George Howell Archive Cataloguing Project Update: June 2007

The George Howell Archive Cataloguing Project is now complete. The last sections to be catalogued were the Reform League Manuscripts and Oversize Items, the correspondence of Thomas Cooper, press cuttings regarding the Trades Union Congress, Labour and Friendly Societies, Galley Proofs of Howell’s work, Reviews of Novels by Howell and the Accounts for Howell’s Handy Book of Labour Laws. The catalogue is now available as part of Bishopsgate Library's online catalogue and also on the Access to Archives and Aim25 websites.

Letter from Thomas Cooper to Thomas Chambers (10 November 1864) (Ref: HOWELL/17/1/3)

Letter from Thomas Cooper to Thomas Chambers, 1864Thomas Cooper, a Chartist poet and Methodist Lecturer was born in 1805 in Leicester. In 1840 after moving back to Leicester after a long absence he encountered the Chartist Movement and it was not long before he became editor of The Midlands Counties Illuminator, a well-known Chartist Journal. Cooper became a leading figure in the Chartist movement and in 1842 was imprisoned for two years for promoting the Chartist riots in the English Pottery towns. Whilst in prison Cooper wrote his epic poem ‘The Purgatory of Suicides’ which was published not long after his release in 1845. Shortly after he left prison he moved away from the Chartist Movement and in 1856 he renounced his old free-thinking beliefs completely. He travelled the country lecturing on the Christian cause and the need to believe in God.


The accompanying letter is one of many from Cooper to his friend Thomas Chambers, a civil servant who resided in London. Many of the letters concern Cooper’s lecturing schedule although occasionally he makes judgement on Chambers’ life. In this letter Cooper is giving Chambers relationship advice, informing him that he should ‘Never consider yourself bound to provide for a young strumpet who has had your money, or believe her tales.’ He advises Chambers to fall to ‘his knees and ask God to forgive your life of sin and vileness and to make you a better man’.

Review of Howell’s ‘Labour Legislation, Labour Movements and Labour Leaders’ in the Manchester Guardian (18 March 1902) (Ref: HOWELL/7/16)

Review of Howell's work from the Manchester Guardian, 1902This was the final work of Howell in an illustrious writing career spanning around thirty years. ‘Labour Legislation, Labour Movements and Labour Leaders’ traced the progress of the working classes in the nineteenth century with emphasis on trade unionism and the other movements in which he had become involved.

The Manchester Guardian was founded in Manchester in 1821 by a group of non-conformist businessmen headed by John Edward Taylor. In 1872 Charles Prestwich Scott began his 57 year career as editor of the newspaper and in 1907 became its owner. Under Scott the newspaper became more radical and featured causes which Scott took an interest in such as woman’s suffrage, Irish nationalism and the establishment of a Jewish homeland. This review despite admitting that Howell was a ‘veteran of the Labour Movement’ is fairly scathing and makes a number of criticisms. It suggests that ‘Howell has not quite moved with the times’ and has not accepted the concept of New Unionism. They accuse him of concentrating solely on the growth of trade unionism at the expense of other important nineteenth-century movements such as Chartism, the Fight for the Fact

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