Friday, 2 March 2012

John James Bezer and a minor Victorian scandal

John James Bezer (1816-1888) was a relatively minor Chartist figure, remembered primarily because of his incomplete Autobiography of One of the Chartist Rebels of 1848, published in instalments during 1851 in the Christian Socialist newspaper.
His story apparently ends some time in 1852, when former comrades inquiring about unpaid subscriptions to the Star of Freedom newspaper discovered that he had fled to Australia leaving his wife behind in London.
More recent research using census and BMD (birth, marriage, death) entries suggests that Bezer actually put in a reappearance in London during the 1850s before disappearing from the official record once again some time after 1862.
More surprisingly, in investigating Bezer’s life for the excellent Minor Victorian Poets website, David Shaw has uncovered a whole second chapter to the former Chartist’s life story.
Bezer may have returned temporarily to England, but this had not, it appears, deterred him from marrying for a second time in Australia (apparently while his wife in England was still very much alive) before finally settling there under the name John Bezer Drew and raising a second family.
While the Bezer family lived on in London, the Bezer Drews eventually settled in Melbourne, where, David Shaw’s research shows, John resumed his political interests. The picture here shows John some time around 1854, the year in which he married for a second time.
In 1872, Bezer was a member of the Democratic Association of Victoria, and a committee member of the Melbourne Eclectic Association.  In 1874, he became a member of the Constitutional Reform League, as well as a member of the Workingmen's Political Association.
The full two-part story of John James Bezer’s life in England and John Bezer Drew’s life in Australia make for fascinating reading.

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