John Wilkes

The Scandalous Father of Civil Liberty

Arthur H. Cash

View Inside Price: $47.00


May 22, 2007
496 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
27 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300123630
Paper

Also Available in:
Cloth

A highly entertaining biography of the incredible John Wilkes, champion of liberty and irrepressible libertine.

"It is difficult to believe that John Wilkes, a notorious womanizer and scandal-monger, was a genuine hero of civil liberties and political democracy on both sides of the Atlantic in the late 18th century, but hero he was and in this engaging book Arthur Cash gives Wilkes the serious treatment he has long deserved."—Eric Foner, Columbia University

“[A] superb biography. . . .  After finishing the last page I turned back to the beginning in order to enjoy it all over again.”—Tom Hodgkinson, Independent on Sunday

“Informative and enjoyable. . . . So well researched, so full of fascinating detail, . . . so delightfully buoyant.” - John Barrell, London Review of Books

Arthur H. Cash is Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of English, State University of New York at New Paltz, and biographer of Laurence Sterne.

http://www.meromero.com/arthur

"Arthur Cash treats the career of John Wilkes as a central episode in the rise of modern liberty. The story is told with authority and vivid feeling: it has the force and immediacy of good journalism and a wealth of historical detail hardly available to Wilkes or his contemporaries. This book rescues Wilkes from legend back to life."—David Bromwich, Yale University

 

"It is difficult to believe that John Wilkes, a notorious womanizer and scandal-monger, was a genuine hero of civil liberties and political democracy on both sides of the Atlantic in the late 18th century, but hero he was and in this engaging book Arthur Cash gives Wilkes the serious treatment he has long deserved."—Eric Foner, Columbia University

“Arthur Cash’s biography of Wilkes combines outstanding scholarship—the product of years of archival research—with a compelling, nuanced and beautifully told narrative of the life of one of the eighteenth century’s most compelling characters.”—John Brewer, author of The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century

"Cash exposes lesser-known details about Wilkes's dealings with Thomas Coram's foundling hospital...[and] other interesting revelations..." - Julie Peakman, BBC History Magazine

'...[a] superb biography, both scholarly and pacey... The story would make a superb movie, and congratulations to the amiable Cash for having produced this terrific read. After finishing the last page I turned back to the beginning in order to enjoy it all over again.' - Tom Hodgkinson, Independent on Sunday

"...action-packed... Cash's racy commentary has about it a journalistic flair of which his subject would approve." - Frances Wilson, New Statesman

'...extremely illuminating... A statue of Wilkes was erected in Fetter Lane in 1988... In his wonderful biography [Cash] has raised an equally worthy and undoubtedly more lifelike monument.' - Claire Harman, Sunday Telegraph

“Cash has written a biography that teems with many little known facts, thus illuminating the man-within-the-man, deftly sketching a definitive portrait of Wilkes now set against the time in which he lived. . . . Cash tells John Wilkes’ story in tight and erudite prose, compassionate and incisive, in turn presenting us a resource that will come to assist generations of students in their pursuit of personal freedom. Recommended to instructors in World History courses that investigate the growth of British culture. Would further be a useful supporting text in advanced Journalism courses.”—The Electric Review
 

'Cash tells Wilkes's story wiht gusto, breathing life into the most intricate details, fusing them into a fast paced narrative. ... The pages of this book sizzle with intrigue and indecency. It's a bracing read, not for the faint of heart.' - Duncan Wu, The Independent

"...a good introduction to John Wilkes's life and times..." - Francis Wheen, The Spectator

'This is a worthy addition to the library of anyone who applauds gentlemanly scholarship, maverick politicians, and the spirits of liberty and libertinism.' - Christopher Silvester, The Sunday Times

'Cash tells this colourful story well...there are some delightful descriptions" - Geoffrey Robertson, The Times

'...a good, solid introduction to this remarkable figure.' - The Week

"Arthur Cash's appealing prose and mordant humor—along with his painstaking scholarship—do justice to his subject, which is about as high a commendation as anyone might ask."—Daniel McCarthy, Reason

“Arthur H Cash who…has already shown his deep interest in 18th-century England. Here he has illuminated an undervalued character from that age…it is a timely work.” - JWM Thompson, The Oldie

“[An] informative and enjoyable new biography. … [Cash] writes as a liberal optimist… It is one of the reasons this book, so well researched, so full of fascinating detail, is also so delightfully buoyant.” - John Barrell, London Review of Books

“Arthur Cash has provided a ‘warts and all’ account of Wilkes’s extraordinary life.  … The narrative races along in a colourful style matching the swashbuckling life of his subject. … Cash succeeds brilliantly. This text will entertain and inform the general reader.” - David Johnson, History Today

“Wilkes is known to political historians as a radical bad boy of eighteenth-century Britain, and to literary historians for a cameo appearance in Boswell's life of Johnson. . . . Cash makes a persuasive case for Wilkes as central to Enlightenment England—and, indeed, to the American Revolution, whose ideas he helped inspire. . . . Famous for his loose living, he turns out to be not the demagogic opportunist of the reactionary imagination but a philosophical democrat with articulate convictions about free speech and political equity. In the process of establishing Wilkes as genuinely heroic, Cash suggests new ways of thinking about the strange relationship between the practice of eighteenth-century libertinism and the birth of modern liberty."—New Yorker

"This is a fascinating biography of a very important figure in 18th-century English politics. . . . The book’s straightforward, engaging style will appeal to general audiences as well as academics. Because of this and the book’s clear explanation of key structures, events, and personalities of 18th-century England, it could be used with great benefit in undergraduate and graduate courses on British or US history, politics, or culture. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

"Cash elegantly ensures that we remember the London journalist, rogue, agitator, saucy poet, and politician who influenced our Founding Fathers when he fought for rights regarding arrest warrants and search and seizure in the decades before the American Revolution. The personal and public life of a figure who seems out of Fielding or Sterne but whose influence still matters."—Library Journal (Best Books of 2006)

"Elegantly written and meticulously researched. . . . The strengths of this book are manifold. . . . An important book about a seminal figure in the Anglo-American political tradition."—Lee Ward, American Historical Review

"Arthur Cash's carefully detailed new biography of Wilkes examines the life and career of a founding father of civil liberty both seriously and sympathetically, considering Wilkes within the broad cultural context of the volatile decades in which he was most active."--Stephen C. Behrendt, Eighteenth-Century Life

"John Wilkes was one of the most influential and charismatic political activists in British history. He has attrached many biographers, none better informed on his private and public life than this author."--H.T. Dickinson, The Historian

"An enjoyable biography of the libertine, civil libertarian, and popular symbol of protest. Cash's treatment seeks to remind those who might have forgotten that Wilkes was the eighteenth century's principal champion of free speech and a free press."--Andrew Shankman, Journal of the Early Republic

“[Cash’s] approach is less strictly political…it provides much more information on Wilkes’s family and personal life. Such fleshing-out is most welcome. Cash sifts contemporaries’ accounts of Wilkes, often exposing the prurience and hypocrisy behind their condemnations of his behaviour.” - Jonathan Conlin, Times Literary Supplement

"Arthur Cash's achievement is considerable in capturing so comprehensively, and in a readable narrative, such a full and colorful life as that of John Wilkes. . . . A delightful and thorough account of an important political life."—Emma Macleod, H-Net Reviews

Named a Best Book of 2006 by Library Journal

Selected by as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2007 by Choice Magazine

Finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Biography