Joseph Livesey’s Autobiography

Joseph Livesey

Contents

See also:
Joseph Livesey’s Lakeland Retreat
Joseph Livesey — gentleman farmer
A Livesey family suicide


Introduction

In his autobiography Joseph Livesey constructed a self-made image of himself, writing a typical Victorian rags to riches story, but one that accentuated the rags and played down the riches. his self-canonisation as a secular saint has been accepted ever since. Hagiography has trumped history. Yet his account does not stand up to close scrutiny as this introduction aims to show.
Introduction


Chapter One

His early years from his birth in 1794 in a terraced cottage in Walton-le-Dale. His parents died within weeks of each other in 1801 and he was then brought up by his paternal grandfather. He paints a picture of an unhappy childhood with his teenage years spent confined to a damp cellar working unwillingly at the handloom, ‘surrounded by mental darkness and vice’. The vice is illustrated by an account of the drunken antics of the villagers.
Chapter One


Chapter Two

The account of his early years in Walton-le-Dale continues, including descriptions of the village gentry and a drinking session at the White Bull. This was a time when Livesey ‘got religion’ and was baptised in one of the Baptist chapels in Preston, where arguments over forms of worship were causing bitter divisions among congregations. The chapter concludes with his courtship and marriage to Jane Wiiliams.
Chapter Two


Chapter Three

A few months after their wedding the couple moved from Walton-le-Dale to Preston. For a short time Livesey continued to work at the loom, but after the first of many periods of ill health he settled on the cheese business that was to occupy the family for the rest of his life. He describes attending markets as far away as Bolton to which he walked there and back each market day. His cheese-buying trips spread wider and wider and on one trip to Ulverston he was nearly drowned crossing the Eleven-mile Sands from Hest Bank. In 1832 he started a printing business, and in 1844 launched the Preston Guardian.
Chapter Three


Chapter Four

Livesey at his most radical in the period from the passing of the Corn Bill and the tragedy of Peterloo to the eventual repeal of the Corn Laws. He uses his Moral Reformer journal to support the Anti-Corn Law League and promote Free Trade.
Chapter Four


Chapter Five

The family move to a farm at Holme Slack where they are to live for about 20 years. Livesey describes life and customs in Preston at this period. He is elected councillor for St John’s Ward and lists the improvements he introduced in the town, including much of the landscape that now includes Avenham Park.
Chapter Five


Chapter Six

At great length Livesey sets out how he relieved the distress of the town’s poor and how, in words and deeds, he attempted to lead them to a better life by persuading them to forsake their ‘drinking and improvident habits’. To relieve the misery of ‘the very poorest’ he arranges annual rail trips to local seaside resorts.
Chapter Six


Chapter Seven

Relates Livesey’s opposition to the new Poor Law of 1834 and to its most powerful local proponent, Thomas Batty Addison. He describes how he again faced opposition from Addison to his relief proposals during the Cotton Famine in the 1860s.
Chapter Seven


Chapter Eight

To ameliorate the lot of the poor Livesey opens Sunday Schools, reading rooms, the ‘Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge’ and a working men’s club. He loses £2,000 in an ill-advised venture into the cotton trade.
Chapter Eight


Chapter Nine

Livesey the publisher. He launches the monthly Moral Reformer in 1831 in which he first begins to preach teetotalism. The Temperance Advocate follows in 1834. His anti-Corn Law paper The Struggle appears in 1841, followed three years later by the first issue of his Preston Guardian.
Chapter Nine


Chapter Ten

Livesey the public man. Details his campaigning for the 1832 Reform Bill, his support for the Liberal Party and the violent nature of electioneering in early 19th-century Preston. Livesey has his goods seized for refusing to pay church rates. He is called on to help rescue the Preston Bank after its spectacular crash in 1866.
Chapter Ten


Chapter Eleven

Records a lifetime of ill health and the various remedies he tried to relieve it, including his adoption and promotion of hydrotherapy as the path to health. He buys land in Bowness and builds a number of houses, including a second home for himself.
Chapter Eleven


Chapter Twelve

Describes the results of a phrenological examination of his skull. He makes use of the phrenologists’s findings for a self-examination of his character.
Chapter Twelve


Chapter Thirteen

The birth of teetotalism, how Preston claimed the title of the movement’s Jerusalem and a short biography of Richard Turner, whose stutter gave it its name. Much of the chapter comprises cut and paste extracts from Livesey’s other writings.
Chapter Thirteen


Chapter Fourteen

Livesey’s attempts to woo the working classes away from their pubs and beer houses, offering ‘knife and fork tea parties’ as a substitute. He criticises the direction the temperance movement had taken in recent years.
Chapter Fourteen


Chapter Fifteen

This chapter is devoted to Livesey’s Malt Liquor lecture in which he seeks to demonstrate just how little nutritional value is to be found in a pint of beer.
Chapter Fifteen


Chapter Sixteen

Livesey sharply criticises the temperance movement for losing its way and aims a side swipe at the Irish priest and fellow temperance campaigner Father Mathew for claiming too many converts to the cause. His disappointment with his legacy is beginning to show.
Chapter Sixteen


Chapter Seventeen

A chapter devoted to his ill health, hydropathy highly recommended as a treatment. Livesey visits health spas at home and abroad in search of a cure for his maladies. Also a long Pooterish description of his morning ablutions.
Chapter Seventeen


Chapter Eighteen

A final chapter in which Livesey quotes at great length from the tributes he received to mark his 80th birthday.
Chapter Eighteen

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