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“Let others talk of glory, let others celebrate the heroes who are to deluge the world with blood…They know not what a cottage is. They know not how the poor live…”

Mike Marqusee’s latest column for Red Pepper celebrates William Frend, a radical who deserves to be better remembered. Contending for the living Red Pepper, August 2014 The 35-year-old Cambridge lecturer William Frend was putting the finishing touches on ‘Peace and Union’, his pamphlet on political reform, in early 1793 when the hostility between Britain and… Read more


For a long time I was perplexed by the phenomenon of “survivor’s guilt”. While I recognised it as a reality, a terrible affliction, and I could see its logic, to me that logic seemed perverse and alien. I couldn’t get inside it. Now five years after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma (cancer of the bone… Read more

Streets of the imagination

CONTENDING FOR THE LIVING Red Pepper, October-November 2011 Events over the summer brought to mind William Blake’s uncompromisingly angry poem “London”, written in the early 1790s under the impact of revolution in France and repression at home. The poet wanders “through the charter’d streets / near where the charter’d Thames does flow” where he encounters… Read more

Time to talk utopia

CONTENDING FOR THE LIVING Red Pepper, June-July 2011 In 1818, Shelley visited his friend Byron in Venice, where his Lordship was camped out in a decaying palazzo, ruminating on the city’s faded glories. Their conversations – on human freedom and the prospects for social change – formed the basis for Shelley’s poem Julian and Maddalo,… Read more

Becoming British, at last

The Guardian, 16 February In my case, the past is literally “another country”. I spent my first 18 years in the US, moved to Britain in 1971, and have been ensconced here ever since. But I applied for British citizenship only a few months ago. It’s been a curious exercise. I’ve spent a good deal… Read more

Politics and “the art of the possible”

LEVEL PLAYING FIELD The Hindu, 7 February 2010 Another version of this article, with comment from readers, is published on The Guardian’s Comment is free website. Whenever a commentator declares that “politics is the art of the possible”, I’m on my guard. What I’m being told, I suspect, is to accept apparent present conditions as… Read more

The rector and the revolutionary

Blake would have relished the clergyman who banned Jerusalem The Guardian, 11 August 2001 With so many trying to claim a share in William Blake’s legacy these days, it’s refreshing to see someone roundly reject him. The Reverend Donald Allister, rector of Cheadle, may even have done Blake a favour. Certainly he’ll make a lot… Read more

Blake at the Tate

Red Pepper, January, 2001 “The voice of honest indignation is the voice of God,” Blake declares (via his imaginary interlocutor, the prophet Isaiah) in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, “I cared not for consequences, but wrote.” Clearly, not a personality for an era of emollience and expediency! Nonetheless, crowds are flocking to the exhibition… Read more