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Aspects of platform culture in nineteenth-century Britain.

This Introduction provides background to the more focused essays that follow. It calls attention to the continued neglect of the nineteenth-century platform, and especially--in the wake of Meisel's recent study of the political platform--of the lecture, pointing out that the extent to which oral performance underpinned written text in the Victorian period is still too little understood. It attempts a chronological survey designed to emphasize the significance of public speech in the era before the 1860s. It also seeks to provide context for a number of the key themes of the essays in the rest of the issue, arguing for the importance of the platform for transatlantic cultural exchange, and suggesting that despite the pressures, women were not completely banished from the mid-century platform as has sometimes been suggested.


The platform culture of nineteenth-century Britain was so ubiquitous that its omnipresence has helped to render it strangely invisible. We look through it in search of material on all aspects of the period, but we fail to look at it, to interrogate it as a cultural form in its own right. As is illustrated by the smattering of references in G.M. Young's Victorian England: Portrait of an Age superficially, the importance of the platform in Victorian intellectual culture is well established. Historians had recognized the importance of public speech in the conduct of nineteenth-century politics long before Colin Matthew's suggestive survey of the rise of extra-parliamentary politics in the last third of the century gave a new impetus to the study of the practices of the political platform. (1) Labor historians had similarly placed practices of oratory and the "mass platform" at the centre of their accounts of nineteenth-century radical movements. (2) In general, however, there has been little attention to the practice of public speech itself. There are one or two general surveys of rhetoric, such as Robert T. Oliver's Public Speaking in the reshaping of Great Britain, and some material in studies of rational recreation by Mabel Tylecote and J.F.C. Harrison; (3) but until the recent appearance of Joseph Meisel's Public Speech and the Culture of Public Life in the Age of Gladstone, the only comprehensive study of the nineteenth century platform remained Henry Jephson's The Platform, Its Rise and Progress (1892), a revealing but essentially whiggish account that concentrates almost exclusively on the political platform, and the public meeting as its most common variant, and there is no British equivalent to the book length studies of the American lecture platform of Carl Bode and David Mead, or the more recent work of Donald M. Scott. (4) Only within the relatively narrow confines of the history of science has the public lecture been subjected to sustained attention. (5)

Meisel's study demonstrates the dangers of neglecting this aspect of nineteenth-century culture. This neglect is of especial significance once we begin to recognize the central place public speaking had within nineteenth-century modes of intellectual production. Perhaps because of the dominance of the histories of science, education, and politics in the historiography of public speech, at least in Britain, the culture of the platform has tended to be interpreted through notions of "popularization," "dissemination," or "mobilization," as a derivative or imitative process designed to transfer ideas, probably in a diluted form, from arenas in which they are produced to arenas in which they can obtain wider consumption. Yet to consider the platform purely from this perspective is to ignore its productive role. It is twenty-five years since Raymond Williams pointed out the extent to which "much of the important social thought of the [nineteenth] century was in lecture form." (6) Even cursory reflection suggests that a good deal of the important social criticism of the period was framed in the form of lectures and addresses, from Carlyle's Heroes and Hero-Worship through Ruskin's Sesame and Lilies to much of Morris' thought. The press essentially lived parasitically off the platform for the whole of the nineteenth century, and closer scrutiny suggests that a great deal more of the periodical literature and published works than has ever been acknowledged began their lives as some form of public speech. Despite this, most surveys of nineteenth-century prose still seem capable of almost completely ignoring the lecture as a genre, and of giving scarcely more attention to the sermon or the political address. (7)

What we urgently need is a richer sense of the broader cultural history of public speaking: the contexts in which such speaking took place, the relationships between them, and how they changed over time. We need to know who was able to gain access to the platform and on what terms. We need to know much more about the motivations of the platform performer, not just the political orator, but the sage-intellectual, the professional lecturer, the debater, the amateur reader, and even the comic monologist. We need to explore the nature of audience participation and response, and the role that the immediacy of platform delivery and public reception played in the composition of nineteenth-century thought.

It is hoped that the material presented in this special issue can help to bring the platform, and especially the lecture platform as its most neglected aspect, onto the agenda of nineteenth-century prose studies, and of nineteenth-century cultural history more broadly. The rest of this introductory survey attempts to provide some sort of context for the essays that follow. No claims of either comprehensiveness or definitiveness are made. The material presented here is patchy, both in the themes highlighted and the research base. The illustrative material is heavily skewed towards the history of nineteenth-century Manchester, although this work has been supplemented by some surveying of the press of Norwich,. Bristol, Exeter, Liverpool and Edinburgh, and material deriving from preliminary work on what it is hoped will become a substantial project on the public lecture in nineteenth-century Britain. (8)


As Meisel vividly illustrates, the sheer volume of Victorian platform production is overwhelming. Most remained entirely unrecorded, but we can get a sense of its scope and history from the extensive coverage that did appear in the newspapers, and from the snatches of a wider history embedded in the historical record. At mid-century, even a relatively modest town would have been the venue of an average of more than one public meeting a night; in the larger towns and cities by the 1860s and 1870s there might easily have been half a dozen daily. Most congregations heard two sermons each Sunday, and quite frequently a religious lecture during a week night, and a bewildering array of associations, from parochial young men's societies to political clubs, organized popular lectures, and debates. The extent to which this kind of activity penetrated even to the most unlikely spaces of Victorian culture is illustrated by accounts such as that of the missionary of the Country Towns Mission Association for Manningford Bruce in Wiltshire, who reported in 1866 that he had been giving weekly lectures in neighboring villages on Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and Scenes of Bible Lands, illustrated with lantern slides, sometimes in village schoolrooms, but sometimes, during harvest and hopping, in farmers' barns. (9)

Systematic records of any forms of nineteenth-century platform activity are entirely lacking; it was an element of public life that defied quantification. When in the 1880s it was estimated that about 2 million sermons were preached each year, the figure could only be a rough generalization. (10) It did, nonetheless, indicate the scale of the activity, which even at an individual level was often staggering. Thomas Norcliffe, an unsung Lancashire temperance advocate, was estimated to have addressed 7,000 meetings over a twenty-five year period, while on a slightly less imposing scale, Thomas Cooper calculated in 1863 that in the five years since he had taken up touring Britain lecturing on the evidences of Christianity, he had lectured 468 times in Scotland and 855 times in England. (11) And each of the numberless campaigning associations of Victorian culture could replicate such numbers many times over. Hence a retrospective survey of the first 21 years of the Lancashire and Cheshire Band of Hope Union in 1884 suggested that in that time the societies in the Union (now numbering over 100) had held something like 8,614 meetings and heard around 20,000 addresses. (12)

Much of this activity was undoubtedly played out in modest schoolrooms in front of meagre audiences. Yet the nineteenth-century appetite for consuming public speech can scarcely be exaggerated, and audiences were often of a size to warrant the description of the platform as a system of mass leisure. Public meetings, especially those where controversial issues of politics or religion were being aired, could attract huge numbers. The Free Trade Hall in Manchester had an estimated capacity of 10,000 people when the seats were removed, and was often substantially filled (and at times overfilled) at mid-century. By the 1880s the city boasted a larger venue in the St James' Hall, into which it was claimed 14,000 were crammed to hear Lord Randolph Churchill in 1890. (13) Nor did this appetite wane to any considerable degree. That 3,000 packed into St Andrew's Hall Glasgow for Winston Churchill's lecture on the Boer War in November 1900 was considered unremarkable. (14) In fact, the greater use of open air meetings and demonstrations by the main political parties after 1867 extended the scale of the platform. Outdoors numbers were notoriously difficult to estimate, but not subject to any limit on capacity meetings were frequently judged to have attracted figures in excess of 10,000 or even 15,000 people. When Lord Randolph Churchill addressed a Conservative demonstration in Manchester in 1884, he was claimed to have spoken to 100,000 people. (15)

The appetite of some Victorians for sermons has long been recognized, and the leading popular preachers could often have filled their churches and chapels several times over. (16) The kind of pulpit arithmetic generated by the most famous of these, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, is formidable: a registered congregation of nearly 5,500 at its peak, a chapel capacity of 6,000 usually filled three times on Sundays, not to mention one sermon at the Crystal Palace in 1857 that attracted, according to the turnstiles, 23,654. (17) But it was not just the charismatic few; even Charles Burton, a relatively conventional Anglican cleric, was able to attract over 2,000 people into All Saint's Church, Manchester, for his 1836 weekday evening lectures on "The World Before the Flood." (18) It was suggested that as many as 6,000 or even 10,000, mostly of the working classes, attended Arthur Mursell's Sunday afternoon lectures in the Free Trade Hall at the height of their popularity in the 1850s; while on his travels he was regularly able to draw in crowds of 1,500 or 2,000. (19) In Liverpool, Hugh Stowell Brown, a popular Baptist preacher-lecturer in the Mursell mould, packed out the largest available halls in the winter months, and resorted to holding weekly outdoor summer lectures which were apparently attended by as many as 10,000 people. (20) Liverpool, admittedly an exceptional case, also boasted an extraordinary network of lecture stations and courses under the sponsorship of its Free Libraries Committee. In 1889 these included a 40-lecture free course which attracted a total attendance of 47,774, and a 15-lecture fee-paying course attended by 8,558 people. (21) Even apparently dry academic subjects could draw huge crowds, such as the 3,700 that attended John Tyndall's lecture on "Crystalline and Molecular Forces" in the Manchester Penny Science series in the 1870s, and it was claimed that 2,000-3,000 was a common figure for the science lectures organized around Britain in the 1880s and 1890s by the Gilchrist Trust, with one London course reaching a peak of over 5,000. (22)

Attendances apart, there are a number of indications of the significance of the platform in Victorian culture. One is the number of nineteenth-century figures who forced themselves onto it, despite being far from natural orators themselves. For every George Thompson, the charismatic anti-Slavery orator of the mid-century for whom the platform seemed to be a natural environment, there were probably a number of Canon Barnetts, who was a regular speaker and lecturer despite having "no personal magnetism as a preacher, no fluency as a lecturer; ... no special talent in the choice and use of words," as Beatrice Webb put it. (23) Another is that for the more adept, public speaking, albeit often combined with journalism or some form of organizational work, was a crucial source of income for the large numbers of "petty intellectuals" who formed the backbone of many nineteenth-century movements, and a pivotal cadre of activists in their local communities: figures like George Jacob Holyoake, leader of the mid-century secularist movement, Henry Pitman, co-operator, anti-vaccinator and advanced Liberal, or Florence Fenwick Miller, late-Victorian feminist lecturer and editor. (24)

There is also the evidence for those who attended the meetings and lectures of the impact that they could have. Although platform performances do not figure nearly as often as books in the lists of formative influences composed by nineteenth-century autobiographers, there is still plenty of scattered evidence of their role in the intellectual awakening and development of many nineteenth-century figures. Especially for those who grew up in the first half of the century, the relative lack of alternative rational entertainment outside the larger urban centres meant that many young men went to considerable effort to attend meetings and lectures. In 1923 Silas Hocking, popular lecturer and author of morality tales, remembered that he "tramped for miles across country to distant villages, tramped through rain and wind and darkness, to listen to some temperance orator, or returned missionary, or political aspirant, or budding social reformer.... Sermons did not interest me much, but a speech, provided the speaker knew how to talk and let himself go, warmed my blood and quickened my imagination." (25) In the restricted cultural life of some of the Dissent-dominated industrial towns of the North, the public lecture was often one of the few avenues of intellectual stimulus. (26) Even late in his life George Dawson, the Birmingham transcendentalist, was receiving letters paying tribute to the impact his lectures of the 1840s and 1850s had had on his audiences. (27) The record of diary and journal is even more unequivocal, often, especially in middle third of the century, devoting considerable space to long accounts/meditations on sermons and platform performances. (28) Take the case of the activities of Emerson on the Manchester platform of the late 1840s. The power of his words was undeniable: Edwin Waugh, later famous as a Lancashire dialect poet and writer, confessed to his diary that "I can feel Emerson's lecture taking root in my mind and whole demeanour as I walk about in the streets thinking of the nature of man, of God, and of my relations to these--Emerson is turning upside down some of my schemes, and remodelling my plans for life." (29) The conflicts over control of the lecture platform sparked by Emerson and Dawson became a recurrent symbol of the broader struggle for free speech and free association in the ensuing years, and were still being recalled by participants forty years later. (30)

Perhaps response of this intensity was most easily achieved in those who experienced the lecture first hand, as text and performance, ideas and event. But the significance of many lectures was not restricted to those who heard its delivery. Platform performances had a considerable cultural afterlife. (31) There was the transient extension of the newspaper. In many respects political addresses were directed as much if not more at newspaper readerships than at attenders of meetings, as is illustrated by the numerous accounts of speakers at rowdy meetings making no attempts to make themselves heard over the din, but choosing instead to dictate their words to the newspaper reporters for verbatim publication in the next day's papers. It was relatively rare for a lecture to be published in the press in its entirety. Nevertheless, lectures were often given in extended precis. As one description of the impact of George Dawson when he lectured in Manchester in the mid-1840s put it, the full reports of his lectures in the local papers meant that "thousands who have been unable to attend the lectures, have, through the medium of that publication, been made acquainted with Mr Dawson. He has been, and indeed still is, the subject of conversation in all circles." (32) Even when not formally published, there is a sense that lectures were conceived in textual as well as oral terms. Hence the judgement of the Glasgow Citizen in November 1861 in the wake of a "perfect torrent of eloquent lecturers" it noted the city had been subjected to, that "perhaps Professor Blackie's was the most readable of all.... It is astonishing how well, with all their crude thinking and hasty prejudices, and violent assertions, the PROFESSOR's lectures read." (33) In the later nineteenth century, as professional lecturers toured with a new offering for each winter season, the lecture, as it was progressively delivered up and down the country, became a topic of newspaper report and discussion as a textual performance in its own right.

Platform performances also obtained an enduring afterlife through less ephemeral forms of publication. There is, as I have already suggested, a complex archaeology of the orality of intellectual production in nineteenth-century culture whose dimensions have barely been touched upon. As a result, we still have no accurate conception of the extent to which Victorian textual production was predicated on public speech acts, and little understanding therefore of the influence of platform rhetoric and the rhythms of the spoken word on the form of Victorian prose writing--questions raised by Karen Boiko's study of Samuel Smiles in this collection. It is not merely a question of the huge amount of sermon and lecture material that was subsequently published as sermon or lecture--works such as Carlyle's Lectures on Heroes and Hero-Worship or Thackeray's The Four Georges--although it should be recognized that the proportions were significant. A very rough-and-ready estimate based on sampling the catalogue of the British Library suggests that at mid-century perhaps as much as 10% of the books or pamphlets published in any one year were (as indicated by their titles) derived directly from public speech. (34) Many of these publications were relatively unassuming pamphlets with limited circulations in terms of both time and place, although for some the reverse was the case. In 1890, for example, the Edinburgh Health Society claimed to have distributed 750,000 copies of its lectures. (35) But the lists also include many substantial volumes of collected lectures or addresses, the kinds of works which were the staple of Mudie's selections and Sunday School Libraries and which consequently loomed large in the reading resources of a wide cross-section of Victorian society.

Allowing for the considerable volume of imaginative literature in the overall totals of books issued, their number as a percentage of nonfiction prose would be much higher. Nor do such raw numbers tell the whole story. They do not touch the potentially substantial number of books where the derivation was slightly less direct and not indicated by title, the popular texts and surveys that had themselves often been honed on the lecture platform. Nor do they reflect the extent to which a great deal of the essay and article material of the nineteenth-century periodicals originated in lectures or addresses, especially as the number of reviews and magazines expanded in the second half of the century. In the 1840s and 1850s Emerson's lectures were converted into his widely-read volumes of essays, and in the second half of the century, figures like Huxley, Frederic Harrison, and Charles Kingsley, the subject of Caroline Rose's essay in this collection, all commonly published their lectures and addresses, in magazines such as Macmillans, the Fortnightly Review, and the Contemporary Review. (36) Ruskin's Unto This Last went through successive manifestations of lectures on political economy, articles in the Cornhill, and then a book of essays.


The extent of our ignorance of the nineteenth-century platform and its culture is made all too clear by our lack even of a basic sense of the chronology of its development over the century. Jephson gives a broad picture of the emergence of the political platform in the latter half of the eighteenth century, driven by the Methodist revival and the emerging parliamentary reform movement, and twentieth-century scholarship enables us to supplement this picture with a sense of the parallel development of the culture of public lectures and the expansion of a local civic platform. (37)

It is clear that by the 1790s public meetings and lectures were sufficiently common to be seen as a potential threat by the political establishment, prompting the various measures of suppression that severely inhibited the development of the platform before 1820. At the same time, early rational recreation institutions that promoted public lectures were formed, the most prominent of which were probably the Royal Institution in 1799 and the London Institution in 1819. (38) Nevertheless, in these years the pulpit clearly remained not only the pre-eminent locus of public speech but also the hegemonic form of intellectual reproduction. Indeed, it is not until 1820 that we get the first use of "platform" to mean a place from which speeches are given. Thereafter, under the impetus of the reform agitation which resulted ultimately in the 1832 Reform Act, Jephson suggests the platform quickly established itself, so that "The first great result of the agitation for the Reform Act was to install the Platform formally among the great political institutions of the country." (39)

Meisel's concentration in Public Speech and the Culture of Public Life in the Age of Gladstone on the period after 1850, and in particular the final third of the century risks under-estimating the vigor that the culture of public speech gained in the 1820s and 1830s. There were a number of parallel developments: the renewed recourse which the emerging middle classes had to the public meeting as a means of forcing their voice into the conduct of local affairs, the rapid development of urban associational life governed by what Bob Morris has described as subscriber democracy, (40) the new attention devoted to the establishment of institutions of rational recreation for different segments of urban society, the rapid spread of radical sub-cultures of autodidacticism and agitation, and the explosion of religious public speaking prompted by responses to the new challenges of urban irreligion at home, and savage paganism abroad. Nationally, the development of the "May Meetings" at Exeter Hall in London established the public meeting at the heart of the identity of early-Victorian evangelicalism, and the reverberations can be found across the country, especially in the larger urban centers, through the annual meetings of the auxiliaries of the main missionary societies, and related associations such as the Church Pastoral Aid Society. At least in industrial Britain, by the early 1840s urban culture was saturated with public speech, and in contexts which gave it a great deal more of a pivotal cultural role than could legitimately be claimed for the star turns of the later nineteenth-century extra-parliamentary platform.

In the years after 1819, as the controls on public meetings introduced in the aftermath of the Peterloo massacre were gradually relaxed, new urban elites began to fashion spaces in which they could promote new reforms, both national and local. Before and after the 1832 Reform Act, new forms of political and civic action were established, often in the face of considerable tory-anglican hostility. New philanthropic associations and institutions of rational recreation were established. By the mid-1840s most urban centers possessed a vibrant elite lecture culture, centered in institutions such as the Bristol Institution, the Manchester Athenaeum, and the Newcastle Literary and Philosophical Society, accepted as the apex of the civic culture of their respective towns and cities. Local nomenclature was relatively unimportant. In the South-West the Tiverton Athenaeum, the Barnstaple Literary Institute, the Teignmouth Useful Knowledge Society, the Kingsbridge Literary and Scientific Society, and the Plymouth Mechanics' Institute were all participating in a common enterprise. "At present we are overwhelmed with lectures, seances, conversaziones, and so on," wrote the Liverpool educationalist W.B. Hodgson to the phrenologist and radical John Epps in 1842. (41)

Admittedly this prizing open of the "public sphere," in Habermas' terms, was not uncontested. Conservative elites viewed it with suspicion, and in many parts of rural England where they retained a tight hold of local power, considerable pressure was brought to bear to curtail the expansion of the platform. Nevertheless, by the early 1840s these barriers were being swept aside. The Anti-Corn Law League was far from the first extra-parliamentary pressure group, and its core activities of lectures, public meetings, and petitions followed paths already well-trodden by the early anti-slavery agitations, for example. (42) Nevertheless, the sheer scale and scope of its activities marked a decisive--and forcible--extension of the platform. The League machine flooded Britain with lectures and meetings. According to Henry Ashworth, by mid-October 1842 the League had held 2,000 lectures; by September 1843 League funds were paying the salaries of fourteen itinerant lecturers, and in the preceding year alone had paid the expenses of deputies to 156 public meetings. (43) Political opponents put up fierce resistance to this activity. Nevertheless, the agents of the League opened up the countryside. Arriving at Torquay in 1843, the League lecturer Charles Clarke found that "There never had been such a thing as a democratic meeting of any sort in the place.... Nevertheless I found a few of the right sort, got a large room and sent round the crier, and at eight o'clock, had a good meeting." (44)

While accepting the degree of nostalgia that tends to locate golden ages in the prime of the life of any reminiscer, it is significant that many commentators located the high point of British platform culture in these middle decades of the century rather than in the later period. For McCabe, the period of 1830-1870 marked the high point of the culture of public speech: "It was no accident that English public life had ten times as many powerful speakers between 1830 and 1870 as in the next forty years. The average standard of speaking was proportionally higher. There was more fire in the themes of the time, more enthusiasm in the mass of hearers, and more training in aspirants to the platform." (45)

It may well be that as the century progressed the cultural presence of public speech, measured in purely quantitative terms, continued to expand. Nevertheless, several things marked out the mid-century period as one of particular significance for the platform. From the 1840s to the 1860s the public meeting replaced the petition as the key mode of attempting to articulate public opinion: the major political, religious, and social questions of the day were fought out on the platform, in local meetings, and then in dramatic set-piece town meetings, whose verdicts, despite the obvious limitations of the exercise, were treated as immensely important, as the reactions of Smiles to the education meetings in Leeds in the later 1840s, discussed by Karen Boiko below, demonstrates. In the era between the two great Reform Acts, a narrow franchise, infrequent and often uncontested elections, and rudimentary political organization, meant that platform opinion was public opinion. And in claiming to represent public opinion the platform could not, as Simon Morgan and Helen Rogers both illustrate below, entirely exclude women, despite often mobilizing them in ambivalent and restricted ways.

Nor did the platform merely articulate opinion, it established truth and right. In the era before the professionalization of knowledge production, the claims of "sciences" such as phrenology or mesmerism, of taste, and of social policy were debated and decided by a platform that retained in reality much of its notional role as an arena of deliberation. In consequence, this period was particularly significant for the role public speech played in the development of broader currents of intellectual life. The impact of figures such as Dawson and Ralph Waldo Emerson in the 1840s, the decision of figures such as Carlyle and Ruskin to seek to establish their audience through platform speech, all marked this period as one in which the platform remained deliberative, consecrated to the discussion of measures rather than the heating of men. As the Manchester City News put it in 1872, "It is not uncommon nowadays for some of the first men of the age in science, politics and letters to resort to the lecture room as a means of setting before the world the result of their researches into or thoughts upon any particular department of knowledge." (46)

The period was also marked by the sheer range of platform performance, from the emerging fashion for aristocratic addresses to the multiplication of the humble cottage lecture. At the same time, the careers of figures like Dawson or the methodist preacher William Punshon, and perhaps above all the Irish orator Thomas Mason Jones, who attracted huge crowds to his addresses in the 1850s and 1860s, demonstrated that at mid-century it was possible for orators to establish a national significance for themselves almost entirely on the basis of their rhetorical presence. The centrality of platform performance and exchange in the formation of attitudes and the articulation of identities in mid-Victorian Britain is clearly demonstrated in studies such as Ellison's account of British reactions to the American Civil War as the culmination of developments of the previous thirty years, not the dawning of a new era of public speech. (47)

So ubiquitous had public speech become as early as the 1850s that many of the institutions that sponsored it were struggling to deal with the competition. Exeter Literary Society, for example, heard complaints about the "poaching" of its audience by other associations at the opening of its 1859 series. (48) Hence the paradox of both the multiplication of meetings and lectures from the 1850s and of jeremiads as to their decay. When the Royal Society of Arts called a conference in 1853 to discuss ways of expanding popular lecturing, it was met with a gloomy response, especially in parts of the North where the feeling was that, as J.W. Hudson put it, "lecturing as a general system had passed away." (49) For Reverend Denis Kelly of Trinity Church, Fleet Street, the public meeting was clearly in decline by 1864, not just in terms of falling off of public interest, but because of the deterioration in the standard of oratory. (50)

In this sense, the period around 1870 did mark an important watershed. No doubt, as Meisel has demonstrated, the decades after 1867 saw a considerable extension of the extra-parliamentary platform, a relatively minor feature of public speech before that date, and the associated intensification of the "star" system on the pulpit and in the lecture hall. The greater willingness with which leading parliamentary politicians took to the platform gave it a significance in national politics that it had not previously possessed. In purely numerical terms, it may well be that the later 1870s and 1880s saw the platform rise to new heights. "The number of public meetings held in Manchester this week is greater than we remember to have been crowded into any previous seven days, and is a striking illustration of the abnormal and not altogether wholesome activity of public men at the present time. How the promoters of public movements can expect any results from their labours, when a hundred different 'causes' are jostling each other for the attention and the money of the people, passes comprehension," remarked one Manchester newspaper in January 1882. (51) Nevertheless, this expansion was associated with a number of developments that involved both a transformation of the cultural role of the platform and a counterbalancing diminution of its significance.

In the first place, the emergence of the extra-parliamentary platform encouraged the development of a largely new context for public speech--the "monster demonstration." "Demonstrations are just now the order of the day," commented a Manchester paper in 1872. (52) The demonstration was not entirely new--it had of course been central to the practice of working-class radicalism in the era of the Chartists, and had occasionally been deployed by the more radical Liberals in the later stages of the campaign for the 1867 Reform Act. In general, however, the context of mid-century platform speech was the meeting, generally adopting the traditional form, with chairman, motions proposed and seconded, perhaps amendments and opponents, debates and votes. The demonstration subverted this form. Contributions to a debate were replaced by statements of position. Auditors came not to consider but to acclaim. Where the form of proposing motions was retained, the possibility of opposition was as far as possible repressed.

Even the speeches themselves were often marginal to an experience which for most was largely visual, as is amply suggested by an (admittedly unsympathetic) account of the Conservative demonstration at Pomona Gardens outside Manchester in 1879, as "literally what its promoters described it, a 'demonstration' and nothing more. It was an exhibition of strength, a huge volunteer review, under the command of Field Marshall Maclure.... The crowd ... persistently mistook Mr J.A. Birch for the Home Secretary, and made the grounds ring again with shouts of triumph every time he put his head out of the window...." (53) The crowds that flocked to such events were not just participating in nineteenth-century platform culture in greater numbers than ever before, they were participating in a very different kind of platform culture.

This explains why the 1870s were marked both by an expansion of platform activity, and a fear in many quarters that it was going steeply into decline. As the Manchester Critic put it, "public meetings are so important part of our political system, and are in so great a danger of falling into contempt or being disturbed by violence, the subject might well engage the attention of Parliament." (54) The growing coherence of party programs meant that where such meetings were still held they tended to become ritualized battles of volume, not reason. (55) The "town's meeting" retained a legal status throughout the later nineteenth century under legislation such as the Borough Funds Act (1872), but the concept of a public meeting for the collective deliberation and decision of the citizenry fell rapidly into decline after 1870, except for those occasions such as overseas catastrophes, when they were servicable for the mobilization of local sympathy towards fundraising. (56) By the 1900s it was a welcome surprise for the Manchester City News to find "evidence that a town's meeting is neither the cut-and-dried affair nor yet the utterly farcical gathering such assemblies have occasionally appeared to be. Faddists and fanatics have more than once done their utmost to make the meetings of the townspeople ridiculous, and by hare-brained chatter and senseless clamour have reduced these gatherings to the level of meaningless absurdities." (57)

The voluntary society's annual general meeting retained its formal role in regulating local activism, and laying before the public the claims and operations of each society, but shifts in the nature of later nineteenth-century journalism were steadily undermining this function. Much has been made of the impact of the penny daily press, the telegraph, and the news agencies in enhancing the facility with which the newspapers of the later nineteenth century could disseminate the speeches of the age's platform stars. It has also been recognized that by the turn of the century the establishment of the new journalism marked the passing of the close relationship of press and platform. Much less attention, however, has been given to the extent to which long before the new journalism bit, patterns of reporting had shifted decisively against the platform. Until the 1860s and even perhaps the 1870s the local press--with the partial exception of the larger provincial dailies with regional if not national aspirations--largely retained its role as the "civic Hansard." Thereafter the space the press was willing to give to public speech declined steadily, and even important addresses and meetings were given only sketchy summaries. Only the favored few continued into the later 1880s and 1890s to be able to claim extensive column inches for largely verbatim reports of their speeches, while many once well-reported platform events were allowed to pass by with the slightest of coverage.

A similar contrast is visible with respect to the lecture platform. Here too by the later 1860s there were growing signs of difficulty. In Manchester the main cultural institutions had abandoned lectures, and despite pressure in the 1870s for a renewal of activity, attempts at revival met with little encouragement. "Lecturing has long been regarded as a thing of the past in Manchester" remarked one journalist in 1867. More fundamentally, there were signs that the huge expansion of voluntary popular lecturing to parish organizations, working men's clubs, and campaigning associations that marked the 1850s and 1860s had over-saturated the market. As Henry Solly, the promoter of workingmen's clubs, lamented in 1866, "Lectures, generally, are not well attended. No surer device can be adopted for securing a bad attendance of the members of [...] Institutes and Clubs than to announce the delivery of 'A Lecture,' unless some very gifted orator or unusually attractive subject is announced also." (58) The sudden surge in popularity of "penny readings" in the later 1860s was further evidence of the turn from lecturing.

Yet, in the last quarter of the century the public lecture made a handsome comeback. Extensive and well-supported winter lecture seasons became widespread once more, and the larger centers developed a comprehensive system of suburban lectures and numerous courses and individual lectures based in church, chapel, and political and cultural associations. Institutions of rational improvement found a renewed commitment to lecturing. The program at Toynbee Hall in the mid-1890s, for example, included four university extension courses, a course of 21 Saturday evening popular lectures, and a Sunday course of 28 "ethical" lectures, as well as Thursday evening smoking debates for the free discussion of social and political questions. (59) Old reservations about the lecture reemerged with a vengeance: the "desires of audiences has become a pestilence of the age" remarked Ruskin in 1874, "Everybody wants to hear--nobody to read, nobody think--to be excited for an hour, and if possible, to be amused; to get the knowledge it has cost a man half his lifetime to gather--first sweetened up to make it palatable, and then kneaded into the smallest possible pills, and to swallow it homeopathically, and be wise." (60)

Women and the Platform

Just as we lack a clear sense of general chronology, so we still have much to learn about the nature of women's participation in the cultures of public speech during the nineteenth century. It is an area where broad suppositions have served for too long as established facts. The "separate spheres" analysis that still dominates gender analysis of nineteenth-century Britain supports the notion that women, confined to the domestic sphere, were largely unable to participate in the platform, and that the forces of exclusion if anything intensified after 1832. As Frank Prochaska puts it, "In the early nineteenth century it was virtually unheard of for a woman to make a public speech. In some circles men discouraged them from attending public meetings...." (61) In the 1870s, Patricia Hollis has suggested, "conventions of womanliness required even well-established ladies like Mary Carpenter to have their professional papers read for them by men." (62) More recently, studies such as Clare Midgley's account of women's contributions to the British anti-slavery movement, and Helen Roger's study of women and authorship have demonstrated the extent to which the boundaries between public sphere and private sphere were more subtle, complex, and negotiated than simple notions of exclusion would allow. (63) Yet the precise role of women within nineteenth-century public speech remains obscure, and so the studies by Simon Morgan, Teresa Zackodnik, Eric Gardner, Helen Rogers, and Julie Early presented below make an important contribution to commencing a much-needed exploration. (64)

In broad outline, there is of course a good deal of justice in the argument that female public speech was heavily constrained in the first two-thirds of the century. Although in the early decades of the century there were a number of prominent women preachers, (65) it is clear that pressures against female appearance on the platform did intensify around the time of the 1832 Reform Act. James Vernon and Dorothy Thompson have demonstrated that the shift of platform culture indoors, and its greater regulation had the effect of shutting off much of the female participation that had previously characterized popular politics. Few women spoke at "respectable" public meetings in the 1830s and 1840s. Similar pressures appear to have operated on the lecture platform, no doubt intensified by the way in which the linkage of women and lecturing was compromised by the stock comic figure of the scold, whose husband continually bore the brunt of her "lecturing," as realized to enduring popular effect in Douglas Jerrold's "Mrs Candle's Curtain Lectures," and comic shows such as "Aunty Smith's lecture on Women's Rights," which was the core of Coleman's travelling "entertainment" in the later 1850s. (66) It is relatively easily to multiply examples of this kind of prejudice against women on the platform persisting into the final quarter of the century; for the Manchester Freelance in 1877, as a woman, Annie Besant's appearance on the platform was an "anomaly." (67)

Nevertheless, if one searches, the number of women public speakers begins to multiply surprisingly. Certainly they are most common within movements of contested respectability. Hence perhaps the early-nineteenth-century female lecturer who has attracted most attention is Elizabeth Sharpies, the ex-Bolton freethinker who contracted a moral marriage with William Carlile, gave regular lectures at the Rotunda in London from 1832 onwards, and edited a radical newspaper, the Isis. (68) There were successful platform speakers, such as Emma Martin and Margaret Chappellsmith within Owenism, (69) within the temperance movement (including the Mrs Pearson who lectured in Manchester in 1845), (70) and especially in the radical and secularist lecture halls of London. (71) Well before the feminist campaigns of the later 1860s and early 1870s, figures like Harriet Law, who lectured on women's rights, secularism, and related issues on radical platforms, were achieving a certain public prominence on the wider platform. (72)

Nor does the assumption hold true that because the circles in which these women established themselves were radical their presence does not call into question the proscription of women on the mainstream platform. Neither Martin nor Chappellsmith thought engagements on the mainstream lecture platform closed to them, and where she could, Chappellsmith combined lecturing on the Owenite platform with appearances as an independent lecturer, unaligned to any particular group or party. (73) She was not alone: even a very partial trawl through the newspapers throws up a number of others: the Mrs Macaulay noted by Morgan below, Mrs Hamilton, who was lecturing in 1837 on women's rights, phrenology, and education, (74) Mrs Marsland, who lectured on modeling wax flowers at the end of the 1830s, (75) Mrs C. De Lancy, who lectured at the end of the 1840s on "Elocution" and "The Duties of Woman," (76) and Frances Higgins, who was lecturing at the Manchester Mechanics' Institute in 1850. (77) Mrs J.W. Hudson (wife of Dr J.W. Hudson, a prominent champion of the mechanics' institute movement in the 1840s and 1850s), lectured at least occasionally. (78) In January 1848 the Manchester Times published an entire article on lady lecturers and noted that even if "Lady lecturers--public ones at least--are not very numerous," there had been three lectures by ladies in the previous week alone, and saw nothing objectionable in the extension of the practice and of the education of women more generally. (79)

It is into this context that we can place Clara Lucas Balfour, who was able as early as 1846 to establish herself as a professional lecturer to middle-class audiences, and who sustained a successful career as a lecturer into the 1860s. (80) Perhaps for a while Balfour ploughed a lonely furrow, but from the 1850s it is possible to identify a greater number and a greater prominence of female lecturers, some, such as Lola Montes, whose respectability was never completely assured, but others, including Jessie Merton White, who used her first-hand experience of Italy to lecture extensively to respectable audiences in the later 1850s and 1860s on Italian affairs, and who was later described by the secularist George Jacob Holyoake as "the first distinguished platform speaker among Englishwomen." (81) By the end of the 1850s, just at the time when Remond was touring Britain, actresses such as Sarah Thorne, who lectured on the Life and Character of Queen Elizabeth in 1859, and Mrs Charles Calvert, who joined her husband for lecture-recitals in the early 1860s, (82) musical artistes such as Clara Seyton in Devon, and performers such as Bessie Inglis who gave lecture/readings on American poets, were all opening up the middle-class lecture platform to female voices. (83) There are signs of parallel shifts elsewhere: in 1860-61 the temperance platform saw extensive tours both from Jessie Craigen (84) and Susannah Evans, a thirteen-year old Welsh girl. (85)

By the later 1860s, under the pressure of a variety of campaigns including the early women's suffrage movement, the struggle against the Contagious Diseases Acts, and the other elements of the later-Victorian feminist movement, the barriers to women's platform speech were breaking down quickly. At the start of 1870 the Manchester Shadow noted the emergence of a new type of "platform lady," not the careful lecturer in the Balfour mode, or "the gushing American woman who created a temporary sensation--and departed," but the woman who "takes her part in ordinary debate, discards the manuscript and addresses a public meeting in exactly the same fashion as her lord and master". (86) Prejudice against women's activism in public receded only slowly, but thereafter, driven by the developing campaigns of the suffrage movement and the campaigns against the Contagious Diseases Acts, as well as the steady augmentation of the number of women standing successfully for the new School Boards, the sight of women speaking in public fairly rapidly became a common one. (87)

It is clear that during the mid-century decades, access to the political platform had been even more difficult than access to the lecture stand. Nevertheless, as Simon Morgan's contribution here illustrates, simply because women were generally denied speaking roles does not mean that they were not sometimes incorporated in extremely significant ways into platform culture in the first half of the century. Paul Picketing and Alex Tyrrell have demonstrated that despite sustained disapproval from their opponents, the Anti-Corn Law League deliberately and successfully sought to incorporate women into their platform agitation, both as audience at League meetings and as active workers in canvasses and bazaars. (88) The temperance movement likewise provided both a role for a few women to gain prominence in the movement but also a broader invitation to participate in a public agitation taken up by women, particularly in the Band of Hope movement. (89) The way in which women were mobilized and their participation was construed within such movements requires considerable further exploration of the kind attempted below.

Transatlantic Influences

One of the important influences on the opening up of the platform to women in the 1850s and 1860s was the impact of the American women speakers who, like Sarah Remoad, began to appear on British platforms in these years. American women had faced many of the same obstacles to public speech as their English counterparts, but as Donald Scott has noted, they began to force their way onto the platform in the years before the Civil War, and the appearance of some of these figures in Britain helped to pave the way for other women to make their voices heard. (90) There were scattered instances in the 1830s and 1840s, including Lucretia Mott, who was in Britain in 1840, and Frances Wright who visited in 1844 and 1847 and lectured on English History at the South Place Chapel, albeit to disappointing audiences. (91) From the mid-century, the platform presence of American-trained lady doctors seems to have increased steadily. (92) One of the earliest, Elizabeth Blackwell, lectured widely on medical knowledge, and was touring at the same time as Sarah Remond. During the 1860s they were joined by female phrenologists like Lydia S Fowler, who toured with her husband, giving morning lectures directed at ladies, and by American female spiritualist mediums, such as Emma Hardinge. (93)

The way in which the platform helped to mediate relationships between Britain and America, an issue illuminated by Simon Featherstone's piece on Artemus Ward as well as the studies of Sarah Remond already noted, is another area which has yet to receive the attention it deserves. Nearly twenty years ago Philip Collins demonstrated just how common the transatlantic traffic in speech was, at least in a westward direction, discussing the experiences of a number of prominent English journalists and men of letters on the American lecture circuit. (94) Even so, there is still a great deal to understand about the extent, nature, and significance of American lecturing tours of British platform figures. Collins had little to say about the early pioneers, mostly men of science, such as Dionysius Lardner and George Combe, (95) and his coverage of the later period, when the stream turned into a substantial river, was never meant to be comprehensive. The story requires piecing together from the histories of individual movements or agitations, (96) but the number that tried their hand and were largely unattached to any particular movement is impressive, including as it does, William Punshon, Hepworth Dixon, George Dawson, Emily Faithful, T.H. Huxley, (97) Reverend Arthur Mursell, Hugh Stowell Brown, Matthew Arnold, Alfred R. Wallace, Reverend John Woods, George J. Holyoake, Newman Hall, Edmund Yates, Edmund Gosse, Frederic Harrison, Oscar Wilde, Paul Blouet (Max O'Rell), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Dean Hole, T.D. Sullivan the Irish Nationalist MP, Edward Whymper the mountaineer, (98) Hugh Belloc, and Archibald Forbes the war correspondent. Even Ben Brierley, the Lancashire comic dialect writer and reciter, toured America in 1884, giving lectures on the characteristics and peculiarities of Lancashire folk. Many of these figures (including Dawson and Stowell Brown), and an even greater number who visited North America for other reasons, delivered lectures on their return detailing their experiences and impressions of America.

In doing so, they were building on a considerable tradition of platform interpretations of North America, perhaps most notably in the 1840s and 1850s through the numerous popular shows and lectures of the showman-lecturer George Catlin, who during these decades toured Britain with several shows of American culture, including his Red Indian tableaux of the early 1840s, and who lectured frequently on aspects of American life. (99) Throughout the century, America remained a stock topic for British lectures, especially during moments when relations between the two countries were particularly significant, such as during the American Civil War, when few lecture seasons closed in towns of any size without at least one platform disquisition on America.

Just as we know little about such influences, so, despite the appearance of important studies of aspects of the eastward trade--including Audrey Fisch's wide-ranging study of American anti-slavery orators in Britain, and Richard Cawardine's study of transatlantic revivalism (100)--we do not yet have the raw material to understand the influence of the platform as a conduit for American thought and opinion, as a determinant of British interpretations of America, or even as potentially significant force in the history of many of the century's reforming movements. Many of the most significant evangelical and philanthropic movements of nineteenth-century Britain were sustained by a vibrant nexus of transatlantic exchange that fostered a continued flow of Americans onto British platforms. In general, however, with the exception of the anti-slavery agitations, relatively little attention has been devoted to tracing these links. Brian Harrison's Drink and the Victorians, while acknowledging that in the 1850s and 1860s probably the two most successful and popular lecturers on the British temperance platform were Americans--the theatrical and emotional John B. Gough, who spent three years in Britain from 1857-60, and the more puritanical Neal Dow, who made several passes through Britain during the 1850s, 60s and 70s--gives no sustained consideration to their impact. (101) We still do not know enough about the role played in the re-emergence of women on the public platform by the increasing number of American women appearing in the later 1850s--not just Remond and Webb, but figures like Phoebe Palmer the evangelist, who toured Britain from 1859-1863 giving "talks" with her husband, and arousing considerable public comment. (102)

A comprehensive account of such influences would require close attention to records of various nineteenth-century causes, and here I can do no more than hint at some of the richness of the links created by the platform. On the lecture platform these emerged as early as the early 1840s, when American popular lecturers including John Lord and Robert Howe Gould made extensive British visits, but it was the triumphant tour of Ralph Waldo Emerson in 1847 that demonstrated most clearly the potential significance of the exchanges, for in many respects it can be argued that Emerson transformed British conceptions of what the lecture platform might be, overthrowing the previous dominance of scientific lecturing and opening up new avenues of cultural criticism and spiritual awakening. (103) Emerson, as has been suggested above, retained a powerful hold on the imaginations of many who heard him at this time, but he also remained constantly before British lecture audiences for the rest of the century through homages from English lecturers. (104) In the wake of Emerson came the widest possible range of speakers, from the respectable elder statesmen like Henry Ward Beecher, who toured in 1886 at age 74, through Edith O'Gorman, the "escaped nun" who criss-crossed Britain in 1881-84 giving anti-Catholic addresses in the Murphyite tradition, to Thomas Stevens, the American long-distance cyclist who appeared in the 1890s. (105) The influence was not always temporary. Moncure Conway, when he came from America to Britain in the 1860s to take up a position at the South Place Chapel in London, not only quickly established himself as one of the foremost lecturers of the day, but also made South Place itself into an important venue for American speakers visiting Britain. (106)

In some instances the encounter was a disappointment. When Mark Twain arrived in London in 1873, audiences flocked to his first lecture at the Hanover Square rooms, expecting a satirical comparison of modern English society with that of South Pacific natives, in his lecture "Our Fellow Savages of the Sandwich Islands." What they got however, was a fact-laden anthropological account, made worse by what one observer described as a "provokingly tiresome style of delivery." (107) In other cases, platform appearances provided the basis for a powerful and enduring influence. Elihu Burritt, the "learned blacksmith," who visited England between 1846 and 1849 lecturing on "The Philosophy of Labour," giving anti-war speeches and lectures, and supporting radical movements, became something of an iconic figure in working-class radical circles--his portrait, along with those of Spurgeon, Bright, and Cobden, being distributed by The Labourer in 1879. Burritt, along with Emerson, Kossuth, and Gough, were the four lecturers singled out in one reminiscence of 1910 as the most imposing figures on the mid-century platform in Birmingham. (108)

The Comic Monologue

It is unlikely that Artemus Ward ever featured in a list of the most influential speakers on the British platform. Nevertheless, as Simon Featherstone's essay here demonstrates, his lecturing appearances in Britain in the 1850s were part of another important element of transatlantic platform culture, the comic lecture or monologue entertainment, most famously exploited by P.T. Barnum, but also widely imitated from the 1840s onwards. The history of the monologue is far from clear. It may be that lecture-parody can be traced right back to the origins of popular lecturing, in the performances of George Alexander Stevens, a travelling entertainer of the 1760s who became well-known for his "Lecture on Heads." (109) Certainly the comic lecture was a recognizable form by the mid-nineteenth century, both in the emerging culture of the music hall and on the more respectable platform, as illustrated by the complaints of one correspondent to the Royal Society of Arts in the early 1850s regretting that it was "lectures which call for no exercise of the faculties, such as lectures on music, or comic displays, [that would] always draw large audiences." (110)

As Featherstone notes in his survey of what he called "single-handed entertainers," the late-Victorian platform performer Harry Furniss identified earlier Victorian exponents, but recognized that it was Albert Smith who made the form a national success with his Egyptian Hall entertainments, including "The Overland Mail," and then the "Ascent of Mt Blanc," first produced at the Egyptian Hall in March 1852, which fully established his reputation and the idea of the self-mocking lecture. (111) Thereafter, in the years before his death in 1860 Smith's London and provincial performances drew huge crowds. (112) Nevertheless, the transatlantic influences--and not merely Barnum, despite his obvious importance--on Smith and his imitators should not be underestimated. (113) A number of American monologists and lecturers on humor occupied the British platform in the later 1850s, of whom perhaps the most successful was Stephen Rumbold, who toured in 1859-60 with a comic lecture on contemporary literature. (114) Even American lecturers with more serious intent were often especially singled out for the liveliness and humor of their addresses at a time when many British platform speakers, under strong evangelical influence, were inclined to treat humor--even on the platform--with suspicion. (115) By the time Ward appeared there were also a number of popular British exponents of the form, including Malone Raymond, a long-established popular entertainer whose "An Hour in Ireland," half travel lecture, and half succession of jokes and anecdotes of Irish wit and humor, was a popular entertainment in the 1857-58 season, (116) and Walter Rowton, who was touring in 1859 with three "lectures" that were, in effect, impersonations of Dickens, Ingoldsby, and Thomas Hood. (117)

It would be easy to dismiss such figures as merely entertainers with little broader significance. Yet what marked much of the activities of the comic lecturers, as Featherstone observes for Ward, was the serious intent that often underpinned their activities. There was, admittedly, an aspect of comic lecturing that merged into the art of the solo entertainer, as exemplified by performers such as Frederick Maccabe, whose placards for his 1884 monologue entertainment, "Begone, dull care," promised "a vocal, ventriloqual, musical and sartorial melange. Interspersed with new songs, ventriloquisms and special character delineations of the most peculiar individuality ever represented by a single performer in the world," (118) or even Edmund Yates, who began lecturing just after Smith's death, initially on fairly conventional social and literary topics, but who eventually developed one of his lectures, "Modern Society," quite deliberately into a "regular entertainment," with a second performer engaged to give the singing and musical parts that he considered to be essential to such a show. (119) However, as with Ward, Smith and the more prominent of his imitators clearly offered something more. Smith is an interesting case because it is clear that although his primary purpose was to entertain, he was also at pains to use his lectures as a vehicle for social commentary. His performances were themselves deliberate parodies of the lecture form that sought to poke fun at its pretensions, and as William Tinsley recalled, "At times he could be very severe and was not at all averse to speak the truth even at the risk of offending his audience." (120) By the last decades of the nineteenth century, the "comic" monologue, which combined easy humor with acute social commentary, was a well-established platform genre, most successfully prosecuted on the British platform by another foreigner, French rather than American. Paul Blouet, under his professional name of Max O'Rell, did not, it was observed, "affect the heavy style so often adopted by platform orators; his success [was] derived rather from his terse, shrewd and epigrammatic observations" and his "quiet vein of humour and fund of gentle, but never offensive, sarcasm" also contributed to his success as public lecturer. (121) His acute social observations of "Peculiar People I have Met," "The Scot at Home," or "John Bull and Jacques Bonhomme" made him a regular draw on the lecture platform from the 1880s to the turn of the century, and he was sufficiently popular to operate independently of the regular lecture courses.

Style or Substance?

In the case of figures such as Blouet or Ward, as Featherstone remarks, it is difficult, and probably unproductive to try to establish any hard and fast distinctions between education and entertainment: they understood their role as including both, and would have found attempts at differentiation inappropriate. The separation was, nevertheless, constantly attempted by contemporary critics of nineteenth-century public speech, especially from the lecture platform, largely as a stick with which to beat the practice of lecturing as frivolous, insubstantial, and ineffective.

There can be little doubt that there was a huge mass of ephemeral speaking from the nineteenth-century platform; the culture was almost as saturated with platitude as with speech, and the constant round of public meetings, committees, soirees, conversaziones, and lectures brought a certain premium to individuals like the Unitarian S.A. Steinthal, described by the Manchester City Lantern in 1875 as "one of those useful men who are always to be found in most meetings, who can make a neat little speech about nothing." (122) The minute books and correspondence files of lecturing committees are preoccupied with filling up lecture slots, and the backbone of many lecture courses remained amateur lecturers who offered to "get up a lecture" on some miscellaneous subject, too often of the "Gleanings from Gravestones" variety. Leslie Stephens confessed to Frederic Harrison that he was content to "twaddle placidly" on the lecture stand, and for every rousing speech by Gladstone or sermon by Spurgeon there were many scores of instances of ill-informed or ill-prepared speakers speakers who felt it was "enough," as Arthur Balfour put it, "to strain one's vocal chords without straining one's intellect." (123)

Much of the attraction of the political platform was that sense of gladiatorial conflict that was produced by the clash of opposing parties that marked many of the campaigns of the middle decades of the century over the Corn Laws, educational reform, or the politics of religion. As the political platform became increasingly divided along party lines in the final third of the century, there was still the excitement of hecklers and attempted disruption by rival groups, and the vicarious thrill of being able to out-mobilize and out-demonstrate opponents. The ugly scenes prompted by the various anti-Catholic lecturers who toured Britain during these years were only the worst and most publicized instances of the kind of confrontations, ranging from reasonably innocent rowdyism to orchestrated and brutal gang warfare that contributed to the excitement of nineteenth-century platform culture. It was hardly surprising that so many public figures never became entirely comfortable on the platform, and that in politics a quick wit and a strong self-belief were the fundamental prerequisites of popularity.

Other venues of public speech were less charged. There were times at which so-called "lectures" or the early-Victorian practice of the public debate, which brought champions of rival positions into direct combat, largely partook of the character of political meetings. Even if, however, popular preaching and lecturing had to provide other attractions, they were often of a similar ilk. Speakers like the secularists Charles Southwell and Charles Bradlaugh deliberately sought through rhetorical pyrotechnics to create an emotionally charged atmosphere through which to work. Bradlaugh, in particular, was a prime example of the platform bruiser, with little of charm or melody in his voice, almost bullying his audience with the "swift, passionate rush of his oratory." (124)

Bradlaugh's platform performances were carefully staged occasions, and his attention to details such as the layout of the platform reminds us of the central place of the spectacular in the culture of popular lecturing. While the conventional attire of the lecturer was dress coat or clerical robes, many lecturers adopted a more flamboyant style, even if few would have approached Wilde's velvet breeches, silk stockings, cuffs, and heavy watch seal. Just as part of the frisson of attending Remond's lectures was the opportunity to gaze at the 'slave body,' so it was for popular platform figures such as the Rev J.M. Bellew, whose "fine figure, large black whiskers, 'beautiful' hand, good voice, and smart style ... made him extremely popular with the ladies." (125) From the outset, one of the appeals of the lecture had been its ability to deliver visual delights, dramatic experiments, panoramic views, or novel artifacts, and as the century progressed advances in lantern technology made the illustrations ever more central. By the end of the century many popular lectures had degenerated into little more than a running commentary on a series of lantern slides or other illustrative materials.

The undoubted power of the visual, especially to attract new audiences from the lower-middle and working classes, should not however distract us from the recognition that much successful nineteenth-century platform oratory in the first two thirds of the century was not marked by any great oratorical presence or any sophisticated visual showmanship. The ability of figures such as G.J. Holyoake to sustain lengthy careers as platform speakers and lecturers (in Holyoake's case for 60 years), indicates that substance remained at least as important as style, if not more important. As his biographer puts it, "Holyoake was not a commanding figure on the lecture platform. He had neither the strong voice nor the flamboyancy to demand continuing attention." (126) Few of the nineteenth-century sage-lecturers demonstrated any natural aptitude for public speaking. Most famously, Emerson's lecturing style made few concessions to his audience, "nothing like acquired elocution," according to Douglas Jerrold's Weekly Newspaper, "no regular intonation, in fact, none of the usual oratorical artifices, but for the most part a shapeless delivery (only varied by certain nervous twitches and angular movements of the hand and arms, curious to see and even smile at), and calling for much co-operation on the part of the auditor to help out its shortcomings." (127) Carlyle was wracked with sleeplessness before his lectures, and extremely hesitant at the outset, although capable, once he got going, of "firm, manly, flowing" speech. (128) Arnold was never more than an extremely reluctant lecturer. Kingsley, as Caroline Rose reminds us, for all his confidence in his own abilities, suffered from a stammer. Huxley was capable of an effective direct style, but far from reliable in his judgement of the capabilities of his audience. (129) William Morris was described as reading "his manuscript in a hasty business-like style, and in a natural, colloquial tone, which makes it impossible to follow him without paying the closest attention. A deaf person not knowing that Mr Morris was a poet preaching the gospel of righteous content, might have taken him for an auctioneer reading the conditions of a sale." (130) Only perhaps Ruskin was genuinely successful as a speaker, not so much when confining himself to a written text, but more when he left off the manuscript to speak freely: "'charming--so easy, so unaffected, and yet, every now and then, soaring easily upwards to a noble pitch of earnest eloquence." (131)

Given this, the basis of the attractiveness of the lectures of these figures, and indeed of many of their less original imitators, needs to be sought less in their style than in their substance. The reactions of lecture audiences are extremely difficult to reconstruct, but what overwhelmingly characterizes the published comments on the lectures both of the key lecturing sages such as Carlyle, Emerson, Ruskin, Morris, and Carpenter, popularizers such as Dawson and Huxley, religious lecturers such as George Gilfillan, Peter Mackenzie, and Marmaduke Miller, and indeed most of the small army of "organic intellectuals" whose lectures serviced the diverse agitational sub-cultures of nineteenth-century Britain, is an emphasis on their content, the arguments deployed, the evidence adduced, the philosophies propounded. As Julie Early demonstrates below, late-Victorian and Edwardian figures like H.G. Wells and Mary Kingsley were prepared to stand or fall on the ability of their addresses to speak to their audiences. We must not let the profile of a relatively small number of entertaining lecturers, nor the aggregate mass of the jobbing volunteer lecturer, obscure the extent to which the lecture platform and the political platform were driven by the power of the word.

Resistance to the lure of that strain of nineteenth-century cultural commentary that sought to ridicule the aspirations of the "itinerant" lecturer should in turn enable us to reappraise the extent to which the lecture was, for at least some nineteenth-century writers and thinkers, a significant creative element in the process of forming and articulating ideas, and that their choice of the lecture as an intellectual medium was based on its specific potentialities. Several of these are epitomized by Ruskin, who took to the lecture as a means through which to reach an audience different from that of the periodicals, and to speak on broader ground than he felt able to do in his writings on art, as a process by which he could engage in the kind of dialogue with a community that Malcolm Hardman has evoked so brilliantly in his study of Ruskin and Bradford, and because, as he put it in his introduction to Sesame and Lilies, his thoughts "habitually and impatiently put [...] themselves in a form fit only for emphatic speech." (132) Samuel Smiles, too, as Boiko reminds us in this volume, honed the ideas and language of his seminal Self-Help through many years of platform speaking before finalizing them in book form.

What was an option to middle-class thinkers such as Ruskin became the only effective strategy for working class and radical thinkers, and it is for this reason that the lecture can be especially linked with radical thought. If the amount of middle class thought that appeared in lecture form is significant, the amount of radical and working-class thought that was presented first in lecture form is almost overwhelming. (133) Particularly until the spread of the cheap evening press in the 1860s and 1870s, the lecture had been the only form of intellectual production easily available to most working class figures, and the only effective medium of communication with the working classes themselves. Itinerant lecturing also had the advantage that it could be associated with organizational functions, and could be used to provide funds both for the support of the working-class intellectuals themselves and for the publication by subscription of pamphlets and other works. (134) Middle-class hostility to the "professional agitator" rested on the recognition that "agitation" was the financial nexus that allowed the working classes to support their own intellectuals.

In this sense lecturing was more than merely an aid or strategy for the individual lecturer; it can be seen as an important element in the endowment of knowledge production in a period before the expansion of academia. Since the seventeenth century the establishment of puritan-inspired lecture series had set a model, and by the nineteenth century there was a range of lecture series designed to sponsor contributions to various intellectual debates, including the prominent religious foundations, the Mansel, Bampton, Boyle, and Warburton lectures, and science lectures such as the Hulsean and Croonian lectures. Similar lecture series, of local, sectional, or even national standing, continued to multiply during the Victorian period. Only a minority of these courses were established in connection with the universities, and it was not until the end of the century that any clear movement toward integrating these more clearly into an academic and scholarly, rather than public and general, debate is apparent.

These lecture-foundations, along with the annual conferences of associations such as the British Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science, and the prominent institutions of metropolitan and provincial life, helped to form a platform that defined the parameters of Victorian intellectual debate that was just as effective if not more so, as the review periodicals. Performances such as Tyndall's famous 1874 address to the British Association had a signification as an intellectual activity, and set the agenda and the tone of debate in a way that the authorship of book or article could never do. One observer commented that Tyndall's "address was like a trumpet sound breaking in upon psalmody. The whole of Britain shook at the call; and for many months nothing but this bold address was talked about." (135) The role of T.H. Huxley is particularly illuminating in this respect. Much of his platform material was scarcely original in the sense that intellectual historians would use the term; but he was no mere "popularizer," for popularization suggests the diffusion of an accepted body of knowledge to a wider audience. Instead, Huxley's role was to take Darwinian ideas and confront the broad strata of educated opinion that was the jury of knowledge in Victorian culture. To the extent that he played a central role in the acceptance of Darwinian ideas by this jury, his lectures played just as significant a role in the creation of that knowledge as did The Origin of Species itself.


The nineteenth-century platform was a site of complex cultural intersections that mediated between the worlds of oral and textual production, and provided a bridge between the local and the national. It functioned simultaneously as a producer and popularizer of knowledge. Before we can hope to make firm judgements about its role within society as a whole, or in respect of its importance for the history of nineteenth-century prose, we need many more specific studies of individuals, institutions, movements, and moments. Some of the articles in this volume are themselves instalments of larger projects which will enrich our understanding of this aspect of the textual economy of an era whose massive expansion in the production of print was predicated, ironically, on a parallel explosion in the production of formal speech. Nevertheless, even as they currently stand, taken together the articles in this "Special Issue on Platform Culture in Nineteenth-Century Britain" provide an important contribution to opening up a field of inquiry that may finally attract the attention that it deserves.


(1) H.C.G. Matthews, "Rhetoric and Politics in Great Britain, 1860-1950," in P.J. Waller, ed., Politics and Social Change in Modern Britain. Essays presented to A.F. Thompson (Brighton: Harvester Press, 1987), 34-58. For subsequent works that develop this analysis, see Anne Porringer Saab, Reluctant Icon: Gladstone, Bulgaria and the Working Classes, 1856-78 (Harvard UP, 1991); James Vernon, Politics and the People. A Study in English Political Culture, c.1815-67 (Cambridge UP, 1993); Patrick Joyce, Democratic Subjects. The Self and the Social in Nineteenth Century England (Cambridge UP, 1994); and most recently Joseph S. Meisel, Public Speech and the Culture of Public Life in the Age of Gladstone (Columbia UP, 2001).

(2) John Belchem, 'Orator' Hunt. Henry Hunt and English Working-class Radicalism (Oxford: Clarendon, 1985), especially 2-11; Belchem, "Platform 1848."

(3) Robert T. Oliver's Public Speaking in the Reshaping of Great Britain (U of

Delaware P, 1987); M. Tylecote, The Mechanics' Institute Movement in Lancashire and Yorkshire before 1851 (Manchester UP, 1957); J.F.C. Harrison, Living and Learning 1790-1960. A Study of the English Adult Education Movement (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961).

(4) C. Bode, The American Lyceum: Town Meeting of the Mind (Oxford UE 1956); D. Mead, Yankee Eloquence in the Middle West: the Ohio Lyceum, 1850-1870 (Michigan State College Press, 1951); K.W. Cameron, Emerson and Thoreau Speak: Lecturing in Concord and Lincoln during the American Renaissance: Chapters from the Massachusetts Lyceum (Hartford: Transcendental Books, 1972); D.A. Scott, "The Popular Lecture and the Creation of a Public in Mid-Nineteenth Century America", Journal of American History 66 (1980), 791-809; see also M.K. Cayton, "The Making of an American Prophet: Emerson, His Audiences, and the Rise of the Culture Industry in Nineteenth Century America," American Historical Review 92 (1987), 587-620. There have been a few suggestive studies of aspects of the British lecture platform, such as Philip Collins, "'Agglomerating Dollars with Prodigious Rapidity': British Pioneers on the American Lecture Circuit," in J.R. Kincaid and A.J. Kuhn, eds., Victorian Literature and Society: Essays Presented to Richard D. Altick (Ohio State UP, 1984), 3-29; Janet Cunliffe-Jones, "A Rare Phenomenon: A Woman's Contribution to Nineteenth Century Adult Education," Journal of Educational and Administrative History 24/1 (1992), 1-17; and Winifred Bryan Homer, Nineteenth Century Scottish Rhetoric (U of Southern Illinois P, 1993). See also Pierre Rajotte, "'Lectures' Publiques a Quebec au Dix-neuvieme Siecle," Canadian Literature (1991), 126-39.

(5) I. Inkster, "The Public Lecture as an Instrument of Science Education for Adults--the Case of Great Britain, c. 1750-1850," Paedagogica Historica (1981), 80-107; J.N. Hays "Science in the City: The London Institution, 1819-1840," British Journal for the History of Science 7 (1974), 146-62; J.N. Hays, "The London Lecturing Empire, 1800-1850," in J. Morrell and I. Inkster, Metropolis and Province (London: Hutchinson, 1983), 91-119; J. Morrell, "Wissenschaft in Worstedopolis: Public Science in Bradford, 1800-1850," British Journal for the History of Science 18 (1985), 1-23.

(6) R. Williams, "The Press and Popular Culture," in G. Boyce, ed, Newspaper History from the Seventeenth Century to the Present Day (London: Constable, 1978), 46.

(7) To take just one example from many possibilities, see Hilary Fraser with Daniel Brown, English Prose of the Nineteenth Century (London: Longman, 1997).

(8) Much of this newspaper work was undertaken by two research assistants, Ros Tatham and Michelle Johanssen; I am glad finally to be able to acknowledge my gratitude in print for this assistance.

(9) Country Towns Mission Magazine IX (1866), 46; Country Towns Mission Magazine X (1867), 18-19. Viz. the description of a mission and parochial lecture in the Scripture Readers' Journal II (1856-60), 359-63.

(10) Meisel, Public Speech, citing A. Ebule Evans, "A Discourse upon Sermons," Macmillan's Magazine 57 (November 1887), 58.

(11) "A Working Man," Manchester Examiner and limes (1 December 1859); The Freeman (London), 17 June 1863.

(12) Manchester City News, 18 March 1884.

(13) See the letters in the Manchester Guardian, 1, 4 October 1890.

(14) The Scotsman, 9 November 1900 [part of a national tour].

(15) Meisel, Public Speech, 251, citing Louis J. Jennings, Speeches of the Right Honourable Lord Randolph Churchill, M.P. (London: 1889), I, 201. It has to be said that the estimates of less partisan observers were a great deal less impressive: the Manchester City News, 16 August 1884, estimated that 7-8,000 attended the main Pomona Hall meeting, with others at various overflow meetings.

(16) William Morley Punshon's audiences for his sensational "Bunyan" in the later 1850s was apparently limited only by the size of the venues he was able to obtain. See account of moves at Leeds, The Freeman (London), 25 February 1857.

(17) Meisel, Public Speech, 129-30.

(18) Manchester Courier, 5 November 1836.

(19) Description of Lord Shaftesbury in Northampton Mercury, 23 October 1858; see also Leicestershire Mercury (13 March 1858). For the upper estimate of 10,000 with the suggestion that another 20,000 were turned away without getting in, see Leicestershire Mercury, 8 October 1859.

(20) Liverpool Mercury, 20, 25, 27 May; 1, 15 June 1857; and account of "A Working Man," Liverpool Mercury, 24 June 1857.

(21) Liverpool Free Library Committee, Annual Report (1888-89).

(22) H.E. Roscoe, The Life and Experiences of Sir Henry Enfield Roscoe (London: Macmillan, 1906), 129; Sunday Lecture Society, Annual Report (1884), 7-8; A. Wilson, Some Reminiscences of a Lecturer (London: Jarrold and Sons, 1898), 42.

(23) Standish Meacham, Toynbee Hall and Social Reform, 1880-1914: The Search for Community (Yale UP, 1987), 35.

(24) For Fenwick Miller see Rosemary van Arsdel, Florence Fenwick Miller: Victorian Feminist, Journalist and Educator (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001).

(25) Silas Hocking, My Book of Memory: A String of Reminscences and Reflections by Silas K. Hocking (London: Cassell, 1923), 1-2. See very similar comments in the recollections of Alderman James Middleton, Manchester City News, 2 September 1922: "When I was a mere boy public speech of any kind was an irresistible attraction. A bill in a window announcing a lecture or a public meeting stirred something in my interior. The missionary meeting, the Congregational party, the temperance lecture, each and all made a powerful appeal." See also Ben Turner, About Myself, 1863-1930 (London: Cayme Press, 1930), 127: "Early in my adult life I ... would trail miles to hear a lecture, to a concert or to hear a sermon by a famous preacher."

(26) See comments of Hirst (1942): Bradford "offered little to the imagination, and indeed--except for the lectures of the Bradford Philosophical Society, which gave us great pleasure ... little for the intellect," 19.

(27) See, for example, Thomas Agnew to Dawson (6 June 1876), Dawson Collection, Volume 9, Birmingham Central Library.

(28) For one example see account of extracts from diary of F.S. Holmes, in Manchester City News, 4 May 1912, which commented that "Extensive reports of the sermons and lectures by Canon Stowell, Rev Hugh McNeill, and other prominent evangelical clergyman occupy a large space in this diary."

(29) Diary of Edwin Waugh, 23 November 1847, MSQ 928.28 W87, Manchester Central Library Archives; See my "George Dawson, Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Control of the Lecture Platform in Mid-nineteenth Century Manchester," Nineteenth-Century Prose 25.2 (Fall 1998), 1-24.

(30) Joseph Johnson and H.R. Forrest in The Owl (1881), Dawson Collection, Volume 18 f.221 and Volume 21 ff.240-41, Birmingham Central Library.

(31) As did some performers: Spurgeon's sermons were still being issued in weekly series in 1917, twenty-five years after his death (Meisel, Public Speech, 132).

(32) Anonymous recollections of Dawson, f.203, Volume I, Dawson Collection, Birmingham Central Library.

(33) Glasgow Citizen, 9 November 1861.

(34) This estimate was obtained by searching the British Library OPAC for publications indicated by their title as lecture, address, speech or sermon, discounting non-British publications, which produced a proportion of about 8% in 1851. Given that such materials would often have been published in ephemeral pamphlet form, so that they are likely to underrepresented in the catalogue, the real proportion might have been nearer 10%.

(35) The Scotsman, 22 December 1890.

(36) C. Bibby, T.H. Huxley. Scientist, Humanist and Educator (London: Watts, 1958), 103-4.

(37) For lecturing in the eighteenth century see, for example, Science Lecturing in the Eighteenth Century, British Journal for the History of Science 28.1 (1995); Larry Stewart, The Rise of Public Science: Rhetoric, Technology, and Natural Philosophy in Newtonian Britain, 1660-1750 (Cambridge UP, 1992); Susan C. Lawrence, "Entrepreneurs and Private Enterprise: The Development of Medical Lecturing in London, 1775-1820," Bulletin of the History of Medicine 62 (1988), 171-92.

(38) For the significance of the Royal Institution and its lectures see Morris Berman, Social Change and Scientific Organization. The Royal Institution, 1799-1844 (London: Heinemann Educational, 1978); for the London Institution, see J.N. Hays, "Science in the City: the London Institution, 1819-1840," British Journal of the History of Science 7 (1974), 146-62.

(39) Jephson, Platform II, 128.

(40) R.J. Morris, "Voluntary Societies and British Urban Elites, 1780-1850: An Analysis," Historical Journal 26 (1983), 95-118.

(41) Ellen Epps, The Diary of Dr John Epps, M.D. (London: np, 1875), 367.

(42) See Clare Midgley, Women Against Slavery. The British Campaigns, 1780-1870 (London: Routledge, 1992); Christine Bolt, The Anti-Slavery Movement and Reconstruction. A Study in Anglo-American Co-operation (Oxford UP, 1969). For example the Liberation Society and the Peace Society, both of which employed lecturing agents in the later 1840s and 1850s, and the activities of missionary societies such as the Church Missionary Association whereby the lecture platform was often taken into smaller rural towns and villages that otherwise saw relatively little lecturing.

(43) Henry Ashworth, Recollections of Richard Cobden, M.P., and the Anti Corn-Law League (London: Cassell, Petter and Galpin, 1876).

(44) Stephen Roberts, Radical Politicians and Poets in Early Victorian Britain. The Voices of Six Chartist Leaders (Lampeter: Edward Mellen Press, 1993), 93.

(45) Joseph McCabe, The Life and Letters of George Jacob Holyoake (London: Watts, 1908), II, 285.

(46) Manchester City News, 3 February 1872; similar pressure at the Royal Manchester Institution, (Manchester City News, 13 April 1872), and the Manchester Mechanics' Institute, (Manchester City News, 24 February 1872).

(47) Mary Ellison, Support for Secession. Lancashire and the American Civil War (London: U of Chicago P, 1972).

(48) Western Times, 7 January 1860.

(49) Journal of the Royal Society of Arts (1852-53), 349.

(50) Rev. Denis Kelly, "The Platform," Church of England Magazine LVII (July-December 1864), 166.

(51) Manchester City News, 28 January 1882.

(52) Freelance (1872), 229.

(53) Manchester City News, 1 November 1879. Compare the comment of S. Norbury Williams, on mass meetings in one of Manchester parks in the 1890s: "I have been present at all one of them, and confessed it was one of the most beautiful and inspiring sights I have beheld. I heard no word of the speaker's address, but the mere sight of 50,000 of one's fellow citizens, all apparently happy and enjoying the rural surroundings, and the perfect weather was itself an inspiration," Manchester City News, 25 July 1896.

(54) Manchester Critic, 20 April 1872, 197-98; compare with later comments of the Freelance, which becomes a convinced critic of the operation of public meetings in the city in the mid-1870s, for example, Freelance XI (1876), 386.

(55) For a good example from Manchester, see the account of the town's meeting on Queen's titles, in March 1876, Manchester City News, 1 April 1876.

(56) See for example, the Manchester town's meeting on Armenia, Manchester City News, 2 February 1895.

(57) Manchester City News, 16 January 1909.

(58) Working Man, 9 June 1866.

(59) Samuel Hales, "Toynbee Hall," Library V (1893), 177-89.

(60) The comments were published and widely reprinted, see Manchester City News, 6 June 1874.

(61) Frank Prochaska, Women and Philanthropy in Nineteenth Century England (Oxford UP, 1980), 2. See similar comments of L. Shiman, Women and Leadership in Nineteenth Century England (New York: St Martin's 1992), 41, 127.

(62) Patricia Hollis, Ladies Elect. Women in English Local Government, 1865-1914 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 74.

(63) Midgley, Women Against Slavery; Helen Rogers, Women and the People: Authority, Authorship and the Radical Tradition in Nineteenth-Century England (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2001), 48-79.

(64) Meisel's coverage of women on the platform, confined as it is to a single example of a woman preacher of the mid-century, and some essentially wrongheaded observations about the "pioneering" roles of Catherine Gladstone and Lady Jennie Churchill are particularly unhelpful (Public Speech 149, 260-62).

(65) See Deborah Valenze, Prophetic Sons and Daughters: Female Preachers and Popular Religion in Industrial England (Princeton UP, 1985); and Shiman, Women and Leadership, 26-30.

(66) Manchester Guardian, 22 May 1858.

(67) Freelance XII (1877), 285. And the idea of lectures for ladies was still a fertile source of ridicule at this time, as in the "What Folks are Saying" item in the City Lantern I (1875-76), "That in connection with the Association for Promoting the Education of Women, Professor Williams of Owens College will deliver a series of lectures to young ladies on the art of saying 'You must ask my papa,'" 34.

(68) See R.S. Neale, Class in English History (Oxford: Blackwell, 1981), 214-15; Helen Rogers, "A Leader of the People: Eliza Sharples and the Radical Reform Platform, 1832-52," in her Women and the People, pp. 48-79; Eileen J. Yeo, Radical Femininity: Women's Self-representation in the Public Sphere (Manchester UP, 1998).

(69) G.J. Holyoake, Sixty Years of an Agitator's Life (London: T.F. Unwin, 1892), 222.

(70) Manchester Argus, 1 November 1845.

(71) Scripture Readers' Journal (April 1856), 368-69.

(72) Manchester Guardian, 4 May 1861; see entry of Edward Royle, Dictionary of Labour Biography (London: Macmillan, 1972-), V, 134-36, and National Reformer, 31 December 1865; Co-operator V (1864-65), 180.

(73) For Chapellsmith, see New Moral World 10 (1841-42), 126; for one application of Martin's see Manchester Mechanics' Institute Minutes, 21 May 1839, University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology.

(74) Manchester and Salford Advertiser, 12 August 1837.

(75) Manchester Guardian, 12 October 1839.

(76) Manchester Examiner, 8 January 1848.

(77) Manchester Spectator, 17 August 1850.

(78) See J. Popple, "The Origin and Development of the Yorkshire Union of Mechanics' Institutes," M.A. thesis, University of Sheffield (1960), 401.

(79) Manchester Times, 22 January 1848.

(80) Cunliffe-Jones, "A Rare Phenomenon," 1-17.

(81) Holyoake, Sixty Years, 100; for one description of her lecturing see Kelso Chronicle, 28 March 1862.

(82) Manchester Courier, 23 April 1859. For similar instances see Mrs Wheldon combining appearing in "Not Alone" at the Prince's Theatre Manchester with giving an address in the theatre on her experiences in the law courts, together with other extraordinary and interesting experiences in her extraordinary career, Manchester City News, 29 May 1886.

(83) Western Times, 26 January 1856; 17 September 1859.

(84) See account in Carlisle Journal (8 June 1860); Penny Observer, 8 December 1860.

(85) Manchester Courier, 4 May 1861; 28 December 1861.

(86) The Shadow (Manchester), (1869-70), 297.

(87) See Shiman, Women and Leadership, 125-137, Hollis, Ladies Elect, passim.

(88) Paul Pickering and Alex Tyrrell, The People's Bread. A History of the Anti Corn Law League (London: Leicester UP, 2000), 116-138.

(89) Brian Harrison, Drink and the Victorians (2nd ed.; Keele UP, 1994), 163-4, 178-9; Lilian L. Shiman, The Crusade Against Drink in Victorian England (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988), chapter 6.

(90) Scott, "Popular Lecturer," 802.

(91) McCabe, Holyoake, 122.

(92) Including Mrs A.M. Longshore-Potts, MD (Women's Medical College, Philadelphia) who lectured on medical topics to women, and also on "Courtship" to both sexes from the mid-1880s through the end of the century, see Manchester City News, 6 February 1886; for another example see Mary J. Hall-Williams, Carlisle Journal, 11 January 1895; Manchester Courier, 21 May 1859.

(93) Other female phrenologists included Mrs Clitheroe, noted at Norwich in 1860; see Norfolk News, 19 May 1860, and Mrs Hamilton, active in Scotland in 1870, see The Scotsman, 2, 4, 17, 18 April 1870; for Hardinge see Manchester City News, 20 February 1869; The Sphinx (Manchester) (1871), citing The Medium and Daybreak.

(94) Philip Collins, "Agglomerating Dollars," 3-29.

(95) J.N. Hays, "The rise and fall of Dionysius Lardner," Annals of Science 38, 527-42.

(96) The flow of anti-slavery speakers was largely of course to Britain from America, but see, for example, the visit of George Thompson in 1834, Midgley, Women Against Slavery, 128; for temperance visits to America, see Harrison, Drink and the Victorians 98, 177, 225 et passim.

(97) See J.V. Jensen, "Thomas Henry Huxley's Lecture Tour of the United States, 1876," Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 42 (1988), 181-95.

(98) See Frank F. Smythe, Edward Whymper (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1950), 298-99.

(99) For Catlin see Kate Flint, "Counter-Historicism, Contact Zones and Cultural History," Victorian Literature and Culture 27 (1999), 507-11.

(100) Audrey Fisch, American Slaves in Victorian England. Abolitionist Politics in Popular Literature and Culture (Cambridge UP, 2000); Richard Cawardine, Transatlantic Revivalism (Westport Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1978).

(101) For one good example of the impact Gough had see Western Times, 23 June 1859; for a pen picture of Dow on the platform see Manchester Examiner and Times, 27 April 1857.

(102) See Shiman, Women and Leadership, 100-101.

(103) Joseph Johnson, "Emerson's Lecture Tour," Pitman's Popular Lecturer (1856), 226.

(104) Joseph Forster, Four Great Teachers (London: G. Allen, 1890); Manchester City News, 10 November 1894; 20 February 1897.

(105) See C.S. Ford, "Pastors and Polemicists: The Character of Popular Anglicanism in South East Lancashire 1847-1914," unpublished PhD thesis, University of Leeds, 1991, 176-8.

(106) Moncure Conway, Autobiography, Memories and Experiences (London: Cassell and Co., 1904); see also John d'Entremont, Moncure Conway, 1832-1907 (London: Conway Hall, 1977). American speakers at South Place included John Fiske of Harvard, and Thomas Wentworth Higginson; see also S.K. Ratcliffe, The Story of South Place (London: Watts and Co., 1955).

(107) Manchester Guardian, 13 October 1873. For a much more sympathetic account, see the recollections of H.W. Haweis, in Melia's Magazine I (1887), 24.

(108) James Marchant, J.B. Paton M.A., D.D. Educational and Social Pioneer (London: James Clarke, 1909), 36; for another recollection that singles Burritt out see Charles H. Kelly, Memories (London: Robert Culley, 1910), 37-38.

(109) See G. Kaban, George Alexander Stevens and the Lecture on Heads (Georgia UP, 1984), John Money, Experience and Identity. Birmingham and the West Midlands, 1760-1800 (Manchester UP, 1977), 123; Money also mentions other comic turns including a "Lecture on lectures" by Jeremiah Sneak, 132.

(110) "Omega," Journal of the Society of Arts (1852-53), 81.

(111) Harry Furniss, Some Victorian Men (London: John Lane, 1924), 163-66. For one account of "The Overland Mail" see Bristol Mirror (7 December 1850).

(112) Peter Bailey, Leisure and Class in Victorian England: Rational Recreation and the Contest for Control, 1830-1885 (London, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978), 71.

(113) For discussion of Barnum's role, and references, see Featherstone's essay below.

(114) For Rumbold, "the American humorist," see Norfolk News, 14 January, 18 February, 10 March 1860. Other examples include Rev. W.H. Milburn, see Manchester Guardian, 9 September 1857.

(115) See for example, the accounts of Henry Clapp, an American peace lecturer, Norfolk News, 20 April 1850. (Lectures/readings on American humor and humorists remained popular throughout the second half of the century.) For suspicion of "vulgar jests" see, for example, Temperance Spectator I (1859), 82; J. Corbin, Ever Working, Never Resting. A Life of the Rev, John Legg Poore (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1874), 64.

(116) Liverpool Weekly Mercury, 28 November 1857; Raymond had presented a variety of such entertainments from at least the early 1840s.

(117) For Rowton, see Eastern Counties Herald (Hull), 3 March 1859; for the range of Rowton's lecture entertainments, see his Syllabus, Royal Society of Arts RSA, Greater London Record Office: A\RSA\2\K\106.

(118) Manchester City News, 17 May 1884. Maccabe (or MacCabbe) is an interesting figure who wrote a number of popular late-Victorian songs for use in his entertainments, and also lectured from the 1880s to the end of the Edwardian period at least on various topics, including horse-mastership, health, and patent medicines. See also Mr Barger, Manchester City News, 17 January 1885.

(119) Edmund Yates, Edmund Yates: his Recollections and Experiences (London: Bentley and Sons, 1884), 73-74.

(120) William Tinsley, Random Recollections of an Old Publisher (London: Simpkin, Marshall and Co., 1900), 262-67.

(121) Press cutting Gloucester Literary and Scientific Association, Minutes, Volume 8856 1877-92, np, Gloucestershire Collection, Gloucester Library.

(122) City Lantern (Manchester) I (1874-75), 74. See also Manchester City News, 18 December 1875.

(123) Martha S. Vogeler, Frederic Harrison. The Vocations of a Positivist (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984), 220; quoted in Blanche Dugdale, Arthur James Balfour (London: Hutchinson, 1936), I, 104; see also Meisel, Public Speech, 263-64.

(124) The Sphinx (1870), 289-90.

(125) British Banner, 12 November 1857.

(126) L.E. Grugel, George Jacob Holyoake. A Study in the Evolution of a Victorian Radical (Philadelphia, Porcupine Press, 1976), 15.

(127) Cited by G.W. Cooke, R.W. Emerson. His Life, Writings & Philosophy (London: Rivington, 1881), 116.

(128) Gilfillan, First Gallery of Literary Portraits (Edinburgh: James Hogg, 1851), 92.

(129) The Sphinx (1870), 366; letter of "A Working Man," Freelance 6 (1871), 373.

(130) Manchester City News (26 January 1884).

(131) Forster, Four Great Teachers, 31; see also Alfred Hopkinson, Penultima (London: Martin Hopkinson, 1930), 263-64.

(132) M. Hardman, Ruskin and Bradford. An Experiment in Victorian Cultural History (Manchester UP, 1986); J. Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies. Three Lectures (London: G. Allen, 1871), viii. Also J.D. Hunt, The Wider Sea. A Life of John Ruskin (London: Dent, 1982).

(133) For one example of the significance of working class lecturing on the development of radical ideas see Claeys on the impact of the published lectures of Owenite socialist John Watts on the development of Engels' ideas on political economy, G. Claeys, Morals, Machinery and the Millennium: from Moral Economy to Socialism (Cambridge: Polity, 1987), 167-83.

(134) For the organizational role of itinerant lecturing see E. Royle, Radical Infidels (Manchester UP, 1974), 115-20.

(135) P. Daryl, Public Life in England, translated by H. Frith (London: Routledge, 1884), 78.
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