Montcrieff March of Intellect caricature
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A printed annotation to the poem pertains to the image: "This alludes to a circumstance which took place about two months since in Berners Stree:— a newsman was passing through the street on a very windy day, when the whole of his papers, by a violent gust of wind, were carried up in the air."

Montcrieff March of Intellect page opening
Creative Commons LicenseJeremy Norman Collection of Images - Creative Commons

Regarding "forty feet of knowledge" the footnote reads, "The Atlas Newspaper of March 14, 1829, contained forty feet of printed matter." The source of that particular piece of information is unstated.

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A: London, England, United Kingdom

In an Illustrated Poem W. T. Montcrieff and Robert Cruikshank Satirize The March of Intellect

Printed wrapper for The March of Intellect
Creative Commons LicenseJeremy Norman Collection of Images - Creative Commons
Upper printed wrapper (showing minor damage) of the comic poem, The March of Intellect. The illustrated poem was originally sold as a pamphlet in this form.

In 1830, at the height of new efforts by reformers such as Henry Brougham and the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge toward the promotion, through cheap  publications, and Mechanics' Institutes, of practical knowledge as a tool to advance society—an effort which was frequently ridiculed as The March of Intellect —writer and dramatist William Thomas Moncrieff and caricaturist Robert Cruikshank issued an 85 stanza illustrated poem entitled The March of Intellect, a Comic Poem. A typical concern of caricaturists of The March of Intellect was that educating the lower classes would disturb existing social order. This was a reasonable concern because of the social disruption and political unrest in England and on the Continent that was partly a result of mechanization at the time. Some of these concerns were best expressed in humor.

From the poem I have quoted selected stanzas:


"This is, indeed, a wondrous age,

Most rare of all we've had:

Improvement now is all the rage,

Folks are improving mad.


In the domestic offices

(For kitchen's vulgar now)

The march of mind steps by dregs,

And reaches all below.


The cook skims now in science' dream

Alive to all that passes;

She her potatoes boils by steam,

And lights her fire by gasses.


Housekeepers (bless their learned heads!)

Know what is by each art meant,

In short the march of knowledge spreads,

All through the home department.


Learning's by poverty unchill'd,

Each workhouse is a college,

And paupers, deep in science skill'd,

Prove they're not poor in knowledge.


Words now grow high--reform! reform!

All's uproad and disquiet;

The beadle hears the rising storm,

And comes to quell the riotl


True member he of the select,

He speaks like a recorder;

Begs they will church and state respect,

And keep up social order.


Masters no more, tyrannical,

Improvement's course can stop;

For intellect mechanical

Now marches in each shop.


For sciences' honors yearning still,

Mechanics gladly pay;

And operative learning will

Surely work its way.


Mechanics' Institutions

At each second step we meet;

And Birkbeck's resolutions

Stare in every street.


The barber takes you by the nose,

And talks about nosology;

And Thames Street warehousemen disclose,

Their art in crane-iology.


Such is the general thirst of knowledge,

So little is its scarcity;

Soon Tooley Street will have its College,

St. Giles its University.


The press is pressing through each street

Its rapid march--if willing,

You may now purchase forty feet

Of knowledge for a shilling!!"

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