WHO WAS WILLIAM HONE?

William Hone (1780-1842) was a popular and influential political satirist, pamphleteer, publisher and bookseller in early nineteenth century London. He was deeply committed to radical political reform, to the extent that three of his pamphlets brought a government prosecution against him.  Hone proved his innocence and emerged a public hero and champion of freedom of the press.

Hone was born on June 3, 1780 in Bath and moved with his family to London three years later.  As early as 1793, Hone attacked the French Revolution in a privately printed broadside entitled The Contrast.  In addition to employment in legal offices London (1793 on) and Chatham (1797), he joined the London Corresponding Society in 1796.  Following marriage to his Southwark landlady's daughter Sarah Johnson on July 19, 1800, he opened a stationary shop and circulating library.  Hone entered into partnership with John Bone, first in an office for banking, annuities and employment  called "Tranquility" (1806-07) and then a Strand bookshop (1807-10).  By 1811, he became a book auctioneer in Ivy Lane.  During this period, Hone worked on plans to improve conditions in insane asylums (1813) and became editor of The Critical Review (1814-15).  At the end of 1814, Hone moved his family into a house with bookshop at 55 Fleet Street.

Hone's early publications included sensationalist accounts of murders, trials and executions.  Hone opened a shop at 67 Old Bailey in 1816 and associated with the Radicals of his time: Major John Cartwright, Francis Place, Charles Phillips, Robert Waithman, T. J. Wooler and others.  He befriended the artist George Cruikshank (1792-1878) and the two collaborated on numerous projects for caricature prints and illustrated satirical pamphlets between 1815 and 1822.  The Prince Regent was the object of their derision, and Cruikshank's biting illustrations of the future King George IV were matched by Hone's equally vivid captions and text.  In addition to his weekly newspaper of 1817, The Reformists' Register, Hone published anti-government pamphlets in the form of religious parodies.  Three of his pamphlets, The late John Wilkes's Catechism of a Ministerial Member, The Political Litany, Diligently Revised and The Sinecurist's Creed, or Belief, resulted in prosecution for blasphemy and profane and seditious libel.  Following imprisonment, Hone defended himself using examples of religious parodies from his own antiquarian collection of books and broadsides during three successive trials in December, 1817.   His acquittal was a victory for the Radical cause for a free press.

Following publication (1817-18) of accounts of his trials, Hone worked with Cruikshank on two important collaborative efforts in 1819.  The Bank Restriction Barometer contained a replica of a Bank Restriction Note.  The popularity of this "specimen of a bank note, not to be imitated" forced the government to cease hangings for passers of forged notes.  The Political House that Jack Built, published by Hone in 54 editions (1819-20) and widely imitated, was their most famous pamphlet.  Hone's words and Cruikshank's biting illustrations satirized the corruption of government and excesses of royalty.  The "Peterloo" massacre on August 16, 1819, the excess taxation and resulting poverty were horrors that Hone and Cruikshank could not ignore.  They also satirized the religious hypocrisy of the time in the poem at the end of the pamphlet,The Clerical Magistrate.

Hone and Cruikshank continued their collaboration during the King's lengthy domestic troubles with Queen Caroline.  In 1820, Hone published The Man in the Moon, The Queen's Matrimonial Ladder and Non Mi Ricordo!  The following year, they attacked the government in The Political Showman--At Home! and The Right Divine of Kings to Govern Wrong! as well as  the conservative press of John Stoddart in A Slap at Slop and the Bridge-Street Gang.  During these years, Hone also published Hazlitt's Political Essays (1819), his own "continuation" of Byron in Don Juan. Canto the Third (1819) and Knox's The Spirit of Despotism (1821).  Hone's controversial Apocryphal New Testament of 1820 prompted his later replies to its vicious attacks in the Quarterly Review.

Hone's antiquarian interest in the Apocrypha was extended through his research for an unpublished History of Parody (1820-24).  Although the collaboration between Hone and Cruikshank was largely over, the latter's illustrations appeared in a one volume compilation of their pamphlets, issued as Facetiae and Miscellanies (1827).  Hone turned to mainstream publications of miscellany such as The Every-Day Book (1825-26), The Table Book (1827-28) and The Year Book (1831-32).  Economic circumstances forced Hone to relinquish publication control to others such as Hunt and Clark and Thomas Tegg.  During this period, he lived in Newington Green and worked on Poor Humphrey's Calendar (1829) published by his daughter Matilda and a new edition of Strutt's Sports and Pastimes of the People of England (1830) for William Reeves.  Charles Lamb, Francis Place and other friends ran a subscription to enable Hone to open The Grasshopper coffee-house in Gracechurch Street but it failed by 1833. In 1832, Hone had a religious conversion and became a follower of the Rev. Thomas Binney.  His later work included contributions to The Times, Charles Knight's Penny Magazine and finally The Patriot.  Hone moved around from Peckham Rye Common (1833-34) to Bungay   (1835), Bolt Court (1835-38) and Tottenham (1838-42).  Following several strokes, he died on November 6, 1842.

BIOGRAPHICAL SOURCES:

Grimes, Kyle. The William Hone Bio Text. May 2001. 20 June 2001 <http://www.uab.edu/english/hone/>.

Tedder, Henry Richard. "William Hone." The Dictionary of National Biography. 1921-22 ed.

"William Hone." Spartacus Encyclopaedia of British History: 1700-1950. May 2001. 20 June 2001 <http://spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/industry.html>.

Follow this link to an online exhibit from Adelphi University's William Hone Collection.