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James Perry

Contributions

  1. The Gazetteer journalist
  2. The Morning Chronicle journalist

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Notes

John Perry (formerly Pirrie) studied law at Aberdeen University but was forced to leave in 1774 after his father's building business collapsed. After a period working in a draper's shop he tried to become an actor, where he befriended Thomas Holcroft. However, after being told that his strong Scottish accent would prevent him from having a decent stage career, he moved to London at the age of 21, determined to reinvent himself as a man of letters. Here, he made a living by writing essays and poems for the General Advertiser as well as publishing several anonymous political pamphlets. A well-known speaker at several London debating societies, Perry later claimed that the younger Pitt and Earl Shelburne were so impressed that they offered to help bring him into parliament, but his political sympathies lay elsewhere and he became a fierce supporter of the campaign for press freedom as well as the radical Whig leader, Charles James Fox. In November 1790, Perry bought the ailing Morning Chronicle, in partnership with James Gray, for £210, and was provided with a large subsidy by the Whigs, along with an office on the Strand by the duke of Norfolk, one of Fox's close friends. In the summer of 1791, Perry went to Paris for almost a year as a 'deputy' from the London Revolution Society. From here, he provided full reports of the proceedings of the National Assembly and events of the Revolution. However, the increasing violence led to a split in Whig support for the Revolution, fearing the spread of revolution to England and the paper's subsidy was withdrawn. Perry's uncompromising journalism occasionally led to government prosecution. On two occasions he was acquitted: for printing an advertisement for a Derby meeting of the Society for Constitutional Information in 1792, and for copying a paragraph from Leigh Hunt's Examiner about the Prince of Wales in 1810. However, he was sentenced to three months' imprisonment in Newgate for allegedly libelling the house in 1798. For more, see his entry by E.A. Smith in the ONDB and David Erdmann, 'Commerce des Lumieres'.