LECTURE: Mad, Bad, and Vegetarian: the Eccentric Career of James Elmslie Duncan
Mad, Bad, and Vegetarian: the Eccentric Career of James Elmslie Duncan, Chartist Poet, Vegetarian, and Divinarian, c.1843–1853'
James Gregory, Plymouth University
James Gregory is Lecturer in Modern British History. His lecture showcases a small research project which he hopes to publish shortly as a book, examining radical and eccentric movements in Britain during the 1840s, through the tragi-comic figure of James Elmslie Duncan, who might be described as a mixture of William McGonagall and 'Citizen Smith of Tooting'.
It stems from Gregory’s work on movements of self-reform such as vegetarianism, ongoing interest in the history of popular politics (as in Chartism), and ideas about the 'eccentric' in British culture. Duncan found a wider audience for his poetry during the Chartist disturbances of 1848, but his ambition to be the apostle of a new religion ended in the lunatic asylum.
The madness of politics, the badness of poetry, and the prevalence of pogonophobia, will be examined.