No one before Johnston has understood the poetry of the Romantic period so centrally in the context of Pittâs alarm ... This fascinating book is one way of thinking afresh about the huge damage a tyranny such as Pittâs can do, not just to a generation of writers, but to the development of a whole culture. ( John Barrell, London Review of Books)
Johnston has written a book that is part investigative history and part elegy ... a story that has waited a long time to be told. We might think of Unusual Suspects as a cross between William Hazlittâs The Spirit of the Age and E.P. Thompsonâs The Making of the English Working Class: group biography meets radical history. ( Times Literary Supplement)
The bookâs greatest contribution is to show how the reign of alarm shaped the ideas and writing of these extraordinarily talented writers. That many of them are now scarcely known even to literary academics reinforces one of Johnstonâs recurrent points ... that this reign not only caused the ruin of personal lives and the deferral of political reforms but also hampered the genesis of great literature, including Romanticism itself ... Johnston tells a good story in a prose style self-consciously American and more colloquial than one usually finds in academic writing. ( Michael Scrivener, New Books on Line)
A study of huge scope and persuasive argument which will be of benefit to literary scholars and historians alike. ( Mary Fairclough, Literature and History)
A new thorough-going treatment of a whole generation ... written with attractive informality of style ... that all students of the period will find themselves raiding for its judicious narration of ways in which texts of all kinds participate in and do not merely respond to political change. ( European Romantic Review)
A deeply moving book ... reveals the appalling extent to which William Pittâs Reign of Alarm impacted upon the history of Romanticism during the 1790s ... providing overwhelming evidence that innumerable writing careers were brought to a shuddering halt in the 1790s ... a wonderful resource for these lost writers. ( Review of English Studies)
Generally ... when academics try to write for a broader, popular audience, we fail ... because we try too hard. But not Kenneth Johnston [who] has been developing [his] style since writing The Hidden Wordsworth ... a style charged with moral urgency ... that is not so much popular as populist ... his model is the writings of a usual suspect, mentioned often in the book: Thomas Paine. ( Bruce Graver, The Age of Johnson)
Johnston is not merely setting some ideal record straight in attending to the disappeared of the period. He foregrounds the cumulative effects of government repression on our sense of literary history ... [and presents] the case for a new conception of historical textualism more explicitly than many of the other authors.
His is a large synoptic or summary work that all students of the period will find themselves raiding for its judicious narration of some famous and more obscure careers and for ways in which written texts of all kinds participate in and do not merely respond to political change. ( Stephen Bygrave, European Romantic Review)
[Johnston] begins to trace what he calls the lost generation of the 1790s, and in doing so he pieces together a story that has waited a long time to be told Johnston has distilled the narrative to a dozen fascinating case studies, for each person whose gruesome encounter with political repression is uncovered and recounted here we could add a dozen more ... Johnston has written a book that is part investigative history and part elegy ... and in doing so he pieces together a story that has waited a long time to be told. We might think of Unusual Suspects as a cross between William Hazlitt's ( John Bugg, Times Literary Supplement)
and E.P. Thompson's
: group biography meets radical history ... for each person whose dire encounter with political repression is recounted here we could add a dozen more. This, too, is the history of the Romantic era.
fascinating book ... thinking afresh about the huge damage a tyranny such as Pitt's can do, not just to a generation of writers, but to the development of a whole culture. ( John Barrell, London Review of Books)
a magnificent foundation for further work ( Michael Scrivener, Review 19)
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