The Laughter of Triumph: William Hone and the Fight for the Free Press

The Laughter of Triumph: William Hone and the Fight for the Free Press

by Ben Wilson (Author)


William Hone is the forgotten hero of the British Press. In 1817 he was compelled to defend himself against a government determined to enforce censorship. His fellow journalists, opposition MPs and the ministers believed that a verdict against Hone would silence all critical voices. It was a show trial, and Hone - a self-educated and obscure Fleet Street journalist who had to defend himself against the Lord Chief Justice and the Attorney General and in front of a jury hand-picked by the ministry - was the underdog, a supposedly easy victim for the state. Hone's crime was ridiculing the government. He was a noted satirist, who used laughter as a weapon to destroy censorship. His humour captured the imagination of the public; his satires sold in the hundreds of thousands. They were symbols of resistance for an angry public and were genuinely feared by his enemies. The Laughter of Triumph looks at the history of the struggle for free expression against repressive laws through the life of William Hone. Could the state push the law so far that humour was a crime? Or was it the only way to subvert censorship? As Hone implored his jury on the second day of his trials, 'Is a laugh treason? Surely not.'


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More Information

Format: Hardcover
Pages: 452
Edition: illustrated edition
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Published: 21 Apr 2005

ISBN 10: 0571224709
ISBN 13: 9780571224708

Author Bio
Ben Wilson was educated at the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe and Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he graduated with a first class degree in history in 2001. The idea for The Laughter of Triumph came from a special subject in his third year called 'The Politics of Laughter'. Ben then looked further into William Hone's career in his MPhil dissertation 'Satirical Journalism in London', taken at Cambridge 2001 - 2002. While he was writing The Laughter of Triumph he worked as a researcher and writer for David Starkey's Monarchy series. NB. Ben would prefer if his connection with the series is not stressed for contractual reasons.