The most significant obstacle to a full understanding and balanced evaluation of the work of John Thelwall has always been the absence of a complete modern biography. The two early biographies (by Cecil Thelwall 1837 and Charles Cestre 1906) are both out-of-date, and extremely partial; leaving out almost half of Thelwall's life, they leave the impression that his later elocutionary and literary achievements are irrelevant, thereby contributing to the neglect they were intended to overcome. The shorter biographical sketches included in more recent studies have begun to compensate, but are necessarily limited by and to the specific contexts or subjects that they address. As new archival information has emerged, it is finally possible to imagine writing a comprehensive biography of one of the most dramatic, varied and heroic lives in British history, but such a book is still several years away. In the meanwhile, however, there is a urgent need to gather, collate and circulate existing biographical and bibliographical information, in an accessible location and a clear format, to serve the growing community of Thelwall Studies.
Thelwall in Time and Text is intended to address that need. It grows out of a session at the Art and Act conference devoted to pooling the resources of Thelwall scholars, each of whom, in the Thelwallian spirit, brought to the table his or her "mite of information" so that all might "work for themselves in those grand enquiries in which it is the happiness and interest of man to be engaged." The results, collated and augmented with information summarized from a range of published sources, have been tabulated in this chronology. While still skeletal, it represents a significant resource, which we look forward to updating, correcting, and fleshing out on an ongoing basis, with contributions from readers and users of Romantic Circles.
This chronology is also a bibliography, and it goes beyond dates, events and writings to include: locations where Thelwall lived or visited (revealing the transnational range of his intellect and the persistence of his peripatetic habits), media in which he worked (lectures are included as well as publications, journalism and unpublished writing), his correspondence (though much has been lost, what remains gives some idea of the scope of his networks), related events (with an emphasis on political and literary contexts and publications), and locations where primary texts can be found (since so much of the archive remains unpublished and scattered). The chief sources used to construct the timeline are also given, with a key to abbreviations (below).
+: Related Events
July 27: Birth of John Thelwall, to Joseph and Mary Thelwall
Residence alternates between family shop in Covent Garden and home in Walcot-Place Lambeth
Summery 1769 or 1770
Summer seaside vacation with family provides occasion for visionary episode described in "A Childish Retrospect" in The Peripatetic
Birth of William Wordsworth
Early education with Rev. Pierce (Lambeth) and Mr. Dick (Hart St., Covent Garden)