He had bitterly commented on the flogging of some militia, because their mutiny had been repressed and their sentence carried out by the aid of a body of German troops, and in consequence he was fined £1000 and imprisoned for two years. His indomitable vigour was never better displayed. He still continued to publish the Register, and to superintend the affairs of his farm; a hamper containing specimens of its produce and other provisions came to him every week; and he amused himself with the company of some of his children and with weekly letters from the rest. On his release a public dinner, presided over by Sir F. Burdett, was held in honour of the event. He returned to his farm at Botley in Hampshire, and continued in his old course, extending his influence by the publication of the Twopenny Trash, which, not being periodical, escaped the newspaper stamp tax. Meanwhile, however, he had contracted debts to the amount of £34,000 (for it is said that, notwithstanding the aversion he publicly expressed to paper currency, he had carried on his business by the aid of accommodation bills to a very large amount); and early in 1817 he fled to the United States. But his pen was as active as ever; from Long Island his MS. for the Register was regularly sent to England; and it was here that he wrote his clear and interesting English Grammar, of which 10,000 copies were sold in a month.
His return to England was accompanied by his weakest exhibition—the exhuming and bringing over of the bones of Thomas Paine, whom he had once heartily abused, but on whom he now wrote a panegyrical ode. Nobody paid any attention to the affair; the relics he offered were not purchased; and the bones were reinterred.
Cobbett’s great aim was now to obtain a seat in the House of Commons. He calmly suggested that his friends should assist him by raising the sum of £5000; it would be much better, he said, than a meeting of 50,000 persons. He first offered himself for Coventry, but failed; in 1826 he was by a large number of votes last of the candidates for Preston; and in 1828 he could find no one to propose him for the office of common councillor. In 1830, that year of revolutions, he was prosecuted for inciting to rebellion, but the jury disagreed, and soon after, through the influence of one of his admirers, Mr Fielden, who was himself a candidate for Oldham, he was returned for that town. In the House his speeches were listened to with amused attention. His position is sufficiently marked by the sneer of Peel that he would attend to Mr Cobbett’s observations exactly as if they had been those of a “respectable member”; and the only striking part of his career was his absurd motion that the king should be prayed to remove Sir Robert Peel’s name from the list of the privy council, because of the change he had proposed in the currency in 1819. In 1834 Cobbett was again member for Oldham, but his health now began to give way, and in June 1835 he left London for his farm, where he died on the 16th of that month.
Cobbett’s account of his home-life makes him appear singularly happy; his love and admiration of his wife never failed; and his education of his children seems to have been distinguished by great kindliness, and by a good deal of healthy wisdom, mingled with the prejudices due to the peculiarities of his temper and circumstances. Cobbett’s ruling characteristic was a sturdy egoism, which had in it something of the nobler element of self-respect. A firm will, a strong brain, feelings not over-sensitive, an intense love of fighting, a resolve to get on, in the sense of making himself a power in the world—these are the principal qualities which account for the success of his career. His opinions were the fruits of his emotions. It was enough for him to get a thorough grasp of one side of a question, about the other side he did not trouble himself; but he always firmly seizes the facts which make for his view, and expresses them with unfailing clearness. His argument, which is never subtle, has always the appearance of weight, however flimsy it may be in fact. His sarcasm is seldom polished or delicate, but usually rough, and often abusive, while coarse nicknames were his special delight. His style is admirably correct and always extremely forcible.
Cobbett’s contributions to periodical literature occupy 100 volumes, twelve of which consist of the papers published at Philadelphia between 1794 and 1800, and the rest of the Weekly Political Register, which ended only with Cobbett’s death (June 1835). An abridgment of these works, with notes, was published by his sons, John M. Cobbett and James P. Cobbett. Besides this he published An Account of the Horrors of the French Revolution, and a work tracing all these horrors to “the licentious politics and infidel philosophy of the present age” (both 1798); A Year’s Residence in the United States; Parliamentary History of England from the Norman Conquest to 1800 (1806); Cottage Economy; Roman History; French Grammar and English Grammar, both in the form of letters; Geographical Dictionary of England and Wales; History of the Regency and Reign of George IV., containing a defence of Queen Caroline, whose cause he warmly advocated (1830–1834); Life of Andrew Jackson, President of the United States (1834); Legacy to Labourers; Legacy to Peel; Legacy to Parsons (1835), an attack on the secular claims of the Established Church; Doom of Tithes; Rural Rides (1830; new ed. 1885), an account of his tours on horse-back through England, full of admirable descriptive writing; Advice to Young Men and Women; Cobbett’s Corn (1828); and History of the Protestant Reformation in England and Ireland (1824–1827), in which he defends the monasteries, Queen Mary and Bonner, and attacks the Reformation, Henry VIII., Elizabeth and all who helped to bring it about, with such vehemence that the work was translated into French and Italian, and extensively circulated among Roman Catholics.
In 1798 Cobbett published in America an account of his early life, under the title of The Life and Adventures of Peter Porcupine; and he left papers relating to his subsequent career. His life has been written by R. Huish (1835), E. Smith (1878), and E. I. Carlyle (1904). See also the annotated edition of the Register (1835).
COBBOLD, THOMAS SPENCER (1828–1886), English man of science, was born at Ipswich in 1828, a son of the Rev. Richard Cobbold (1797–1877), the author of the History of Margaret Catchpole. After graduating in medicine at Edinburgh in 1851, he was appointed lecturer on botany at St Mary’s hospital, London, in 1857, and also on zoology and comparative anatomy at Middlesex hospital in 1861. From 1868 he acted as Swiney lecturer on geology at the British Museum until 1873, when he became professor of botany at the Royal Veterinary College, afterwards filling a chair of helminthology which was specially created for him at that institution. He died in London on the 20th of March 1886. His special subject was helminthology, particularly the worms parasitic in man and animals, and as a physician he gained a considerable reputation in the diagnosis of cases depending on the presence of such organisms. His numerous writings include Entozoa (1864); Tapeworms (1866); Parasites (1879); Human Parasites (1882); and Parasites of Meat and Prepared Flesh Food (1884).
COBDEN, RICHARD (1804–1865), English manufacturer and Radical politician, was born at a farmhouse called Dunford, near Midhurst, in Sussex, on the 3rd of June 1804. The family had been resident in that neighbourhood for many generations, occupied partly in trade and partly in agriculture. Formerly there had been in the town of Midhurst a small manufacture of hosiery with which the Cobdens were connected, though all trace of it had disappeared before the birth of Richard. His grandfather was a maltster in that town, an energetic and prosperous man, almost always the bailiff or chief magistrate, and taking rather a notable part in county matters. But his father, forsaking that trade, took to farming at an unpropitious time. He was amiable and kind-hearted, and greatly liked by his neighbours, but not a man of business habits, and he did not succeed in his farming enterprise. He died when his son Richard was a child, and the care of the family devolved upon the mother, who was a woman of strong sense and of great energy of character, and who, after her husband’s death, left Dunford and returned to Midhurst.
The educational advantages of Richard Cobden were not very ample. There was a grammar school at Midhurst, which at one time had enjoyed considerable reputation, but which had fallen into decay. It was there that he had to pick up such rudiments of knowledge as formed his first equipment in life, but from his earliest years he was indefatigable in the work of self-cultivation. When fifteen or sixteen years of age he went to London to the warehouse of Messrs Partridge & Price, in Eastcheap, one of the partners being his uncle. His relative,