Thomas Slingsby Duncombe was an unlikely ally of the Chartist cause. With a well-publicised reputation as a lover of the theatre, gaming and women, he became known during his long tenure as MP for Finsbury as "the handsomest and best-dressed man in the house".
Yet the "dandy demagogue" was also the man who presented the second Chartist petition of 1842 to Parliament, sought the release of John Frost and other Chartists imprisoned for their part in the Newport rebellion, and helped underwrite the ill-fated Chartist land plan.
When Disraeli wrote Sybil: or The Two Nations, it was to Duncombe that he turned for information on Chartism. And it was Duncombe who chaired the Labour Parliament of 1845 and continued to support the development of trades unions thereafter for many years.
Duncombe's contribution to the political life of the 19th century has been rather neglected until now. But the good news is that a biography, to be titled Radical Dandy: The Curiously Forgotten Political Life of Thomas Slingsby Duncombe, may now help to rectify that.
The book is being written Stephen Duncombe, a distant relative and associate professor at the Gallatin School of New York University. It is being published by the University of California Press – though no date is yet given for it to appear.