John Thelwall’s Autobiographical Occult
This chapter focuses on the orator, political theorist and poet John Thelwall. Driven into ‘inner exile’ in 1797 as an ‘acquitted felon’, having been the subject of a relentless state-sponsored campaign, Thelwall spent three years in Llyswen, Brecknockshire, on the river Wye. The political anxiety felt during this ‘retirement’ manifested itself dramatically in the adoption of an identity as conjuror. Alienated by a village that distrusted him and by a language he did not understand, Thelwall recognised the practical and literary uses of the performance of pariah status and power enshrined in the figure of cunning man. However, while Thelwall’s cultural ‘otherness’ prompted him to render Welsh spaces as ‘enchanted’ he recognised that the ‘enchanted dormitory’ of Llyswen might enthral him into quietist submission.