Mercurius Politicus

A blog (mostly) about early modern history

Tag: laud

Van Dyck’s portrait of Archbishop Laud: the hijack of an image

The Van Dyck exhibition has now started at Tate Britain. I haven’t had a chance to go yet, but in the meantime I thought it might be interesting to post about how a particular portrait by Van Dyck was put to very different uses by different political and religious factions.

NPG 171, William Laud

In 1636, the Archbishop of Canterbury William Laud sat for this portrait by Van Dyck. Laud stands in his convocational robes, gazing powerfully out at the viewer. This was Laud as the architect of a restored and revivified Church of England, projecting authority without the need for props like Bibles in the background.

The impact of the image wasn’t limited to Lambeth Palace. By 1640, Wenceslaus Hollar had produced this reversed etching of the Van Dyck portrait:

laud-hollar

AN344014001, © The Trustees of the British Museum

Although such etchings would have been expensive at about 6d. each, the etching survives in a number of versions, which suggests it sold well. Nor is the only version of the portrait that was available:

prima-effigies1

AN406358001, © The Trustees of the British Museum

There was clearly an audience for popular reproductions of Laud’s portrait. In the 1640s, however, a different type of popular audience emerged in the wake of the controversy over the Laudian canons. Van Dyck’s portrait was very quickly put to a rather different use. For example, here is an engraving from 1641 of Laud with his nemesis Henry Burton:

burton-laud1

AN48816001, © The Trustees of the British Museum

Laud is shown vomiting books as Burton holds him still, gripping his head in a manner which is meant to remind the viewer of execution. The captions confirm this. Burton proclaims that Laud will be ill “till Head from body part”, and the punning verse above their heads reads as follows:

Great was surnamed GREGORIE of Rome

Our LITTLE by GREGORIE comes short Home.

The pun here is that Gregory was not just the name of Pope Gregory the Great – a critique of Laud’s perceived return to Rome – but was also the name of London’s executioner, Gregory Brandon.

Woodcuts, the cheapest form of printed image, also had a field day with satirical images of Laud. Here is a woodcut that was commonly used to illustrate anti-Laudian pamphlets, in this case taken from Mercuries Message of 1641:

laud-woodcut

AN406357001, © The Trustees of the British Museum

In this case the satirical content was provided by the text that accompanied the woodcut. But depictions of Laud could be extremely sophisticated satires in their own right. Here is an image of Laud with fellow prelates, which draws on Van Dyck’s image (Laud is on the far left) but also plays with the associations of the word ‘canon’:

laud-canons1

AN501635001, © The Trustees of the British Museum

These kinds of images would have been in wide circulation in bookshops, taverns and private homes in London in the early 1640s. They may have played an important role in shaping a popular political consciousness amongst Londoners, for instance amongst the hundreds who gathered to protest outside Lambeth Palace in May 1640. Laud himself was in no doubt of their impact, seeing a key cause of the reaction against him as:

base pictures of me; putting me into a Cage, and fastning me to a Post by a Chain at my Shoulder, and the like.

For more on anti-Laudian satire:

A bit of a pasting

Spotted the poster above pasted onto a wall on the north side of the Millennium Bridge, on the approach to Tate Modern. The URL in the corner is www.neoexternalism.co.uk – but it takes you to a defunct website. A Whois check on the URL doesn’t reveal much, either.

Still, seeing it reminded me that pasting satirical messages onto London’s walls is nothing new, so I thought it would be a good excuse for a post. For comparison, here is one of the Voyeur Card’s famous early modern counterparts: a satirical broadsheet ballad that would probably also have been glued onto walls.

AN47532001

© The Trustees of the British Museum

The World Is Ruled & Governed By Opinion was published in 1641 by Thomas Banks (although subsequent editions did not feature his name).  The text is by Henry Peacham, a writer and illustrator who in the late 1630s and 1640s published a number of written works. There is some suggestion that he was down on his luck and attempting to make money by doing so. At this period Peacham collaborated with Wenceslaus Hollar, who is the artist behind the ballad’s illustration. This is one of a number of works they collaborated on at this period. The dedication is to Sir Francis Prujean, a noted physician.

In the illustration you can see Opinion (the blindfolded woman), crowned with the Tower of Babel. She has a globe on her lap, a chameleon on her left arm and a staff in her right hand. In the tree are various pamphlets and broadside ballads. On the left is a jester-like man watering the tree. On the right is the aristocratic cavalier labelled “Viator” or traveller, who is the person Opinion is debating with in the ballad’s text.

The ballad and its illustration are a good example of of views held in the 1640s about the dangers of print, news and opinion – Opinion is an inversion of Justice, watered by a fool, producing nothing but confusion and a world turned upside down. This is ironic, given that the pamphlet’s publisher, Thomas Banks, was a key producer of cheap ballads, pamphlets and newsbooks during the 1640s. Paradoxically, the ballad’s very medium cuts across its message.

Where it gets really interesting are the titles it’s possible to make out of the books hanging from the tree. These are:

  • “[John] Taylor’s Reply”
  • “The Ironmonger’s Answer”
  • “Mercuries Message”
  • “News from Elyzium”
  • “Hellish Parliament”
  • “A Swarme of Sectaries”
  • “Canterburies Tooles” (not Troubles as the British Museum website has it)
  • “Brownists Conventicle”
  • “Taylors Physicke”
  • “Lambeth Faire”

Of these, Taylor’s Reply, A Swarme of Sectaries, Taylors Physicke, and The Ironmonger’s Answer all relate to the pamphlet war between John Taylor and Henry Walker.

Mercuries Message was a ballad critical of Laud. Newes from Elizium was a satirical piece using the same woodcut of Laud as Mercuries Message. The Hellish Parliament was another satirical pamphlet by Taylor. Canterburies Tooles is a pamphlet purporting to be by Prynne which reused the same woodcut. Brownists Conventicle was yet another Taylor satire. Lambeth Faire was another satirical ballad hostile to Laud.

I have a hunch – and it is no more than that at this stage – that the listed works may all have been published by Thomas Banks. Certainly Taylor had close professional connections with Banks, who printed a number of his satires. And much of Banks’s output at this time consisted of cheap satirical pamphlets and ballads. To add another layer of paradox, it may be that as well as a critical commentary on the burgeoning public sphere in 1641, The World Is Ruled & Governed By Opinion is also an advert for the very cheap print the ballad criticises.

What is also potentially fascinating for me is that works from both sides of the pamphlet war between John Taylor and Henry Walker are mentioned – not just Taylor’s but also Walker’s. Having blogged about this previously, and hypothesised that the two may have been closer than is supposed, and linked by their mutual associations with Banks and other printers, it is intriguing to wonder whether Banks actually printed all the pamphlets in the dispute. At any rate it’s something I’ll be following up.

Incidentally the ballad also inspired the title of Dagmar Freist’s excellent study of politics and communication in mid-seventeenth century London, which is now available in limited preview on Google Books, and which I would recommend if you want to find out more about print and other forms of communication in 1630s and 1640s London.

Richard Badger

I’ve finally got round to catching up with the June edition of the Historical Journal and I’ve been particularly intrigued by an article by Peter McCullough on the printer Richard Badger [link to article – subscription or Athens access required].

Badger (1585-1641) was a printer who was entrusted with publishing an edition of Lancelot Andrewes’s XCVI sermons (1629) whilst still a journeyman. In the 1630s he was made a master printer and went on to produce a wide range of Laudian publications.

McCullough uses a close study of Badger’s professional and kinship connections with Laud and his supporters to study the extent to which his political and religious ideologies were consistent or sincere. He makes a crucial distinction between books published by printers – in other words, where the capital was put up but the printing often passed on to others, where the publisher’s name would generally be given on the imprint – and those merely printed by them – where they were doing work for other stationers.

This sensitivity to form yields a fascinating analysis of Badger’s career. McCullough argues that to use printed output as an index of religious allegiance is not on its own sufficient – this distinction between published and printed works needs to be borne in mind. An analysis of published works shows that Badger showed remarkable consistency in his Laudianism.

McCullough complements this analysis by looking at an untapped source for stationers’ allegiances – the exchequer’s composition books from the Office of First Fruits and Tenths, which show stationers standing surety for over 300 clerical appointments. He weaves this together with bibliographical analysis, looking at the printer’s imprint Badger adopted, shown above – with its grandeur and heraldic crests – to demonsrate the positive impact Badger’s association with Laud had on his business.

McCullough concludes that these sources can be used to confirm recent trends in the historigraphy of printing that have moved away from seeing printers as motivated solely by commercial interests.

As a work of historical analysis this is properly post-revisionist, crossing a number of academic disciplines and using a wide range of sources. I found it a really stimulating read and would recommend checking it out.

1. Peter McCullough, ‘Print, publication and religious politics in Caroline England’, Historical Journal (2008).

2. Lancelot Andrews, XCVI Sermons, printed by Richard Badger (London, 1641).