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Thomas Cooper

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Published : 1 Article
Pen Names : None
Date of Birth : 20/3/1805
Death : 15/7/1892
Views : 2111

Author, known as "Cooper the Chartist". Attended Bluecoat school, Gainsborough; thereafter educated himself by reading and study; called himself “the self-educated shoe-maker". For a time a schoolmaster, then newspaper writer. Became leader in Chartist agitation; arrested on charges of conspiracy and sedition; two years in Stafford gaol; released in 1845. Subsequently disassociated himself from Chartist activities. Lectured and wrote; became devout itinerant preacher. As reporter, editor-proprietor, and contributor, connected with various provincial newspapers; contributed, among London periodicals, to Douglas Jerrold's Weekly Newspaper, Howitt's Journal, the Reasoner; edited the Plain Speaker; brought out short-lived Cooper's Journal. Author of The Purgatory of Suicides, 1845; The Paradise of Martyrs, 1873; some prose fiction; The Life of Thomas Cooper, 1872. Published also sermons and some miscellaneous writings.


In his attempts, in 1845, to find a publisher for his Purgatory of Suicides, Cooper left the poem with Douglas Jerrold, and thereafter called on Jerrold to hear his verdict. Jerrold, according to Cooper, was enthusiastic about the poem and stated that he had showed it to Dickens, who "was so taken with [it] that he asked to take it home" (Life of Thomas Cooper, p. 276). Dickens "afterwards received me", wrote Cooper, "in the same fraternal spirit" as had Jerrold (Conklin, Thomas Cooper, p. 265). In a letter to Cooper, October 7 1845, Dickens wrote: " ... I am not yet prepared to report to you upon your MS", and added: "You can have access to your papers at any time you please for the purpose of taking out the Verses .... “. Which of his MSS Cooper had asked Dickens to read the letter does not state, nor is it clear why Cooper should have wished to take out the verses. The reference seems to be to The Baron's Yule Feast; his prefatory comments to that book Cooper dated December 20 1845; and in his notes (p. 120) he acknowledged Dickens's "kind attention" and his pointing out the similarity of one of the stories in the book to a story in the Decameron.

Cooper had some admiration for Dickens's writings. Though he warned young working men against promiscuous novel reading, he allowed them—"when overworn with labour, and unfit for sterner thought or study"—an occasional novel by Fielding, Smollett, Scott, or Dickens
(Eight Letters to the Young Men of the Working-Classes, p. 17).

In his
Life (p. 282) Cooper stated: "... for one of [Dickens's] periodicals I wrote a little". "Griper Greg" is assigned in the Office Book merely to "Cooper". Its similarity to various of Cooper's humorous doggerels and its use of alliterative names—a frequent practice of; Cooper's (e.g., Tibbald Trudgit, Derrick Double, Crinkum Crankum)—are sufficient justification for taking the "Cooper": to be Thomas Cooper. The non-appearance of "Griper Greg" in Cooper's Poetical Works, 1877, does not rule out his authorship. Cooper did not include in the collection all his fugitive verses—with which, he wrote, he "could easily have filled a portly volume".

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1971.

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

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