Ebenezer Elliott (1781-1849)

Selected Poetry of Ebenezer Elliott

Ebenezer Elliott was a poet, known as the Corn Law rhymer.

He was born at Masborough, near Rotherham on the 17th of March 1781. His father, who was an extreme Calvinist and a strong radical, was engaged in the iron trade.

Young Ebenezer, although one of a large family, had a solitary and rather morbid childhood. He was sent to various schools, but was generally regarded as a dunce, and when he was sixteen years of age he entered his father's foundry, working for seven years with no wages beyond a little pocket money. In a later fragment of autobiography he says that he was entirely self-taught, and attributes his poetic development to long country walks undertaken in search of wild flowers, and to a collection of books bequeathed to his father by a poor clergyman.

Elliott's early volumes of poems, dealing with romantic themes, received little but unfriendly comment.

Elliott married Frances (Fanny) Gartside in 1806. She brought him some money, which was invested in his father's share of the iron foundry. But the affairs of the firm were then in a desperate condition, and money difficulties hastened his father's death. Elliott lost all his money, and when he was forty years old began business again in Sheffield on a small capital borrowed from his wife's sisters.

He attributed his father's pecuniary losses and his own to the operation of the corn laws. He took an active part in the Chartist agitation, but withdrew his support when the agitation for the repeal of the corn laws was removed from the Chartist programme. The fervour of his political convictions effected a change in the style and tenor of his verse.

The CornLaw Rhymes, inspired by a fierce hatred of injustice, are vigorous, simple and full of vivid description. In 1833-1835 he published The Splendid Village; Corn-Law Rhymes, and other Poems (3 vols). He contributed verses from time to time to Tait's Magazine and to the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent.

In the meantime he had eventually been successful in business and he retired in 1841 with a small fortune and settled at Great Houghton, near Barnsley, where he died on the 1st of December 1849. In 1850 appeared two posthumous volumes of More Prose and Verse by the Corn-Law Rhymer.

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Wikipedia article on Ebenezer Elliott




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