Thomas Cooper (poet)
20 March 1805|
|Died||12 July 1892(aged 87)|
Thomas Cooper (20 March 1805 – 15 July 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 Leicestershire 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. He died at Lincoln on 15 July 1892. 
He married in 1834, but his wife died in 1880.
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.
In addition to the various papers with which he was connected, Cooper in 1850 conducted Cooper's Journal, but only a few issues appeared. 
His chief works are :
- 'Wise Saws and Modern Instances,' London, 1845 ; written in Stafford jail.
- 'The Bason's Yule Feast,' London, 1846.
- 'Land for the Labourers,' London, 1848.
- 'Captain Cobbler : his Romance,' London, 1848.
- ' Bridge of History over the Gulf of Time,' London, 1871.
- 'Life of Thomas Cooper, written by Himself,' London, 1872.
- 'Plain Pulpit Talk,' London, 1872.
- 'God, the Soul, and a Future State,' London, 1873.
- 'Paradise of Martyrs,' London, 1873.
- 'Old-fashioned Stories,' London, 1874.
- 'Evolution,' London, 1878.
- 'Atonement,' second series of ' Plain Pulpit Talk,' London, 1880.
- 'Thoughts at Four Score,' London, 1885. Cooper's collected 'Poetical Works' were published in London, 1877. 
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: MacDonald, James Ramsay (1901). "Cooper, Thomas (1805-1892)". In Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
- 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
- Stephen Roberts (2008) The Chartist Prisoners: the Radical Lives of Thomas Cooper (1805–1892) and Arthur O'Neill (1819–1896)