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Talking RevolutionEdward Rushton's Rebellious Poetics, 1782-1814$
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Franca Dellarosa

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781781381441

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781381441.001.0001

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‘A gang of fierce hirelings appears’

‘A gang of fierce hirelings appears’

Fighting the Press Gang, and Other Sea Stories

(p.48) 2 ‘A gang of fierce hirelings appears’
Talking Revolution

Franca Dellarosa

Liverpool University Press

This chapter examines the corpus of Edward Rushton’s sea poetry, which resounds with the echoes of his early personal background no less than political commitment, directed to denouncing the operations of the press-gang, i.e. the forced recruitment of seamen for service by the Royal Navy. Having condemned such ‘acts of atrocity’ as co-editor of the Liverpool Herald (1790ca) Rushton was made the object of retaliation and forced to leave his post; as extensively discussed in the chapter, in the later ballad ‘Will Clewline’ (1801), widely circulated as a broadside, he was to engage in a trenchant critique of the practice. As a preliminary, the chapter investigates the traumatic social impact of state violence by examining the current debate, which included pamphlets and essays arguing for or against the ‘legality of impressing seamen’ [Butler, 1777], but also songs, poems, theatrical pieces, and novels. A reconstruction of Rushton’s commitment on the basis of available biographical evidence is followed by a close analysis of the poem. The relevance of ‘Will Clewline’ in Rushton’s poetic corpus is interpreted in the light of the recurring sea-life motif in Rushton’s corpus as a whole.

Keywords:   Edward Rushton, Liverpool, press gang, Will Clewline, Edward Rushton, sea poetry

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