George Cannon (publisher)

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George Cannon (1789–1854) was an English solicitor, radical activist and publisher and pornographer who also used the pseudonyms Erasmus Perkins and Philosemus.

Around 1812 he became associated with freethinking discussion groups in London[1][2] and in 1815 he edited, as "Erasmus Perkins",[1] a radical periodical Theological Inquirer; or Polemical Magazine, with which Percy Bysshe Shelley was associated,[3] and in which "Perkins" published extracts from Queen Mab:[4][5][6] his relationship with Shelley was somewhat hostile.[3] Cannon contributed to the Political Register of William Benbow[7][8] and was also a friend of Daniel Isaac Eaton.[4] He acted as lawyer for the anti-slavery campaigner Robert Wedderburn and may have drafted some of his polemics.[9]

In 1822 he was publishing obscene anti-establishment parodies and satires; by 1830 his publications were sheer pornography[10][11] and he was prosecuted numerous times:[12] in 1830 he was convicted of obscene libel for publishing a French-language edition of de Sade's Juliette.[11][13] His pornographic publications specialised in flagellation with such titles as The Birchen Bouquet,[14][15] Exhibition of Female Flagellants[16] and, as "Philosemus", Venus School-Mistress.[1] He promoted the exhibition of the Berkley Horse by the Royal Society of Arts in 1837 after it was bequeathed to them by inventor Theresa Berkley.[1]

Cannon died in 1854 and his widow continued his publishing business.[17]


  1. ^ a b c d McCalman, Iain (August 1984). "Unrespectable Radicalism: Infidels and Pornography in Early Nineteenth-Century London". Past & Present. 104: 74–110. doi:10.1093/past/104.1.74. JSTOR 650699. 
  2. ^ McCalman (1988) p.73
  3. ^ a b Boas, Louise Schutz (June 1955). ""Erasmus Perkins" and Shelley". Modern Language Notes. 70 (6): 408–413. JSTOR 3039584. 
  4. ^ a b Bieri, James (2004). Percy Bysshe Shelley: a biography : youth's unextinguished fire, 1792-1816. University of Delaware Press. p. 347. ISBN 0-87413-870-1. 
  5. ^ McCalman and Mee (2001) p.339
  6. ^ Priestman, Martin (1999). Romantic atheism: poetry and freethought, 1780-1830. Cambridge studies in Romanticism. 37. Cambridge University Press. p. 220. ISBN 0-521-62124-0. 
  7. ^ McCalman and Mee (2001) p.421
  8. ^ Nattrass, Leonora (1995). William Cobbett: the politics of style. Cambridge University Press. p. 98. ISBN 0-521-46036-0. 
  9. ^ Wong, Edlie L. (2009). Neither fugitive nor free: Atlantic slavery, freedom suits, and the legal culture of travel. America and the long 19th century. NYU Press. p. 276. ISBN 0-8147-9456-4. 
  10. ^ Hilton, Boyd (2006). A mad, bad, and dangerous people?: England, 1783-1846. New Oxford history of England. Oxford University Press. p. 626. ISBN 0-19-822830-9. 
  11. ^ a b McCalman (1988) p.204
  12. ^ Thomas, Donald Serrell (1969). A long time burning: the history of literary censorship in England. Routledge & Kegan Paul. pp. 212–213. 
  13. ^ Classe, O. (2000). Encyclopedia of literary translation into English, Volume 1. Taylor & Francis. p. 418. ISBN 1-884964-36-2. 
  14. ^ Ashbee, Henry Spencer (2007). Bibliography of Forbidden Books. Bibliography Of Forbidden Books. 3. Cosimo, Inc. pp. 242–243. ISBN 1-60206-971-9. 
  15. ^ Sigel, Lisa Z. (2005). International exposure: perspectives on modern European pornography, 1800-2000. Rutgers University Press. p. 69. ISBN 0-8135-3519-0. 
  16. ^ Mudge, Bradford Keyes (2000). The whore's story: women, pornography, and the British novel, 1684-1830. Ideologies of desire. Oxford University Press. p. 246. ISBN 0-19-513505-9. 
  17. ^ Marcus, Sharon (2007). Between women: friendship, desire, and marriage in Victorian England. Princeton University Press. p. 141. ISBN 0-691-12835-9. 
  • McCalman, Iain (1988). Radical underworld: prophets, revolutionaries, and pornographers in London, 1795-1840. Cambridge University Press. pp. 73–94. ISBN 0-521-30755-4. 
  • McCalman, Iain; Mee, Jon (2001). An Oxford companion to the Romantic Age: British culture, 1776-1832. Oxford Companions Series. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-924543-6.