Livesey autobiography — chapter 9

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This chapter will contain a sketch of my labours in connection with the press. From a youth I had a strong inclination for scribbling, and, no doubt, like many young people, I formed an over estimate of my talent for this work. I was not wanting in the ambition to see one’s self in print; and there are cases, unquestionably, where this turns out to be useful. Long before I attained my majority I wrote many letters to the newspapers, and it would be difficult for me to form any estimate as to the extent of space I have occupied in the correspondent’s columns, especially in the local papers. Sometimes I would follow my inclination by writing “addresses” and “appeals,” generally condemnatory of some popular vice, and publishing these as posters on the walls. A few of these are still preserved. From placards I got to pamphlets; one, I remember, was entitled “The Besetting Sin,” directed against drunkenness, but, as I then knew no better, it recognized the moderate use of strong drink. There was one on “Confirmation;” another on “Sunday Schools;” also, a “First Book,” for persons learning to read, which, I believe, had some merit. Each lesson filled a page, and finished with a verse of poetry of my own composition, for which, I confess, I have no talent. Commencing with short words, without silent letters, the lessons were better adapted for beginners than those in any elementary work I have seen. I published also in 1825, “An Address to the poorest classes,” price 2d., which contained advice upon almost every topic connected with domestic management. This had a considerable sale, and went through several editions. In January, 1831, I commenced The Moral Reformer, price 6d., which was continued monthly, forming, at its conclusion, three yearly volumes. The contents of this work are miscellaneous; but bearing chiefly on moral questions, domestic management, and practical religion. The second and third volumes took up, and was the first periodical to advocate, the teetotal doctrine. This publication was superseded by my Temperance Advocate, which commenced in January, 1834, and was published monthly for four years. In no work of that period, I may venture to say, was there the same amount of clear reasoning, strong arguments, powerful facts, and interesting narratives and intelligence, as in this periodical. If I could procure a perfect copy, or a few copies, I should not object to give three times the published price for them. It was the first and the only teetotal periodical issued till the Temperance Star, Herald, &c, made their appearance. At the close of 1837, I handed over this work, and the connection, to “The British Association” (now ” League”), and it has been continued by this body, with some changes in its form, ever since. I then commenced, in January, 1838, a new series of the Moral Reformer; but, owing to bad health, it was abruptly brought to a close in February the following year.

The Anti-Corn Law agitation, in which I took an active part, required a periodical adapted for the working-classes. I therefore commenced, in 1841, an illustrated paper, called The Struggle, which I brought out every Saturday morning for four and a half years, price one half-penny. The questions of free trade, corn law repeal, cheap bread, and collateral subjects, were discussed and illustrated in all their phases; and, for the designs and drawings, I was much indebted to Messrs. Harvey and Aspland, of Liverpool. The illustrations, though by no means first-rate, were well adapted to influence the popular mind. A considerable number of these were engraved by my son Howard. This little work was said to have produced deep impressions upon the agricultural labourers, amongst whom and other classes it had a large circulation. When I state that these periodicals, extending over the years 1832 to 1847, were got out amidst the toils of business, that most of the articles were written by myself, and that my general health at that time was not good, my friends may well join me in surprise as to how I was able to accomplish so much. But the fact is, whatever I engaged in, I pursued with as much energy as if the success depended upon my exertions alone. I occasionally glance over the 940 pages of The Struggle, and the 370 engravings, and read with great interest, now that the struggle is over, some of the pithy striking articles which they contain; and, looking back, I often wonder how I got through all this labour. On closing this work, I remember, I was so “done up,” that I could not make an effort to get an engraving for the last number, and hence I had to order that which had appeared in No. 234 to be repeated in 235, the first pages appearing now with the same design. About this time I fortunately became acquainted with the “Water Treatment;” and, with this and rest, I shortly seemed fit for another campaign. For some time I had cherished a wish to start a newspaper, some of my sons having become acquainted with the printing business. I sent for my son John, and made a proposition to commence a Preston paper, although it was supposed that the ground was fully occupied. The first issue was in February, 1844. It was called the Preston Guardian, and in face of many difficulties it succeeded far beyond my expectation. Indeed, on one occasion, Mr. Cobden, referring to it, said he never remembered a case of a local paper succeeding as this had done in so short a time, and subject to the same competition. I should like here to record the fact which I have often stated in private, that had it not been for cold water, there would not have been any Preston Guardian. For some years my son John was the editor, commencing when only twenty-one, I writing occasionally the leaders on local matters; and to his talent the success might in a great measure be attributed. My eldest son, William, in addition to sub-editing and writing occasional leaders, had the management of the business department for many years, until compelled to relinquish it by ill-health. My youngest son, Franklin Livesey, was for some time connected with the paper, and my son Howard gave occasional assistance. It became a good property, and was sold to Mr. George Toulmin, the present proprietor, in 1859. During all this time the superintendence devolved in a great measure upon myself, and I need not inform those who have had any experience in connection with the newspaper press, of the labour and anxiety which were inseparable from such an undertaking.

My intense application often brought me down, but upon recovering I never felt easy without making some new effort to forward the moral and social improvement of the masses. In every agitation I recognised the power of the press, and felt the importance of enlisting its services in the object. In January, 1853, 1 commenced another monthly periodical, called “The Progressionist,” but after the issue of six or seven numbers I was obliged, for want of health, to hand it over to other hands, I being an occasional contributor. I may also name that, at one time, I issued a series of what I called “Letter Linings,” neatly printed on writing paper, so as to be enclosed with letters in a fair sized envelope without being folded. They were about ten in number, all of a practical character. The following headings will give an idea of them: —”For the parlour table;” “Eemember the poor;” “Pay your debts.” Economy, as I have hinted before, was always practised in our housekeeping. I felt convinced that many people are little aware of the amount of their expenditure for want of keeping a record of it, and are at a loss how and in what to save when they find their means inadequate. Not satisfied with the arrangement of the “Housekeeper’s Registers” then in circulation, I got one up to my own mind, and published it, price one shilling. I was disappointed as to its sale, and I have always found, for some reason or other, that wives are very unwilling to use a register. If they are supplied with one the entries are generally irregular or neglected.

Of my publications in connection with the temperance movement, it will be difficult to give any adequate idea. I have already spoken of my “Advocate.” For some time after the commencement of teetotalism, in 1832, the whole country was supplied with tracts from my office. I started a small printing establishment in that year, and, besides tracts of my own writing, I reprinted many others, including valuable documents from America, such as “Thou shalt not kill,” “Physiological influence of alcohol,” “Temperance Doctor,” &c. I have never since been without temperance tracts or bills in some shape. I published a sheet of the latter containing thirty-two in number, which were sold at 10d. a 1,000 Most of my bills have been published in London by others, and some in America, and I am sometimes amused to find these same bills reprinted in our periodicals at home, and acknowledged as belonging to American publications. Not long since, I noticed one of them, headed “I don’t drink wine.” Latterly I have brought out a fresh series of bills, larger and on good paper which I sell at 1s. 6d. per 1,000, the mere price of the paper and machining; and these I am anxious to see circulated in millions. They are excellent for visiting with, and, without house to house visitation, I don’t think any society can be said to do its duty. I believe I drew up and published the first teetotal almanac, and our Preston book of “melodies” is of my selecting. The chief parts of my lecture, generally known as the “Malt Liquor lecture,” first appeared in the Moral Reformer; but was published as a pamphlet (price 6d.) in 1835 or 1836. Soon after, penny editions were issued from London, Birmingham, Edinburgh, &c. In this latter form, stereotyped, I have continued it ever since; and I suppose the circulation of this lecture has equalled, if not exceeded, any that has ever appeared in defence of teetotal principles. In emergencies, I seem always to have been able to make an effort to defend what I considered the truth. I brought out a pamphlet of 16 pages, in defence of Wilson Patten’s bill on Sunday closing, when it was threatened to be repealed. Every member of the House of Commons and Lords was supplied with a copy. I addressed a letter to Mr. Gladstone, when he introduced his wine and grocers’ licenses. Preferring, as I do, imperial to permissive legislation in coping with the drink traffic, so powerful in numbers, wealth, and audacity, I published a pamphlet in 1862, entitled “Free and friendly remarks upon the Permissive Bill, Temperance Legislation, and the Alliance.” When the repeal of the malt tax was threatened, in 1864, I entered fully into every branch of the question in a pamphlet, entitled “Malt, Malt Liquor, Malt Tax, Beer, and Barley,” being a reply to Sir Fitzroy Kelly, M.P. for East Suffolk, Mr. Everett, Mr. Smee, and other gentlemen, on the Repeal of the Malt Tax, and which had a large circulation. In fact, I never seemed as if I could sit down and be quiet when I saw work wanted doing, and felt able to render any assistance. I have always taken great interest in the establishment and circulation of temperance periodicals. I gave considerable time in assisting to start the “Alliance News.” From the first I have watched with concern the progress of the “Temperance Advocate;” and in order to raise the circulation I consented, in 1862, again to undertake the editorship, and to commence a “new series,” on which occasion the following note was sent by our friend, Thomas Whittaker: —”You may send twelve copies of the paper weekly, for which I will try to get subscribers among my neighbours. I am made young again by the intelligence that Mr. Joseph Livesey, the father of the Temperance Advocate, has consented once again to revive and discipline his somewhat wayward child. Many besides myself will rejoice at this arrangement.” After adding considerably to the number of subscribers, at the end of nine weeks I was, owing to being overworked, obliged to relinquish my duties. And now, feeling indisposed to leave home, and for the last year and nine months having been compelled to forego any inclination to do so on account of the infirmities of my wife, almost the only means left me to serve the cause to any extent is the press. Of my present undertaking I need say little. The Staunch Teetotaler was commenced with much misgiving; but having brought it to its twenty-first number, I rejoice that during these 20 months I have been able, in this way, to be among the hosts of our noble army, combating the greatest tyrant that ever ruled on God’s earth. Of the execution of this work I have only to say that my teetotal friends generally seem well pleased. I constantly receive letters of commendation too flattering for me to publish. My chief aim, from the first, was to stimulate our friends to increased efforts, and to convince them of the folly of relying upon patronage, plausible reports, legislation, or anything else in place of their own labours.

With the sale of the copyright of the Preston Guardian, was coupled the whole of the plant, so that my printing establishment, started in 1832, closed with the year 1859, and, since then, I have got all my work done at other offices. Although unfavourable to testimonials, and having several times opposed the wishes of my friends in that direction in reference to myself, I felt, in parting with the office, that I ought to allow the men an opportunity of expressing their feelings on that occasion. This they did by presenting, engraved on vellum and beautifully framed, the following address:—

An Address Presented to Joseph Livesey, Esq., at his Residence, Bank Parade, on Wednesday, February 1, 1860, by the Persons in his late Employ.
Dear Sir,
We, the undersigned persons, employed upon the Preston Guardian newspaper, (from the management and proprietorship of which you have just retired) are anxious to express our grateful sense of the numerous favours received by us from your hands, and to record our conviction of the extended usefulness of your labours, and the purity of motive by which your conduct in public and private has been regulated.
Your example cannot fail to exercise a great influence upon the young men of the present and next generations, as the leading events of your extraordinary career are well known throughout England; but, in Lancashire—especially that part of the County which has had the benefit of your personal service—your name has become, and must for a long time remain, a household word of esteem and reverence. The domestic virtues have been enforced by your tongue and pen, and beautifully illustrated in your practice. The obligations and duties of a public man have been taught and exemplified in you with rare consistency. Your biography when written will exhibit one of the most notable instances of “the pursuit of knowledge under difficulties,” and of its true application. Patient industry, singleness of purpose, directness of aim, modesty and confidence, unostentatious charity, and practical benevolence, are the salient traits of character which your long life has embodied. These qualities have won for you the respect of all earnest men, and have enlisted the affection of those who have been immediately associated with you in various undertakings; your anxiety on all occasions, and by every means which you considered legitimate, to promote the comfort and happiness of the persons in your employment, establishes a claim on their gratitude, and we fully recognise and admit our share of these benefits.
It is usually the fate of public men to have their intentions and motives questioned by ungenerous contemporaries, but we can assure you that the results of your labours are not undervalued by the great bulk of the community. And it cannot be otherwise than satisfactory for you to observe how many habits and institutions have been amended, reformed, and established—some partially, others chiefly, some entirely—through your exertions.
Although your retirement is not a matter that we can regard with indifference, or indeed without some regret, we cannot deny that the repose you now seek has been fairly earned by a long period of successful toil for the public good. We do not, therefore, feel that, if we had the power, we should be justified in trying to alter your decision. We only venture to ask that you will continue by your precept and example, so far as may be compatible with your own free and full enjoyment of existence, to aid the endeavours of the poor to amend their lives and circumstances. We also wish, by this address, to convey our sincere and heartfelt desire that you may be spared many years to witness the further realisation of those political and social reforms which you have helped to create; and we fervently hope that in retirement, you and your family may experience a degree of happiness, not to be derived from such arduous and anxious pursuits as those in which you have been, until very recently, engaged.
We are, dear sir, yours very faithfully and sincerely,
j. a. denham. george taylor. john cash. walter bond. george coulthard. thos. h. heald. richard clarkson. w. a. watts. charles greenall. thomas butcher. john cragg. thomas brewer. thomas poole. isaac henderson. jonathan shepherd. richard shepherd. mark parkinson. a. v. myres.

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