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The copyright holders grant you their permission to reproduce freely the contents of David Shaw's book provided that you do not use the material in the course of a business and that you state clearly that the material was provided by David Shaw from his biography, "Gerald Massey: Chartist, Poet, Radical and Freethinker — online edition".  For all other uses, no portion of the text may be reproduced without the copyright holders' written permission except for the purposes of reviewing or criticism, as permitted under the Copyright Act of 1956.

A Hardcopy edition of this book can be purchased online from  It won't, however, contain late additions and amendments that only appear within this online edition.


A carte-de-visite by John & Charles Watkins c. 1860


. . . Branch activist at Uxbridge, Chartist internationalist, industrial co-operator and radical journalist, Gerald Massey played a key role in the creation of this rich and radical way of life.  Coming to the movement late he nevertheless made his mark nationally: in the Chartist press and on the platform he became one of the movement’s most talented and inspirational worker-poets and writers.  Any serious study of the Chartist legacy cannot fail to recognise the standing in which Gerald Massey was held both within radical politics and late Victorian literature.

Owen R. Ashton,
Emeritus Professor in Modern British Social History,
Staffordshire University.

Gerald Massey, Thomas Hood, Thomas Cooper and their peers made significant contributions to the social, political, and literary movements of the nineteenth-century.   The reader of their poems can see that poetry was a force with which to be reckoned . . . . There is no question that the inclusion of minor poets such as Massey enriches the Victorian syllabus.

Michelle Hawley
Associate Professor, Department of English,
California State University

. . . ...In Massey's view, no authority in philology, mythology, comparative religion, or Egyptology could really understand his subject unless he was prepared to investigate deeply the phenomenology of types, i.e., 'typology.'  He considered typology to be the foundation of all human symbolism, myth, language, and religion.  Despite Massey's seminal studies of typology, there was little serious investigation into this area until the advent of Jungian school of psychoanalysis in the 1920's . . . . In the coming generations, it is likely that his legacy will be rescued from the obscurity that has shadowed it since his death.  He was not the first—nor will he be the last—man to be more fully appreciated by posterity than by his contemporaries.

Charles Finch III., M.D.
Director of International Health,

Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta.





Gerald Massey, c. 1880
From the Arena, Jan. 1894 (British Library)


Ed.—in this electronic edition of David Shaw's biography, republished editions of most of the principal documents that the author refers to (Massey's poetry collections, essays and books) together with a selection of press reports are hyperlinked at relevant places in the text, as are biographic sketches and the principal literary works of a number of the personalities with whom Massey came into contact.  It is likely that other documents and images will be added as they become available.  Likewise, the text of this online edition is likely to be updated with the results of new research into Egyptology and human evolution as they become available.











1. Poverty and Idealism (1828 - 1850).

2. Co-operation and Republicanism (1850 - 1853).

3. Poetry and Prose (1853 - 1857).




4. Privation (1856 - 1863).

5. Shakespeare and Spiritualism (1863 - 1870).

6. Spiritualism and the New World (1870 - 1874).




7. Doctrine, Creed and Myth (1874 - 1887).

8. Fulfilment and Thanatos (1887 - 1907).

9. Epilogue:

Parallels with Christianity
Massey's Books


Appendix A. Gerald Massey's early poems and review.


Appendix B. The Working Tailors' Association, London.

    A chapter toward the associative history, by Gerald Massey.


Appendix C. The "Miltonic Epitaph" - a debate concerning an

    unpublished poem ascribed to John Milton.


Appendix D. A prophet of ill: Gerald Massey upon the labour

    questions of the day.


Appendix E. An article 'Blood-covenanting'.


Appendix F. An article 'Myth and Totemism as primitive modes

    of representation.'



Appendix G. Aspects of personality.


Societies and Events.


Articles by Gerald Massey.


Articles on Gerald Massey and his works.




Research Material Holding.



During the last three decades there has been increasing interest in, and research proceeding into all aspects of Victorianism.  It is inevitable therefore, and indeed desirable that lesser, but no less interesting personalities of that era are rediscovered and their contribution to and interaction with that age evaluated.  Wider and more general interest is created if a particular person is classed as radical in one or more aspects, and Gerald Massey is well qualified to be placed in this category.  From Chartist and political radical to analyst of Shakespeare's Sonnets; from Spiritualist to religious questioner and researcher into mythological origins, Massey was an indomitable non-conformist.  To many, because of his latter interests, he was regarded at best as an eccentric, and at worst as an iconoclast.

    In common with many of the poets today classed as 'minor', Massey has suffered an almost total eclipse.  But he can be found in some modern anthologies such as the New Oxford Book of Victorian Verse and increasingly, in publications specifically concerned with the political poetry of that era.  There are aspects of research currently being applied to Victorian studies that merit the significance of working class poetry as a valuable documentary study in its own right.  Irrespective of the greatly varying quality of the poetry, considered critically, the abundant quantity of protest verse in radical newspapers and journals reached a very large proportion of the labouring population.  The prominent Northern Star and National Trades' Journal printed around forty thousand copies of their paper each week during their peak in the 1840s, and favoured submissions of poetry from working class readers.  This proved very popular; the strong metre of the poems proved ideal for them to be read aloud, with great effect, at radical gatherings.  To keep their prices low, a number of smaller papers avoided paying stamp duty, which was a legal requirement if they reported news.  The publishers and sellers then ran the risk of prosecution.  Meeting rooms and coffee houses provided copies of papers including the radical ones for their customers to peruse, thus considerably increasing the overall readership.  The influence of these poetical outlets on the working class has not been fully quantified in terms of ideological change, but undoubtedly focused more positive attitudes to reform, whether by moral means or force.

    Massey was widely praised in the rebellious years of the eighteen-forties and early fifties, and not only on account of his political poetry.  As an author and lecturer on poetical personalities and English literature, he suffused a dynamic realism that captivated his audiences.  There was undoubted sincerity, but also extremely strong idealism that he used in an emotionally expressive and effective manner.  Reports of his lectures, and the texts of his political writings demonstrate strong positive compensation for the privation and oppressive experiences in childhood and early life.  This began to develop in aggressive unpolished political protest when he first commenced writing as an editor of a small ultra-radical provincial journal.  Even in his early days he was able to establish a rapport with his working-class audiences by a mutual mental understanding as well as by carefully chosen, often over-colourful language and poetic phrasing.  Contact with the Christian Socialists and, in contrast, with George Julian Harney's radical publications the Red Republican and the Friend of the People in the early 1850s, gradually enlarged his descriptive eloquence towards a more controlled and acceptable literary style.   Experience gained in lecturing both in Great Britain and abroad, editing and continually writing, resulted in effective, forthright yet often sensitive poems, prose articles and subsequent controversial research studies.  His books on Shakespeare's Sonnets, and later in his life on mythology and religious origins have been reprinted.  The demand for the latter is attributable as much to their controversial theories as to the large amount of information used in forming their hypothetical conclusions.  An increasing number of deductions made during his studies into religious origins, myths and beliefs are finding support today through the aid of modern research.  This validates to a considerable extent his method of classification by typologies.

    History today would lose much interest by omitting his record, and those of many others who appear, some only briefly, in the numerous socio-political publications of the Victorian era.

    Buckner Trawick's unpublished doctoral thesis on Massey (Harvard University, 1942) is a rather dated literary critique not free from bias, and is the only work available on his writings.  A more definitive biographical account is given now in order to establish him more closely within the social and political milieu of that period, and to consider his more controversial theories in the light of recent research.

    In preparing this study I have used Massey's own words from articles and letters where these demonstrate more effectively his style and personality.  I believe also that this gives a greater understanding of the person as an individual by reducing the risk of editorial inference or misrepresentation.

Revised edition.

    For this revised edition, I have omitted most of the information linking later discoveries concerning his theory of African origins.  This has now been confirmed using modern scientific techniques.  However, his theory regarding the development of myths during human migrations has yet to be investigated, and would be an interesting study along evolutionistic lines.

    I have also made a number of additions in text, illustrations and amendments, as well as including some sections separately, as appendices.  These include his articles on 'Blood-covenanting' and 'Myth and Totemism as Primitive modes of Representation'.  Both of these are not readily available except online, although the latter has been reprinted in limited edition with an introduction by Rey Bowen (London, Karpatenland, 1995).

    A further important contribution is the very large quantity of valuable material on the subject of Massey, his works and theories by Jon Lange, whose work includes indices for Massey's works, a Biblical index and a bibliographical index.

    Finally, I must add, as I have reiterated later in the book, that account must be taken of the advances in research and their results since Massey wrote his 6 volume trilogy.



I wish to thank the following libraries and institutions for permission to quote from their manuscript holdings: Aberdeen University; Bishopsgate Institute; Bodleian Library, Oxford University; Cooperative Union; Columbia University; Duke University; Edinburgh University; Harvard University; Huntingdon Library, San Marino, California; Leeds City Library; Library of Congress; The Mitchell Library, Glasgow; University of Texas; National Library of Scotland, and the Royal Literary Fund.

    Individual permissions have been given by: J. Maurice Esq.; The Lord Tennyson; A. H. Stirling Esq., and Miss Gabrielle Vallings.

    Permission has been granted to quote extracts from copyright material by the following publishers: Allen & Unwin Ltd. for a letter from F. D. Maurice to Charles Kingsley in The Life of Frederick Denison Maurice; Frank Cass & Co. Ltd. for an extract from John Ludlow. The autobiography of a Christian Socialist ed. A.D. Murray; American Church History for material in 'Gerald Massey and America'; Faber & Faber Ltd. for extracts from Little Gaddesden; Hodder & Stoughton Ltd. for 'Mr Gerald Massey at home' in the Bookman, Nov. 1897; Random House Ltd. for 'A Poet of Yester-year' in Pages in Waiting; van Gorcum & Comp. for letters from Gerald Massey to George Julian Harney in The Harney Papers; The Victorian Periodicals Review for a poem 'Greeting to W. H. Stead'; William Blackwood & Sons Ltd. for a letter from John Blackie to Massey in Letters of John Stuart Blackie; William Heinemann Ltd. for a letter from Swinburne to Massey in The Complete Works of Algernon Charles Swinburne, and Yale University Press for a letter from George Eliot to Sara Hennell in The George Eliot Letters.

    The Syndics of Cambridge University Library gave permission to quote from J. M. Ludlow's The Christian Socialist Movement, 1850-4. Lecturing and Literary Work, and Dr Hancock- Beaulie, Director of the Athenaeum Indexing Project, City University Library, kindly provided me with information prior to their online project publication. In addition, the Master and Fellows of Trinity College Cambridge have given their permission to publish an extract of a letter from Gerald Massey to an unknown addressee.

    I am indebted also to the valuable assistance given to me by: The British Library; The British Newspaper Library; Croydon Local Studies Library; Cultural Activities and Libraries Unit, Uxbridge; Enfield Local History Unit; Hertford County Record Office; The Jersey Library; New York Public Library; The Public Record Office, and the Société Jersaise.

    Individual thanks are given also to: Miss Helena Bruton; Mr & Mrs P. Gent and R. G. Grace, Tring; J. Savage, Reference and Local Studies Librarian, Upper Norwood Joint Library; Michael Shaw for valuable American research, and Peter McInally for American based assistance.  The late Professor G. Wilson Knight gave helpful comments to an early draft of this book which he mentioned together with references to Massey, in his introduction to W. F. Jackson Knight's Elysion (Rider, 1970).  Additionally, acknowledgement is gratefully given to Heather Massey for additional family information and photographs, also Wendy Austin of Tring, for her research in local newspaper archives and finding a number of Massey's earliest poems.  Finally, without Ian Petticrew's help with research this revised edition would not have been possible.

    These sources and full references are acknowledged in the notes to each chapter.  All research material has been deposited at the Local History Unit, Upper Norwood Joint Library, London.