Mercurius Politicus

A blog (mostly) about early modern history

Category: books

Loose ends

Regular readers will know that I am currently researching the life of the seventeenth century pamphleteer, newsbook editor and preacher Henry Walker. If you look up Joad Raymond’s article on Walker in the ODNB, it gives his dates as fl. 1634-1660. Nearly all that has been known about him relates to his activity during the 1640s and 1650s.

After a lot of digging, I think I have managed to find out the dates of his birth and death. Getting there has been a long story but I thought it might be interesting to explain the steps I’ve taken along the way.

It started with Walker’s records from his time at Cambridge. He went there relatively late, in 1639, after serving an apprenticeship as an ironmonger and setting up in business. The record of his matriculation at Queens’ College state that Walker was from Derbyshire. This got me searching for wills of Henry Walkers in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury records, on the assumption that he would have stayed in London or the south east after the 1650s.

I didn’t find a Henry Walker from Derbyshire. But I did find a Henry Walker, Clerk of London who had made his will in 1685. He left £20 to the poor of Derby, and £200 to his sister Anne Marshall of Derby.

And a subsequent dispute over the will described him as Henry Walker of Derbyshire. Could it be the same Henry Walker? It would mean him having lived a fairly long life if it was.

To find out I started combing through Derbyshire parish registers. Walker was made free from his apprenticeship in 1634. If he served the average of 7 years, he would have started it in 1627. That would give him a birth date some time between 1609 and 1613 or so. Eventually I found a Henry Walker who had been baptised in All Saints, Derby on 1 March 1612. Crucially, he had a sister called Anne. He was the only candidate who matched the description.

In itself, however, this wasn’t enough to match him to the Henry Walker Clerk who had made his will so many years later. What I needed was something to connect him with the Henry Walker from before the civil wars. I found it in the library of the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers, in a 1634 edition of Andrew Willet’s Synopsis Papismi:

It was donated by Henry Walker in 1681, and made clear that he was still alive at this point, and the same person as the Henry Walker of the 1630s. It also linked him to Petersham in Surrey.

My next stop was the parish registers for Petersham. These revealed that Walker had been appointed as curate by the vicar of Kingston in 1667. This nearly sparked a row when the Countess of Dysart stepped in and claimed the right of appointment as her own. However, she was happy to confirm Walker’s appointment:

On Tuesday 11th June 1667 Mr Henry Walker was by Mr Twetty of Kingston apointed to the cure of Petersham whither he went and tooke possession of the church where he marryed a coople that morning. Mr Walker went to the Honble the Countess of Disart, & acquainted her of his being sent by Mr Twitty but she said the right was in her & Mr Walker being allowed by her honour had afterwards licence from my Lord Bishop of Winchester and was confirmed in the place. His first day of preaching there was June 16. 1667 upon approbation.

Four years later, the parish registers mention Walker’s wife:

Mary the wife of Henry Walker minister of Petersham died 15 May 1671 at Petersham and was carred to be bured in the church of St Giles Crepplegate London.

I had known Walker was married but hadn’t known anything about his wife until this point. I then dug through the registers for St Giles Cripplegate and confirmed that she had been buried there:

This confirmed that the Henry Walker Clerk who had made his will was likely to be the same as the Henry Walker of the 1630s. It also gave me the first piece of detailed information about Mary: that she had died of a fever.

If Mary had been buried at St Giles Cripplegate, despite dying in Petersham, it seemed likely the family had strong connections with the parish. Starting with 1685 I dug through the entries on burials and quickly found an entry for Henry in February 1686/7:

He is described as ‘Dr in Divinity’, which fits with the fact that he took a theological qualification at Cambridge in 1639. The register also reveals that he died of the stone.

I then wanted to find out when they were married. Apprentices were not allowed to marry so it seemed likely it would have been after 1634, the date of Walker’s freedom. After some digging I found their wedding recorded in the register of St Gregory by St Paul’s – just round the corner from the shop of Robert Holland in Newgate, to whom Walker had been apprenticed.

This gave me Mary’s maiden name – Fotheringall. Looking through the registers of St Giles Cripplegate, I found an entry that confirmed this:

Henry’s will mentioned three daughters – Anne, Christian and Sarah. Anne was their first child, baptised on 15 September 1639. The register mentions that she was born in the house of Anne Fothergill, an apothecary in St Botolph’s. Anne Fothergill was Mary’s mother – she mentions her daughter and her husband ‘Henry Walker clerk’ in her will of 1665. Her husband was James Fothergill, who had died in 1635 while Warden of the Society of Apothecaries. Anne inherited his business. It was a profession that must have come in handy when Mary came to give birth: and the reason she was at her mother’s house was because by this time, Henry was in Cambridge studying theology. Clearly he did not take his family with him.

Their second child was Sarah, baptised at St Giles Cripplegate on 31 July 1642:

Cripplegate’s registers helpfully give professions of parishioners at this time. The mention of Henry’s  trade as being that of an Ironmonger is revealing about his status on the eve of the civil war. By this time he was writing and vending anti-episcopal pamphlets. However, he was clearly doing it while holding down his existing trade. It is not unusual to find members of the Ironmongers Company acting as stationers and selling books alongside their other goods  – much to the irritation of the Stationers’ Company, who saw them as interlopers on their trade.

This time Henry was present for the birth, but only just. With weeks to go before the due date, he was in prison for throwing a printed petition into Charles I’s carriage. In May 1642 he petitioned the Lords to be released, stating not only that he was sorry but that:

His poore wife bigg wth child, and a young infant besides.

Luckily for him and Mary he seems to have been released in time for the birth. On 5 July he stood trial in the Old Bailey. Fortunately his charge was reduced from a felony to a misdemeanour and he got away with standing in the pillory at Cheapside.

On 7 September 1645 the couple had their first son, Henry, baptised at Cripplegate. However, he seems to have been dead by the time his father made his will. He may have been the same Henry, son of Henry and Mary Walker who was buried on 23 December at St Anne and St Agnes, although I am not completely sure why the family would have been living there at this point. By 1655 Walker was pastor of a gathered church in St Martin’s Vintry, just south of St Anne and St Agnes, but I have not come across evidence for his involvement earlier than that.

What does fit more strongly is evidence of other children. Christian, mentioned in Walker’s will, was baptised on 20 February 1653 in St Margaret Westminster. This makes perfect sense as by this point Walker was living and working out of the Fountain in King Street, just up the road.  A Mary Walker, baptised 1 June 1656 in St Clement Danes, and Elizabeth Walker, baptised on 17 February 1660, may also have been his children but I have no evidence to confirm this.

Why does all this matter? Partly because it allows us to see a much more rounded picture of a significant mid-seventeenth century puritan preacher and writer. By reconstructing Walker’s childhood in All Saints, Derby, and his teenage years in Newgate, we can get an idea of the influences he must have had from his family and the vicars of his parishes. This in turn can help us to explain his actions in the 1640s. By looking at Walker’s record after the Restoration, and his continuing attachment to the puritan parish of St Giles Cripplegate, we can also get a fascinating insight into how an Independent and staunch Cromwellian managed to reconcile himself to the Restoration. Clearly he was able to hide enough of his faith to survive as a member of the clergy.

But it also matters to me because I’ve had a great time finding all of this out. I am about 20,000 words into writing a biography of Walker at the moment, and even if the pressures of work and family mean I end up taking years to finish it, it’s still been a fantastic experience researching it.

History continues

Spotted today on the 7th floor of Senate House library.

From bullets to stones: the history of a woodcut

This woodcut is from the title page of A dog’s elegy, or, Rupert’s tears (London, 1644), and is probably familiar to anyone who knows about the life of Prince Rupert:

The woodcut shows Prince Rupert’s dog, Boye, being shot in a hail of bullets at Marston Moor as a witch stands by his side. Boye was reputed in various earlier pamphlets to have magical powers and to be impervious to shot, and his death did not escape the notice of London’s writers.

This particular account of Boye’s death was printed on 27 July 1644 by an unknown printer for the bookseller G. B. This may have been George Badger, based in St Dunstan’s near Fleet Street.

The woodcut must have been commissioned specifically for the pamplet, since it reproduces various details in the text such as beanfields, the city of York, and the witch who is alleged to have given birth to the dog.

Despite this, the image of the soldier may not be as new as it seems. A chance conversation on Twitter with Sir James Pennyman (@HistoryNeedsYou), a reenactor from Sir William Pennyman’s regiment, revealed a couple of details that I would never have spotted.

First, the musketeer’s helmet is a morion: a type of crested helmet common amongst foot soldiers in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. By the 1640s this was starting to become slightly old-fashioned, although it was still used by many soldiers in the civil wars and examples of surviving morions from the period do seem to exist. Nevertheless, it is a clue that all may not be as it seems with the image.

However, the big giveaway according to Sir James is that the musketeer is left handed and has his bandolier on back to front. If he fired in that position it would probably blind him or at the very least leave him burned. What seems most likely is that the artist has traced the image from another, earlier print onto the block, and it has been flipped into a mirror image when printed. Either he didn’t know enough about military equipment to spot the error, or he needed to produce an image of a soldier at short notice and speed, rather than accuracy, was his paramount consideration.

I haven’t yet been able to trace an original from which the artist may have copied this image. What I have traced, however, is a subsequent reworking of the image. This collage of woodcuts appeared thirty-seven years later in Strange and wonderful news from Yowel in Surry (London, 1681):

Printed for a bookseller called John Clarke, the pamphlet told the story of Joan Butts, who was alleged to be a witch and to have harrassed Elizabeth Burgess and her master Mr Tuers in Ewell in Surrey. The story starts in 1680 with a young girl called Mary Farborough who sickened and died. Meanwhile Joan called at the home of Mr Tuers begging for a pair of gloves but was turned away. Shortly afterwards lumps of clay flew from Elizabeth’s back and stones, dishes and candlesticks threw themselves at her. In 1682 Joan was put on trial but found not guilty: her fate thereafter is unknown.

What is interesting is how this pamphlet was able to be reworked. The witch on the left is Butts, and the bullets have become stones. None of the other details really match, but the parts that do have been deemed sufficient. The other woodcuts it’s been teamed with look like standard stock illustrations for ballads, although I haven’t yet been able to trace any of them. Intriguingly, the illustration are all on the inside front cover, not the title page. Instead, the title page is taken up with a lengthy précis of the contents. So they are not designed to draw the reader’s eye when on the bookstand. Perhaps they were there to clinch a sale for the browsing reader, or were being used to fill an otherwise empty page.

Where I draw a blank is how the woodcut came to be knocking around thirty-seven years later. Were the two pamphlets produced by the same printer? Was the block passed around printers or inherited by a junior partner in the business? At this point there is nothing I can find that gives any clues.

E-texts relevant to the history of the book in the 1640s and 1650s

This is more for me as a reference than anything else; but in case anyone finds it useful, here is a compendium of free e-texts available online that are important for anyone researching the history of the book trade during the mid-seventeenth century.

In many cases the metadata on these texts is really not up to scratch: for example, the Internet Archive’s version of the Calendar of State Papers, Domestic for the 1640s are all labelled identically, with no indication of which years each volume covers. Very frustrating! So hopefully this post should be of use to others apart from me. If you have anything else to add to the list let me know.


Calendar of State Papers, Domestic

Parliamentary records

Stationers’ Register




Thomason Tracts


Printed images

Other databases and catalogues

Tongue of Saye

In the summer of 1641 the poet and waterman John Taylor wrote a polemical pamphlet called A Reply as true as Steele attacking Henry Walker, in which he claimed Walker spoke with the:

Tongue of Saye.

Given the context – Taylor was attacking Walker for his anti-episcopal brand of puritanism – one might conclude that this is a reference to Viscount Saye and Sele, the éminence grise of the Warwick-Pym faction in Parliament. By the mid-1640s Walker had attached himself to Saye and the rest of the Independent part, and at least one historian has suggested that this is an early reference to that.

However, a closer look at the context of Taylor’s accusation suggests another possible interpretation. These are the lines in which the accusation appears:

Yet thou, (well skild in foolish impudence)
‘Gainst these retorting lines will take offence
And with Mockado mouth and judgement Rash,
And tongue of Saye , thou’lt say all is but trash,
And that ’tis pitty, I should thus disperse
A businesse of such consequence in verse.

The words in italics (Taylor’s/the printer’s, not mine) are all different forms of cloth. Mockado is a woollen imitation of velvet, introduced to England from Flanders in the mid-sixteenth century. Its roughness quickly made it a pseudonym for anything of inferior quality. Rash was a term for a wide range of wool or silk products, usually of a twill weave. And saye was another form of twill, woven in the south-west of England. Samuel Pepys bought a pair of green saye curtains for his parlour in June 1661.

So Taylor here is using Saye as part of an extended metaphor to criticise Walker’s literary credentials. Never one to resist blowing his own trumpet, he is probably also showing off his own cultural capital. In Measure for Measure the clown briefly mentions a character called Master Rash who is a money-lender. John Donne had also played upon this metaphor in one of his Satires:

Sir by your priesthood tell me what ye are!
His clothes were strange though coarse and black though bare
Sleeveless his jerkin was and it had been
Velvet but twas now (so much ground was seen)
Become tuff-taffety and our children shall
See it plain rash awhile then nought at all.

Still, it’s possible that the double meaning of the word may have had resonance with contemporaries as an insult. And as it happens I have found some evidence to suggest Henry Walker may have been linked to some of Saye’s fellow-travellers, if not Saye himself, as early as 1641. During the first half of that year two members of the Cheshire gentry, Sir Thomas Aston and Sir William Brereton, traded blows with each other via a series of petitions to Parliament.The quarrel was started by the root and branch petition put together by Calvin Bruen and others for Cheshire over the Christmas of 1640, and submitted to the Commons by Brereton on 19 February 1641.

Aston was incensed by the petition and mobilised signatures for his own petition to the Lords in favour of episcopacy, which he submitted on 27 February. A printed version was also published. At some point around the end of March or the start of April, a counter-petition emerged also claiming to be from Cheshire, but criticising episcopacy. This too was published: “many thousands” of copies according to Ashton later on in the year, although it was perhaps in his interest to exaggerate its impact and a print run in the hundreds seems more likely. According to Judith Maltby the counter-petition was orchestrated by Aston’s rival, William Brereton (although she doesn’t reference this). It was also a fake: it hadn’t been anywhere near the county of Cheshire and seems to have been intended instead as a tactical riposte to Aston’s pamphlet for a London audience.

As fakes go, it was a good one though. The printed version of the counter-petition was printed on the same size paper (as a broadside), and laid out in the same style with the same starting woodcut initial. However an alert reader might have concluded something was up when they read the numbers of signatories to each petition. Here are the signatories to Aston’s petition:

This petition was subscribed to by four noblemen, 80 and odd knights and esquires, 70 divines, 300 and odd gentlemen, and above 6,000 freeholders and other inhabitants.

And here are the signatories to Brereton’s:

This petition was subscribed to by eight noblemen, 199 knights and esquires, 140 divines, 757 gentlemen, and above 12,000 freeholders, and other inhabitants.

As you can see most of the figures have just been doubled to make a point.

The story of this exchange, and how it subsequently developed, was first told by John Morrill in his monograph on Cheshire and then developed by Maltby, who sees Aston’s petition as an example of prayer-book Anglicanism rising up to counter the growing anti-episcopal tendencies within Parliament. A classic example of the growth of a royalist opposition, then. But this account has subsequently been subject to an important revision by Peter Lake, who argues that Aston actually showed Laudian tendencies during the 1630s. He argues instead that Aston was trying to rally a wide spectrum of religious positions behind an inclusive definition of episcopal Anglicanism, to marginalise the hotter sort of Puritans such as Brereton.

However what none of the accounts mention is Henry Walker’s involvement with Brereton’s counter-petition. On 2 April Aston petitioned the Lords to complain about Brereton’s fake petition, and calling for justice on those involved in its circulation:

After this, a Petition of Sir Tho. Aston’s was read, in the Behalf of the County Palatine of Chester, against a Printed Petition, dispersed abroad as a Libel, in the Name of that County, which was supposed to be made by one Henry Walker, and sold by divers Stationers, and dispersed by others, whose Names were annexed unto the Petition; whereupon it was Ordered, That Henry Walker, Henry Hoode, Bankes, Thomas Bates, John Harrison, Bernard Alsop, and Tho. Fossett, be sent for, by the Gentleman Usher attending this House, to appear and answer the said Fact.

Six days later a number of these printers and booksellers named were brought to justice:

Ordered, That such of the Printers and Stationers, that were sent for upon the Complaint of Sir Thomas Aston, Baronet, and are charged in particular to have Hand in the libellous Petition, are to go upon reasonable Bail; and the Matter is referred to the Committee for examining the Printing of Libels, etc. But such of those that are not charged, are presently to be released out of the Custody of the Gentleman Usher.

What’s interesting about this is the number of people involved. Walker appears to have been the writer of the petition. At this point in 1641 he was drifting into writing and selling anti-episcopal books. Bankes (Thomas Banks) and Bates were two booksellers who were partners together. Walker’s books occasionally appeared in their stocks during the first half of 1641, although he seems to have had a quarrel with Bates later in the year while the pair were in prison for another offence. Harrison and Hoode are two other booksellers. Alsop and Fawcett were both printing partners about whom I’ve blogged previously, who would frequently be in trouble with the Long Parliament during 1641 and who printed many of Walker’s books in the same year.

So we have four booksellers distributing the fake petition. This is unusual: it could suggest a high print-run that needed to be dispersed quickly; or an attempt to share the blame if things went wrong; or something else entirely. And it’s equally unclear how they all came to be involved. Were they in it for the money? The flurry of petitions arriving at Parliament in the spring of 1641 may have meant this kind of product was particularly marketable. Or were their motives more political? Aston’s distinction between some of the stationers selling the petition, and others dispersing it, may mean some of them were giving it away. They would presumably have been funded to do so: either from their own money, suggesting strong political views, or by others who wanted to get this petition circulated as widely as possible.

Like most case studies of this type, we can ultimately only guess at what happened. But read in one way, it is possible that this is an early example of politicians making use of networks of stationers to get their messages out to a wider audience. Perhaps Brereton commissioned Walker directly to write the petition, recompensing him in return, and Walker in turn used his contacts in the book trade to get the pamphlet distributed quickly. Or perhaps it represents a more popular form of politics: Brereton only seems to have become associated with the counter-petition because of his rivalry and subsequent exchanges with Aston. If Walker was the instigator, it becomes instead an example of a relatively obscure individual, at home with underground religious and print networks, participating actively in a propaganda war. Either possibility is intriguing.

  • omas Aston’s original petition in favour of episcopacy read in the Lords.
  • Unknown date – Henry Walker’s fake petition against episcopacy.
  • Unknown date – Aston produced his own petition, not circulated in the county. Is this the same as the critique of Walker et al?
  • 2 April – Sir Thomas Aston’s petition against Walker’s libel. House adjourned into Committee but let him off after he explained himself.
  • 19 April – petition of Calvin Bruen and others. Is this the Attestation? Refers back to another petition presented by William Brereton – but presumably this is the root and branch one?
  • Unknown date – Aston drafted an answer to the Attestation.
  • Unknown date – 43 gentry wrote a letter of support for Aston.
  • November 1641 – Remonstrance against Presbytery.
  • Unknown date – An Humble Remonstrance (E.178[4]) was the response.