Mercurius Politicus

A blog (mostly) about early modern history

Month: July, 2008

John Taylor, Charles I and the royal touch

In the autumn of 1648, the poet and waterman John Taylor made a pilgrimage to the Isle of Wight to visit his king.

At this point, Charles I was on parole from his confinement at Carisbrooke Castle to negotiate with Parliamentary commissioners in the town of Newport. It would not go well; but for Taylor, Charles’s parole gave him one last chance to see his king.

Taylor recounted his pilgrimage in Tailors travels from London to the Isle of VVight, vvith his returne, and occasion of his iourney [EEBO ]. I’ve plotted the route Taylor took from London to Newport in Google Maps. Unfortunately can’t do inline Google Maps, so I will have to make do with pointing you towards the link . Below are the steps Taylor took on his journey:

  • 19 October. Taylor took the Southampton coach from the Rose at Holborn Bridge. He went along St Giles to Brentford and then on to Staines, where he stayed the night at the Bush Inn .
  • 20 October. Taylor left Staines and went through Bagshot and Blackwater, before reaching Alton where he stayed in the White Hart.
  • 21 October. From Alton, Taylor reached Southampton where he ate at the Dolphin. From there Taylor sailed to Cowes, where he stayed in the Feathers.
  • 22 October. Taylor travelled by horse to the town of Newport, where Charles was in the midst of negotiations. Here he was received by his monarch.

What is interesting about Taylor’s account is how close he got to his king. In the period before the civil wars, Charles withdrew from his public. There was little circulation of images of the monarch; an attempt to regulate access to court; and a studied decision to withdraw from proactive royal propaganda on the grounds that it opened up the arcana imperii to the public eye. Even touching for the king’s evil, where Charles is often presented as an exemplary practitioner, and where he certainly promoted his power to do so, was subject to many more prohibitions than before.

Compare this with Taylor’s easy access to Charles:

Thus having overpast this soule disaster,
I went to see my suffring Soveraigne Master:
Which sight to me was all my Earthly blisse,
He gave me straight his Royall hand to kisse,
Which grac’d me much in all the publique sights
Of Commons, Gentles, and brave Lords and Knights.

There is also already a hint of Charles martyredly rising above his circumstances – a studied pose of suffering kingship:

His Majesty, with an Heroick and unconquered patience, conquers his unmatchable afflictions, and with Christian constancy, expects a happy deliverance out of all his troubles.

Compare it also to one of the most fascinating parts of Taylor’s account, his description of Charles I touching for the king’s evil and other diseases. Below are Taylor’s eye-witness accounts:

1. At a Towne called Winburne , (or Wimborne ) in Dorcetshire , there dwels an [Note: For testimony of the truth of this there is one Iohn Newbery , a Clothworker, who dwels in Newport in the streete called Castle Hole, this man did come over the water with her, and did see her lame, and cured. ] Ancient woman, the Wife to a Clothier (whose name I could not know by enquiry) this Woman had a long time been so lame that she could not goe, 11 and she hearing that the King was lodg’d in Carisbrook Castle in the Isle of Wight , she was perswaded in her minde that His Majesty could cure her, in which beliefe she made towards the Island, and with horse or Cart, or both, or otherwaies, she was brought to Hurst Castle in Hampshire by land, from whence she was carried into a Boat in mens armes, which Boat brought her to Newport , from whence she was carried a mile to Carisbrook , where His Majesty did touch her, and her lamenesse ceased in three dayes space, so that with thankes to God, and prayers for the King, she departed from the Island, and went home 20. miles on foot. This was before the Treaty began, much about the midst of August last.

2. Mistresse Elizabeth Steevens of Durley in Hampshire , came from her borne to Winchester , and from thence to the Island to His Majesty to be cured of the evill, whereof she had been blinde of one Eye 16. daies and could not open her Eye by any meanes, and after the King had touched her, her Eye opened and she saw immediatly, with a clear and perfect sight. This was about the seventh of October.

3. Elizabeth Gage of Southampton (being 3 yeares of age) was exceeding lame, and in great paine, she came to his Majesty, and he touched her, whereby (through Gods blessing) she was presently cured.

4. Ioane Mathewes, aged 15. yeares, a Braziers Daughter one William Mathewes , dwelling in Newport in the Isle of Wight , she had been long time painefully lame, and had been at the Bathe , and used many medicines in vaine; she came to the King on Thursday the 19. of October, He toucht her, and she had present ease, and every day shee goes better then other: myselfe saw her and spake with her, and I left her able to go reasonable well.

5. A Souldier in Calshot Castle in Hampshire , had 2. sore issues in his thighes, to which he did frequently apply medicines which eased him, but cured him not: This man 12 went to the Island to His Majesty, who did touch him, and he did after that use his former medicines, which were wont to give him ease, but then the said application did most grievously vex and torment him; so that he was perswaded to forbeare to use the said Oyles, Emplasters, and Unguents, and then he was suddenly cured.

6. Mistresse Elizabeth Paine of Bristell was blinde, and such a Rhewmatick defluxion did dayly fall from her eyes, which did wet two or three large hancherchiefes every day; she came to the King on Sunday last, the 5. of this November, His Majesty did touch her eyes, the Rhewme ceased; so that she went away presently with a cleere and perfect sight; and two houres after she came to the King againe, and gave him thanks upon her knees; His Majesty bade her give thanks to God; so she with giving God praise, and prayers for the King, went from the Island to Bristoll with exceeding joy for her recovery.

7. Margaret Hezden , aged 73. yeares, dwelling in Newport in Chayne lane, was not able to stir but as she was lifted from bed to chaire, and from chaire to bed, touched by His Majesty, and cured, so that with one crutch she did goe about her house, and drew 5 or 6. pots of Ale for me, and my company.

Taylor’s pamphlet account of his journey gives us an interesting insight in to Charles’s change of tactics. In the civil wars and beyond, Charles’s public persona became a vital tool in rallying support and in stressing his positions as God’s anointed representative. There is also a suggestion from many contemporaries that Charles could not only heal his subjects, but heal the political nation too.

Sadly for Charles and for Taylor, that was not to be. But Taylor’s account gives us a good insight into what could have been – and into, as Edward Vallance’s recent post makes clear , what actually was under Charles’s son in the 1660s and beyond.

Taylor’s account of his journey is also interesting for his sales technique. Like a number of his pamphlets, Taylor tried to sell it by subscription, getting sponsors to pledge a minimum of 6 pence (above the market rate for a short quarto pamphlet) in return for an account of his journey when he returned. But Taylor follows the usual tactic of the early modern pamphleteer in simultaneously admitting and denying base commercial motives. Taylor’s pamphlet is "no Mercury (with scoffs, and jeeres) to raise debate, and set us by the eares"; it is not like "old Currantoes , in the daies of Yore". But as well as a mission to see his sovereign, Taylor admitted that he "travelled with an intent to get some Silver in this Iron Age, (for pleasure and profit should be the reward of honest and harmelesse paines taking)".

The photo is of a bust in the Chapel of St Charles the Martyr at Carisbrooke Castle, taken by Loz Flowers and used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike license.

The dog ate my homework

Found while reading Blair Worden’s The Rump Parliament: the excuse of Sir Peter Wentworth, MP in the Long Parliament, for leaving London before Charles I’s execution and not returning until April 1649:

Honourable Sir, I must make my excuse to my master when I have played the truant: truly, sir, provision for my health was the occasion of my retiring into the country, I not being able to endure a whole winter siege in London, without a retreat to prevent many distempers which grow upon me for want of air and exercise : yet I intended but a short abode here, from whence I have not stirred at all; for it hath pleased God that sprains and bruises, by falls and other mischances, (one succeeding another,) have disabled me from pulling on a boot near these six weeks.

Very convenient…

1. Blair Worden,The Rump Parliament (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1974), p. 34.

2. Letter from Sir Peter Wentworth to William Lenthall, Speaker of the Commons, 24 February 1649. Quoted in Henry Cary, Memorials of the Great Civil War in England from 1646 to 1652 (1842), p. 123.

London panorama

A couple of years ago I went to the Museum of London and bought a couple of prints in the giftshop there, which between them show the panorama above of early modern London. The prints then promptly sat in a cupboard for two years until I recently got round to framing them. Below is a detail of London Bridge from the engraving – you’ll see that it is teeming with life and detail.

Since putting them up on my wall I’ve done some digging about the picture’s background, and actually it is not everything it seems. It is by the Dutch publisher Claes Jansz Visscher, the first in a printing dynasty that spanned three generations and which specialised in maps and other similar prints. The Guildhall Library has a copy dated 1616, and the Folger has a later variant from 1625.

Visscher’s panorama was long seen as an excellent source for reconstructing early seventeenth-century London, particularly the theatres on the Bankside. In the 1920s, E.K. Chambers used its depiction of the Globe to argue that it would have been octagonal. He was followed by John Cranford Adams in his book on the Globe of the early 1940s.

But later in the same decade, I.A. Shapiro demonstrated that Visscher’s engraving of the north bank was derived from Norden’s Civitas Londoni – one label gives "St Dunston in the cast", which has been copied from Norden’s print where the c’s are hard to distinguish from the e’s. The south bank is full of inaccuracies, and in fact there is no evidence that Visscher even worked in London. As a result, the picture cannot be relied upon. (My summary of this is drawn from a helpful history of Globe reconstructions by Gabriel Egan ).

So it seems that the Museum of London giftshop sold me an inaccurate picture of London… it does look good on my sitting room wall, though!

1. E.K. Chambers, The Elizabethan Stage (1923) .

2. John Cranford Adams, The Globe Playhouse: Its Design and Equipment (1942) .

3. I.A. Shapiro, ‘The Bankside theatres: early engravings’, Shakespeare Survey I (1947) .

4. Gabriel Egan, ‘Reconstructions of the Globe: a retrospective’, Shakespeare Survey 52 (1999) .

A long time ago, in an archive far, far away…

A Photoshop contest at Worth1000 to mix Star Wars with fine art has produced a few really good early modern examples…

Via Boing Boing.

John Taylor and Henry Walker, part 5: conclusion

In my previous post I looked at the publishers behind Taylor’s pamphlets – Francis Coules, Thomas Banks and Thomas Bates. I ended by posing a question about the extent to which they had a role in engineering or prolonging Taylor’s battle with Walker.

We can find the answer to this by exploring the publishers’ backgrounds. Earlier in his career, Coules had been a junior member of a partnership of booksellers who had gradually bought up the copyright to popular broadside ballads.

As these ballad partners consolidated ballad copyrights, they also developed their strategy for marketing them. During the sixteenth century, woodcut illustration was unusual: only one fifth of surviving ballads were illustrated. The ballad partners and their contemporaries began to reverse this trend: five sixths of surviving ballads from 1600-1640 were illustrated, with much more effort made to match the picture to the content. At around the same time, the ballad partners also developed a specialist trade in small editions of books other than broadside ballads. Through his association with the ballad partners, Coules would have been well acquainted with the need to develop and maintain new markets for cheap print, and with the tactics for doing so.

The role of the partners in Taylor and Walker’s dispute needs to be seen in this context. The spring of 1641 saw a significant rise in the number of books being printed. Thereafter, pamphlets branched out into a wide range of literary styles and genres. With the declining influence of the Stationers’ Company, which regulated printing, publishers were now able to meet and drive popular demand for printed books. For Taylor’s publishers, illustrated satires were one lucrative route of increasing the market for their wares. As an extension of the illustrated ballad, they would have been a relatively risk-free means of doing so. Encouraging a literary dispute would also have been an attractive way of boosting sales. So it seems possible that Bates, Coules and Banks might just have had a hand in the dispute – perhaps helping to craft a pamphlet war that could appeal to a wide range of readers and give them high sales.

What I hope I’ve shown is that Taylor and Walker’s dispute cannot be fully understood without a detailed contextualisation of every player involved in it. Pamphlet publishing strategies in the early 1640s were nuanced and complex. Authors, publishers and readers were capable of producing and reading texts in complicated and subtle ways, on a number of levels. Pamphlets existed as part of a network of authors, printers, sellers and readers. Their form and content was shaped by the creative tensions between these groups. Analysis of the two authors’ texts has revealed the extent to which they cross-refer to each other, to past works by Taylor, and to other literary disputes and genres. A geographical and contextual analysis of Taylor’s publishers has revealed a more consensual but also a more commercial side to the dispute. Walker as well as Taylor had professional and social links to booksellers specialising in cheap print. And behind the literary experimentation of both authors lay decidedly financial concerns for the booksellers. Looking at the readership also shows that it’s misguided either to dismiss the dispute as a crude scatological spat, or to react the other way and stress its sophistication.

John Taylor and Henry Walker, part 4: publishers

[Note: since writing this my views on some aspects of this pamphlet exchange have evolved: if you are also researching this issue and want to get in touch please do.]

So far I have looked at authors, texts and readers involved in John Taylor and Henry Walker’s pamphlet war. In this post I will look at publishers.

Walker’s texts were self-published. We know that in 1641, as well as working as an ironmonger Walker was moonlighting by running a book shop in Gracechurch Street.

Taylor’s pamphlets seem to have been published by a partnership of three booksellers called Thomas Banks, Francis Coules and Thomas Bates. All three were based in the Old Bailey, where they collaborated on a variety of cheap forms of print including ballads, short satirical pieces accompanied by woodcuts, and from 1642, newsbooks.

Bates and his fellow cheap pamphlet ¬†partners did not publish according to strict ideological guidelines. They were happy to publish Taylor’s satires of puritan sects alongside sermons clearly pitched at an Independent audience. In fact, Bates and Banks also published at least one of Walker’s works: a fake petition from the inhabitants of Chester. Earlier in 1641, Walker and Bates had been two of the printers and booksellers hauled in front of the House of Lords for illegal printing. They were both part of a network of publishers flirting with illegal printing during the late 1630s and early 1640s.

So, for the publishers of Taylor’s side of the exchange, then, the pamphlet war was by no means a pitched battle between implacable opponents. Both Taylor and Walker would have been well-known to the three publishers.

And in fact Taylor and Walker themselves would probably also have been well-known to each other. Walker’s recycling of material from Taylor’s earlier poems shows a deep knowledge of Taylor’s writing, and his pamphlets also show knowledge about intimate gossip from Taylor’s private life. Taylor, meanwhile, went on to write an eight page pamphlet about Walker’s life history in 1642, which contained such a high level of detail that it suggests he was well-acquainted with Walker’s career. Like their flyting predecessors the Scottish poets Montgomerie and Hume, both of whom were court poets and well-known to each other, Taylor and Walker may have been closer than is supposed.

So, behind what appeared to be a ferocious pamphlet war, booksellers and authors were linked by mutual networks of sociability and profession. Political and religious ideologies were not the only filter through which relationships and ideas formed within the world of 1640s print culture. Commercial and social networks could be just as important, and could cut across more ideological connections.

If we look at the geography of the dispute, it confirms this impression.

Yellow = Old Bailey: shops of Francis Coules, Thomas Banks and Thomas Bates

Blue = Newgate Market: location where Henry Walker served apprenticeship

Green = Gracechurch Street: site of Walker’s bookshop

Red = St. Saviour’s parish, Southwark: home of John Taylor

Map adapted from Wenceslaus Hollar, Westminster and London (c.1658), British Museum, Pennington 1000.II,  AN48017001. © Trustees of the British Museum.

Unlike most booksellers, the partners were all based outside the City walls in the Old Bailey, in an attempt to avoid the reach of the Stationers’ Company. Taylor lived across the river in Southwark, but to judge from the volume of his pamphlets published by the partners, he was clearly a frequent visitor to the Old Bailey. Walker, too, had close geographical links to the partners. Although his own bookshop lay to the east of the Old Bailey in Gracechurch Street, before going into the book trade he had been an apprentice to an ironmonger in Newgate market. This was just round the corner from the Old Bailey, and it is likely that the book shops there would have been well known to Walker. In 1641, Walker himself printed a transcript of a theological debate he had with a Jesuit in Bates’s shop at the Old Bailey.

In addition to demonstrating links between Walker and the cheap pamphlet partners, this incident also shows that their bookshops were not just centres of commerce. They were also centres of communication. The title pages of pamphlets illustrated with woodcuts would have been on display to attract customers. Once there, they would also have been able to listen to or participate in other forms of communication. Walker’s debate with the Jesuit was one such form. Another was sermons: the partners’ shops were all in the parish of St Sepulchre, a parish with a long tradition of radical lecturers.

For authors and readers, such bookshops were an important centre for participation in the public sphere. For booksellers, on the other hand, creating such a public, politicised space would have had obvious commercial benefits in terms of attracting custom.

In my final post I will look at whether Bates, Coules and Banks might have had an interest in engineering or prolonging the dispute between Taylor and Walker.

John Taylor and Henry Walker, part 3: readers

[Note: since writing this my views on some aspects of this pamphlet exchange have evolved: if you are also researching this issue and want to get in touch please do.]

In previous posts I have outlined the importance of establishing who every player was in the communication circuit behind Taylor and Walker’s pamphlet war, and of exploring how the dispute relates to the social and political context of its time. This post looks at who might have been reading the pamphlets.

There is no direct way of assessing who those readers were, or what they thought about Taylor and Walker’s exchange. There are no diaries or other sources in which readers mention the various pamphlets. However, it is still possible to reconstruct their potential readership analysing the form and content of the pamphlets. They were printed on single sheets of quarto, making them up to eight pages long. The maximum print run would have been about 1,000 copies. They would have sold at perhaps a few pence. each. Hence, they would have been affordable to many of the middling sort: the average day wage of a building craftsman in London in 1641, for example, was 30d., and that for a building labourer was 17d.At the same time, the cost of a 4lb loaf of bread was roughly 6d. So while wage labourers might have struggled to afford them, middling-sort craftsmen and artisans would certainly have been able to purchase pamphlets at this price.

And it was not just that the books were affordable to a wider market: the wider market also existed for them. Literacy levels in London were significantly higher than in other parts of England, and spread across a wider social base. Shopkeepers and, to a less extent, artisans were often able to read print. Those who could not read might still participate in print culture, through membership of workplace or religious community that allowed them to hear texts being read. This period saw a growing expansion in forms of cheap print like sermons, newsbooks and ballads, deliberately published at a size that was affordable to middling sort readers. The size and form of Walker and Taylor’s pamphlets make it likely they were designed to attract middling sort readers.

Woodcuts from the pamphlets give another clue about their potential readers. The two most striking illustrations are those depicting Taylor and Walker with a she-devil.

Both draw on the same imagery of a large, winged demon with claws, horns and pendulous breasts. This imagery owes much to late medieval conceptions of the devil, in which he (or occasionally she) could appear as a physical being but had limited powers. Perhaps as a result, the devil was often presented in a humorous context. He appeared in medieval “merry tales” and mystery plays, often in a sexual or scatological context. Such images would have been recognisable by those at all levels of society.

By the 1640s, however, this late medieval conception of the devil was being challenged. Godly puritanism emphasised the power of the devil, putting the struggle with him at the centre of spiritual life. It has been argued that this challenge was not entirely successful – medieval conceptions of the devil lived on amongst much of the population of England. This does not necessarily mean that the pamphlets were not intended to be read by the godly. The iconography of the woodcuts would still have been recognisable even to those who had differing views of how the devil operated. But it does suggest that the pamphlets were intended to be read – and the images seen, for those who could not read – by an audience from a wide social background.

However, it is important to bear in mind the representations of Taylor and Walker that accompanied the devils. The picture of Taylor is a fairly accurate representation of him, and shows him with his ferry boat to underline his identity. Although there are no surviving portraits of Walker, the two images in A Reply as true as Steele and A Seasonable Lecture are similar, which suggests they could have been drawn to reproduce their subject. Walker is also depicted with the tools of his trade, in the form of andirons. To those that knew Walker and Taylor, it is likely that both images would have been recognisable caricatures.

The images, then, have a number of layers to them. They might have been amusing or offensive to someone living outside London, unconnected to the world of publishing, but those living in London who knew Walker and Taylor and who were involved in the world of publishing would also have recognised the images as caricatures. We can see in this the sophistication of publishers of cheap print by the 1640s in marketing their pamphlets. Woodcut illustrations were increasingly being drawn to order, using a style and iconography that could appeal to a number of audiences and hence broaden a pamphlet’s chance of selling well.