Republican Demystification in Politics for the People and Blake’s Songs of Experience

  • Stephanie Kuduk Weiner
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Nineteenth-Century Writing and Culture book series (PNWC)


In a passage from Political Justice (1793) that Thomas Spence reprinted in his one-penny periodical Pigs’ Meat, William Godwin argues that ‘it must be laid down as a first principle, that monarchy is founded in imposture.’ ‘To conduct this imposture with success,’ he continues, ‘it is necessary to bring over to its party our eyes and our ears,’ to ‘dazzle our sense and mislead our judgment.’1 Central to this monarchical project, Thomas Paine asserts in Rights of Man (1791–92), were ‘those songs and toasts which are calculated to enslave, and operate to suffocate reflection.’2 Counter-songs of demystification, accordingly, played a key role in the republican campaign against ‘kingcraft.’ The republican poems I examine in this chapter, William Blake’s Songs of Experience (1794) and a group of anonymous ‘New Songs’ published in D. I. Eaton’s Politics for the People (1793–95), are united by their efforts to depict and prompt an epistemo-logical liberation from what Blake calls ‘mind-forg’d manacles.’3


Moral Virtue Republican Politics English Poetry National Anthem Chimney Sweeper 
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© Stephanie Kuduk Weiner 2005

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  • Stephanie Kuduk Weiner

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