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Abstract

This article examines the public reception of the periodical The Liberal to establish how the language of ‘liberalism’ began to develop in Britain in the eighteen-twenties. It shows that Hunt, Byron and Shelley had difficulty establishing a claim to this terminology partly because the conventional meanings of the word ‘liberality’– as in generosity and gentlemanliness – could be turned against their contributions, and partly because of their existing reputations as subversive, irreligious Epicureans. As a result, The Liberal helped to establish a negative typology of ‘liberalism’ that quickly gathered force among reactionaries.