George Canning: The Friend of Humanity and the Knife Grinder

(1909 words)

Written by George Canning and John Hookham Frere, apparently in just half an hour (Bagot 136), “The Friend of Humanity and the Knife-grinder” is a parody of Robert Southey’s poem “The Widow”, and, more broadly, a satire on the poetry, principles and motives of British radicals in the 1790s. The poem was published, with a prose preface, on November 27th 1797 in the second issue of Canning’s uncompromisingly conservative weekly magazine, The Anti-Jacobin, or Weekly Examiner (1797-98).

The raison d’etre of The Anti-Jacobin was to eradicate all sympathy for the French Revolution, and to fight all notions of social or political change in Britain. Such beliefs were uniformly branded a…

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White, Steven. "The Friend of Humanity and the Knife Grinder". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 09 October 2013
[, accessed 26 September 2016.]