Database of Poems

Back to results

Nick's Tour; or, The Cobbler Triumphant

1832: Representation of the People Acts
1867-8: Representation of the People Acts

Author: John Mitchell (1786-1856)

Publication: Nick's Tour; or, The Cobbler Triumphant

Publisher: J. Motherwell, and J. Orr

Published: 1846

Place of publication: Paisley, Scotland

Publication type: Book

No full copy of this poem is available.

Archive/Library: Mitchell Library, Glasgow
Classmark(s): Gardyne Collection Volume 53
Pages(s): 1-32

John Mitchell, not to be confused with the Aberdeen-based John Mitchell who contributed poetry to the Chartist Circular in this period, was born in Paisley in 1786 and died there in 1856.  As well as a poet, he was also a shoemaker.  He appears to have identified with the cause of reform, as such poems as ‘Lines on the Celebration of Thomas Paine’s Birth-day’ demonstrate.  Nick's Tour is a lively poem which is heavily indebted to Robert Burns's 'Tam O'Shanter', and the epigraph is from Burns's 'Address to the Devil'.  The poem follows the devil, who comes to Scotland and (while disguised) encounters a wealthy 'knight', who is concerned with the contemporary culture of Reform and the Chartists.  The man agrees to allow the devil to help him overthrow the cause of the working classes.  However, when Satan goes into a working class community, the people spot his tail and chase him out of the town (in a manner that frequently invokes the chase of Meg, in 'Tam O'Shanter'.  The poem is very much a celebration of the sharp-sightedness of the working classes and a mocking attack on wealthy anti-reformers.  There is also a reference to the 'swinish multitude' - a phrase frequently used to describe the unenfranchised. Another poem Mitchell wrote, Cautious Tam - published in Paisley in 1847, may also have been indebted to 'Tam O'Shanter'.