COBBETT, William

Porcupine's Works

London: Printed for Cobbett and Morgan. 1801.

First edition of Cobbett's Peter Porcupine writings. Twelve volumes. 8vo. 225x140mm. pp. 400: [4], 472; [4], 440: [4], 444: [4], 432: [4], 432: [4], 430: [4], 480: [4], 412: [4], 449, [3]: [4], 434: [4], 252, [Index 84pp]. Uncut in the original boards with original printed orange labels on the spine. Six volumes have the ticket of "Booth. Bookseller, Binder and Stationer. Duke Street, Portland Place, London". The occasional bit of foxing, slight marginal staining to a few leaves in volume VII, and a little soiling and marking to the boards but overall a very attractive set in excellent condition and in as close to its original state as one could wish. Many pages unopened, including almost all of the index. It is thought that William Cobbett (1763-1835) wrote around thirty million words during a forty year career as a journalist. The 5000 pages in these twelve volumes, published by Cobbett shortly after his return to England in 1800 following eight years in America, represent a selection from his vast journalistic output during this period.
More reactionary than radical, Cobbett's American writings start from the position, set out in the preface, that "I never met with a man, in whatever rank or situation of life, who did not regret the separation of the United States from the mother-country". The collection begins with a history of the years 1783 to 1794. Cobbett's aim in this collection was to redress the anti-British, pro-French sentiment of the American press. It was in 1795 that Cobbett adopted his pseudonym when an opponent described him, to his delight, as a porcupine. He called his daily newspaper which ran from March 1797 to the end of 1799, Porcupine's Gazette and this set includes numerous extracts from the Gazette. American politics in the immediate post-Revolutionary years were febrile and Cobbett was in his element, firing off opinionated articles and picking verbal fights. It was a fight with a Dr Rush on the subject of blood-letting as a cure for yellow fever (opinion as to its usefulness divided on party lines) that led to the demise of the Gazette when Cobbett was ordered to pay $5,000 in libel damages. Out of money, Cobbett sailed home to England on 1st June 1800. The day before, he published a "Farewell Advertisement" in which he thanked those Americans who had been his friend, whilst reserving his customary prickliness for his enemies: "when people care not two straws for each other, ceremony at parting is mere grimace". "With this I depart for my native land, where neither the moth of Democracy, nor the rust of Federalism doth corrupt, and where thieves do not, with impunity, break through and steal five thousand dollars at a time".

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