John Thelwall pp 211-247 | Cite as

Epic: The Hope of Albion

Part of the Nineteenth-Century Major Lives and Letters book series (19CMLL)


History was as fundamental as nature to Thelwall’s peripatetic excursions, seditious political lectures, and polymathic poetry. Among many historical forms and subjects he explored, I have chosen selections from his unfinished “national and constitutional epic” The Hope of Albion; or Edwin of Northumbria, to showcase the ambitious scope and style of his best historical poems. Conceived in boyhood and realized in exile, his epic was the vessel into which he poured not only his frustrated hopes for reform, but a lifetime’s experience, so that in his mind at least, it became the epic of his generation and for his age. He used the history of an obscure Saxon king the way he used Roman history in his lectures of 1796, and Hume’s History in The Peripatetic: to correct mistakes of the past, to raise consciousness in the present, and to sustain hope for a better future.


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© Judith Thompson 2015

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