Statement on the Ukraine

Embracing our mission to follow John Thelwall in promoting education in democratic polity, and the global advancement of human rights and civil liberties, the John Thelwall Society supports the people of the Ukraine, in solidarity with all those who resist aggression and struggle for liberty.

On August 14, 1833, Thelwall spoke out against the Russian invasion of Poland in terms that create a dizzy sense of deja vu. He said that

He should regret that the cause of Poland were considered a subject for party politics, but he should regret it still more if their cause were considered merely an object for charity… If the feelings of Europe could not be roused to withstand their aggressions, the barbarians would be diffused by force over the face of every country, and Russia would rush forward and destroy the liberties of other kingdoms as it had done that of unhappy Poland.

—Judith Thompson, General Secretary and Archivist, John Thelwall Society.

Tenth Anniversary Call for Papers

To celebrate its tenth anniversary the John Thelwall Society is putting together an anniversary volume of essays.

We invite all who are writing on Thelwall, or have done so (eg. unpublished conference papers, essays, etc.), to contribute.

Please send enquiries and proposals to Steve Poole ( or Judith Thompson ( by July 1, 2022.

John Thelwall Blue Plaque Event in London (May 24)

If you are in the vicinity of London, please mark your calendar for Thursday May 24 and join the John Thelwall Society at the unveiling of the first English Heritage “Blue Plaque” to Thelwall, at the site of his first Institution at 40 Bedford Place, Bloomsbury. The unveiling will be followed by a symposium with performances, “The People’s Voice: A Legacy in Action,” to be held at the site of his second Institution at 57 Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

Blue Plaque Event schedule

Blue Plaque Event Invitation

John Thelwall Archive: Words and Work

Please visit the digital archive of Thelwall works produced by members of graduate seminars in Digital Romanticism and Print Culture at Dalhousie University.


CFP: Romantic Urbanature (November 15, 2017)

Please consider a paper proposal for the below conference on Thelwall and urbanism!
Romantic Urbanature
Organizer: Kate Scarth (University of Prince Edward Island), kscarth(at)upei(dot)ca
“I may contemplate the wide spread varieties of wave and wood, vales, meads, and villages, white sails, and glittering spires that court the eye below,” writes John Thelwall in The Peripatetic (169). Again and again, Thelwall praises such diverse landscapes, here combining the natural and the cultivated, the residential and the industrial, the workaday and the spiritual. This panel explores urbanature (city and nature combined) by Thelwall and other Romantic writers, particularly urbanature’s implications for ecological and social justice, human and animal rights. More broadly, this panel will enrich green and urban Romanticisms. Papers will build on the recent scholarship that has added urbanism to Romanticists’ traditional emphasis on nature and more recent focus (since the 1990s) on ecocriticism (see Chandler and Gilmartin, Hess, Nichols, Rigby). In line with Congress’ 2018 theme, the panel will highlight the diversity of Romantic urbanature. Papers in whole or in part on Thelwall’s urbanature are particularly welcome but work on other Romantic writers engaging in a Thelwallian spirit of democracy will also be considered.
Please send required files to: kscarth(at)upei(dot)ca by November 15, 2017.
Required files:
  • A 300- to 500-word proposal (with NO identifying marks of any kind)
  • An ACCUTE 2018 Proposal Information Sheet (note: Word file)

Sixth Annual Thelwall Lecture: “Romantics–thou shouldst be living at this hour!” (5 Aug 2017)

Please join us on 5 August 2017 from 2-5 pm at the Jerwood Centre (Grasmere, UK) for an afternoon of talks on “how Wordsworth’s writings were used in propaganda writings by political groups in the 1920s and ask what help the writings of Shelley and Thelwall can offer us for our own times.”


For more information, please visit the Wordsworth Trust Website.


The Second International John Thelwall Society Conference, 21-23 July 2017

We are pleased  to announce the Second International John Thelwall Society Conference, “John Thelwall: Radical Networks and Cultures of Reform 1780-1820,” at the University of Derby (21-23 July 2017). Please save the dates and watch our event page for more details as they become available.

CFP John Thelwall Society Special Session: John Thelwall’s Vital Materialisms (NASSR 2017)

For almost a century, the Romantic conceptualization of “life”– its origin, its organization, and the theological implications of both — was understood to be wholly vitalistic. However, over the past few decades several studies have questioned this conclusion and called for new answers to old questions: How do we understand the difference between “dead” matter and “vitality,” or life, in Romantic writing? How do the two interact? Where does vital energy come from and how is it sustained — whether in the body or the body politic? By re-thinking the metaphors of vitality that suffuse Romantic writing within the context of the scientific debates over the definition of “life” that raged in the 1790s, these studies have found multiple forms of vitalism and materialism “alive” in Romantic writing. Others have shown that vitalistic and materialistic theories of “life” overlap in so many ways that Romantic “life” might be better approached as a version of what Jane Bennett calls “vital materialism.”

John Thelwall’s An Essay Towards a Definition of Animal Vitality (1793) directly engages the debate over vitalism raging in the 1790s and provides insight into current assessments of matter and vitality – biological, political, and cultural. Further, as Thelwall scholars have pointed out, his version of “vital materialism” informs all of his literary and political projects. Papers for this session might consider how Thelwall, in his scientific, literary, or political writing, answers the Romantic question “What is Life?” They might also examine how his views on matter and/or vitality shed light on, or obscure, his literary or political investments. Or they might consider how Thelwall’s idea of “life” can be compared to that of his contemporaries. Any paper that treats Thelwall in the context of this broad theme will be considered. Please send proposals of 300 words to Molly Desjardins ( by Friday, January 6, 2017.

A Note to Members about the JTS Derby Conference

Please note that conference dates have changed since the announcement in the JTS AGM minutes. The conference dates are now July 21-23, 2017.

All members of the Thelwall Society are invited to circulate the call for papers to members of their own networks and/or to organize their own 3-person panels, submitting the panel proposal just as they would propose a paper.

Hope to see you in Derby this July!

Call for Papers: John Thelwall: Radical Networks and Cultures of Reform 1780-1820

Call for Papers
John Thelwall: Radical Networks and Cultures of Reform 1780-1820 July 21-23, 2017 (
University of Derby)

For its second international conference, the John Thelwall Society, in collaboration with the University of Derby, invites papers on Thelwall within interlinked regional networks of activism, sociability, dissent and reform in Britain 1780-1820.

Recent years have seen increased interest among scholars and local historians in the “conversable worlds” (Mee) of the Midlands Enlightenment and its groundbreaking intersections of politics and poetry, religion and science, doctors and dissenters, pedagogues and visionaries. As a radical polymath and itinerant lecturer, John Thelwall moved between and spoke to all of them, not only in the Midlands. From Devon to Wales, Norfolk to Scotland, Ireland to France, Roman history to elocution, he planted the liberty tree by other names, giving voice to hope and binding together scattered communities of reform. At a time of war and repression, in the face of nationalist dogma, Thelwall championed egalitarian connections and transnational solidarities that continue to offer a way forward in our own dark times (Poole).

Representative of these regional intellectual centres, Derby, the conference location, lies at the heart of the Derwent Valley World Heritage Site, a cradle of the Industrial Revolution. The home of visionary scientists and artists, revolutionary inventors and industrialists, outspoken Philosophical and Political Societies, and the Pentrich rebellion (whose 200th anniversary the conference also commemorates), it also hosts the Derby Manuscript, the trove of Thelwall poetry whose discovery draws attention to his importance in radical networks, and theirs to an understanding of his career. The conference will celebrate this discovery through a special exhibition of the manuscript. Other highlights include excursions to sites related to the industrial revolution, Thelwall and notable residents of Derby (including Erasmus Darwin and Joseph Wright), and a radical pub night with songs and toasts in the very room where the Derby Political Society delivered its notorious 1792 Revolution Address. And of course, there will be a lively two-day program of talks, panels and keynote lectures.

The JTS invites proposals for papers or sessions on any aspects of, or relationships between, Thelwall , other radical figures like Paine, and/or reform networks in Derby or elsewhere in Britain. Contributions are welcome from all disciplines and need not focus expressly on Thelwall. Topics might include (but are not limited to):
• Erasmus Darwin and the Derby Philosophers
• the Derby MS and/or the relationship of poetry, politics and performance
• the role of women in radical (and/or scientific, philosophical, artistic) networks
• the relationship of religious and political dissent
• Joseph Wright and/or the role of the arts in philosophic/scientific/radical circles
• The Pentrich Rising
• Paine and/in Derby
• Thelwall’s lectures: politics, history, elocution
• radicalism and reform: continuities and/or schisms 1780-1820
• Toryism, loyalism, reaction
• education and the dissenting academies

Please send proposals of no more than 300 words to no later than 31st January 2017.

CFP: John Thelwall: Radical Networks and Cultures of Reform 1780-1820