John Wilkes: The Scandalous Father of Civil Liberty

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Yale University Press, Oct 1, 2008 - Biography & Autobiography - 496 pages
One of the most colorful figures in English political history, John Wilkes (1726–97) is remembered as the father of the British free press, defender of civil and political liberties, and hero to American colonists, who attended closely to his outspoken endorsements of liberty. Wilkes’s political career was rancorous, involving duels, imprisonments in the Tower of London, and the Massacre of St. George’s Fields in which seven of his supporters were shot to death by government troops. He was equally famous for his “private” life—a confessed libertine, a member of the notorious Hellfire Club, and the author of what has been called the dirtiest poem in the English language.

This lively biography draws a full portrait of John Wilkes from his childhood days through his heyday as a journalist and agitator, his defiance of government prosecutions for libel and obscenity, his fight against exclusion from Parliament, and his service as lord mayor of London on the eve of the American Revolution. Told here with the force and immediacy of a firsthand newspaper account, Wilkes’s own remarkable story is inseparable from the larger story of modern civil liberties and how they came to fruition.


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I The Making of a Gentleman
II The Squire of Aylesbury
III Into Parliament
IV The North Briton
V Number 45
VI The Great George Street Printing Shop
VII Trials and a Trial of Honor
X Incapacitation
XI The City of London
XII My Lord Mayor
XIII Poverty Paternity and Parliamentary Reform

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About the author (2008)

Arthur Hill Cash was born in Gary, Indiana on February 4, 1922. After graduating from high school, he enrolled in the Chicago School of Expression and Dramatic Art and joined the Tilton's Comedians, a troupe that performed stock dramas in rural towns. In 1942, he enlisted in the Army and served in England and France as a surgical technician with a medical unit. After Germany's surrender, he was assigned to perform in and stage manage Brother Rat at Army bases in Germany and France. He received a bachelor's degree in 1948 from the University of Chicago, a master's degree in 1950 from the University of Wisconsin, and a doctorate in 1961 from Columbia University. He taught at the University of Colorado, the University of New Mexico, and Colorado State University before joining the English department at the State University of New York at New Paltz in 1967. He retired from there in 1997. He wrote several biographies during his lifetime including Laurence Sterne: The Early and Middle Years, Laurence Sterne: The Later Years, and John Wilkes: The Scandalous Father of Civil Liberty. He took an active role in the restoration of Laurence Sterne's house Shandy Hall and wrote a visitor's guide entitled Laurence Sterne at Shandy Hall. He died on December 29, 2016 at the age of 94.

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