UNCLE OLIVER IN A FIX WITH ‘AN ABSURD MAN OF STRAW’
JND 193/25 and 27 (Please quote these numbers if requesting these items)
[Uncle Oliver on the Parson’s Income. 1878]
[Uncle Oliver in a Fix]
An Examination of the Authorities Cited by the Writer of ‘Uncle Oliver in a Fix’ by A Searcher. Bradford: Wm Byles & Sons, Printers, 1882. 16 pages. Reprinted from the Bradford Observer of 27 Dec. 1881.
‘A Searcher’ Lost in a Liberation Fog: the Official Report of ‘A Searcher’s Examination of the Authorities Cited by the Writer of ‘Uncle Oliver in a Fix’ dissected by H.B. Mis-statements and Fallacies Exposed. Partly reprinted and revised from the Bradford Observer. With Sequal: ‘Uncle Oliver’s‘ Act of Parliament Abandoned, by ‘A Searcher’ as ‘An Absurd Man of Straw’. Bradford: Chronicle and Mail, 1882. 34 pages.
A feature of Victorian literature is the number of disputes that were carried on in printed leaflets or ‘tracts’. In the days without phones and e-mails, the printed word was, apart from face-to-face contact, the main means of communication. Often these disputes were carried out anonymously or using false names (pseudonyms). The value of printing these exchanges was that far more people could be reached than in meetings, and that the arguments could be read and studied at leisure. The volumes of bound pamphlets, such as we have in the Local Studies Library, feature some of these disputes. Pamphlet volume JND 193 has a sequence of these, and while the subject – the income of the clergy – may not excite many people, the nature of the heated exchange may. We seem to be missing the first two exchanges, the titles of which are noted at the head of this blog, but ‘Stackmole’ is on the lookout! The sequence of tracts is a touch confusing, and seemingly the person who prepared these tracts for binding was also confused, since he duplicated the first one here, placing it after the second tract! So here is a challenge!
Tract number 25, An Examination of the Authorities Cited by the Writer of ‘Uncle Oliver in a Fix’ by A Searcher, concerns the publication of an earlier tract entitled Uncle Oliver on the Parson’s Income. This was published in 1878 by the Society for the Liberation of Religion from State Patronage and Control. This tract gave offence to the Rev. John Lightfoot and the Committee of the Bradford Church Defence Institute, who reprinted articles in answer to that publication in a tract with the title Uncle Oliver in a Fix. This had originally appeared in the Bradford Daily Chronicle and Mail. The pamphlet here, the third published, examines that pamphlet, the text of which was first published in the Bradford Observer a few days earlier. Pencil marks on the first page tell us that the ‘Searcher’ was Elias Thomas (Hon. Sec. of the Local Committee of the Liberation Society) and that the author of the Uncle Oliver tract was Henry Boardman, the ‘H.B.’ of the following tract.
This is Tract 27, ‘A Searcher’ Lost in a Liberation Fog: the Official Report of ‘A Searcher’s Examination of the Authorities Cited by the Writer of ‘Uncle Oliver in a Fix’ dissected by H.B. Mis-statements and Fallacies Exposed. It was partly reprinted and revised from the Bradford Observer.
Not content with two leaflets, H.B. adds a sequel: ‘Uncle Oliver’s’ Act of Parliament Abandoned, by ‘A Searcher’ as ‘An Absurd Man of Straw’.
The first tract was reprinted in the Bradford Observer while the second was printed by the Bradford Chronicle and Mail, rival newspapers. This dispute clearly reached a lot of people. But what was it all about? And why were people so interested? Whatever the content and context of this spat between ‘Uncle Oliver’ and ‘An Absurd Man of Straw’, I found it amusing.
“He that is first in his own cause seemeth just, but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him.” (Proverbs, xviii, v.17) This Biblical text was used by the writer of our first pamphlet, but it seems like the neighbour, himself, got searched!