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Sampson Perry


picture of Sampson PerrySampson Perry was considered to be 'one of the most important, yet neglected, of the 1790's British radical journalists and pamphleteers - his significance deriving from having been one of a small cluster of British ultraradicals who witnessed, participated in and analysed the course of the French Revolution during the years of the Reign of Terror'.

He led an extraordinary and varied life, having careers as diverse as surgeon, author, military commander and newspaper proprietor.

Born in Aston in 1747, he entered the medical profession and practised as a surgeon in London in the 1760's. His first medical book 'A Disquisition of the Stone and Gravel' (1772) was written using the pseudonym of William Adams. Later editions carried his real name as did his next book 'Dissertation on the Lues Venera , Gonorrhea and Tabes Dorsalis' (1786)

He joined the East Middlesex Militia in 1765 and attained the rank of Captain in 1780. During the American War Of Independence (1776-83), when England was threatened with invasion, he twice raised companies of troops at his own expense - on each occasion he was presented to King George III and thanked for his service to his country.

In 1789, he founded an independent daily newspaper called The Argus through which he openly attacked the Prime Minister, Willam Pitt, and his government. In 1791 he was twice convicted of libelling the Government and heavily fined. In 1792 he was convicted of libelling Lady Fitzgibbon (having reported in The Argus that she had been found in bed with the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland) but to avoid the 6 months prison sentence and £200 fine he fled to France.

tile page of Historical SketchIn Paris he met with up with an old acquaintance - the radical thinker, pamphleteer and pro-French revolutionary Thomas Paine. In 1793 he was arrested on suspicion of being a spy and condemned to death without trial. However, he escaped the guillotine by very fortunate means. His prison cell door was hung upon a swivel and could turn either way. The custom was to mark with red chalk the cell doors of those who were condemned to death and his door was similarly marked. But on the morning of the execution his warder accidentally left his door the wrong way round, with no chalk mark showing. When the officers of the execution arrived they passed by his cell. Shortly after a mob stormed the prison and released all the prisoners.

In 1794 he decided to return to England in disguise. However, while staying at a friend's house in Hythe he was betrayed by a young woman for the reward offered for his capture. He was arrested and sentenced to 7 years imprisonment. During his time in Newgate prison he wrote a two-volume book entitled 'An Historical Sketch Of the French Revolution' and a pamphlet 'Oppression!!! The Appeal of Captain Perry to the People of England'. He also launched a revised version of the Argus in magazine format.

On his release from prison in 1801 he wrote for a number of periodicals before purchasing a magazine called The Statesman which he edited for 3 years and then sold.

He was married at least 3 times , probably 4, his last marriage being to Barbara Lindley Ogle in 1814. At the age of 76 he was still fathering children. He died at his house in Bloomsbury Square in 1823 leaving his wife and 7 children in dire poverty.