Thomas Cooper (poet)
Thomas Cooper (March 20, 1805 – July 15, 1892) was a poet and one of the leading Chartists. He wrote poetry, notably the 944 stanzas of his prison-rhyme the Purgatory of Suicides (1845), novels and, in later life, religious texts. An autodidact shoemaker, preacher, schoolmaster and journalist before he became a Chartist in 1840, Cooper was a passionate, determined and fiery man.
Chartist leader and lecturer
After journalistic work in Lincoln and London he joined the staff of the Leicester Mercury in 1840. Leicester, under his leadership, became a Chartist stronghold--with its own journals, e.g. The Commonwealthman, and adult school. He became a leader and lecturer among the Chartists, and in 1842 was imprisoned in Stafford gaol for two years after the riots in the potteries, where he wrote his Purgatory of Suicides, a political epic. Cooper abandoned full-time radicalism on his release.
Writing and lecturing
At the same time he adopted sceptical views, which he continued to hold until 1855, when he became a Christian, joined the Baptists, and was a preacher among them. Though still calling himself a Chartist, he sought to earn a living and a reputation as a writer. In addition to his poems he wrote several novels. However, novels like Alderman Ralph (1853) failed on both those counts. Having abandoned his religious beliefs at the time of his imprisonment, Cooper was dramatically re-converted to Christianity in 1855. He spent the next thirty years as a lecturer in defence of Christianity, refuting the evolutionary theories of Darwin. In his latter years he settled down into an old-fashioned Radical. His friends in 1867 raised an annuity for him, and in the last year of his life he received a government pension.
Somewhat impulsive, he was an honest and sincere man. His autobiography (1872) is regarded as a minor Victorian classic. Thomas Cooper was buried in Lincoln.
- He was a shoemaker at Gainsborough and afterwards opened a school there in 1827.--The Dictionary of National Biography: the concise dictionary ... to 1930; p. 276
- The Dictionary of National Biography: the concise dictionary ... to 1930; p. 276
- Stephen Roberts (2008) The Chartist Prisoners: the Radical Lives of Thomas Cooper (1805–1892) and Arthur O'Neill (1819–1896)
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Cousin, John William (1910). A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature. London: J. M. Dent & Sons. Wikisource