chapter  VI
Pages 10

CoBBETT was thirty-seven years of age when he returned to England, after an absence of nearly eight years. The years of his first residence in the United States, described in the preceding chapter, were from the political standpoint wanderyears, and from the standpoint of the literary craftsman years of apprenticeship. Cobbett had learned, and learned thoroughly, his craft of political journalism : he had not discovered the uses to which he really desired to apply his mastery. He had become a brilliant journalist, an incomparable writer of plain English: but he was still addressing his most violent denunciations to those who were, within a few years, to become his friends and allies. He had struck out in America the characteristic forms which he was to apply in England-The Political Censor foreshadowed The Political Register; The Prospect from the Congress Gallery was the germ of the Parliamentary Debates; the method of direct personal address by means of the " Open Letter " he had already practised, and found well suited to his style; the mingling of autobiography with controversy, of observation with argument, was fully present in his American pamphlets. As a craftsman, he had, indeed, after his return to England, to accustom himself to a new environment and to modify his controversial methods ; but there was no essential change in his style or manner of treatment. What changed, gradually and at times almost imperceptibly over a period of years, was the purpose for which his power as a pamphleteer and journalist was employed. From the most Anti-Jacobin of Anti-Jacobins, he gradually became a Radical; but the process of the change, never quite complete to the day of his death, took years to reach maturity. He himself could hardly have said how it came about: his biographer has hard work to give a coherent account of his development, of the revolution in his opinions. The first phase of the change, and Cobbett's adventures during the years immediately following his return, form the subject of this chapter.