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This article is taken from PN Review 234, Volume 43 Number 4, March - April 2017.

From Chetham’s Library
4: Labour of Love
Michael Powell
J.Richardson’s The Labour of Love 1851

IMAGE R.J. Richardson’s The Labour of Love (1851). © Chetham's Library, 2017

ONE OF THE more interesting peculiarities of the Chartist movement is the central role that poetry played in its development. A vast array of verse was written and published by the Chartists, mostly in their leading newspaper, The Northern Star, the poetry column of which printed over a thousand works by over 350 poets. Indeed so central was its role in the development of the movement for mass representation that the paper could claim, ‘This is one of the proudest characteristics of the age we live in, this poetry of the people, written by and for themselves. Never till the present time has the poetry of the people been written, […] ringing out the people’s political, moral, and social aspirations, and elevating the standard of Humanity for all.’

The prominent Salford Chartist R.J. Richardson was one of the many political reformers who wrote verse, but unlike most of his fellow activists, Richardson was never published, and his collection of just under a hundred poems, survive in a single manuscript. The work was given a handwritten title-page, The Labour of Love: as shown in this my book of poetry volume 1 (1851), but no subsequent volumes were brought out before Richardson’s death in 1861. The imprint gives an indication as to why this might have been: ‘Manchester: written and published in my own house to please myself and everybody else who claim the right ...
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