[1817] - William Hone (radical publisher) tried for publishing ‘blasphemous parodies’

Born in Bath in 1780, Hone was a political writer and publisher who had been closely involved in London radical circles since the 1790s. Although he had been keen to distance himself from the ultra-radical factions of the Regency period, he nonetheless aroused the government’s anger following his parodyon the attack on the Regent’s carriage in January 1817. The following month he began publishing the Reformist’s Register. Consequently, Lord Liverpool’s government sought to make an example of him and on 3 May 1817 he was arrested on charges of blasphemy and sedition. The charges related to his authorship and publication of three parodies: The Late John Wilkes Catechism of a Ministerial Member, The Political Litany Diligently Revised to be Said or Sung until the Appointed Change Come, and The Sinecurists’ Creed or Belief, as the Same Can or May be Said. Three separate trials were set on successive days from 18 December, each to hear evidence on one of the three publications. Hone chose to speak for himself throughout the trials, despite the onset of illness. He proceeded to expose the spurious charges against him, embarrassing the government to the delight of the huge crowd that had gathered outside to support him. On 20 December he was finally acquitted in a case that was widely seen to have confirmed the integrity of the English jury system. He continued to satirize the government and its supporters throughout much of the remainder of his life. His most notable political satires include The Political House that Jack Built (1819), The Queen Matrimonial Ladder (1820) and The Political Showman (1821). He experienced persistent financial difficulties and spent time in the King’s Bench Prison for debt. In later life he converted to Christianity and worked for the evangelical nonconformist newspaper The Patriot. He died in Tottenham on 6 November 1842.

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