Sharp, Richard (1759–1835)

Businessman, Dissenter, radical and writer, but most famous for his conversational powers – hence his nickname ‘Conversation’ Sharp. He was born in Newfoundland, the son of the elder Richard Sharp, an army officer. But the family soon returned to England and Sharp took over his grandfather’s hat-making business, later moving into the West India trade. He was a member of various radical organisations in the 1790s and Whig MP for Castle Rising 1806–1812 and Portarlington 1816–1819. Sharp’s only major publication was the anonymous Letters and Essays in Poetry and Prose (1834), but he was a friend and adviser to many literary men. He encouraged Southey to proceed with The Curse of Kehama (1810).

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