Thursday, 18 October 2012
A new novel, Agents of Reason, by John Issitt, explores the life of Jeremiah Joyce, a dissenting minister in the 1790s.
Jeremiah was a London radical. He and his associates gave themselves to the cause of freedom - a cause that was always dangerous and compromised.
When the Bastille fell in 1789, English radicals like Jeremiah saw the promise of freedom, but by early 1793 the French Revolution had turned into madness as Robespierre and the guillotine had produced a blood-bath.
In England the fear that the revolution might spread across the channel provoked reactionary responses and the years of William Pitt’s terror began. Radicals were hunted down. Some found themselves in Botany Bay, others charged with sedition or treason, languishing in Newgate and the Tower.