Edited by Robin Eagles
John Wilkes (1725-1797) was one of the most intriguing characters in the eighteenth-century political world – if one with a mixed and colourful reputation. From relatively obscure beginnings, he rose to be a significant force for change in journalism and politics, first as a Whig MP for Aylesbury, later for Middlesex. Having gained attention as proprietor of the opposition paper, the North Briton, he underwent a remarkable fall from grace, eventually being imprisoned for libel. After his release he was the focus of various reform movements. He cultivated the City of London to further his ends and in 1774 was elected Lord Mayor. Towards the end of his life he co-operated with the Pitt administration and by the close was considered almost “respectable”.
His diaries chart his daily activities from his release from prison in 1770 to a few weeks before his death. They reveal a busy public figure and his habitual haunts in London, Bath and the Isle of Wight; but also, although he was on close terms with some of the most celebrated figures of his day, such as Boswell, Garrick, Reynolds and the cross-dressing Chevalier d’Eon, they show a private man, never happier than in the company of his beloved daughter, Polly.
The diaries themselves are presented here with introduction and full explanatory notes.
Dr Robin Eagles is a Senior Research Fellow at the History of Parliament.
Available to purchase from Boydell and Brewer