A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature/Cobbett, William

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Cobbett, William (1762-1835).—Essayist and political writer, b. at Farnham, Surrey, s. of a small farmer, his youth was spent as a farm labourer, a clerk, and in the army, in which his good conduct and intelligence led to his promotion to the rank of sergeant-major. After moving about between England and America, and alternating between journalism and agriculture, in the former of which his daring opposition to men in power got him into frequent trouble and subjected him to heavy fines in both countries, he settled down in England in 1800, and continued his career as a political writer, first as a Tory and then as a Radical. His violent changes of opinion, and the force and severity with which he expressed himself naturally raised up enemies in both camps. In 1817 he went back to America, where he remained for two years. Returning he stood, in 1821, for a seat in Parliament, but was unsuccessful. In 1832, however, he was returned for Oldham, but made no mark as a speaker. C. was one of the best known men of his day. His intellect was narrow, but intensely clear, and he was master of a nervous and idiomatic English style which enabled him to project his ideas into the minds of his readers. His chief writings are English Grammar, Rural Rides, Advice to Young Men and Women. His Weekly Political Register was continued from 1802 until his death.