James Montgomery (4 November 1771 – 30 April 1854) was a British poet, hymnwriter and editor. He was particularly associated with humanitarian causes such as the campaigns to abolish slavery and to end the exploitation of child chimney sweeps.
Montgomery was born at Irvine in Ayrshire in south-west Scotland, the son of a pastor and missionary of the Moravian Brethren. He was sent to be trained for the ministry at the Moravian School at Fulneck, near Leeds, while his parents left for the West Indies, where both died within a year of each other. At Fulneck, secular studies were banned, but James nevertheless found means of borrowing and reading a good deal of poetry and made ambitious plans to write epics of his own. Failing school, he was apprenticed to a baker in Mirfield, then to a store-keeper at Wath-upon-Dearne. After further adventures, including an unsuccessful attempt to launch himself into a literary career in London, he moved to Sheffield in 1792 as assistant to Joseph Gales, auctioneer, bookseller and printer of the Sheffield Register, who introduced Montgomery into the local Lodge of Oddfellows. In 1794, Gales left England to avoid political prosecution and Montgomery took the paper in hand, changing its name to the Sheffield Iris.
These were times of political repression and he was twice imprisoned on charges of sedition. The first time was in 1795 for printing a poem celebrating the fall of the Bastille; the second in 1796 was for criticising a magistrate for forcibly dispersing a political protest in Sheffield. Turning the experience to some profit, in 1797 he published a pamphlet of poems written during his captivity as Prison Amusements. For some time the 'Iris' was the only newspaper in Sheffield; but beyond the ability to produce fairly creditable articles from week to week, Montgomery was devoid of the journalistic faculties which would have enabled him to take advantage of his position. Other newspapers arose to fill the place which his might have occupied and in 1825 he sold it on to local bookseller John Blackwell...
Quotes by James Montgomery
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