Adrian Desmond

Published On


Page Range

pp. 257–266


  • English

Print Length

10 pages

11. Creation on the Cheap

  • Adrian Desmond (author)
How available were the cheap prints pouring off the radical presses? The options of urban operatives are analysed: they could join literary associations, or read pamphlets in London’s plethora of coffee houses, each with their distinct working-class clientele and well-stocked reading rooms. Seditious science lectures in blasphemy chapels could be as cheap, and Saull’s were often free. We see him now at the ex-Carlilean James Watson’s Philadelphian Chapel (the renamed Optimist Chapel). The radical context in 1831-1832 is discussed, as the ultras started to arm. This was reflected as the chapel hosted NUWC meetings, ran anti-theological nights, and interspersed them with Saull’s talks on “Creation” (that is, the natural emergence of species), which the police spy called ultra-materialistic. The narrative switches, as Watson in 1834 moved his “Cheap Publications Warehouse” to the barn-like Mechanics’ Hall of Science off the City Road, funded by wealthy freethought financier Julian Hibbert (whose head was to become one of the ghoulish exhibits in Saull’s museum). The hall was set up with Saull’s help, and was to be one of his main venues for life.


Adrian Desmond


Adrian Desmond was educated at University College London and Harvard University, where he was Stephen Jay Gould's first history of science PhD student. He has two MSc's, one in history of science, another in vertebrate palaeontology, and a PhD for his work on radical Victorian evolutionists. For twenty years he was an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London. He is the multi-award-winning author of nine books, which include: The Hot-Blooded Dinosaurs, Archetypes and Ancestors: Palaeontology in Victorian London 1850-1875, The Politics of Evolution: Morphology, Medicine, and Reform in Radical London, Darwin, Huxley: The Devil’s Disciple, Huxley: Evolution’s High Priest, Darwin’s Sacred Cause (with James Moore)