the whole: this stern, hard man, who dares to call things by their right names ― who looks tyranny in the face, and denounces it as a curse, be the consequences what they may, yes, this man of fire, is loving as a little child, when he treads the sacred grounds of domestic feelings and relationships.  If his invective be bitter, his blessings are deep ―


"The hate of hate ― the scorn of scorn ― the love of love,"


may be truly stated as his dower: his every feeling is in an extreme, ― intensity, passion, is his great characteristic; and this will constitute the main source of his influence, and, unless we are much mistaken, will render "The Purgatory of Suicides" as popular in the political, as "Pollok's Course of Time" in the religious world.  We regard this poem as a pledge of higher and more matured efforts in the future.  Cooper's entire man is not developed yet ― his mind is but half expanded: many a crude idea will yet grow into definiteness and proportion, many a one-sided estimate will be adjusted by advanced wisdom, and the poet himself rise to a yet more commanding elevation.  There are defects in the construction of this poem ― as to language, versification, and imagery ― which, as critics, we should point out, were our space less limited: there are also passages of power and beauty, which we would fain quote, but we recommend our readers to procure it, and give it a calm and candid perusal.  In the most friendly spirit do we throw out these thoughts.  We have no desire to be captious and hypercritical.  We hail the publication of this poem as another proof of the intellectual improvement of the working classes.  We join with the author in longing for the day when enlightment, virtue, peace, joy and freedom shall reign supreme; and, meantime, we wish him 'God speed.'


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Sheffield Iris,
Nov. 6, 1845.


"We had thought that the spirit of high poetry was dead.  We were in error ― we rejoice that we were in error.  The poem lying before us, is one of the noblest creations of modern times, deeply impregnated with power and beauty, and glowing in every page with the illuminings of searching and passionate thought.  The exordium reminds us somewhat of the opening of the second book of Paradise Lost; and, extravagant though the assertion may be deemed, it is scarcely inferior to that fine portion of Milton's deathless epic.  The conception of the groundwork is original and vast; and its machinery, though in some points heterogeneous, is indicative of a profound and daringly original mind.  Where has the author been hidden until now?  He wields an intellect of mighty power, and an imagination of massive and beautiful proportions, combining in the range of both much of the sublimity of Milton, the spiritual metaphysics and golden imagery of Shelley, the wayward magnificence of Byron, with the solemn and deeply-toned power of our own Elliot.  We shall halt not at asserting that in the catalogue of England's greatest bards must hereafter be inscribed the name of THOMAS COOPER."


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Leicestershire Mercury,
Dec 13, 1845.


"One of those rare works which appear at but distant intervals of time.  It proclaims the author to be gifted with the spirit of poetry in the highest degree.  Whatever may be thought of, or however much we may be called upon to condemn some of his sentiments, it must be conceded that grandeur of imagination, depth of feeling, and majesty of expression are his predominant characteristics.  Though confined in a dungeon, so well was the poet's head stored with intellectual treasure, that his mental resources appear boundless.  The lore of ancient and modern (sacred and profane) history, the subtleties of the casuist, the polemics of the theologian, the deductions of the philosopher, and the dogmas of the politician, are all summoned at will by the author, and made the obedient ministers to his purpose.  This remarkable concentration of knowledge, combined with the greatest daring of thought, and the most copious powers of language, are no less calculated to astonish, than the beauty and feeling of the verses are to enwrap and charm every reader who is capable of appreciating genuine poetry.  It is impossible to read a work like this and fail to observe that the author has one of those gifted giant minds, capable of exercising much good or evil to his fellow-men, according to the direction it takes."


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 Athenĉum,
Nov. 15, 1845.


"Mr. Thomas Cooper needs now no further introduction to the reader: his 'Purgatory of Suicides' has already told his history and exemplified his merits.  He has in him the soul of a poet and the heart of a man: though, doubtless, his capacity has been warped and narrowed by its partisan employment and political exclusiveness.  His has not been the calm serene mind which has rejoiced in the quiet of the summer sky ― it has rather loved the winter storm, and triumphed in the tumult. A mist  ― a haze ― a tempestuous shadow accordingly dimmed its vision in its great epic endeavour, and induced an unsatisfactory hesitation as to the scope and treatment of the poem.  The work before us [Wise Saws and Modern Instances] is of humbler pretension, consisting of a series of Crabbelike sketches, not however in verse, but in prose.

    "The scene of most of these stories is laid in Lincolnshire, and some of them relate to local events and characters.  The Barber of Caistor, who, though a disciple of equality, felt his prejudices shocked because a gentleman was talking to a gipsy, ― the Poacher of Lindsey, who at length learns that, however iniquitous the game-laws may be, it is folly to poach 'in a country where the rich all hang together on their own side of the wheatsack,' ― the Tailor of Horncastle, who falls into difficulties because suspected of sedition, ― the reforming Carrier of Ludforth, who 'brings his ninepence to nought,' through unseemly haste in improving his social condition, ― the blind Fiddler of Torksey, the crony and Mentor of an old fisherman of the Trent, one sadly given to extravagant anticipations when a little excited with rum, and whom his bosom friend constantly reproves with the warning, 'Don't say so till you're sure!' . . . . . .

    "They are manifest portraits, and admonish us of the author's skill in taking the literal likeness, which in his poem had no place.  There, all was indistinct as the Hades it depicted, more so than the Ossianic misty land of ghosts; but here, in these tales and sketches, there are a simplicity and decision of handling which make all plain and clear and lifelike.  We are glad thus to meet the author in daylight, and to be able to state that he will bear looking at, needs no interpreter, and speaks genuine English.  Mr. Cooper is not without humour in his delineations, and we would refer in proof to the tale of 'Master Zerubbabel, the Antiquary;' nor without pathos: witness his 'Beggared Gentleman's Address to his Crooked Stick,' and his 'History of Cockle Tom,' the hero-sailor, both good in their way.

    "It is a mark-worthy fact, and one which has frequently struck us from the earliest breaking out of Chartism, namely, the respectability of its literature; and let the more sober-minded among the Chartists learn, that such social reforms as are desirable will be better served by such works as this before us, than by democratic harangues and insurrectionary outbreaks.  The poetic genius which has been consecrated to this cause is of singular power; it is curious also that it should have been of the epic, not the lyrical kind."


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 Atlas,
Nov. 22, 1845.


"The contents of the book consist of a series of homely scenes and sketches of life,


'The short and simple annals of the poor,'


with but few exceptions; and they are certainly not altogether devoid of either entertainment or instruction. The author openly avows himself a Chartist; but, whatever his chartism may be as a political panacea, here, as a prevailing purpose in his 'Instances,' it has a merit that must recommend it to both the philanthropist and the patriot.  There is nothing of the dogmatist in their author, whatever there may be of the democrat, as he here presents himself; but he is as diffident of his powers as he is devoted in his principles . . . . . .

    "They were written, we further learn, with one or two exceptions, during the author's confinement for 'conspiracy' in Stafford gaol, merely as a relief from the intense thought exercised in the composition of his 'Prison Rhyme.'  But, notwithstanding their origin, they have no taint of the atmosphere of a gaol about them, but rather savour of sentiment and feeling, which we certainly should look for anywhere but within the walls of a prison.

    "We have read some of these stories with deep interest, and few, we are persuaded, will rise from their perusal but with feelings all the warmer for what they have read; for, certainly, many of their details are eminently calculated


'The conscious heart of charity to warm,
 And its wide wish, benevolence, dilate.'


    "They can scarcely fail to be popular with 'the masses;' and, upon the whole, we think they deserve to be so."


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Britannia,
Nov. 8, 1845.


"We are glad to meet with this writer again so soon.  He is one of those men of strong mind and earnest heart, who are always worth listening to.  It is easy to see that he is always sincere ― that he belongs, body and soul, to the horn-handed sons of labour ― that he despises theories which bear no practical fruit ― and that (it is this which make us think so well of him) he is ardently desirous of softening and ameliorating the condition of the hard-working operatives of England.  Right or wrong, this man has the quick feelings and sympathies of that susceptible temperament which belongs alone to the higher order of natures.  His warmth sometimes hurries him into passion, and makes him connect oppression with every case of suffering.  But his errors are those of an enthusiast, the result of mistaken zeal, not of vicious disposition.  He has nothing of the cold and sneering mood of the sceptic.  On the contrary, he is a believer in whatever is most pure, disinterested, and virtuous in humanity.

    "Some surprise has been expressed that we should have given such prominent notice of his poem, the 'Purgatory of Suicides.'  It is a mistake to suppose that we spoke of it in terms of unreserved commendation, either as regarded its moral sentiment or poetic ability.  We regarded it as a great, but imperfect and unequal work, ― as a mighty fragment, roughly hewn from the quarry, and squared and shaped by the rugged hand of an energetic but unpractised master, bearing in its colossal proportions and decided traits, unquestionable marks of power, though wanting in those graceful and finished touches which throw round the creations of genius a sense of beauty and delight.  Our remarks did not stand alone.  They were accompanied by extracts to justify or refute them.  Surely the quotations we gave might afford a better guide to the judgment of the candid reader, than the slight opinions of other journals.  If the reading world has, from long disuse, lost its perception of what is striking and grand in composition, that is nothing to us.  There are people who prefer Donizetti to Handel.  They have a right to indulge their taste, but let them not insist on bringing all music to the Donizetti standard.  We never thought of recommending the work indiscriminately.  We were more anxious, indeed, to determine its true character, than to recommend it at all.  We saw much to deplore in it; evidence of a state of mind that, notwithstanding grand bursts of talent, justifies the epithet of 'heathen' when applied to the religious belief, or, rather, non-belief of our manufacturing districts.  But it is only weak people who close their eyes to shut out darkness.  The poem, both in its merits and demerits, was far too remarkable a work ― too significant of the times in which we live ― to be passed by in silence, or with a brief notice.  Opinions might differ as to the ability it displayed, though we cannot imagine that any head, with the slightest garniture of brain, could fail to recognise it splendid outbursts of poetic power, as worthy of the land that has produced Spenser and Milton; but there should have been no more than one opinion that the state of mind it revealed among the labouring classes of the community required the earnest consideration of a Christian people.  The work we expressly indicated was a dangerous one, but dangerous more from the temper it indicated than any result it was likely to produce.  Persons do not learn radicalism and infidelity from epics.  They present nothing attractive to an idle or dissolute nature, and have nothing in common with the brutal and scurrilous organs of sedition.  It is the attribute of poetry to exalt whatever it touches.  We trace its heavenly origin in the hues with which it brightens mortal things.  The frenzy of a revolutionist, under its inspiration, swells into the heroic rapture of a Corneille, and the doubts of a sceptic into lofty speculations on high and solemn themes.

    "These 'Wise Saws and Modern Instances,' though clever, are not exactly the kind of papers we should have looked for from the author.  They are remarkable chiefly for the plain sense of their matter and the homeliness of their style.  They resemble, in these respects, the tracts of Cobbett or the 'Village Dialogues' of Rowland Hill.  They are mostly illustrations of humble life, intended to convey a useful moral, or correct a dangerous error, or exhibit an amusing peculiarity of character or manners.  They evince a great deal of shrewd observation, and are touched with that broad humour which we seldom find apart from original talent in England, in whatever department of literature it is exercised.  In these sketches there is the freedom and vigour, and something too of the coarseness, of one of the people thinking and speaking boldly.  They are destitute of all the common ornaments of composition.  But occasionally the feeling of the writer, working its way into his narrative, gives it life and animation, and, in spite of its extreme plainness of style, raises it almost into poetry, such poetry as we find in those tales of Crabbe that illustrate


'The short and simple annals of the poor.'


 *                                *                                *                                *                                *


    "It will readily be gathered, that, whatever may be the author's Chartist opinions, there is nothing in the slightest degree objectionable in the papers we have named.  But there are others of another class, in which are exhibited to us literal transcripts of the mind of the operative population in the manufacturing districts.  Of this kind is the paper of 'Merrie England,' where a recruiting serjeant walks through the streets of a starving town, and a lad is rescued from him by the wretched population, who, reduced as they are, view his service with detestation, and are restrained from insurrection only by the consciousness of their weakness.


 *                                *                                *                                *                                *


    "The author excuses the sternness of his pictures by alleging their truth.  The justification is all-sufficient.  Chartist as these sketches are, they are healthier, in tone and sentiment, than the tawdry fictions vamped up for the reading public by some popular writers that profess to exhibit the life of the labouring classes.  Here, at all events, we have reality.  If the scenes are distressing, they are instructive; it cannot be alleged against them that they are tricked out with all the embellishments of fancy for the gratification of pharisaical pride in the writer, for the sake of raising hatred between rich and poor, or for the purpose, by being more highly spiced, of obtaining greater favour with those readers who relish literature as a gourmand does game, in proportion as it is strongly flavoured."


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Kentish Independent,
Dec. 13. 1845.


"But a few weeks have elapsed since we had to speak of Thomas Cooper, as a poet of a very high order, in fact one of those to whom the term poet in its deepest and fullest significance is rightly applied: we have now to view him, and to exhibit him to our readers in a very different light.  If his former work, was characterised by profundity of thought, richness of imagination, and a power and majesty of rhythmical expression rarely equalled ― the one before us is no less so for homeliness of language and simplicity of style, and the plain common-sense matters which form the subjects of the several tales comprising these 'Wise Saws and Modern Instances.'  The versatility of true genius is happily illustrated in the contrast between these two works, and we think that no unprejudiced reader can deny that they exhibit different phases of a mind and intellect of extraordinary energy and power.  There is a freedom and vigour in all the utterances of Thomas Cooper, which is quite refreshing to one wearied of the trivialities of artificial life; even his humour has a breadth which sometimes borders on coarseness; but we can forgive this for the sake of truth and honesty, and would have our readers do the like, remembering that Shakespeare and Burns were both open to this reproach, if reproach it may be called, and that no man can exhibit faithful pictures of life, and enter truly into the spirit of what is daily passing in this work-day world without coming in contact with, and rudely offending, some of those false notions of delicacy and refinement, which, if they give a certain polish to the manners of modern society, do not certainly tend to improve its morals.  Our readers are not to imagine by this that there is anything disgustingly coarse or offensive to real delicacy in the tales before us; it is true they are most of them scenes in humble life, they are in truth 'the short and simple annals of the poor,' written with that simplicity and fidelity which can alone render them valuable to him who thinks with Pope that


'The proper study of mankind is man.'


    "The portraits here given are real portraits, sketched by a close and shrewd observer, and the incidents related are such as might, and no doubt have, occurred within the sphere of the writer's observation and experience.  They are no pictures for a lady's album no tales for a book of the boudoir; but bold and free sketches, some of them rude and unlovely, but for that very reason the truer to nature, of toiling, struggling, suffering humanity.  Of a truth, this Chartist agitation has thrown to the surface no more remarkable man than Thomas Cooper, and we much question if there be any one so fitted to represent the manufacturing masses, to describe their wants, and expound their wishes as he; gifted with great natural talent; possessing great acquirements, obtained by much bodily labour and mental discipline; ardent, energetic, and, we believe, incorruptible; with a feeling heart, and a will to do and a spirit to suffer whatsoever may seem best or necessary for the well-being of his brother men, he appears to us the very beau ideal of a people's champion."


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Leicester Chronicle,
Dec. 6, 1845.


"These volumes contain a number of sketches of character, and delineations of scene, drawn chiefly from humble life.  They are well written and interesting.  The extreme notions and some of the unsound views of the writer are occasionally introduced into them, but seldom, if over, in an offensive manner.  The stories contain some true and painful pictures of the miserable condition of many of the poorest operatives; while others of them are of a humorous description.  They cannot fail to be popular with the thinking and reading portion of the working-classes."


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Glasgow Citizen,
Nov. 15,1845.


"These light and pleasing sketches of English provincial life and manners were composed by Mr. Cooper, as he informs us in the preface, whilst under confinement in Stafford jail, for political offences.  We cannot but wonder that a person, obviously possessed of considerable powers, strong common sense, and knowledge of the world, should have committed himself to the miserable and injurious follies of physical-force Chartism; but that he is now a wiser, if a sadder man, we would venture to assert, from a perusal of these volumes.  They are by no means imbued with political asperity, or seasoned with ultra-political doctrines, but exhibit on the contrary, a robust and manly, if not a very refined or cultivated mind, whilst the peculiar principles and opinions of the writer peep out occasionally, but subdued into a sound common-sense observation, and at times a laughing sneer at all political excess of opinion.  The object of the writer is to give to some 'wise saw,' or 'modern instance,' a sort of visible embodiment and lively illustration in the action of a sketchy and truth-like story of real life.  These are mostly drawn from humble life in the country towns and villages of England, and apparently not a few of them relate to 'Old Lincolnshire,' as the author fondly terms it, and which he seems to regret will soon disappear before 'New Lincolnshire,' with its 'railway civilization,' and modern aspects and ways.  The stories are, as might be expected, of unequal merit, but many of them exhibit considerable vigour of pencil, shrewd sense, and clear-sighted observation, accompanied with a kindly, genial feeling and toleration, we were not prepared for from so determined a politician.  There is also a strong dash of the vulgar in them, accompanied with a living truth of character, and strong dramatic effect, which give to them a reality and force which indicate them to be the fruits of a close observation and prying insight into the inward as well as the outward shows of motley human life and character."


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