Tag Archives: William Cobbett

Almanac – June 08

632 – Muhammad, Islamic prophet, died,  in Medina, at the age of 63, in the house of his wife Aisha.  With his head resting on Aisha’s lap, he asked her to dispose of his last worldly goods (seven coins), then murmured his final words:

Rather, God on High and paradise.

He was buried where he died, in Aisha’s house.

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793 – Vikings raided the abbey at Lindisfarne in Northumbria, commonly accepted as the beginning of the Scandinavian invasion of England.

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1794 – Robespierre inaugurated the French Revolution’s new state religion, the Cult of the Supreme Being, with large organized festivals all across France.

The primary principles of the Cult of the Supreme Being were a belief in the existence of a god and the immortality of the human soul. Though not inconsistent with Christian doctrine, these beliefs were put to the service of Robespierre’s fuller meaning, which was of a type of civic-minded, public virtue he attributed to the Greeks and Romans.

This type of virtue could only be attained through active fidelity to liberty and democracy. Belief in a living god and a higher moral code, he said, were “constant reminders of justice” and thus essential to a republican society.

To inaugurate the new state religion, Robespierre declared that 20 Prairial Year II (8 June 1794) would be the first day of national celebration of the Supreme Being, and future republican holidays were to be held every tenth day – the days of rest (décadi) in the new French Republican Calendar.

Every locality was mandated to hold a commemorative event, but the event in Paris was designed on a massive scale. The festival was organized by the artist Jacques-Louis David and took place around a man-made mountain on the Champ de Mars. Robespierre assumed full leadership of the event, forcefully – and, to many, ostentatiously – declaring the truth and “social utility” of his new religion.

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1809 – Thomas Paine died.  English  political activist, author, political theorist and revolutionary.

As the author of two highly influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution, he inspired the Patriots in 1776 to declare independence from Britain. His ideas reflected Enlightenment era rhetoric of transnational human rights. He has been called “a corsetmaker by trade, a journalist by profession, and a propagandist by inclination.”

Paine died at the age of 72, at 59 Grove Street in Greenwich Village, New York City.  Although the original building is no longer there, the present building has a plaque noting the fact.

After his death, Paine’s body was brought to New Rochelle, but as the Quakers would not allow it to be buried in their graveyard as  per his last will, so his remains were buried under a walnut tree on his farm.

In 1819, the English agrarian radical journalist William Cobbett dug up his bones and transported them back to England with the intention to give Paine a heroic reburial on his native soil, but this never came to pass. The bones were still among Cobbett’s effects when he died over twenty years later, but were later lost.

There is no confirmed story about what happened to them after that, although down the years various people have claimed to own parts of Paine’s remains, such as his skull and right hand.

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Almanac – March 09

1763 – William Cobbett born.  English pamphleteer, farmer and journalist, who was born in Farnham, Surrey. He believed that reforming Parliament and abolishing the rotten boroughs would help to end the poverty of farm labourers, and he attacked the borough-mongers, sinecurists and “tax-eaters” relentlessly. He was also against the Corn Laws, a tax on imported grain.

Early in his career, he was a loyalist supporter of King and Country: but later he joined and successfully publicised the radical movement, which led to the Reform Bill of 1832, and to his winning the parliamentary seat of Oldham. Although he was not a Catholic, he became a fiery advocate of Catholic Emancipation in Britain.

Through the seeming contradictions in Cobbett’s life, his opposition to authority stayed constant. He wrote many polemics, on subjects from political reform to religion, but is best known for his book from 1830, Rural Rides, which is still in print today.

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1895 – Leopold von Sacher-Masoch died.  Austrian writer and journalist, who gained renown for his romantic stories of Galician life. The term masochism is derived from his name.

During his lifetime, Sacher-Masoch was well known as a man of letters, a utopian thinker who espoused socialist and humanist ideals in his fiction and non-fiction.

Most of his works remain untranslated into English. The novel Venus in Furs is his only book commonly available in English… and also (coincidently ?) the name of a song by the Velvet Underground – see John Cale, below.

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1930 – Ornette Coleman born.  American saxophonist, violinist, trumpeter and composer. He was one of the major innovators of the free jazz movement of the 1960s

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1942 – John Cale born.  Welsh musician, composer, singer-songwriter and record producer who was a founding member of The Velvet Underground.

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1994 – Charles Bukowski died. American poet, novelist and short story writer. His writing was influenced by the social, cultural and economic ambience of his home city of Los Angeles.  It is marked by an emphasis on the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women and the drudgery of work.

Bukowski wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories and six novels, eventually publishing over sixty books. In 1986 Time called Bukowski a “laureate of American lowlife“.

Regarding Bukowski’s enduring popular appeal, Adam Kirsch of The New Yorker wrote, “the secret of Bukowski’s appeal. . . [is that] he combines the confessional poet’s promise of intimacy with the larger-than-life aplomb of a pulp-fiction hero.”

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