The Life, Works and Reception of an Evangelical Radical: James Woodhouse (1735-1820), the `Poetical Shoemaker'

S Van-Hagen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review


    The article surveys the life, career, reception and works of James Woodhouse, ‘The Poetical Shoemaker’, making use of a wide variety of sources. The article outlines his posthumous reputation, arguing that many accounts until recently seem to have perpetuated the same (sometimes misleading) impressions of Woodhouse and his work. It is suggested, however, that more nuanced critical approaches to Woodhouse's oeuvre, emphasising his significance to the labouring-class poetic tradition, have emerged in recent years. The article surveys new directions for future scholarship, concentrating on the construction of identities in Woodhouse's posthumously-published verse autobiography, The Life and Lucubrations of Crispinus Scriblerus. The poem charts the growth of Woodhouse/Crispin(us)'s radical evangelical Methodist identity in his later years, as he retreats from an early quiescence with patrons that saw all but one poem in his first published collection dedicated to them. The article argues that contemporary critical approaches can account for why and how the autobiographical act of Crispinus Scriblerus embodies the complexities of Woodhouse's multiple and contradictory simultaneous identities. Crispinus Scriblerus uses the philosophy of Heraclitus to reproduce the same strategy that Woodhouse accuses the educated classes of adopting towards him during his early years of poetic celebrity: that of claiming superiority on the grounds of absolute difference between his own identity and that of his antagonists. It is argued that paying critical attention to the fluidity of the seeming autobiographical oppositions that the critic Stuart Sherman terms ‘compound rubrics’ can demonstrate how the poem (sometimes unwittingly) realises some of its aims, while failing in others.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)384-406
    JournalLiterature Compass (Romantic Compass)
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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