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Cobbett
Cobbett
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cuted by the government, the result being an imprisonment for two years and a fine of 1,000l. (June 1810). Cobbett offered to drop his paper in order to escape punishment. The offer was rejected, and Cobbett denied positively that he had ever made it. The fact, however, seems to have been conclusively established at later actions for libel (see Huish, ii. 312-35). Cobbett's business affairs had been managed badly, and he came out of prison pecuniarily ruined. Cobbett's writing was at its very best at this period, and the ' Political Register ' continued to enjoy some authority until, in 1816, during the domestic distresses of the day, he threw himself without reserve into the agitation for reform, and reduced the price of his journal to twopence. The result of the change was an enormous circulation among the working classes. Fearing a second imprisonment on the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, and being much embarrassed, he went to America in March 1817. Here he kept a farm, and continued to write, for more than two years. He brought back to England bones of Thomas Paine, with the object of glorifying a character which he had formerly vilified, and provoked much justifiable ridicule. He now published numerous works of domestic and educational utility, and ventured again on a daily paper, 'Cobbett's Evening Post' (January-March 1820). His warm advocate of Queen Caroline, and Cobbett was the writer of her celebrated letter to the king. In 1821 he opened a seed-farm at Kensington, and resided for some years at Barn Elm, following his favourite pursuits of agriculture and planting. He now undertook a series of political tours, traversing England on horseback, the accounts of which he regularly printed in his paper. These tours were published in a collected form in 1830 under the title 'Rural Rides.'

Cobbett was now the leading journalist concerned in the movement for parliamentary reform. He at length incurred a government prosecution for incitement to sedition. He undertook his own defence with astonishing vigour and ability in July 1831. The jury being unable to agree were discharged, and Cobbett triumphed. He had long meditated a parliamentary career, and had already contested Coventry (1821) and Preston (1826) without success. He had appealed to his admirers to raise a fund for the purpose. His character had been injured by his vagaries, and especially by a quarrel with Sir Francis Burdett, who advanced him 3,000l. as a loan which Cobbett declared to be a gift. His money transactions had been questionable, and his position was precarious. He was at the bottom of the poll at both places. He obtained a seat for Oldham in the first reformed parliament. This was too late in life to be of much service to his cause or to his reputation.  He made an absurd attack on Sir Robert Peel, which brought on him some discredit and ridicule ; but he was eventually listened to with respect. He was engaged in a debate on the malt tax just before his death in June 1835, at Normandy Farm, near Guildford, the seat of his latest planting experiment.

Cobbett's boundless pugnacity, self-esteem, and virulence of language injured his reputation ; his inconsistency was glaring and his integrity sometimes doubtful. But his shrewd sense, homespun eloquence, and independence of judgment are equally conspicuous. His views of politics and history were crude, and his economic theories often absurd. But he showed a genuine and ardent interest in the welfare of the poor, especially the agriculural labourer ; and in many ways, as in his opinions about the Reformation, anticipated he doctrine of the Young England party as led by Disraeli. His style is admirable in its way, and his descriptions of rural scenery unsurpassable. There is abundance of material for seeing what his contemporaries thought of him in the periodicals of the time, and many interesting personal matters will be found in the authorities quoted below. The 'Political Register' was at this period a anti-Cobbett literature, at all periods of his life, is one of the most striking phenomena connected with his history ; and this, more than anything else, tells of the extra-ordinary power and independence of his character.

Besides the works already named, Cobbett wrote: 1. 'Letters to Lord Hawkesbury and Henry Addington on the Peace with. Bonaparte,' 1802. 2. 'The Political Proteus, a view of the public character and conduct of R. B. Sheridan, Esq.,' 1804. 3. 'Paper against Gold,' 1815. 4. 'A Year's Residence in the United States of America,' 1818. 5. 'A Grammar of the English Language, in a series of letters,' 1818. 6. 'The American Gardener,' 1821 (afterwards reproduced with some modifications as 'The English Gardener,' 1827). 7. 'Cobbett's Monthly Religious Tracts' (afterwards 'Twelve Sermons'). 1821-2, a most excellent series, very little known. 8. 'Cottage Economy,' 1821. 9. 'Cobbett's Collective Commentaries' (on the proceedings in parliament), 1822. 10. Introduction to reprint of Tail's 'Horse-hoeing Husbandry,' 1822. 11. 'Cobbett's French Grammar,' 1823. 12. 'History of the Protestant Reformation,' two parts, 1824-7 (this book has had a large circulation and been