William Hone Famous Political Satirist (Literature Essay Sample)
William Hone was a famous and highly influential political satirist. In the early nineteenth century, Hone worked as a publisher, book seller, and pamphleteer in London. The works of Hone clearly indicate his interest in the fight for radical political reform. Hone took on political evils without fear to the point that the governmental prosecution was waged against him due to three of his pamphlets. The famous political satirist was born on June 3, 1780. Together with his family, Hone moved to London only three years after he was born (Hone 2003, p. 23). Hone waged an attack against the French Revolution in a privately printed broadside The Contrast. Besides working in legal offices in Chatham and London, Hone became a member of the London Corresponding Society. Later, he started a stationery shop and a circulating library. Hone got involved in the book auctioneering in 1811 in Ivy Lane.
At that time, he initiated plans to better the conditions in insane asylums before becoming the editor of The Critical Review in the period between 1814 and 1815. At later stages of his literary work, Hone met and established strong relationships with George Cruickshank and Charles Dickens. Hone became famous owing his satirical attack targeting the government. This discussion seeks to justify the fact that Hone has found an audience that encompassed the ‘high’ and the ‘low’ by creating a new kind of literature that is impossible to stratify as he combined ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture.
Background of the Satire and an Explanation of the Main Argument
Hone made a great contribution as a renowned satirist. He succeeded in winning the hearts of a wide audience due to the way he attacked the government and waged war against the radical political reforms. He fought together with the members of a different political class that made him be regarded as a great political satirist. Hone had a great impact on the future of his close friends and novelists like George Cruikshank and Charles Dickens. While battling for his life in his final days, owing the efforts of his friend George Cruikshank, Hone requested to be given an opportunity to share last sentiments with Charles Dickens before his death. At that time, Charles Dickens was a renowned novelist. He honoured the request and came to meet Hone together with Cruickshank. The meeting can be perceived as an indicator of close relationships that were formed between the three friends. It reflects the way of how the novelists have established good working relationships that resulted in the transformation of literature. The works of William Hone had a great implication on literature. He helped to shape the future novelists’ careers by introducing them to his satire and general writing style (Hone 2003, p. 25).
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Waging war against the extremes of the government at those days was a move that made Hone become regarded as political satirist who strived to fight for the rights of the low in the society (O’Gorman 2010, p. 161). At the same time, the highly respected the members of the society who fell prey to poor governance that Hone strongly fought against. In his early publications, Hone gave sensational accounts of trials, murders and executions. He worked alongside the renowned radicals of his time to fight against the social evils that the poor were subjected to. It was at this point that the working relationships between Hone and George Cruickshank were formed. They worked together on several projects for caricature prints showing satirical pamphlets of the period between 1815 and 1822. The two were determined to ensure that the evil done by the political leaders of the day were brought to the fore so that they got discouraged from their offensive actions. Their derision was mainly focused on the Prince Regent with Cruickshank giving clear illustrations of the leadership of the day and the future leadership by King George IV. To emphasize the illustrations given by Cruickshank, Hone used illustrative captions and text.
Hone transformed literature by breaking away from the norms where excesses of the government were left untouched. Prior to his time, novelists kept away from writing anything that would expose them to trials on the part of the current government. Hone came out as a strong oppositionist of poor governance and oppression. He published a weekly newspaper, The Reformists’ Register besides publishing several anti-government pamphlets that were intended to inform the public of religious parodies. The attack that Hone waged on the government is evident from the title of his weekly newspapers. From the outlook of The Reformists’ Register, it is evident that the newspaper was aimed at eliminating the evils that were done against humanity. In this regard, Hone successfully attracted the attention of the high and the low in the society. It is because the two categories of people were affected by the government’s actions in one way or another. The two groups were both keen to support initiatives that were launched by the reformists, like Hone, to ensure that they would be set free from oppression. It is because of his obsession with reforms that Hone ended up being prosecuted on account that three of his pamphlets gave a clear observation of blasphemy and libel. The pamphlets include The Political Litany, The Sinecurist’s Creed and The late John Wilkes’s Catechism of a Ministerial Member. Hone used illustrations from his religious parodies to prove his innocence, and his acquittal was regarded as a great victory of the advocators of free press (Shelley 2012, p. 564).
Contemporary Works of Hone and Similar Works of other People
After the accounts of Hone’s trials were published, he worked on two vital collaborative projects together with Cruickshank. One of the projects that the two worked in is known as The Bank Restriction Barometer. The specimen gained popularity over time to the point that it positively contributed to the ceasing of hangings of forged notes’ passers. This was a common practice that led to several people being hanged and it was one of the social evils that Hone and Cruickshank were determined to bring to an end. The most famous pamphlet that the two created together was entitled The Political House that Jack Built. In the pamphlet, Hone used perfectly selected words coupled with the illustrations that were given by Cruikshank; they were effective in creating a satire about the corrupt government and the ills that were conducted by the royalty. The pamphlet also helped to illuminate the evils concerning the “Peterloo” massacre that was performed in 1819 and the excessive taxation that gave rise to immense poverty (McParland 2010). Hone and Cruickshank regarded these acts as extreme evils that they could hardly fail to bring to the limelight as a way of displaying people’s plight. The two great novelists did not simply focus their attention on the evils done by the government. They looked at the society in general and realised that there were several indications of religious hypocrisy. They waged an attack on religious hypocrisy with the help of a poem that was placed at the end of the pamphlet entitled The Clerical Magistrate (Gissing 2012, p. 24).
The collaboration of Dickens, Cruickshank and Hone was vital as they used their collective responsibility and concern about the well-being of the society in order to openly attack the government. At this stage, Hone was slowly preparing Dickens as a novelist for the task of serving as a reformist. They were to continue with the task after Hone’s death. At the same time, conducting collaborative work with Hone, Dickens and Cruickshank helped them to gain fame in the face of the society. It is because of the role that the novelists played in fighting for the rights of both the poor and those who were highly respected in the society. The collaboration would later play a significant role in maintaining the recognition of Dickens hence making him enjoy the attention of a wide audience (Abreu 2012). Based on these facts, it is worth noting that the convergence between the three writers was significant. Although Dickens appeared to show some comic disrespect during the funeral of Hone, the events that took place during the deathbed tableau give an indication of vital relationship between Dickens’ writing according to an earlier radical tradition.
The tight relationship between Hone and Dickens started in the nineteenth century when they started working together hence causing political havoc to the government of the day. The two openly attacked the government of George IV, the clergy and the legislature that was highly corrupt. The satire that was used by Hone in his writing, while waging war against different societal evils, is regarded as a vital tradition of the popular radical culture that existed in the nineteenth century (Abreu 2012). Having worked closely with Hone, Dickens’s novels and journalistic skills are largely related to the style used by Hone.
Dickens adopted the use of a satiric or melodramatic style of writing to show his position regarding the evil deeds that were conducted in the Victorian society. His adoption of a satiric style leads to the association of his fictional production to be highly influenced by the famous radical imagination. In most cases, Dickens’ work was thought to be related to the popular radical views as opposed to the radical perception. The influence that conditioned his choice of a writing style is understood as being linked to the Regency radicals like William Hone and William Cobbett (Abreu 2012). This perception is a clear indication that Hone has made a remarkable contribution to Dickens’s future career. The style that Dickens used is what earned him the large audience that he enjoyed. It was as if he took over the audience of Hone who started imitating the former’s work or writing style.
A number of scholars claimed that the novelistic production demonstrated by Dickens was largely influenced by the early nineteenth century satirical and melodramatic radical traditions. The scholars point out at particular famous radical traditions that led to the satirical pamphlets that William Hone and George Cruikshank produced and distributed together. The relation can be confirmed through a comparison between the trial parody entitled Non Mi Ricordo that Hone published in 1820 at the time when Queen Caroline’s affair was at its height as illustrated by George Cruickshank in Chapter XXXIV of the Pickwick Papers (Abreu 2012). Although the two texts show some essential differences from the first giving a display of a public political character while the second represented a private tenure, the work done by Dickens can be seen as a rewrite of the semantic obfuscations and the occlusion of truth, which is evident in the court of law as documented by Pickwick Papers.
Taking over from the fights against oppression of the poor, Dickens came out as a radical political writer whose writing was aimed at fighting for the rights of the poor and dispossessed. This fact became well known to Dickens’ supporters and his critics. After the first half of the twentieth century, most of Dickens’ critics grounded their arguments on an evaluation that was made by Humphrey House referring to Dickens as a middle-class writer whose writing showed his focus on the middle-class values (Abreu 2012). The association of Dickens’ literary work with the middle-class tradition is also evident in the argument made by John Lucas who considered the contemporary political status of Dickens’ fictitious work and journalism.
The Partnership between Hone and Cruickshank Makes a New Type of Literature and Inherited by Dickens
Like Hone and Cruickshank, Dickens managed to negotiate and often transcended the differences that existed between radical and popular culture in a manner that all other mid-nineteenth century writers were unable to do. The achievements that Dickens made in this regard are attributed to his famous radical forbears like Hones whose contributions were pivotal in making Dickens grow and gain popularity over time. Dickens inherited the popular radical cultural links of the early nineteenth century that enabled him serve as a link between the people’s political conception in the late eighteenth century and the modern understanding of a mass-market populace in the mid-nineteenth century. Abreu (2012) stated that the mass-market populace was created by the emergence of commercial newspapers during the early days of Dickens’ endeavours in journalism and practicing as a novelist.
Dickens jangled between the two conceptions of the people which were used as a political entity and the populace that was a commercial entity. Dickens made great efforts to politicise the aspect of mass market populace in a manner that no other novelist could attain throughout the second half of the nineteenth century. The distinction that existed between the radical and popular cultures was very marginal. Popular culture both recognised the political entity of the people and acknowledged the aspect of the popular market place. The change that was observed by the start of the second half of the century was due to the emergence of the commercial newspaper press that was mainly observed in the 1840s (Morrison 2005, p. 287). The changes that were made as a result of the merging differences created between the radical and popular cultures during the Victorian period required Dickens to adjust so as to maintain his relevance. He demonstrated remarkable skills in negotiating and at times disregarded the boundaries that were slowly emerging. His ability to fit in the context within which he was caught at different times maintained his popularity and kept the attention of the audience. Through his work in the transitional period, Dickens showed that he could advocate for and continue with the popular radical cultural traditions as he also took commercial advantage of them and enriched himself. Dickens made massive sales of his novels with most of them realising remarkable commercial success (McParland 2010, p. 85.)
Similarly to Hone, Dickens was also in a position to fit in the high and low culture (Abreu 2012). It is because at the time when he was at the peak of his professional fame, the differences between the high and low culture had not been strongly established. It can be proved by the fact that the two classes used satire and parody as their literary tools. Having worked closely with Hone, Dickens learnt the techniques that could be used to negotiate in favour of acceptance of the two cultures and he always used themes and styles that appealed to the interest of both. His skills enabled him to remain on top of the other novelists who could not effectively transcend the two cultural boundaries. The cultural positioning that Dickens had in Victorian England was more complicated due to the suspicion that the literary classes of the time had over what some people perceived as Dickens’ vulgar adoption of the popular culture. People realised the great focus that Dickens put on the contemporary social and political concerns. His work on political and social issues made his writing perceived as the apotheosis of what is known as the newspaper English.
As with every other writer, Dickens enjoyed his share of critics. However, he was uploaded by most writers who were highly amused by the way he managed to appeal to the audience across different classes. There were no other contemporary writes at the time who succeeded in having their works attract as wide attention as Dickens. The level of interest that people had to the novels written by Dickens is associated with Hones’ impact on the contemporary English writer. Dickens novels were read in every house. The readership cut across from the servants to the masters, children and adults alike. For example, a young lady who belongs to the high class would read Oliver Twist just like the poor would opt for Dombey and Son as their novels of choice. These illustrations justify the fact that Dickens’s literary work took the social differences into consideration. This characteristic feature enabled him to widen his scope of readership to the point that other contemporary writers could hardly rival him.
Dickens also managed to survive in the profession that is characterised by dynamic customer preferences due to his adoption of Hone’s writing style that expressed his attitude to art. In this style of writing, the audience is not perceived as a consumer that may only call for a commercial relationship between them and the writer or as a superior group of people, who have the same ideas, likes and dislikes. Instead, Hone helped Dickens to learn how to use a writing style that views the audience as collaborators. The audience needs to be valued and not only looked at as those with whom a link can only be established based on commercial interest. The audience is keen to identify writers who take their time to create a feeling of “us” in them. Talking about the concept “us”, authors need to create a strong relationship between themselves and their readers. The relationship helps to market their publications as the audience will always wish to learn the details of their novels. Dickens and William Hone are highly admired for their ability to gain respect of the wide audience due to their competence in creating a feeling of “us” in their readers. As with Hone, Dickens managed to create a feeling of “us” by catering for the members of the lower and the upper class of the society. Hs writing style largely embraced the style of the eighteenth century.
As opposed to many writes, Hone and Dickens employed a writing style that failed to look at people as vague or from a general perspective. Their writing was a clear proof of a shift from the trend of looking at the audience as the indistinct ‘everybody’. Instead, they employed a writing style in which the audience was understood as a specific force whose interests contradicted the views of their rulers. The kind of literature that was introduced by William Hone and passed on to Dickens is the one that gives a definition of life from people’s point of view. The literature analyses the ills that the leadership of the day subjected the people to and seeks ways of waging war against them. The literature is based on the understanding that the people, who formed the vast majority, are better placed to give the correct account of the society (Hole 1989). Their feelings give the right indication of what the majority perceive the society to be like hence forming the basis upon which the acceptability or rejection of leadership tenure may be judged. Dickens conducted his literary work cognisant of the fact that centring his novels on the excesses of the leaders would enable him maintain the height of prosperity and fame that William Hone gained. It is because Hone was his mentor and he had to follow his steps that had enabled him gain fame and recognition as a defendant of people’s rights.
Dickens’s work is best understood on account of the level of persistence of ‘the people’. In this case, the concept ‘the people’ is understood in terms of a social political category reflecting the culture of the nineteenth century. The literary works that Dickens created were made to be in line with the time and were focused on the events that were popular at the time and in which the majority showed interest. The literary work continued to foreground the social vision that radicalism helped to foster during the nineteenth century. It is because at that time, it was needless for writers to have their work centred on class differences but there was a need to look at the overriding themes in the society. As such, Dickens novels took the trend of using such terms as freedom and democracy that largely appealed to the people. Although Dickens failed to use the terms in some of his novels, he did his work with full knowledge that his work belonged to the popular radical tradition. In some cases, Dickens used terms that were related to class conflict. The terms were mainly used to attack the aristocracy while associating him with the perception of the people as became evident in the eighteenth century.
Literature analysts have made different references as for the kind of work Dickens did. Some have associated Dickens’ popularity with his appeal to the readers who belong to the working class while others attributed his popularity and success to his appeal to the literate non-elite readership. However, many people accepted the fact that Dickens had undergone great nurturing by Cruickshank and Hone to the point that he effortlessly tendered his work to meet the interests of the members of different classes within the society (Ledger 2007). He applied popular plagiarism and theatrical adaptations that made the readings of his fictitious novels go beyond any expected limits. He was the writer of his time and kept the pace that his mentor Hone had already helped to set. He could not shift from applying the writing style that had been popularised and proved to be the most relevant and highly attractive to his contemporaries. Dickens continued using Hone’s writing style taking into account the fact that he was convinced that the audience that Hone had established ahead of his popularity was good for him to climb the ladder to the top, which he yawned to reach.
As a renowned writer, Dickens had projects that can be understood to have a long chain of associations that can be used to add more light to the inquiry about the genesis of the writer’s success in literature. His work is associated with several famous and radical cultural traditions that date back to the late eighteenth century until the times of Chartism. The fiction that Dickens applied is related to the radical satire’s tradition that started in the late eighteenth century and gained much popularity in 1810s in the popular radical pamphlets that were produced and circulated by William Hones and Cruickshank (Ledger 2004). The use of political satire by Dickens was also inherited by his close friend, Douglas Jerrold. The time during which Dickens’ novels hit the market with massive popularity was referred to by E.P Thompson as the heroic age of popular radicalism (Ledger 2007).
The success that Dickens realised is a clear justification that writers need to be attentive and observant of particular times when they create their works. One has to maintain his or her contextual relevance. In other words, writers who are keen to attract a large readership must always be on the lookout for the popular ideology of the day, create their works according to the societal needs and make the audience their close associates. It is only by making the readers serve the role of close associates that writers can learn and understand them to the extent that they can predict their ever changing demands. At the same time, as confirmed by the achievement that Hone and Cruickshank made, which was later adopted by Dickens, writers learn to make the correct choice of lexicon when writing their novels. The choice of lexicon is made in accordance with the needs of the target audience and the overriding themes of a novel.
Popular radicalism is considered to refer to the politics and the culture that is associated with the famous writers of the Regency period like William Hone and William Cobbett. Most of the writers of the Victorian Period showed that they were largely influenced by the popular radical inheritance. There is a lot of satire in the common rhetorical strategy of the radicalism that is witnessed in the Regency period. The manner in which Dickens re-wrote the radical trial parodies by using radical satire against unpopular laws that exist in Oliver Twist help to understand his radical satirical inheritance.
According to Ledger (2007), the Regency period was also characterised by the use of melodrama writing mode by ballad writers, pamphleteers and essayists as they waged war on the King and governments. At the time when Dickens came to the fore as a writer, melodrama had already been presented and popularised as a perfect way of staging protests against an unfavourable regime. The likes of Dickens, Ernest Jones and Douglas Jerrold advocated for the conventions of melodrama in the Victorian period (Ledger 2004). By using melodrama, writers were in a position to point at the evil deeds of their rulers and show how their authoritarian and dictatorial leadership styles would lead to their plight. Some of the melodrama writings depicted how the European monarchs would get swallowed by a volcano as a result of their poor leadership. The aim of these pieces of art was to discourage poor leadership and negotiate for a situation where the poor and the rich would be fairly treated. The approach that Dickens used in his literary work was effective in fulfilling the goals of literature. Basically, his role as a writer was to provide a mirror to the society by displaying social evils that needed an immediate intervention to bring them to an end. Any writer who fails to illuminate the state of immorality in the society with respect to the adversities of leaders fails to attract a good audience as such a writer does not attain the objectives of literature.
Dickens is regarded to have embraced a radical writer’s perspective in a manner, in which he attached the House of Commons while daring to make enquiries about the excesses of the government department. The manner in which Dickens confronted the government in a way that is associated with radicalism is likened to the trend that was followed by politicians who stood for the root-and-branch reform of the Parliament. As such, Dickens is associated with such politicians or political aspirants who were opposed to the leadership style that was employed and who showed determination to foster a change in the society. He was always sensitive about the visceral responses that were given by politicians who served in the upper class to those who showed opposition to them. Therefore, Ledger (2007) states that the radical tag that was placed on Dickens is humorously used as an indication of how he used his mature political novels to attack rulers. Dickens’ novels highlighted his outright hatred for the Parliament and his negative attitude towards the poor system of the representative government. To him, the Parliament demonstrated negative attributes like excessive self-interest and several instances of bribery (Ledger 2004). According to Dickens, vices were typical to the House of Commons. In this sense, Dickens occupied a position of a radical writer as he had been brought up to be by his mentor, William Hone. He did not see any significant change in leadership that would make him change his position to start writing in support of the government. The society never lacked moral erosions to be addressed. As such, he was a radical and was determined to remain as such. It is the attribute that enabled him to keep the attention of his audience.
To conclude, Dickens’s determination to step up in his writing was not only caused by his success in attracting more audience whenever he produced a new novel for circulation. However, similar to Hone, Dickens was convinced that his writing of the melodramatic and satirical aesthetics reflecting popular radicalism was in line with his consciousness and satisfaction so that he was capable of bringing about positive political and social change (Ledger 2007). In this regard, Dickens was an instrumental writer. In his remarks, Dickens stated that his intention was to ensure that he generates interest in the general public and that he succeeds in affecting the minds of the public to oppose anything that he was convinced to be wrong. He always strived to stimulate the public to express their discontent with poor leadership and keep to the stand that it had to be pushed aside and replaced with the leadership that would dignify humanity. He was sure that an effective use of fiction would enable him to achieve his writing goals so he endlessly used the style. Dickens followed William Hone’s footsteps by not aligning himself to any party. He preferred to confront particular social and political abuses hence he was regarded as a political novelist as opposed to other writers whose works were more ideologically programmatic.
The illustrations in this discussion provide enough evidence to confirm that Dickens’s literary work was largely influenced by the mentorship of William Hone. The latter played a significant role in attracting the audience that was inherited and maintained by Dickens and that enabled him gain more fame than other writers. Taking after Hone, Dickens’ writing showed that he was moved by the desire to be influential in terms of the government policies and appeal to the public opinion by the use of fictitious writing and journalism. Hone made Dickens understand that he did not need to be a member of the Parliament so as to be influential in the country (McParland 2010, p. 138). It is because in the middle of the nineteenth century, most people formed their opinion about political issues from journals and novels. He opted to use this understanding to ensure that he writes influential novels that would captivate the attention of his audience and keep the pace that Hone had followed before his death. The role that Hone played, from the perspective, in which he contributed to Dickens’s acquisition of the satirical writing style, his ability to tender his novels to be relevant to the low and the high class members of the society shows that Dickens would not have existed without him. He helped to instil a culture of radicalism in Dickens that helped him in the fight against oppressive leadership. Dickens would not be in a position to display the radical culture that was famous in the nineteenth century without the mentorship of William Hone.