Mercurius Politicus

A blog (mostly) about early modern history

Tag: henry walker


A bit of a coup in recent weeks: I finally managed to view the original parish registers for Petersham chapel, where Henry Walker was curate from the 1660s until some point in the 1680s. This is part of a page written in 1667:

1667 entry in Petersham register


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 couple that morning. Mr Walker went to the Hon:ble 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 1[illegible but must be 6 from the context as 16 June was the Sunday] 1667 upon approbation.

I am pretty certain that it was Henry himself who wrote this. Compare it to this inscription in the flyleaf of a copy of Synopsis Papismi that he gave to the Ironmongers’ Company in 1681, which seems to me to be the same hand.


If I am right about that, then the rest of the relevant page from the Petersham register becomes more interesting:


What precedes the entry about the Countess of Dysart seems to be in the same hand. Looking at what has been crossed out – an entry that then is re-written a few places down – it seems most likely that Walker was re-entering material that had already been recorded somewhere else, and made a mistake. The registers are a complete mess, with the pages out of order and the page that would have confirmed Prince Rupert’s alleged marriage of 1664 (together with entries from 1659 to 1664) missing. So Walker may just have been tidying things up.

However, one other possibility that occurs to me is whether Walker had effectively taken possession of the curacy himself, some months before he then went to the Countess of Dysart – making this an attempt to rewrite history so as to appear that he had gone to the Countess of Dysart as soon as possible? I have got quite used to Walker’s narrative of his own life being somewhat different to what actually seems to have happened, so would not put it past him, but I would welcome any thoughts.

Starting again

Four years ago I started writing a book: a biography of the seventeenth-century ironmonger, preacher, bookseller, pamphleteer and newsbook editor Henry Walker. I had done most of the research, and finished writing up the early chapters (the first three are now on my page, if you want to read them). And then real life intervened, and I ground to a halt, and the book has sat unfinished on my hard drive for two years. My resolution this year is to start writing it again.

To help me stick to that resolution, I am going to try blogging about my progress. Every week from now on, I will aim to post an update about how I am getting on. It might be a summary of what I’ve done that week, it might focus on a particular source I’m working on, a particular text or protagonist I’m researching, or it might just be an excuse for why I haven’t done anything. But I will try to post something every week or so, even if it’s just a paragraph or two. This first post is about beginnings and ends.

How does one start – or in my case, re-start – the process of writing a book? Four years ago I did it according to the textbook: planning and plotting out each chapter based on my research, and then starting at the beginning of Walker’s life with his baptism in All Saints, Derby on 1 March 1612. I got as far as 1641 before I stopped.

Returning to the draft, though, I have had to confront an enormous mental block about picking up where I left off. Nobody really knew much about Walker’s life before the 1640s before I started researching him: the most that had been found was records of his time as an apprentice ironmonger in the late 1620s and early 1630s. I have found a lot more, but inevitably there are gaps that I have had to fill in through educated guesses and speculation. Writing up Walker’s early life, I didn’t have existing accounts to consider or react against. From 1641 onwards, however, Walker starts selling and publishing pamphlets, and becomes much more visible in the historical record. Many historians, from the the early twentieth century onwards, have written about Walker’s career from the outbreak of the civil war and onwards.

So picking up the draft chronologically where I’ve left off feels quite daunting – stepping into well-trodden ground where there is huge amounts of primary source material that has been picked over in secondary sources. Not having written anything for two years, I’ve found it hard to dive straight back in just at the point where it is hardest to say something new or original.

Instead I’ve chosen to begin at the end. According to his ODNB entry, in the early 1660s Walker more or less disappears from the historical record. After lots of digging, I have been able to reconstruct a skeleton framework for the last twenty years of his life:

  • 1667 – appointed curate of Petersham chapel.
  • 1671 – Henry’s wife, Mary, dies and is taken back to St Giles Cripplegate (where they had first lived when married) to be buried.
  • 1674/75 – is warden of the yeomanry of the Ironmongers’ Company.
  • 1681 – gives a copy of Andrew Willet’s Synopsis Papismi (1634) to the Ironmongers’ Company.
  • 1687 – dies of the stone and is buried in St Giles Cripplegate.

If I was updating Walker’s entry in the ODNB I would simply list these events, and that would be that. But that is hardly enough for a chapter in a full biography that is meant to be an epilogue to Walker’s life. So I am having to resort to other means to fill in the blanks – by reading the parish registers to get a sense of the rhythm of Walker’s job, by reading the court book for the Ironmongers’ Company to see what dinners he attended and when he was fined for non-attendance, and by reconstructing what his grown-up daughters were doing by this point from mentions in his will.

None of it quite adds up to a substantive chapter, at least not compared to what I will end up writing about Walker’s career in the 1640s and 1650s. At best it is a process of writing someone’s life by reconstructing the milieu in which they lived and hoping it leaves a subject-shaped gap; at worst it is simple speculation. But it does give me a gentler way in to re-starting the process of writing, with some small, manageable chunks of drafting that aren’t too scary. So I am beginning at the end, hoping that the act of going backwards is what will ultimately send me in the right direction.

Books with names but no bodies

In recent days I have been enjoying Adam Smyth and Gill Partington’s edition of Critical Quarterly on missing texts. As the title of their introduction asks, what is the material history of books with names but no bodies?

As it happens there is one particular book for whose body I have been searching recently: To Your Tents, O Israel by Henry Walker. The events which prompted its writing are well-known: on 4 January 1642, Charles I had made famous attempt to arrest five leading opponents in the House of Commons: arriving at Parliament only to find, in his own words, that ‘all the birds are flown’. Charles was determined to track down the rogue MPs, and believing that they were still in hiding in the capital, he decided to confront the Corporation of the City of London.

At about ten o’clock the following, Charles was taken by coach up the Strand towards the Guildhall. By the time he got there, a substantial crowd had assembled to meet him. After addressing the Corporation, Charles dined with London’s Sheriff, George Garrett, at his house in Aldermanbury Street next door. After their lunch was finished, he emerged and made his way back to his carriage. At this point the crowd surged and shouts went up of ‘privilege of Parliament’. This was the moment that Henry Walker, a 29-year old ironmonger turned writer and bookseller decided to throw a self-penned text into Charles’s coach.

The text has become known as To Your Tents, O Israel because of the passage in scripture it is supposed to have alluded to: 1 Kings 12:16, which told the story of King Rehoboam’s tyrannical rule over Israel. Rehoboam was a tyrant who imposed heavy taxes and harsh punishments on his people. In response, the ten northern tribes of Israel rebelled and formed their own nation. In alluding to these events, Walker was making a fairly heavy handed comparison to the extra-Parliamentary taxation that Charles had introduced under his period of Personal Rule in the 1630s.

However, it’s not actually clear if To Your Tents, O Israel was the title, or even if the text had a title. Nor is it clear what form the text took. It is described variously in contemporary accounts as a “Pamphlet”, “Petition”, “Paper” and “Sermon”. No copies survive and it’s not clear how many were made. We do know, though, that it was printed rather than hand-written. The only direct account we have of the text’s production is by a hostile witness, John Taylor:

He plotted and contrived with a Printer, the said night before to write and print a perrillous Petition to his Majesty, and borrowed the Printers wives Bible, out of which he tooke his Theame out of the first of Kings, Chap, 12. ver. 16 part of the verse; To your Tents O Israel. There was writing and printing all night, and all the next day those Libels were scattered, and when his Majesty had dined, and had taken Coach to returne to White-Hall, Walker stood watching the Kings comming by amongst the Drapers in Pauls Church-yard, and having one of his Pamphlets in his hand meaning to have delivered it to his Majesty, but could not come at him by reason of the presse of People, insomuch as Walker (most impudently sawcy) threw it over the folkes heads into his Majesties Coach.

John Taylor, The whole life and progresse of Henry Walker the ironmonger, E.154[29].

However, details in this account can be checked and verified. The printer was Thomas Payne, whose shop at the sign of the sugar loaf in Goldsmith’s Alley was a stone’s throw from Walker’s establishment in Butler’s Alley in St Giles Cripplegate. It was Payne who, having thought better of his role, shopped Walker to the authorities. In 1650 he received a belated reward of £20 from the Commonwealth’s Council of State ‘‘as a gratuity for his sufferings by printing a book for the cause of Parliament, written by Mr. Walker”. So it does seem clear that the text was in printed form, although it whether it was a book or a sheet is open to question. And it was written and printed overnight, which suggests it cannot have been that long or had a significant print run.

Something which may help resolve the question of what form of printed text it was is a reference two and a half years later in another of Walker’s works: an edition of his newsbook Perfect Occurrences for 30 August to 6 September 1644. At this point Walker was not acknowledging himself as the author of Perfect Occurrences, hence the references in the third-person:

Here followeth a true copie of Master Walkers petition to the king, for which he suffered.

To the Kings most Excellent Majestie.

Humbly beseecheth that your most Excellent Majestie, would be graciously pleased to meditate on that place of Scripture written, 1 Kings. 12. 15. 16. Wherfore the King hearkned not unto his people, for the cause was from the Lord, that he might perform his saying, which the Lord spake by Ahijah the Shulanite, unto Jeroboam, the Son of Nebat, So when Israel saw that the King hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king saying, what portion have we in David, Neither have wee portion in the son of lesse: To your tents O Israel, now see to thine own, &c. The Lord blesse guide and direct your gratious Majestie, and encrease the number of your faithfull loyall Subjects. Amen.

Perfect Occurrences, 30th August-6th September 1644, E.254[28].

So if we can trust Walker’s reprint, it seems that the text was more akin to a printed version of the manuscript petitions that were common for the king and Parliament to receive at the time. And a text of this length would barely take up half a side of quarto, so it seems unlikely that it was a pamphlet or other book: more likely, a single sheet with some copies taken to distribute to the crowd or paste up on walls, and which Walker was fortunate enough to have the chance to thrust upon Charles.

And so this particular missing text is perhaps not as missing as it seems. A version of it turned up, and is still extant, in a later text – and even if it is a summary or rewrite of the original, it does give some suggestions about what the text said and what form it took. Similarly, an apparently unreliable account in a work by one of Walker’s enemies turns out, when checked against other evidence of the London print trade, to have more in it than first appears. There is something quite satisfying about the fact that it is the material traces of other texts that allows at least a partial reconstruction of another text.


In four years of burrowing through the Thomason Tracts I thought I’d got used to George Thomason’s handwriting. This particular annotation, however, has stumped me slightly: both in terms of what it says and how to decipher it. It’s from the newsbook Perfect Occurrences of Parliament, for 15-22 November 1644.

This is what I think it says:

The author of this is Walker the Ironmonger

Who hath Wm Laud’s license to preach. Witness

John Partridge & others this 22 June.

I think this is the right transcription. The William Laud part certainly makes sense: in 1640 Walker was ordained a deacon by Laud, or at least by one of Laud’s chaplains. But why has Thomason got John Partridge – a fellow bookseller (not the astrologer of the same name, who was only born in 1644) – and others to witness it? He had scrawled much the same on a publication of Walker’s in early 1641 without feeling the need to get another person to verify it. And why the reference to 22 June given the pamphlet was published on 22 November – or could it actually say 22 Nov?

Another marginalia mystery related to Perfect Occurrences that I am trying to solve is related to its author(s). The Edwardian historian J. G. Muddiman attributed it to the antinomian preacher John Saltmarsh, citing a marginal note by Thomason. He argued that Walker only took over in 1647, when his pseudonym Luke Harruney appeared on the colophon. But as with most of Muddiman’s assertions, he doesn’t provide a citation for this. As a result, I can’t find the marginal note.

Much more recently, Carolyn Nelson and Matthew Seccombe – seemingly drawing on Muddiman – attributed the title to Saltmarsh and Walker in their short-title catalogue of newsbooks. Joad Raymond has subsequently mentioned that Saltmarsh might have had a hand in the publication – although implying heavily that Walker was the lead – and referenced Thomason’s copy of a very early edition of Occurrences from 5 April 1644. Is this the marginalia Muddiman mentions? But having looked at this on EEBO there are no annotations on it (at least none that I can make out). And the text itself doesn’t mention anything about the author. I am not sure whether it is the quality of the scan making Thomason’s scrawls illegible, an incorrect footnote, or something else.

Given Thomason’s marginalia above, and other self-aggrandising references to Walker in the paper from 1644, it seems pretty clear to me that Walker was involved with it from early on in its life, not just from 1647. And Saltmarsh seems a strange candidate for editor. In 1644 he was preaching in Northampton then became vicar of Cranbook in Kent. Quite how this gave him time or the capacity to edit a London newsbook is unclear to me. There is also the fact that in 1644 and 1645, Saltmarsh’s occasional religious pamphlets were published by Giles Calvert, not by Andrew and Jane Coe, the early publishers of Occurrences.

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.