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Unusual SuspectsPitt's Reign of Alarm and the Lost Generation of the 1790s$
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Kenneth R. Johnston

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199657803

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199657803.001.0001

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‘Whispering tongues can poison truth’

‘Whispering tongues can poison truth’

Coleridge and Thelwall, 1796–1798

(p.235) 13 ‘Whispering tongues can poison truth’
Unusual Suspects

Kenneth R. Johnston

Oxford University Press

Coleridge corresponded frequently with John Thelwall in 1796–7, urging him to come to live in Somerset. Thelwall was in retreat from his years as a political orator, hounded by vigilantes. But shortly after Thelwall’s visit, Coleridge warned him away from the neighborhood because of the alarm raised by the visit of a Home Office agent, James Walsh (‘Spy Nozy’). Bitterly disappointed by Coleridge’s apparent duplicity, Thelwall trekked on into Wales. His poems of the time reflect the ‘conversational’ influence of both Coleridge and Wordsworth—and their poems reflect Thelwall’s colloquial energy and broader social concerns. The failure of this possibility to create a ‘literary triumvirate’ was a serious loss in the development of English Romantic poetry and theory. Coleridge soon recanted the last of his revolutionary enthusiasms, but continued to regard William Pitt as a traitor to British interests, in his ‘war eclogue’ of 1798, ‘Fire, Famine, and Slaughter.’

Keywords:   Coleridge, Thelwall, Poetic influence on Wordsworth, Common language poetry, State treason

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