James Montgomery-- The Abolition of the Slave Trade: A Poem in Four Parts. Very hard to find. 1814, folio size, 10" x 12.5", with many engravings. London: Printed by T. Bensley. The poem "The West Indies," was written to accompany a series of pictures published as a memorial of the abolition of the slave-trade. In this genial labour, to which the poet says he gave his whole mind, as affording him an opportunity of exposing the iniquities of slavery and the slave-trade.
Importance: In 1807 a commission was delivered from the printer Bowyer to write a poem on the abolition of the slave trade, to be published along with other poems on the subject in a handsome illustrated volume. The subject was well adapted to Montgomery's powers, appealing at once to the philanthropic enthusiasm in which his strength lay, and to his own touching associations with the West Indies. Its poem entitled 'The West Indies' accordingly appeared in Bowyer's illustrated publication in 1809. Although rather rhetoric than poetry, is in general well conceived and well expressed, and skilful as well as sincere in its appeals to public sentiment. On its first appearance in Bowyer's volume it proved a failure, but when published separately (London, 1810, 12mo) it obtained great popularity.James Montgomery: Born November 4, 1771, in Ayrshire, Scotland, James Montgomery was brought up and educated by Moravians near Leeds after his parents left for America, never to return. He became an editorial assistant to the Sheffield Register in 1792. Acquiring the newspaper himself, he renamed it the Isis and in it advocated reformist causes at an unpopular time, during the French Revolution, and went to jail for his trouble twice in 1795-96. He returned to his journalism then and published a book of poems about his imprisonment. This led to an avocation in poetry and letters. He brought out volumes of poems and hymns from 1797 until the mid-19th-century. After 25 years in the news business, Montgomery retired from journalism and lived on a Literary Fund pension until his death on April 30, 1854. Throughout his life he actively worked for humanitarian causes and gained the respect and affection of his fellow poets.