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Biography of William Cobbett

Portrait of William Cobbett

William Cobbett was a nineteenth century writer best known for his “Rural Rides”.

When and Where was he Born?

9th March 1763, Farnham, Surrey, England.

Family Background:

Cobbett was the son of a farmer and Innkeeper.


Taught himself to read and write at an early age and studied French, Geometry and Logic whilst in the army.

Timeline of William Cobbett:

1785: Cobbett serves as a Sergeant-Major in the army in New Brunswick where he studied rhetoric, logic geometry and French.

1791: He buys his way out of the army.

1792: He marries Anne Reid in Woolwich, London in February. Cobbett and his wife sail to the United States were he teaches English to French refugees in Philadelphia. He also opened a bookshop.

1797: William Cobbett starts the “Porcupine’s Gazette” magazine in which he attacked Tom Paine and the native democrats.

1800: He returns to England and was welcomed by the Tories who were fighting the revolutionary spirit then abroad in Europe.

1802: He begins his weekly “Cobbett’s Political Register”.

1804: The “Register”, at first a Tory journal, begins to take on radical opinions.

1806: Cobbett begins the “Record of Parliamentary Debate” which was to be taken over by Luke Hansard and is still known as “Hansard” to this day.

1809: He publishes “State Trials”.

1810-1812: Cobbett spends two years in Newgate Prison because of his outspokenness against flogging in the army.

1817: Financial problems and further fear of imprisonment drives him back to the United States, where he becomes a farmer on Long Island.

1819: Cobbett returns to England and started a seed farm at Kensington, London.

1830: His famous “Rural Rides” are reprinted from the “Register”.

1831: Cobbett defends himself against a charge of sedition.

1832: After the First Reform Bill Cobbett becomes MP for Oldham.

When and Where did he Die?

18th June 1835, London, England after a brief illness.

Age at Death:


Written Works:

(Pseudonym: “Peter Porcupine”)

1801: “Porcupines Works”.
1802: Started the weekly “Political Register”.
1817: “English Grammar”.
1821: “Twelve Sermons”.
1822: “Cottage Economy”.
1824: “History of the Reformation”
1825: “The Woodlands”
1830: “Rural Rides”. “Advice to Young Men and Incidentally to Young Women”.


1792 to Jane Elizabeth.

Site of Grave:

St. Andrew’s Church, Farnham, Surrey, England. 
(NOTE: St Andrew’s Church have their own website with a photo of Cobbett’s grave.

Places of Interest:




The British Library.



Further Information:

William Cobbett Society, c/o Molly Townsend, Johnsons Farm, Petershiels, Hants, GU37 2BY.