THE EGOCENTRIC 'FACTORY KING'

ID: 22533
£1250.00
The Fleet Papers;

PERIODICAL: THE FLEET PAPERS,, The Fleet Papers; being letters to Thomas Thornhill, Esq; of Riddlesworth, in the county of Norfolk*: from Richard Oastler, his prisoner in the Fleet. With occasional communications from friends. London: W.J. Cleaver and John Pavey. [Jan.2] 1841 - [Sept.7], 1844.

4 vols., 8vo, (2) + 416; (2) + 424; 478 and 504pp, four engraved plates (portrait of Oastler; portrait of Thornhill; view of Fixby Hall near Huddersfield; view of the Fleet Prison), wanting the volume title-pages in III & IV, otherwise complete, some fraying to plate margins (but not affecting printed surface), bound into four volumes, including a duplicate of vol.III, in non-uniform half roan, gilt lettered, with general wear, foot of spine of vol.I defective. A good, textually complete, set with all four plates.

First collected edition.

*From vol.II no.48 to vol.IV no.7 the title reads: The Fleet Papers; being letters to the right Hon. Sir James Graham Bart., M.P., Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for the Home Department; from Richard Oastler, His victim in the Queen's prison, with occasional communications from friends. From vol.IV no.8 the title reads simply: The Fleet Papers. A remarkable but egocentric weekly journal, edited and largely written by Richard Oastler while in prison for debt because of opposition to the new poor law and in which he continued his efforts on behalf of better factory laws. Richard Oastler (1789-1861), the so-called 'Factory king', was appointed steward of the Fixby Hall estates of Thomas Thornhill near Huddersfield in Yorkshire in 1820. He advocated the abolition of slavery, opposed catholic emancipation, became exercised by the evils of children's employment in factories, agitated and lobbied on behalf of humane factory legislation, objected to the new poor law and was sacked from his post at Fixby Hall when he resisted the Poor Law commissioners in the township of Fixby. When he left Thornhill's service he owed him 2000 which he was unable to repay and on 9 Dec. 1840 was committed to the Fleet Prison in London where he remained for more than three years. It was during his imprisonment that Oastler published the Fleet Papers. "By means of these papers, which appeared weekly, and in which Oastler pleaded the cause of the factory workers, denounced the new poor law and defended the corn laws, he exercised great influence on public opinion. 'Oastler Committees' were formed at Manchester and other places in order to assist him, and 'Oastler Festivals,' the proceeds of which were forwarded to him, were arranged by working men. In 1842 as 'Oastler Liberation fund' was started. At the end of 1843 the fund amounted to 2,500. Some of Oastler's friends guaranteed the remaining sum necessary to effect his release, and in February 1844 he was set at liberty. He made a public entry into Huddersfield on 20 Feb. From that time until 1847 he continued to agitate for a ten-hours day; but with the passing of Lord Ashley's Act his public career practically terminated." [W.A.S. Hewins in DNB]