Monday, 25 February 2013

In the beginning... uncovering the origins of the Chartist hymn book

Music and poetry were always central to the cultural life of Chartism. But have you ever wondered what a Chartist song might have sounded like?

Radio 4’s Sunday programme with Edward Stourton recently supplied the opportunity to find out. The programme’s report on the discovery of the only known surviving copy of a Chartist hymn book in Todmorden library is well worth listening to, and will certainly satisfy your curiosity.

Happily, the previously unknown authors of the hymn book have also now been identified. Writing in the journal Victorian Studies, Dr Mike Sanders of Manchester University reports that his research uncovered calls for contributions for a new Chartist hymn book in the Northern Star.

One, from January 1845, asked for readers to send ideas for a Chartist hymn book to an address in Manchester. A second item in February stated that West Riding Chartists approved the idea of producing a new hymn book.

Helping confirm the origin of the find, another item was published in September  saying the book, containing 16 hymns, was now available.

Dr Sanders, the author of the 2012 book The Poetry of Chartism: Aesthetics, Politics, History (Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture), sets out some of his thoughts on the hymn book on the Manchester University website.

The orginal hymn book itself can be seen online on Calderdale Council’s website.

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