Glances on a changing country

It’s interesting to see how one man’s diary can cast light on the attitude of another and ‘paints a picture’ of the country at large.  Henry Crabb Robinson was born in Bury St Edmunds, was articled to a Colchester attorney; between 1800 & 1805 studied at various places in Germany where he met men of letters such as Goethe and others. In 1807 he became correspondent for The Times and was sent to Galicia in Spain as a war correspondent on the Peninsular War.  On his return to London in 1809, he quit journalism, studied for the Bar; was ‘called’ in 1813, became leader of the Eastern Circuit and, fifteen years later, retired and, by virtue of his conversation and qualities, became a leader in society. Robinson’s Diary, Reminiscences and Correspondence was published in 1869 and contains reminiscences of central figures of the English Romantic Movement: including Coleridge, Chas Lamb, William Blake and William Wordsworth.

It was on Saturday 24th March 1832 that he wrote in his diary that he: ‘had a melancholy letter from Wordsworth (poet William).  He talks of leaving the country on account of impending ruin to be apprehended from the Reform Bill!’

It’s interesting to see how one man’s diary can cast light on the attitude of another.  Demands for voting reform had been made long before 1832, but had continually failed to get passed.  As a result of public presser the bill, which granted seats in the House of Commons to large cities that had sprung up during the Industrial Revolution and took away seats from the ‘rotten boroughs’, was finally passed.  In doing this the Act increased the number of individuals entitles to vote, increasing the size of the electorate from about 500,000 to 813,000 – allowing around one in six adult males to vote.  As we now know, William did not decamp.  The friendship between the two was long lasting and, in 1837, the pair travelled together on the continent.


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