Posts tagged ‘Chronobibliography’

15/09/2022

1692: a watershed year

Back when I initially conceived this blog, lo these many years ago, my first thought was a general look at the English novel from about the 1740s, at which time “the novel” was a firmly established facet of everyday life: Fielding vs Richardson was the start I had in mind.

But my brain being what it is, I then started pondering how exactly things had got to the point where a nine-volume epistolary novel with a middle-class female protagonist could be the most popular fictional work of its day. And perhaps even more pertinently, where did Pamela come from?

Gradually, therefore, my plans slid backwards to Daniel Defoe. At that time, I wasn’t as hostile to the mainstream scholarly view of Defoe as “the father of the English novel” as I am now; but even so, the fundamental question remained: how did Defoe become Defoe? Even then, I had no time for the suggestion that the English novel “began” with Defoe: someone must have been before him.

The year 1700 then seemed like a reasonable starting-point, nice and clean—until one day when I was browsing at my academic library to see exactly what had been happening with the novel around that time, and my eye was caught by a modern reissue of a novel first published in 1692: a work highlighting that year as a critical point in the development of English fiction. THIS, I thought, was a much more conceptually valid place to start.

And for quite a while there, 1692 was my choice. I began reading and researching around that date—only to come to the conclusion that there was one earlier work in particular that demanded a full analysis.

So my next stop was 1684’s Love Letters Between A Nobleman And His Sister…and though I don’t believe in ur-works, if I had to nominate one work as the English ur-novel, this would be it.

But of course, it too had influences…

As some of you might recall – anyone? – my first significant posts at this blog dealt with the still-ongoing controversy over the authorship of the Lettres PortugaisesThe Love-Letters Of A Portuguese Nun – which were first published in 1669 and first translated into English in 1678. These putatively real letters triggered in England a passion for published correspondence, real or otherwise, and were a huge influence upon Aphra Behn in crafting a new sort of fiction that would later become known as the epistolary novel.

The other aspect of the Lettres Portugaises that made them so attractive is what they were notnot the other dominant form of English writing at the time – not an example of the so-called “rogue’s biography”: which is another way of saying that I desperately did not want to deal with Richard Head’s The English Rogue.

But you don’t think my brain was going to let me get away with such pusillanimity, do you?

So my blog’s actual ground-zero turned out to be 1665: a mere 80 years earlier than I first anticipated.

It’s since taken me over a decade to struggle back to what, in spite of all this, I originally recognised as a legitimate starting-point for a study of the English novel, and an enlightening journey it has been, albeit a very strange one taken via a path strewn with obstacles and detours.

We made it, my dudes.

 

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    Aurelian was growing a little too loud with his Admiration, had she not just then interrupted him, by clapping on her Masque, and telling him they should be observed, if he proceeded in his Extravagance; and withal, that his Passion was too suddain to be real, and too violent to be lasting. He replied, Indeed it might not be very lasting, (with a submissive mournful Voice) but it would continue during his Life. That it was suddain, he denied, for she had raised it by degrees from his first sight of her, by a continued discovery of Charms, in her Mien and Conversation, till she thought fit to set Fire to the Train she had laid, by the Lightning of her Face; and then he could not help it, if he were blown up.
    He begg’d her to believe the Sincerity of his Passion, at least to enjoin him something, which might tend to the Convincing of her Incredulity. She said, she should find a time to make some Trials of him; but for the first, she charged him not to follow or observe her, after the Dissolution of the Assembly. He promised to obey, and entreated her to tell him but her Name, that he might have Recourse to that in his Affliction for her Absence, if he were able to survive it. She desired him to live by all means; and if he must have a Name to play with, to call her Incognita, till he were better informed…

 

 

 

 

Born in 1670, William Congreve started out studying for the bar, and would later have a minor political career with the Whigs; but he was always drawn to the world of literature. He became a disciple of John Dryden, and through him was introduced to the London coffee-house circuit where men of letters gathered to discuss each other’s work.

Congreve’s career as a playwright was short but brilliant: he achieved fame early, with his first play, The Old Bachelor, produced when he was only twenty-three; but he fell foul of changing mores and increasing attacks upon the “immorality” of the stage and, always sensitive to criticism, by the turn of the 18th century he had retreated almost into retirement. Nevertheless, Congreve is considered to have significantly influenced the course of English drama and comedy: his plays are still regularly revived, and two of them have given to the English vernacular lines that everyone knows, even if they don’t know the source: “Musick has charms to soothe a savage breast” and “Heav’n has no rage, like love to hatred turn’d, Nor hell a fury, like a woman scorned”, both from 1697’s The Mourning Bride; and “O fie, Miss, you must not kiss and tell” from 1695’s Love For Love.

After his career writing for the stage ended, Congreve dabbled in politics before turning back to literature, working on translations and writing poetry, and collaborating with John Vanbrugh and William Walsh on an English-language adaptation of Molière’s Monsieur de Pourceaugnac called Squire Trelooby. However, his health failed early; and after suffering a carriage-accident from which he never really recovered, Congreve died in 1729.

All of which is beside the point—or at least, beside OUR point—which is that before any of this, William Congreve wrote a novel.

I’ve nominated other years as being particularly important in the development of the English novel: 1689, for one, which seems to me the year that the word “novel” took over from “history” in describing a piece of fiction, and when the requirement to pretend that the story you were telling was true faded away.

1689 proved to be something of a false dawn, however, as a resurgence of political writing then proceeded to subsume fiction once again.

But in 1692, I believe we have the real deal. Not only is political writing conspicuous by its absence, but the words “a novel” appear almost without exception upon the title pages of that year’s publications—one of them being Incognita; or, Love And Duty Reconcil’d. A Novel.

This short work was revived and reissued in 1951 by the Folio Society—and it was this very slender volume (only 71 pages including an introduction, a dedication and a preface) that caught my eye while I was browsing the shelves of my academic library way back when.

The danger when dealing with Incognita, I think, is either demanding of it too much as a work by William Congreve, or not asking of it enough: dismissing it in contrast with his plays. Certainly no great claims for it can be made as literature. Rather, its interest lies in the fact that it exists at all: that Congreve, in first putting pen to paper, turned his talents to the form of writing that was rapidly gaining dominance in the marketplace. Some scholars believe that he may have written it when he was only seventeen, but not published it until five years later, which is interesting in itself. Still more so is the extent to which Congreve, both in his introduction and his text, addresses the reader directly—and what he has to say.

Because the first thing Congreve does is define for us the difference between the European “romance” and the English “novel”: a distinction that would occupy a great many English writers going forward (though the matter was never as clear cut as the English liked to think, as we saw via James R. Foster’s History Of The Pre-Romantic Novel In England):

Romances are generally composed of the Constant Loves and invincible Courages of Hero’s, Heroins, Kings and Queens, Mortals of the first Rank, and so forth; where lofty Language, miraculous Contingencies and impossible Performances, elevate and surprize the Reader into a giddy Delight, which leaves him flat upon the Ground whenever he gives of, and vexes him to think how he has suffer’d himself to be pleased and transported, concern’d and afflicted at the several Passages which he has Read, viz. these Knights Success to their Damosels Misfortunes, and such like, when he is forced to be very well convinced that ’tis all a lye. Novels are of a more familiar nature; Come near us, and represent to us Intrigues in practice, delight us with Accidents and odd Events, but not such as are wholly unusual or unpresidented, such which not being so distant from our Belief bring also the pleasure nearer us. Romances give more of Wonder, Novels more Delight…

This is a fascinating passage when placed in the context of the English novel’s very struggle to exist. Lingering puritan impulses in England frowned upon fiction as a form of lying, and for decades authors were forced to pretend that they were telling true stories – “histories” – rather than presenting their readers with something made up.

What Congreve does here is turn that argument on its head: it is the romance, with its high-flown content and its improbabilities, that is “all a lye”; and it is the novel that offers a more truthful picture of life—“not so distant from our Belief”.

Nevertheless, the reader of Incognita may feel that Congreve was being somewhat disingenuous here, since his novel is set amongst the nobility of Italy—Mortals of the first Rank, as you might say.

This setting also highlights another ongoing struggle, the right of the English novel to be English: as we have seen, it was far more common for even those works willing to call themselves “novels” to be set somewhere else.

The protagonist of Incognita, or one of them, is Aurelian, the only son of a wealthy and prominent gentleman of Florence, Don Fabio. At eighteen, Aurelian is completing his education in Sienna when he meets and becomes intimate with a Spaniard of his own age, Hippolito, who is travelling for his own education under the guardianship of a certain Signio Claudio. Unfortunately for the friends, Hippolito has been called home by his uncle, the Archbishop of Toledo, and it seems that they must part. Reluctant to do so, they begin looking for ways around this edict. Discovering that despite his travels, Hippolito has never been to Florence, Aurelian proposes that his friend take a rather circuitous route home via that city, and that he, Aurelian, accompany him.

Drawing near to their destination, the young men discover that a near-relation of a “great duke” is to be married, and that extraordinary celebrations have been planned to mark the occasion:

…Balls and Masques, and other Divertisements; that a Tilting had been proclaimed, and to that purpose Scaffolds erected around the Spacious Court, before the Church Di Santa Croce, where were usually seen all Cavalcades and Shews, performed by Assemblies of the Young Nobility: That all Mechanicks and Tradesmen were forbidden to work or expose any Goods to Sale for the space of three days; during which time all Persons should be entertain’d at the Great Duke’s Cost; and publick Provision was to be made for the setting forth and furnishing a multitude of Tables, with Entertainment for all Comers and Goers, and several Houses appointed for that use in all Streets.

Having found lodgings, the young men set about securing appropriately rich clothing to wear at the upcoming masque but, having arrived late, can only secure a single outfit—each trying to cede it to the other. Their dilemma is solved by one of their servants, who encounters another with a suit of clothing to sell: his own master being too unwell to wear it. Hippolito purchases the suit and, both properly dressed and appropriately masked, the two young men plunge into the revels.

At this point, William Congreve first makes his own presence felt. Having diverted from his characters’ movements with a description of the scene—

…such a prodigious number of Torches were on fire, that the day, by help of these Auxiliary Forces, seem’d to continue its Dominion; the Owls and Bats apprehending their mistake, in counting the hours, retir’d again to a convenient darkness; for Madam Night was no more to be seen than she was to be heard; and the Chymists were of Opinion, That her fuliginous Damps, rarefy’d by the abundance of Flame, were evaporated…

—he then addresses his reader directly:

Now the Reader I suppose to be upon Thorns at this and the like impertinent Digressions, but let him alone and he’ll come to himself; at which time I think fit to acquaint him, that when I digress, I am at that time writing to please my self, when I continue the Thread of the Story, I write to please him; supposing him a reasonable Man, I conclude him satisfied to allow me this liberty, and so I proceed…

Aurelian and Hippolito are at first almost overwhelmed with the glories of their surroundings, but they soon set their sights upon some fun with the many women present. They decide to separate for an hour, each to pursue his own fortune.

Aurelian already has his eye on one particular lady, and accosts her with bows and compliments. She allows his attention, and soon reveals a nice skill at repartee—rather better than Aurelian’s:

She thanked him for his Complement, and briskly told him she ought to have made him a return in praise of his wit, but she hoped he was a Man more happy than to be dissatisfy’d with any of his own Endowments; and if it were so, that he had not a just Opinion of himself, she knew her self incapable of saying any thing to beget one. Aurelian did not know well what to make of this last reply; for he always abhor’d any thing that was conceited, with which this seem’d to reproach him. But however modest he had been heretofore in his own thoughts, yet never was he so distrustful of his good behaviour as now, being rally’d so by a Person whom he took to be of judgment…

The two then dance, and between that and the “rallery”—

…for his part, he was strangely and insensibly fallen in love with her Shape, Wit and Air; which, together with a white Hand, he had seen (perhaps not accidentally) were enough to have subdued a more stubborn Heart than ever he was master of; and for her Face, which he had not seen, he bestowed upon her the best his Imagination could furnish him with…

Hippolito, meanwhile, is having his own adventure: a woman signals her desire to speak to him privately, and then addresses him as “Don Lorenzo”. Realising that she has mistaken him for the original owner of his costume – her cousin, as it turns out – he decides to play along; although the lady’s hurried conversation raises some alarm in him:

“I am overjoy’d to see you are so speedily recovered of your Wounds, which by report were much more dangerous than to have suffered your coming abroad so soon; but I must accuse you of great indiscretion, in appearing in a Habit which so many must needs remember you to have worn upon the like occasion not long ago, I mean at the Marriage of Don Cynthio with your Sister Atalanta; I do assure you, you were known by it, both to Juliana and my self, who was so far concerned for you, as to desire me to tell you, that her Brother Don Fabritio (who saw you when you came in with another Gentleman) had eyed you very narrowly, and is since gone out of the Room, she knows not upon what design; however she would have you, for your own sake, be advised and circumspect when you depart this place, lest you should be set upon unawares; you know the hatred Don Fabritio has born you ever since you had the fortune to kill his Kinsman in a Duel…”

Realising he may have bitten off a bit more than he can chew, Hippolito is about to reveal himself when his companion, misunderstanding his hesitation in replying, removes her mask to prove her identity:

…and discovered to Hippolito (now more amaz’d than ever) the most Angelick Face that he had ever beheld…

He is still trying to think of a way to extricate himself gracefully from the situation – assuming he really wants to – when his companion startles him by mentioning Aurelian’s father:

“I am mighty glad that I have met with you here, where I have had an Opportunity to tell you what so much concerns your Safety, which I am afraid you will not find in Florence; considering the great Power Don Fabritio and his Father, the Marquess of Viterbo, have in this City. I have another thing to inform you of, That whereas Don Fabio had interested himself in your Cause, in Opposition to the Marquess of Viterbo, by reason of the long Animosity between them, all hopes of his Countenance and Assistance are defeated: For there has been a Proposal of Reconciliation made to both Houses, and it is said it will be confirm’d (as most such ancient Quarrels are at last) by the Marriage of Juliana the Marquess’s Daughter, with Aurelian, Son to Don Fabio…”

Finally forced to reply, Hippolito does so in such a faint, muffled voice that Leonora, worried that “Don Lorenzo” is still insufficiently recovered from his wounds, proposes that the two withdraw from the masque. She leads him away from the crowds towards her own house—

…which gave Hippolito time to consider of the best way of discovering himself. A thousand things came into his Head in a minute, yet nothing that pleased him: and after so many Contrivances as he had formed for the discovery of himself, he found it more rational for him not to reveal himself at all that Night, since he could not foresee what effect the surprize would have, she must needs be in, at the appearance of a Stranger, whom she had never seen before, yet whom she had treated so familiarly. He knew Women were apt to shriek or swoon upon such Occasions, and should she happen to do either, he might be at a loss how to bring himself off. He thought he might easily pretend to be indisposed somewhat more than ordinary, and so make an excuse to go to his own Lodging. It came into his Head too, that under pretence of giving her an account of his Health, he might enquire of her the means how a Letter might be convey’d to her the next morning, wherein he might inform her gently of her mistake, and insinuate something of that Passion he had conceiv’d…

Meanwhile, Congreve here grants the reader more information than he has yet given his main characters; or as he puts it himself—

…let me take the liberty to digress a little, and tell the Reader something which I do not doubt he has apprehended himself long ago, if he be not the dullest Reader in the World…

—namely that Don Fabritio, as Leonora feared, recognised the outfit of clothing that Hippolito was wearing; but unlike Leonora herself, he also knew that far from attending the masque, Lorenzo was himself gravely wounded in the duel and is not expected to live; so that Hippolito was not in fact in danger of family vengeance, despite the demands of honour:

Fabritio being much concerned for his Kinsman, vow’d revenge (according to the ancient and laudable custom of Italy) upon Lorenzo if he surviv’d, or in case of his death (if it should happen to anticipate that, much more swinging Death which he had in store for him) upon his next of Kin, and so to descend Lineally like an English Estate, to all the Heirs Males of this Family…

And having caught us up with Hippolito’s present circumstances, Congreve returns to Aurielian:

So, Reader, having now discharg’d my Conscience of a small Discovery which I thought my self obliged to make to Thee, I proceed to tell thee, that our Friend Aurelian had by this time danced himself into a Net which he neither could, nor which is worse desired to untangle…

Aurelian is, in fact, busy making declarations of undying passion to the woman whose identity he still doesn’t know; yet in the middle of these solemn vows, he is also telling her lies:

    Aurelian was unwilling for the present to own himself to be really the Man he was; when a suddain thought came into his Head to take upon him the Name and Character of Hippolito, who he was sure was not known in Florence…
    “I am by Birth a Spaniard, of the City of Toledo; my name Hippolito di Saviolina: I was yesterday a Man free, as Nature made the first; to day I am fallen into a Captivity, which must continue with my Life, and which, it is in your power, to make much dearer to me. Thus in obedience to your Commands, and contrary to my Resolution of remaining unknown in this place, I have inform’d you, Madam, what I am; what I shall be, I desire to know from you; at least, I hope, the free discovery I have made of my self, will encourage you to trust me with the knowledge of your Person.”

The woman, more cautious – and more truthful – then offers “Hippolito” a choice: he may know her name, or see her face:

    …she pull’d off her Mask, and appear’d to him at once in the Glory of Beauty. But who can tell the astonishment Aurelian felt? He was for a time senseless; Admiration had suppress’d his Speech, and his Eyes were entangled in Light.
    In short, to be made sensible of his condition, we must conceive some Idea of what he beheld, which is not to be imagined till seen, nor then to be express’d. Now see the impertinence and conceitedness of an Author, who will have a fling at a Description, which he has Prefaced with an impossibility…

When the time comes for them to part, in spite of all this “Hippolito” again pleads to know the woman’s name. She answers only, “Incognita…”

After a few more confusing adventures with which we need not concern ourselves, Aurelian and Hippolito meet up at their lodgings and exchange love-stories. In the course of this, Aurelian learns to his dismay that his father, in order to put to rest the family feud, has engaged him to Juliana, the daughter of the Marquess of Viterbo; and also that Don Fabio knows that he is in Florence. Aurelian resolves to avoid his father at all cost, in order to be compelled neither to obey nor disobey him.

Hippolito’s problem, meanwhile, is how tactfully to inform Leonora that she has been confidential with a complete stranger, and that the complete stranger in question is in love with her:

    He look’d upon it as an unlucky thought in Aurelian to take upon him his Name, since possibly the Two Ladies were acquainted, and should they communicate to each other their Adventures; they might both reasonably suffer in their Opinions, and be thought guilty of Falshood, since it would appear to them as One Person pretending to Two. Aurelian told him, there was but one Remedy for that, which was for Hippolito, in the same Manner that he had done, to make use of his Name, when he writ to Leonora, and use what arguments he could to perswade her to Secrecy, least his Father should know of the Reason which kept him concealed in Town. And it was likely, though perhaps she might not immediately entertain his Passion; yet she would out of Generosity conceal, what was hidden only for her sake.
    Well this was concluded on, after a great many other Reasons used on either Side, in favour of the Contrivance; they at last argued themselves into a Belief, that Fortune had befriended them with a better Plot, than their regular Thinking could have contriv’d. So soon had they convinc’d themselves, in what they were willing to believe…

Leonora is at first horrified and offended, when she receives a letter from “Aurelian” explaining her error of the evening before; but before long – and having read the impassioned epistle several times – she begins to make excuses for its author, and to find much to admire within. Indeed, her thoughts lead her so rapidly away that, when she catches herself, she is shocked:

    She had proceeded thus far in a maze of Thought, when she started to find her self so lost to her Reason, and would have trod back again that path of deluding Fancy; accusing her self of Fondness, and inconsiderate Easiness, in giving Credit to the Letter of a Person whose Face she never saw, and whose first Acquaintance with her was a Treachery, and he who could so readily deliver his Tongue of a Lye upon a Surprize, was scarce to be trusted when he had sufficient Time allow’d him to beget a Fiction, and Means to perfect the Birth.
    How did she know this to be Aurelian, if he were? Nay farther, put it to the Extremity, What if she should upon farther Conversation with him proceed to Love him? What Hopes were there for her? Or how could she consent to Marry a Man already Destined for another Woman? nay, a Woman that was her Friend, whose Marrying with him was to compleat the happy Reconciliation of Two Noble Families, and which might prevent the Effusion of much Blood likely to be shed in that Quarrel: Besides, she should incurr share of the Guilt, which he would draw upon him by Disobedience to his Father, whom she was sure would not be consenting to it…

We then get a piece of infuriating male smugness from William Congreve, whose male protagonists, let us remind ourselves, have done nothing but lie to the women they supposedly love since they met them: apparently this comes under the heading of “all’s fair”, as no criticism is made of their conduct. Of Leonora, however, who finds herself the more strongly attracted to “Aurelian” the more reasons that they cannot be together occur to her, we get this:

    ’Tis strange now, but all Accounts agree, that just here Leonora, who had run like a violent Stream against Aurelian hitherto, now retorted with as much precipitation in his Favour. I could never get any Body to give me a satisfactory reason, for her suddain and dextrous Change of Opinion just at that stop, which made me conclude she could not help it; and that Nature boil’d over in her at that time when it had so fair an Opportunity to show it self: For Leonora it seems was a Woman Beautiful, and otherwise of an excellent Disposition; but in the Bottom a very Woman. This last Objection, this Opportunity of perswading Man to Disobedience, determined the Matter in Favour of Aurelian, more than all his Excellencies and Qualifications, take him as Aurelian, or Hippolito, or both together.
    Well, the Spirit of Contradiction and of Eve was strong in her; and she was in a fair Way to Love Aurelian…

The masque of the night before gives way to a tournament: both Aurelian and Hippolito don armour, concealing their faces behind their visors, and join the lists; the latter wearing Leonora’s handkerchief as a favour, and the former, having nothing to display, drawing himself to the attention of his Incognita by “bowing to her after the Spanish mode”. Both young men perform well, particularly in the jousting that closes the entertainment (that is, the participants use blunted lances); and both manage to steal away without their identities being revealed.

Also attending the tournament was Don Fabio, who thinks he has a very good idea who the two unknown young knights were; and when the nobles of Florence praise the two, and speculate over their identities, vanity makes him speak out:

This discovery having thus got vent, was diffused like Air; every body suck’d it in, and let it out again with their Breath to the next they met withal; and in half an hours time it was talked of in the House where our Adventurers were lodged. Aurelian was stark mad at the News, and knew what search would be immediately made for him. Hippolito, had he not been desperately in Love, would certainly have taken Horse and rid out of Town just then, for he could make no longer doubt of being discovered, and he was afraid of the just Exceptions Leonora might make to a Person who had now deceived her twice…

Meanwhile, the Duke is busy reconciling Don Fabio and the Marquess of Viterbo, who are still wary of one another, and pushing for the formalisation of the engagement of Aurelian to Juliana:

In short, by the Complaisant and Perswasive Authority of the Duke, the Dons were wrought into a Compliance, and accordingly embraced and shook Hands upon the Matter. This News was dispersed like the former, and Don Fabio gave orders for the enquiring out his Son’s Lodging, that the Marquess and he might make him a Visit, as soon as he had acquainted Juliana with his purpose, that she might prepare her self…

Juliana is anything but delighted by her father’s announcement, and by the ribald way he makes it in front of her friends—including Leonora, who withdraws in dismay, finding that the greater the obstacles become, the greater also her passion for “Aurelian”.

Elsewhere, the two young men are even more miserable:

Hippolito’s Speech, usher’d by a profound Sigh, broke Silence. “Well! (said he) what must we do, Aurelian?” “We must suffer,” replied Aurelian faintly. When immediately raising his Voice, he cry’d out, “Oh ye unequal Powers, why do ye urge us to desire what ye doom us to forbear; give us a Will to chuse, then curb us with a Duty to restrain that Choice! Cruel Father, Will nothing else suffice! Am I to be the Sacrifice to expiate your Offences past; past ere I was born? Were I to lose my Life, I’d gladly Seal your Reconcilement with my Blood. But Oh my Soul is free, you have no Title to my Immortal Being, that has Existence independent of your Power; and must I lose my Love, the Extract of that Being, the Joy, Light, Life, and Darling of my Soul?”

Before long, both young men find themselves having unexpected encounters with their beloveds: Hippolito – that is, “Aurelian” – is so fortunate as to hear Leonora give herself away via song and soliloquy; while Aurelian – that is, “Hippolito” – rescues Incognita from an assailant. Both men plead their passions, and win a confession of love returned; both plead for an immediate marriage, that their lives need not be ruined by the forced and unwanted union of Aurelian and Juliana.

Well. I think we can see where this is headed…

I have my suspicions about the origins of Incognita; or, Love And Duty Reconcil’d. I don’t think William Congreve set out to write a novel at all: I think this was his first attempt at writing a play. There’s hardly a moment in this comedy of mistaken (or false) identity where you can’t imagine how it might have played out on the stage, in particular an amusing passage towards the end where various people keep running in and out of Aurelian and Hippolito’s lodgings, always finding there someone other than the person they expect to see.

In his introduction, in which starts out by comparing “romances” and “Novels”, William Congreve goes on to explain the inferiority of both to drama:

    And with reverence be it spoken, and the Parallel kept at due distance, there is something of equality in the Proportion which they bear in reference to one another, with that between Comedy and Tragedy; but the Drama is the long extracted from Romance and History: ’tis the Midwife to Industry, and brings forth alive the Conceptions of the Brain. Minerva walks upon the Stage before us, and we are more assured of the real presence of Wit when it is delivered viva voce…
    Since all Traditions must indisputably give place to the Drama, and since there is no possibility of giving that life to the Writing or Repetition of a Story which it has in the Action, I resolved in another beauty to imitate Dramatick Writing, namely, in the Design, Contexture and Result of the Plot. I have not observed it before in a Novel. Some I have seen begin with an unexpected accident, which has been the only surprizing part of the Story, cause enough to make the Sequel look flat, tedious and insipid; for ’tis but reasonable the Reader should expect it not to rise, at least to keep upon a level in the entertainment; for so he may be kept on in hopes that at some time or other it may mend; but the ’tother is such a balk to a Man, ’tis carrying him up stairs to show him the Dining-Room, and after forcing him to make a Meal in the Kitchin…

There are, furthermore, various points at which Congreve’s attitude is amusingly like that of those stage actors who were persuaded to act in film in its early days: taking the money, sure, but convinced of the natural inferiority of this new form of entertainment.

But as I say, despite his declared intention of writing prose in which he would nevertheless “imitate Dramatick writing”, I think William Congreve originally intended to write a play—only the plot he came up with was so flimsy, he couldn’t stretch it out to the obligatory three acts. And then, when he couldn’t get his comedy to work in that format—instead of destroying his drafts, or shoving them into a drawer for a later time, he turned his story into a novel.

This wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen such a transformation. We’ve already dealt with William Chamberlayne’s Eromena; or, The Noble Stranger, published in 1683, wherein Chamberlayne turned his own epic poem, Pharinnida, into a novel; and also the anonymous 1689 reworking of another, centuries-old epic poem into The Famous And Renowned History Of Sir Bevis Of Southampton. In both of these cases, there is a clear acknowledgement of the extent to which the English reading public was becoming a novel-reading public.

But—I could be entirely wrong about the origins of Incognita, which would be no less interesting or significant. Perhaps the most fascinating touch here is the extent to which future playwright William Congreve reveals himself as a novel-reader: so much so, he can offer a thoughtful criticism of their shortcomings. And perhaps he did indeed sit down to write a short fiction work in which, in his opinion, those shortcomings were addressed.

In the end, however, the question of whether William Congreve did or did not set out to write a novel is infinitely less important that the fact that he did it at all.

1692, you people: mark it in your diaries!
 

 

 

13/09/2022

So where were we? (Part 2)

I’m going to keep this brief (Huzzah! they cried), because the points that most need making are best made in a different context.

Instead, I just want to remind everyone – myself included – of where we had got up to with the Chronobibliography.

We did examine two short fictions, James Smythies’ Leandro; or, The Lucky Rescue and Peter Belon’s The Reviv’d Fugitive, both of which dealt – more or less – with the consequences of the issuing of the Edict of Fontainebleau in 1685.

However, most exasperatingly, we also had to deal with a resurgence of political writing, most of which hashed over the iniquities of the Stuarts yet again, while a much smaller proportion dealt with the legitimacy of William and Mary’s claim to the throne, or tried unavailingly to attack Louis XIV using the same tactics that had been so successful against James.

What was strikingly missing, though our wander through this material took us pretty much to the end of 1691, was any reference to the Battle of the Boyne. This may have been, as I suggested re: the appendix of Nathaniel Crouch’s revised The Secret History Of The Last Four Monarchs Of Great Britain, because though James himself had scarpered, the war between the Irish and the English forces led by William was still in progress at that time, and would end only with the signing of the Treaty of Limerick in October 1691.

Furthermore, and rather curiously given the preponderance of political writing to date, not only is there no sign of a belated effort to deal with the Battle of the Boyne subsequently, but political writing overall seems almost to vanish from the annals of popular literature from this point.

Oh, sure: Nathaniel Crouch rehashed The Secret History… not once but twice more, catching us up on “the happy revolution, and the accession of Their present Majesties” and “the later reign of James the Second, from the time of his abdication of England, to this present Novemb. 1693”; while some anonymous sadist also decided that we had to hear the story of the Sham Prince one more time; but other than this, a cautious glance forward reveals a fairly steady diet of fiction from this point onwards…at least until the ascension of Anne.

I think another Huzzah! might be in order.

And in fact—I’ve already made a start on 1692, reading one particular work of fiction that to my mind represents a critical watershed in the development of the English novel…

06/09/2022

One step forward, thirteen years’ steps back

I wonder, can I ever make a plan that doesn’t immediately hit an obstacle?

Apparently not.

Having posted the other day, I was doing some bookish busy-work – uploading covers, checking publication dates, that sort of thing – which I find helps gets my head in the right place for some actual writing, when to my horror I discovered on my to-be-reviewed lists what seemed to be an overlooked work of fiction from 1679:

(Before you ask, I disposed of The English Monsieur here – in a post where, I see, I was also complaining about obstacles! – only one of its four parts is available.)

I’ve talked before about the two Lizzie Bates-es; this, however, given the publication date, looked like a case of Lizzie-Bates-C.

After a gawping moment, it was clear what had happened: this wasn’t an oversight, this was a belated addition on the strength of its attribution: an attribution clearly incorrect but understandable, probably the work of an over-officious algorithm. The first Miss Bates, Lizzie-Bates-A, often published as “by a Lady”: this is “by a Lady”, therefore it is by Lizzie Bates. And I added it to the lists automatically without looking at the date.

The problem is…I don’t think I can just let it go.

In the first place, this appears to be a very early piece of outright English fiction – not political writing, not a roman à clef, not a hoax, not an autobiography – just a story; in fact, by date second only to Richard Head’s The English Rogue. I mourned the loss of The English Monsieur on exactly these grounds.

But there is a second critical aspect to The Penitent Hermit. Of course I don’t know for sure that it was actually written by “a Lady”, though I can’t think why, in 1679, a man would have been masquerading under a female pseudonym; I’m hoping I can get a feel from the tone of it. And if this was the work of a woman, it is the earliest piece of female-authored post-Restoration English fiction that I’ve come across, pre-dating the contentiously-authored The London Jilt by four years and our first definite example, Aphra Behn’s Love Letters Between A Nobleman And His Sister, by five.

There’s also this, as noted by Robert Ignatius Letellier’s The English Novel, 1660-1700: An Annotated Bibliography, the only tiny piece of information I’ve found about this work (nothing about its author, alas):

A “fairly realistic setting” is not something often found in the writing of this time either.

So all things considered, this is a work that needs examination.

But what I will do is leave it until after I’ve taken that one step forward in my Chronobibliography: in my case, as they say, a giant leap…

 

 

 

03/03/2021

Just the appendix

 

    It is a Matter not unworthy the Observation, how dextrously the Government there could prevaricate in their dealings with the poor enslaved Protestants; for upon any apprehension of Succours arriving from England, or other pretext to fleece and squeeze them; an Information was presently given, how numerous the Protestants were, and what danger may arrive from thence; and then they were forthwith confined, and hurried away to Prison, and their Houses and Goods expos’d to the Rapine of the Irish and French…
    What a miserable an unexpected Oppression is it, that the poor Subjects shall be Compelled to part with their Goods and Merchandize, for a Contemptible lump of Brass or Pewter? Yet such hath been the Constant proceeding of the late King towards his Subjects of Ireland; whose Goods and Commodities he rather Seizeth than Buyeth; and becoming the grand Merchant of the Kingdom, he was the general Ingrosser of all Trade, which he Vends and Exports, to his dear Correspondent in France…

 

 

 

 

 

Remember when I thought we’d gotten rid of James? MWUH-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!!

Sigh.

As we have seen, there was a resurgence of political writing between 1689 – 1691; but curiously, most of it took a plethora of cracked pitchers back to the well, hashing over the same old material – Charles’ secret Catholicism, his sexual transgressions, the circumstances of his death, James’ open Catholicism, the Sham Prince, the arrival of William – for what we would hope would be the final time (though by this time I know better than to have any confidence on that point).

Conspicuously missing from the 1691 lineup is any writing about what you would think would be the most important recent event: the Battle of the Boyne, which in July 1690 saw James driven off British soil for the final time by forces led in person by William.

It is difficult to assign a reason for this reticence. The only suggestion I can come up with is that the Williamite War (as it became known) continued for another fifteen months in the absence of the Irish forces’ Commander-in-Chief, concluding with the signing of the Treaty of Limerick in October 1691; and perhaps the political writers of the time didn’t want to commit themselves to anything while matters – including most importantly William’s life – were still in the balance.

It is, however, this general silence that finally drove me – with great reluctance – back to the writing of Nathaniel Crouch, aka Richard / Robert Burton, aka “R. B.”

Though there was debate about its authorship at the time (and much abuse of the wrong person, the unfortunate John Phillips), with hindsight it is very evident that the author of The Secret History Of The Reigns Of K. Charles II, And K. James II was printer, bookseller, plagiarist and pot-stirrer, Nathaniel Crouch. Over time, Crouch became less concerned about hiding his authorship; and the later editions of his work, which he continued to update and reissue, are fairly easily traced to him.

Crouch published The Secret History… anonymously in 1690, and followed it with The Secret History Of K. James I And K. Charles I. Compleating The Reigns Of The Last Four Monarchs. Then, in 1691, he compiled the two and added an appendix which promised an update on the activities of James—

—from the Time of his Abdication of England, to this present January, 1691—

—and which, like so much of Crouch’s writing, promises more than it delivers. Rather than getting anywhere near “this present”, the appendix deals predominantly with the events leading up to the Siege of Derry—which, granted, is considered now the first decisive act of the Williamite War, but which took place from April to August 1689.

In fact, it’s hard to understand why Crouch even bothered; except perhaps as the means of squeezing a few more pennies out of his readers, while foisting on them the same old rubbish. The appendix shows every sign of being a hasty bit of scribbling, and unlike The Secret History… itself, it doesn’t have the saving grace of being bad enough to be funny.

As we have touched upon previously, James had no sooner set foot in France following his departure from England in November 1688 than Louis placed an army at his disposal. It was agreed that Ireland should be James’ base of operations in his efforts to reclaim his throne. The country had been undergoing a transformation since the appointment of the Earl of Tyrconnel as Lord Deputy in 1687: Tyrconnel had since readmitted Catholics to parliament and allowed them to hold public office, and removed Protestants first from command positions in the army, then from within the ranks.

This is the first action Crouch takes note of in his Appendix; though in keeping with the tone of The Secret History…, the men’s actions are simply about “introducing Popery” rather than William’s imminent arrival (and James’ subsequent departure):

And now it was judged, by the late King, and his doubty Deputy Tyrconnel, the surest time to put the long conceived Design of subverting the Protestant Religion, and introducing Popery into full execution; upon which, in Nov. 1688, there was a motion made in Council for disarming all the rest of the Protestants of that Kingdom, which being known, and most concluding that as soon as their Arms were taken (there being then a hot discourse of a general Massacre intended) ’twas only to leave them more naked and exposed so as that might have its full effect more easily, and with less opposition upon them, which alarm’d the Protestants so, that many Thousands came flocking over to avoid that fatal stroke. Now were the few Protestants who lived, disperst, left to shift for themselves. In the mean time, the Lord Tyrconnel (who still had the Sword undemanded, and undisposed of to any other) issues new Commissions, not only to the Ro. Ca. who had some Estates, but to all, who were willing to stand up for the Cause, that were men of broken fortunes, and worse Fame, that could influence the Rabble, and raise Companies…

Crouch then goes into a detailed yet tiresomely uninformative scree about the subsequent upheaval, full of who wrote to whom, who broke what promises, whose cattle was stolen, who went where and who went somewhere else, and so on and on. This part is so badly written it’s almost impossible to follow events, let alone get a feel for the bigger picture; but eventually we find a a general movement of the action towards Derry, in the north of Ireland, which along with Enniskillen formed the remaining Irish Protestant enclave.

With William’s arrival growing imminent, and doubting that he could rely upon his English troops, James asked Tyrconnel to send him Irish troops instead—which by this time meant Catholic troops. This was done across September and October of 1688. However, the regiment stationed at Derry itself, under Viscount Mountjoy, a Protestant loyal to James, was considered “unreliable”; and instead of sailing for England, these troops were sent to Dublin. It was intended they be replaced by Scottish mercenary forces (“redshanks”) under the command of the Earl of Antrim, but they were delayed, creating a gap between their arrival and the departure of Mountjoy’s men—and when they did arrive, the city was forewarned by Colonel George Phillips, a former governor. In response, thirteen Derry apprentices seized the city keys and locked the gates of the walled city against them.

Though history now views this as the first blow struck in the Williamite War, this incident occurred some months before formal hostilities, and was peacefully resolved when the keys to the city were given up to Phillips. Subsequently, two regiments under Mountjoy, but consisting of Protestant soldiers, were allowed to occupy the garrison; the commander of one of them, Robert Lundy, was appointed governor in place of Phillips.

In February 1689, William accepted the crown from the English convention—and Derry promptly declared itself for William. It also set about preparing for a siege. To aide these efforts, William sent Captain James Hamilton (whose uncle, Richard, would lead the Catholic forces against the Irish Protestants) to Derry with arms, money and provisions, which would ultimately prove crucial to the city’s survival.

However, when Protestant forces under the command of Robert Lundy suffered a bad defeat against those of Richard Hamilton, Lundy began planning to surrender Derry, and refused to allow recently arrived English reinforcements into the city. Local dissatisfaction with Lundy had been growing since he had withdrawn troops from Sligo and Dungannon, and when it was seen that the local gentry and many of the senior officers were quietly leaving, matters were taken out of his hands. Lundy ended up fleeing the city, which went back to preparing to defend itself. Matters reached crisis-point on the 18th April, when Richard Hamilton called upon the city to surrender. The city asked for two days’ grace, and demanded Hamilton’s troops halt at St Johnston, some eight miles away

Meanwhile, James had landed in Ireland, in company with a mixed force led by the Comte de Lauzun: about one hundred French officers, but troops who were largely English and Irish Catholics who had taken refuge in Europe. (Louis by this time was busy with the Nine Years’ War.) James arrived in the north of Ireland at just this time and was persuaded that these stubborn Protestants would surely submit to a personal plea. Instead, the city forces took his approach to the gates as a violation of their agreement with Hamilton, and fired upon his retinue.

So began the Siege of Derry.

This is a brief though hopefully not too inaccurate summary of the events that Nathaniel Crouch covers in his Appendix—not that you’d know it from reading the Appendix. He doesn’t actually deal with the siege itself, but repeatedly veers off to pursue what was obviously a personal obsession, the financial cost to both sides of the situation—dwelling upon the fact that no-one on either side was getting paid either directly, or compensated for their confiscated goods.

And above all, he bangs the Popery drum.

Here, for example, is his description of the Capture of Bandon in March 1689:

    …at the Prince’s arrival in Ireland to ingratiate himself with the Protestants, and to begin an Opinion of his great Clemency among the Peoples, he very Graciously condescended to grant a general and free Pardon to the inhabitants of the Town of Bandon, amusing them with an assurance of their absolute indemnity for their Transgression, but soon afterwards he remitted them to the Severity of the Law, and exposed them to a Tryal for their Lives; upon which they were all found Guilty of High Treason; and no other Consequence could rationally be expected, when both Judges and Jury were composed of inexorable Papists: And, in the mean time, that this mighty Crime was no more, than that the Inhabitants of the Place observing their neighbours to be openly Rob’d and Pillag’d, and from Clandestine Thievery to proceed to violent Depradation, they though it prudent to shut their Gates, and avoid Plunder by a necessary Defence, and self-preservation.
    This was the first Essay of the gracious Indulgence of a Popish King to his Protestant Subjects: This was a plain Specimen of what is to be expected from him who will Mortgage his Reason to the Humour of his Priests.

…except what happened was that, fearing an uprising, the government sent troops into Bandon, which is in the south of Ireland. Resenting their arrival while the populace was in church, the next day the townspeople attacked the soldiers, killing several and driving the rest away, before closing the city gates. Subsequently, however, the townspeople surrendered—having negotiated an extraordinarily light punishment in the form of a £1000 fine and an agreement to tear their walls down.

And this was in fact part of a campaign by James to convince the local Protestants of his goodwill: a campaign which infuriated his Catholic followers and which, after two years of Tyrconnel, had none of the desired effect.

(That passage is also an excellent example of what might loosely be called Nathaniel Crouch’s “writing style”…)

In any event, we approach with caution Crouch’s description of an incident in which English prisoners in Galloway under sentence of death were promised their lives if they could help raise a regiment for Colonel Robert Fielding, whose own men had been ordered to France to replace the troops sent to Ireland, but who deserted before embarking, “…according to their natural and usual custom.” The prisoners agreed and complied, only to be immediately reimprisoned:

…an Order was sent from the late King, to seize upon those deluded Gentlemen, and to recommit them to their former Prison, on pretence that Fielding’s Contract with them was not done with his Allowance: The Great Turk would blush to be charg’d with such an action! and the very Heathen would abhor it! An action fit only for the Monsieur of France, and such Princes as are influenc’d by his example…

Crouch then offers up some descriptions of atrocities committed by the French troops upon their arrival in Dublin; and it is here, on the final page of the Appendix, that we get our first, last, and only allusion to what we might have expected this addendum to deal with:

A motion was made in Council, that the City of Dublin should be fired, the Protestants being first shut up in the Churches and Hospitals, and if they lost the day at the Boyne, to set Fire to all; whereupon the Irish Papists Trades in the City, and those of the Army, that either Themselves, Relations, or Friends, own’d Houses in it, apply’d Themselves to their King, and told him They should suffer in that Expedition, as well as the Protestants; and that they would not draw a Sword in his Defence, unless all thoughts of burning the City, were set aside; and declared, that as soon as they saw or heard of any appearance of Fire, they would fly from his Service, and submit to King Williams Mercy; of which now they have had a good Experiment.

The end.

No, really.

Not really THE end, though—because in 1693 Nathaniel Couch reissued these compiled volumes YET AGAIN, and with YET ANOTHER APPENDIX—this one promising once again to catch us up with James, from the time of his abdication of England, to this present Novemb. 1693: being an account of his transactions in Ireland and France, with a more particular respect to the inhabitants of Great-Britain.

So I guess this isn’t quite the last of either James or of Crouch: I’m not sure which of those realisations I regret more.

This is, however, the end of 1691 – WHOO!!!! – which turned out to be a grim and poorly written literary year, in terms of both its fiction and its non-fiction.

But there’s hope for better on the horizon…though that is a story for another time…

 

21/01/2021

The Reviv’d Fugitive: A Gallant Historical Novel

 

 

She render’d a Visit to Madmoiselle of St. Hubert, to shew her what part she took in that sorrow which that ill News did cause her, and resolv’d not to leave her very soon, she gave Orders to keep that Visit private, that she might not be disturb’d. They related to one another very agreeable things on the conformity of their Inclinations; they exclaim’d against that blindness of Fate, that had produc’d such cross oppositions in their Amours, in managing so ill their Inclinations; they both storm’d against the rigour of the Edicts, and a Thousand times wish’d to have them re-establish’d in the same condition in which Henry the Great had left them…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I last ventured into my list of books for Chronobibliography, lo, these many—well, not years; but as it turns out a year ago, sigh—I pointed out the increasing tendency, from 1690 onwards, not only for a novel to declare itself so, without any fudging about it being a true story, but for the fact that a book was a novel to become a major selling point.

We see this clearly in the title page of Peter Belon’s The Reviv’d Fugitive—which unfortunately is one of those books where the title page is more interesting than anything behind it.

We’ve met Peter Belon before at this blog, as the author of the infuriating Sham Prince scandal-novel, The Court Secret, and as one of the translators of Jean-Baptiste de Brilhac’s Agnes de Castro: Nouvelle PortugaiseThere’s not a lot out there about him personally (do you know how annoying it is to search for information and have your own posts come up first?), but he seems to have been of French Huguenot extraction; while in 1664 he published a translation of a paper in French on “Sr Walter Rawleigh’s great cordial”, in which he refers to himself as a “student in chymistry”.

The best source of information about Belon turns out to be the 2019 book, Early Modern Ireland And The World Of Medicine: Practitioners, Collectors And Contexts, edited by a J. Cunningham. The chapter by Peter Elmer, Promoting medical change in Restoration Ireland: the chemical revolution and the patronage of James Butler, duke of Ormond (1610 – 88), discusses, “Pierre Belon, a Huguenot physician patronised by Ormond who was involved in efforts to promote a spa at Chapelizod near Dublin”, and offers the following intriguing comments:

In the same year, he sought to secure an ecclesiastical licence to practice medicine and surgery in England, testimonials certifying that Belon was a Londoner by birth, was well skilled in medicine and surgery, including optical ailments, and was well versed in all aspects of pharmacy and chemistry. No licence, however, was granted in 1664, nor in 1667, when it would appear Belon was once more turned down by the licensing authorities…

…which might explain why, like so many others, he turned to writing to support himself. Also—

A year later, in 1668, he would appear to have been taken under the wing of the court, where he held minor office as ‘one of his Majesties Servants in Ordinary’. In all likelihood, Belon had attached himself to the circle of George Villiers, second duke of Buckingham, whose passion for chemistry was second only to the restored monarch…

…which throws an interesting light upon Belon’s attack upon James in The Court Secret.

But though it references Belon’s writing, this chapter is (properly enough, if disappointingly from our point of view) focused upon his medical career.

Despite the patronage of two dukes, in 1690 Belon was still supplementing his income by writing. While the title-page of The Reviv’d Fugitive foregrounds “NOVEL”, its use of “historical” is interesting. Thomas Leland’s Longsword, Earl Of Salisbury, which deals with events from the 13th century, refers to itself as “an historical romance”, which is about right; while the anonymous author of Reginald du Bray preferred “an historic(k) tale”. Belon’s use of the more modern term is misleading, however: though it does touch upon real events, far from dealing with “history” as we think about it in this context, his work is set only some five years in the past. “Gallant” also seems an odd word to use, though perhaps it simply meant “of gallantry”.

Meanwhile, I’ve come across no specific reason for Belon’s dedication to “Her HIGHNESS the Dutchess of Brunswig, Lunebourg, and Zell” (Brunswick, Lüneburg and Celle); and frankly this looks like a shameless publicity stunt. A bigger issue at this distance is just who Belon was referring to: there was the Princess Christine Louise of Oettingen-Oettingen, who in 1690 married Louis Rudolph, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg (thus becoming the Duchess of Etc.); but there was also Sophia Dorothea of Celle who, after much manoeuvring on the part of her parents, was declared Princess of Brunswick-Lüneburg-Celle in 1680; who in 1682 married the future George I of England; and who in the critical year of 1690 supposedly began an affair with Count Philip von Königsmarck, with disastrous consequences for both.

Which, to paraphrase the poet M. K. Joseph, is interesting but not relevant. Alas, I can stall no longer in getting to the work itself.

The Reviv’d Fugitive bears an unfortunate resemblance to my previous entry for Chronobibliography, Leandro: or, The Lucky Rescue. Both overtly deal with the effect upon French Protestants of the 1685 Edict of Fontainebleau, which revoked the religious tolerance introduced under the Edict of Nantes in 1598, and forced many Huguenots to convert or flee—or die. In reality, both use this backdrop merely as the excuse for a bit of inconsequential amatory fiction—which seems particularly odd with respect to Peter Belon, given both his own background and his anti-James, pro-William writing. To be fair, there is a bit more substance here than in that other piece of nonsense, and certainly more of religion.

On the other hand, “inconsequential” is being polite. At least half of The Reviv’d Fugitive is almost pointless, a supposed comedy of love at first sight and mistaken identity, but which is (even allowing for the vagaries of 17th century literature) so badly written and spelled, it’s nearly impossible to follow at some points, and entirely impossible to be interested by.

(The available online copy is also a very poor one, with several patches of repeated pages; which at least has the benefit of making it shorter than it appears.)

Briefly, “the Knight of St. Hubert”, a French Catholic, falls in love with a beautiful young woman who he sees at the opera. After some farcical misunderstanding and general angst resulting from her resemblance to a young Marchioness who is involved with our hero’s cousin, unhelpfully called the Viscount of St. Hubert – no-one in this has a name – he discovers her to be a Mlle. de Chanlieu.

A friendship develops between the two cross-purpose couples, which expands to include our heroine’s brother, who completes the set by falling in love with Mlle. de St. Hubert.

The Knight is not particularly bothered by the fact that his new friends are Huguenots: as we will see repeatedly in English literature over the next hundred years or so, a “good” Catholic is one who is not too Catholic; we get this while the Knight is first hunting for his elusive love:

Those marks of a true right Hugonot, or Protestant, were not capable to divert him from the satisfaction he propos’d to inform himself throughly at Charanton, which is the place where those of the Reformed Religion have a Church allow’d them. He return’d to his Inn, well satisfied with so happy a discovery, and resolv’d to go thither the very next Day to Church. But it was his ill fortune not to find there what he sought after. The King had not yet caus’d the Edict to be Proclam’d, which forbids the Hugonots to suffer any Roman Catholicks in their Assemblies; and that which might have rais’d some scruple in the Knight, (who was an absolute worthy Person) could not yet produce any in him. He remain’d in the Church very quiet during the whole Sermon, which that Day was deliver’d by an eminent Preacher; and he being not a Romanist by meer stubbornness and Caprichio, he found nothing in it that was either horrid or black…

However, Mlle. de Chanlieu is not so accommodating. The Reviv’d Fugitive gives us an amusing sliding-scale here, suggesting that Protestants are more devout than Catholics, and wives more likely to be converted by their husbands than vice-versa. Thus, it is acceptable for Mlle. de  St. Hubert to marry M. de Chanlieu, because that could end in her becoming Protestant; but it would be wrong for Mlle. de Chanlieu to marry the Knight of St. Hubert, because that might end in her becoming Catholic.

These quibbles are Belon’s, however: Mlle de Chanlieu is stauncher in her feeling that in marrying the Knight, she would be putting her love ahead of her religion.

Nevertheless he must struggle hard with herself, particularly in the face of the Knight’s desperate pleas—which Belon, in effect, presents as “Jesuitical”:

…he did particularise to her the secret motions of his passion, and omitted nothing to make her approve of so Heroick a Love. Must it be that through a diversity of Faith (said he) you should refuse to give he yours, which would render me most happy? believe me, Madmoiselle, the Orders of the Court shall never make me to act any thing to your prejudice: You shall ever be the Mistress of my Heart, and I shall sacrifice with pleasure my Fortune to my Love. Then would he change Discourse, to inform her after what manner they might Love without agreeing in their Religions; he seem’d by these Arguments to set both their Hearts in a perfect harmony, and that nothing could oppose it; he offer’d at making some agreements as to the differences of their Belief, but she for her part unwilling to venture any thing of that nature, called him a Love Casuist, she told him that he look’d on their difference in Opinions, but by the most advantageous Light, and that he spoke but by halves concerning their difficulties: Yes, Knight, I suspect you, added she, and If I distrust my self in Love, why may I not suspect you?

Mlle. de Charlieu’s battle with herself causes her to blow hot and cold upon the two men courting her, the second being a M. de St. Sauveur, a Huguenot. She is bolstered in her sense that she ought to choose the latter by her confidential maidservant:

La Grange, (so was the Maid nam’d) who knew after what manner she was to manage her Mistresses mind, had never directly oppos’d herself to her pleasure, not to affrighten her passion on the suddain, she had contented her self ’till then, to dexterously insinuate to her, without affectation, some hatred for all that was Catholick, and whether through that Motive, or for some other secret Reasons, she never ceas’d speaking well of St. Sauveur; yet perceiving that now her heart was on the point of determination, she made her so powerful a representation of the evil consequences which see did foresee, thereby to retard the course of a tenderness, which was taking a Road so contrary to her desires, that at last she did quite byass her. She said that so strong a passion could not be cur’d, but by violent Remedies; that to that effect, she was accustom her self with some Gentleman worthy of her; that that was an easie way to destroy the Ideas of a primary flame…

We subsequently learn that what looks like La Grange’s devotion to the cause, and to an extent is, is significantly encouraged by fat payments from St. Sauveur.

St. Sauveur’s courtship of Mlle. de Chanlieu is facilitated by the Knight’s absence upon his military duties. We get some “historical” background here, though of events of only a few years prior, with the Knight being called away to participate in the Siege of Luxembourg. (I think Belon has his dates wrong here, placing the Edict of Fontainebleau before the siege when it was the other way around, 1684 and 1685, respectively.)

Though Mlle. de Chanlieu does not love St. Sauveur, she has no doubt of his love for her. She is even morbidly attracted by the idea of martyring herself for her religion by marrying him; and she is weakening towards him when word is received that the Knight has been wounded, and is suffering from a dangerous fever. This causes a total revulsion in Mlle. de Chanlieu’s feelings: she can no longer pretend, to herself or others, the strength of her love for the Knight.

Peter Belon’s presentation of the struggle between romantic love and religious devotion is completely unpersuasive, too much telling and very little showing, with neither party displaying much sincerity about the latter; but in the next section of The Reviv’d Fugitive he is horribly convincing—because in St. Sauveur’s reaction to his rejection, he offers, alas, nothing that is not depressingly recognisable to this day:

    …his Resentment prevail’d above his reason, and vex’d to have been the Cully of a Woman, he resolv’d to have no considerations for a Person who had so little regard for him.
    There is nothing so dangerous as a Lover, who thinks himself play’d upon by that Person of whom he is favour’d, his Love frequently degenerates into fury, and nothing is capable to put a stop to his fatal designs. St. Sauveur resenting a wrong which he look’d on as the highest of scorn, prepossess’d on the other hand with his good Qualities, pass’d on the sudden into extravagancies, and resolv’d to revenge himself, at any rate forever. He remember’d that an Italian had frequently mention’d to him a compos’d Perfume, which might easily be inclos’d in a Packet of Letters, and which at the very first opening would attack with his suttle and corrosive parts, whatsoever offer’d it self to them.
    He was not ignorant how jealous a young Lady is of her Beauty, and that treachery seem’d to him proper for his revenge, he was resolv’d to make use of it, to punish that which he call’d the infidelity of a Demon…

Belon also offers the following piece of editorialisation…and ditto:

Without dispute, Love frequently produces a strange Metamorphoses, and if it is a fine thing in it self, he yet sometimes begets Monsters. St. Sauveur had always pass’d for a brave and good Man, incapable of an ill Action, and some little vanity which he naturally had, did not hinder but that he had acquir’d the Reputation and Esteem of gallant Men. Mean time his Passion having seiz’d his Brain, he fansied that he had right to revenge himself of an unconstancy, and his despised flame continually offering it self to his Eyes, he resolv’d in that infatuation, to satisfy himself at the cost of his Honour and Conscience…

Having sent off his little love-token, St. Sauveur departs France for Holland, leaving behind a confidential servant to gather intelligence on his plan’s success:

…he learnt by his Man’s arrival the mischief which his Perfume had caus’d, in taking away Madamoiselle of Chanlieu’s Life with her Beauty; that that Tragedy had surpris’d divers Persons, and that at the first noise of it it had hastened to join him at the Rendevous. Never was Man more deeply struck than he was at that Relation, he fell into a kind of Swound, which depriv’d him of is Senses, and at last coming to himself again, he continued making reproaches to himself that mov’d compassion; he twenty times call’d himself the Executioner of the fairest Person in the World, and passing from invectives to a giddiness, he secretly felt a sorrow which devour’d him…

Yyyyyeah… Not much “compassion” over here, I must say.

But while St. Sauveur is left to his deserved torments of conscience, Belon relieves the reader’s misapprehension. It turns out that the victim was not Mlle. de Chanlieu, but La Grange: she, still eager in her twin causes, intercepted the package and, believing it to be from the Knight, opened it herself to investigate the contents.

Returning home from the wars, St. Hubert is not slow to take advantage of Mlle. de Chanlieu’s softened feelings:

…St. Hubert, who knew what Corrective she made use of, did so well play his batteries that way, that he never shot at random; he set himself up for a Master-mender of both the Religions, and dexterously applying those softenings which Monsieur de Condom has made use of to delude the Reformed, he had perhaps led her into some of those kind of Pitfalls, if she had had less of inlightning, and of fortitude.

(Ahem. This gentleman, Jean de Monluc, later Bishop of Condom, advocated “freedom of conscience” with respect to religious faith, although reading of the fine print reveals he believed that the conscience of the Huguenots would lead them to obey the king and be reabsorbed back into the Catholic church.)

Matters then reach a crisis:

    The Edicts, and the King’s new Declarations did then cause an infinite number of innocent Persons to shed tears, and forc’d a great number to flye from a Countrey where their minds were kept under such a severe slavery. Madmoiselle of Chanlieu did so ingenuously disingage her self from those false shadows which Love us’d to lull her Conscience asleep, that she vow’d to follow the example of so many generous Fugitives, and to abandon her own Countrey…
    She openly chid her Brother on his sluggishness, and told him things grounded on so firm and Christian a Moral, that peradventure he had resolv’d not to be of the numbers of the Temporisers, if he had less permitted himself to be possess’d with his passion…

Mlle. de Chanlieu then calls upon the Knight to prove the depths and generosity of his love for her by helping her flee the country, an act that will effectively separate them forever. After several pages of angst and speechifying, he agrees: with M. de Chanlieu staying behind for the present to quickly put the family’s affairs in order, the Knight escorts Mlle. de Chanlieu and her new maid to the coast and arranges for some fishermen to row them out to a ship bound for England.

He soon has cause to regret his co-operation:

He frequently did go to the Sea-shore, as if to ask news of his Mistress; and some days being pass’d in an unparallel’d expectation of Letters; news was brought by another Packet-Boat, that the first had wracked against an Hollander, and that the storm was so high, that they had not sav’d so much as the Crew…

A friend and fellow officer advises the grief-stricken Knight to go to Holland himself, to inquire more closely into the disaster. He does so, but almost immediately receives confirmation of the worst in the sight of a gown he knows very well to be Mlle. de Chanlieu’s hanging in a merchant’s window. The shopkeeper admits that he bought it from a man who had been among those scavenging the debris from the wreck, which was tossed up on the shoreline.

Travelling around aimlessly, except in an effort to assuage his grief, the Knight ends up in the Hague—as it turns out, in the very rooms previously occupied by St. Sauveur. There he finds papers left behind that spell out the entirety of his connection with Mlle. de Chanlieu, including the plot which ended (as he believed) in her death. Depicting himself as wracked with guilt and remorse, St. Sauveur declares his intention of expiating his crime by burying himself in the wilds of South Carolina.

(We won’t debate whether the punishment fits the crime…)

The Knight then learns that several bodies were also cast up on the shore, including one of a woman found with jewels sewn into her clothing. This final confirmation sends him back to his military service: he hopes that activity, in territories with no sad associations, will help him to move on. However—

    In that conflict of Thoughts, there happen’d one very surprising, which was that he believ’d, in going to make his Campaign the Ghost of that illustrious Person would reproach his Conduct, and would blame him for having made War against Persons that were of her Religion.
    That consideration did stay him in the Province of Dauphine; besides he being not over much prepossest with the Opinions of the Catholicks, he found that they acted with too much rigour against innocent Persons, which were charg’d with imaginary Crimes…

The Knight’s lingering ill-health is made an excuse for him to request leave. He ends up in Marseilles, where he haunts the docks and the shore—and where he presently gets a surprise:

…the pleasure which the Knight took to be on Ship-board, having obliged the Governour to invite him one day to Dinner on one of the largest that was in the Harbour; he was interrupted by an Officer, who gave him notice, that one of the Visitors had found some Protestant Subjects on a Dutch Vessel, which the storm had forc’d in…

Sure enough:

But how great was St. Hubert’s surprise at their coming! he thought he saw amongst them Madmoiselle of Chanlieu; and taking for a fantasm, what doubtless was a real Body, he fancied himself to be in an Inchanted Island, or that at least this adventure was nothing but a Dream…

The “reviv’d lovers” are left alone by the tactful governor, and we hear Mlle. de Chanlieu’s story: that it was her maid, not herself, who was drowned; that she was wearing her, Mlle. de Chanlieu’s, own dress with the jewels sewn into it, to keep them from the rapacity of the fishermen who transported them. (This woman sure does churn through maids!) Furthermore, her life was saved by a passenger on the Dutch ship with which her own collided, who turned out to be – surprise! – St. Sauveur on his way to America. He subsequently died, having confessed his plot to her.

This is all very well, but as the Knight’s friend, the governor, points out, the reviv’d Mlle. de Chanlieu is still a Huguenot fugitive, and strictly he is obliged to take her prisoner and report his having done so at court. He leaves the two of them alone again, and voila!—

    According to all appearance there was but little remedy to be found to wholly free themselves from troubles, and had she not resolv’d to dispute of Religion with him, at that time he intended to speak of nothing but Love, peradventure that she had never seen an end to her miseries.
    She was perfectly instructed in the Roman, as well as in her own, and the Knight, being accustomed to hear her frequently decide divers Controversial points, he began to receive that which proceeded from her delicate mouth as Oracles, and at last was of Opinion, that in spight of his Director he might enter into a particular examination of his Belief. The hard usage against the poor Protestants had already given him some Ideas of their Innocence, and of the Injustice of their Cause, he a-new consulted his own Conscience, and pierc’d by those Instructions that were given him, he believ’d that without allowance to his Love, he ought to be of the Religion of that Person whom he so tenderly lov’d…

The two are secretly married as quickly as it can be arranged and, after much necessary manoeuvring (involving, among other things, the Knight’s desertion of his military duties), make it safely out of the country—

…they pass’d through the Milanese, and took the great Road into Germany, and from thence the Road to London, where one may remain as incognito as in Paris.

 

04/01/2020

Leandro: or, The Lucky Rescue

 

Leandro could not reflect upon such a heap of misfortunes, without the cruellest grief in the World; however being of too brisk a Spirit to stoop to a sorrow, unbecoming the greatness of his courage, he at last endeavoured to evince the memory of his Miseries, by an assurance that Heaven would not utterly refuse him their protection from all those difficulties he must overcome, since ’twas for the sake of a Religion, he was absolutely satisfied was the truest in the World, that he was thus brought to this abyss of misery…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So. Chronobibliography.

Aren’t you astonished?

Back when I originally conceived this blog, I had the year 1692 pegged as “the beginning of the true English novel”, for reasons I will get to when the time is right. While I still think that, subsequent research has led me to tag 1690 as another landmark year, even though the developments in fiction that were taking place then were almost swamped by the resurgence of political writing that greeted James’ attempts to regain his throne—some of which I have looked at in detail (here, here and here), while others have been dealt with just in passing (here, here and here).

Nevertheless, it was during 1690 that a new tendency in publishing began to make itself felt: that of declaring a work of fiction to be, in no uncertain terms, “a novel”.

We have – believe it or not – covered some thirty years of English writing over the existence of this blog; and one of, if not the, most significant developments that occurred across those three decades was a shift away from a need to pretend everything was “a true story”—to the point where it was not only acceptable, but desirable, to admit that you were writing fiction. In fact – as the title-page above illustrates perfectly – you not only admitted it, you said so in a font bigger than that used for your title.

(The true-story impulse would reappear during the 18th century; but that’s story for a much later time.)

And while it was no doubt the printers and booksellers who were controlling the layout of publications, something else of significance occurred during 1690: it was then that an author revealing his or her name on the title-page became a common, if not ubiquitous, practice.

And as we see, the author of Leandro: or, The Lucky Rescue went a little further, revealing also his university affiliation.

I haven’t been able to turn up anything about “J. Smythies”, though it seems I should have been: this, from the British Library’s acquisition catalogue, is the best I’ve been able to do:
 

 
The irritating thing is, I haven’t been able to find the referenced entry in the Alumni Cantabrigienses (to which I’ve turned before, successfully, in hunting up obscure authors); though I’m assuming that’s where the British Library people got “James” from.

The other point of note here is that this is yet another BL holding from the collection of Narcissus Luttrell, the 17th century bibliophile to whom we owe the survival of an incredible amount of rare material. (Also helpful is his habit of annotating his romans à clef, as we saw with The Perplex’d Prince.)

Alas—would that what was behind the title-page of Leandro: or, The Lucky Rescue was half so interesting as all this. I was frankly disappointed in this short work, which over its opening pages seems to be toying with a new form of novel, but then chucks it away in favour of the same old picaresque / amatory stuff we’ve been encountering for years, albeit scaled down in both respects.

This is a very strange piece of writing. In essence it’s a low-key rogue’s biography, with its protagonist parlaying his physical perfections into a comfortable living; yet it opens with an apparently grave consideration of the persecution of the Huguenots under Louis XIV. It is hard to imagine that we’re supposed to take this work seriously overall; yet the tone is often sober, and what the hell is up with that opening? Conversely, if we are meant to take it seriously—what the hell is up with all the rest?

By which we may deduce that, in spite of the whole “a novel” thing, writers of the time hadn’t quite gotten the hang of things.

And in fact, I think I need to apologise for the unnecessary length of this piece. This is one of those works where, when you read it, you realise it’s bad; but then, when you re-read closely for reviewing purposes, you realise it’s REALLY bad (and quote accordingly). We’ve had some prat-heroes before at this blog, but Leandro might just take the cake.

Leandro opens in the wake of the 1685 Edict of Fontainebleau, which revoked the provisions of the Edict of Nantes, instituted by Henri IV in 1598. This granted broad civil rights including the right of the Huguenots (French Protestants) to practise their religion free from persecution. The edict offended Louis XIV, who (among other things) set in motion various “unofficial” methods of persecution, intended to bully or frighten the Huguenots into converting. Then, with the Edict of Fontainebleau, he stripped the gloves off, forcing his Protestant subjects either to convert or flee.

Obviously there was a political purpose in the use of this material; but Leandro is unusual in the way it employs real recent events in a fictional context, in what we might call a recognisably modern manner.

Smythies’ main characters are two noble Huguenots, Arcanius and his son, Leandro:

Leandro was a Cavalier, of a very Noble Extraction, born in the Famous City of Orleans, and the Son of a rich Count, who deriv’d his Family from the most Illustrious House of Conde. History has so loudly proclaim’d the Bravery and Worth of this great Family, that I need no other Character to set out the Vertues and Glory of any of its Progeny, than to say they were allyed to the House of Conde; a Name which had carried so much terrour to the Roman Catholicks of France, that its most treacherous King could never think himself secure on this Throne, ’till the Blood of a most generous and devout Prince, of that Family, had been sacrificed to the revenge of a most unjust Monarch.

There were so many different Princes de Condé involved in so many different wars (and all of them called “Louis”), that this is not easy to pick apart. However, I am reasonably confident that the reference is to Louis de Condé 1530 – 1569 (as some histories actually call him, for obvious reasons!), who took a leading role in the 16th century Wars of Religion, and was executed by the future Henri III despite being wounded and attempting to surrender.

At this early point in Leandro: or, The Lucky Rescue I was anticipating something genuinely interesting; but unfortunately the characters’ connection to the Condés turns out to be no more than an Informed Attribute, with the author insisting upon their possession of countless marvellous qualities that we never see for ourselves.

On the other hand, an amusingly pragmatic reason is offered for the beginning of Louis XVI’s persecution of the Huguenots:

    For the French King being now to begin a troublesome War with his Neighbours, was resolved to drain, as much as possible, the Coffers of his rich Subjects…
    Of those that thus suffered under these intolerable Taxes, the Hugonots to be sure were were the chief, and since Arcanius was one of the most wealthy, the Gallick Tyrant had the strictest Eye over him, and glad that such an opportunity serv’d so timely to satisfie his Revenge and Avarice, one Day summon’d him to his Court at Paris, and, in a private Discourse, told him, That it was expected by the greatest in his Kingdom, that he would no longer persist in a Religion, which was, he said, so absolutely condemn’d and confuted…

Arcanius tries the old Protestant minister vs Roman priest smackdown, winner-take-all, manoeuvre; but

…his Conversion not being the Mark that Lewis aim’d at, he could receive no other answer at a request so reasonable, than That it had already been so often put to the Tryal, that the World was now fully persuaded, that the Hugonots were an Heretical People, and that they ought to be proceeded against as so; adding, That he immediately expected his compliance, without which, he told him, he would no longer acknowledge him under his Protection, and consequently one who had forfeited his Faith and Trust to his Lord and Master; And so, after a little more Discourse, the crafty King dismissed our Count, whose judgment was too mature not to discern the Treachery, and himself too discreet not to avoid the Rock he saw he was ready to split upon…

And Arcanius indeed proves too slippery for Louis: he gathers up his son, as much of his possessions as can be carried, and a handful of trusty servants, and flees his estate; while other servants are left behind to give a false account of their intentions. The parties separate in order better to evade the search they know will be set in motion, all agreeing to meet in England.

Not all the servants are so fortunate, but Arcanius and Leandro manage to elude their pursuers—more through luck than judgement, and bad luck at that: they get lost in the woods.

Unfortunately, this is about the point at which Leandro: or, The Lucky Rescue ceases to be engaging. The rest of this short novel is about Leandro’s efforts to re-establish himself at that level of society, and in possession of that wealth, that he is absolutely certain he deserves: his story told via exaggerated language that most of the time just feels like bad writing, but on occasions has a distinct air of tongue-in-cheek. It’s genuinely hard to tell.

Anyway, both Arcanius and Leandro – and, ahem, then just Leandro – are tiresome companions, perfectly convinced of their own deservingness (is that a word?), who despite their supposed piety and repeated insistence upon their intention of bowing to the Divine Will, spend most of their time moaning and wailing and having tantrums over the reversal of their fortunes.

At least, Leandro does. The father and son and their respective manservants are set upon by bandits. One of the servants is killed, the other runs away, and Arcanius is fatally wounded. The thieves strip the two of everything they possess (literally) and depart:

At first they could only behold one another, with Countenances that would have even cut the very Hearts of the most Barbarous; and when they would have vented the torment of their Souls, a flood of tears interrupted their Speech, so that they could only look upon each other with dismayed Glances, till on a sudden Leandro perceiv’d a paleness to spread it self over the Face of his miserable Father, and was just running to his assistance, when the good Arcanius, fainting, fell backwards upon the ground in a stream of Blood, which issued from a Wound in his Head, and which before lay concealed under his Perruke…

That’s some peruke.

Though Leandro clearly isn’t much use in a crisis, he does do his best with what little has been left to him:

    …stripping himself of that single Coat, which the Thieves had left him, covering with it the Body of his Father, and, with a distracted haste, ran up and down the Forrest, making the Woods and hollow Places eccho out the dolour of his complaints.
    It was his hap at last to meet with a Traveller, who, in that spacious unfrequented and uninhabited Place, had lost his way, and who, at the repeated crys of our distressed Count, fled back, being terrified at the sight of a Man naked, and who carried the appearance of one who had wholly lost the Faculties of his Reason.

Leandro manages to convince the Traveller of both his sanity and his need, but it is already too late:

He approached, softly, the Body of Arcanius, and raising him gently from the Ground, took a full view of his Face, but a Face whose paleness too evidently declared the unfortunate Arcanius to be stone dead, and as cold as that Clay of which he was first created. My dearest father, said he,— here the multitude of sighs stopping the continuance of his Speech, and his Legs not being able to support a Body loaded with so many Griefs, he let fall the breathless Carcase of the good Count, himself sliding upon the cold Body, and only saying, O God, this is above what Leandro can bear…

So you tell me: is that just lousy writing, or are we supposed to find it funny?

And actually—one of the most striking things about Leandro: or, The Lucky Rescue is its tendency to dwell without criticism upon its protagonist’s emotions, in a manner that foreshadows the exaggerated sentimental fiction of the late 18th century (where it is also hard to believe that some of the writing was meant seriously).

The Traveller – who turns out to be another fleeing Huguenot – snaps Leandro out of it and helps him perform a makeshift funeral. However, he also brings him grim word of Louis’ actions: his father’s (now his) estate has been confiscated; the servants left behind were tortured into giving up their master’s plans; the other servants were captured with their goods; and there is now a price on Leandro’s head.

The two men make their way through the woods, living off berries and evading wolves, until they eventually reach Calais. The Traveller has by then served his various purposes (one of which was hopefully lending Leandro some pants, though the narrative doesn’t say so), and so—

…our good Traveller, not being able to survive the fatigue he had suffered in his Travels, dyed…

Not to worry. Leandro immediately falls in with an English merchant, who he knows by sight and reputation; and after two full pages of hearing about how his spirit is far too lofty for him ever to beg or receive charity—

…the English-man…told Leandro, He was so well pleas’d with his appearance and behaviour, that he had very advantageous sentiments of him; and, to let him see it, presented him with an English Crown, which the young Leandro accepted with such a generous humility, as neither detracted from his illustrious Soul, nor carried the least shew of an abject submission…

Leandro then tells the merchant his story, after which he is invited to hide at his lodgings. There, the merchant consults with some friends, and they try to come up with a safe way of smuggling Leandro across the Channel. Finally, only one scheme seems feasible:

…seeing the Merchant was a Batchelour, Leandro should pass for his wife…

And having committed to this plan, they don’t stint the details:

    The Day for the Marriage comes, Leandro in Women’s Cloaths is carried to the Church in a Coach, where the Friends of the Merchant wait for her, who hindring the Croud from pressing too near, receive her and conduct her to the Altar, where a corrupted Priest performs the seeming Rites, after which they return to the lodging of the Merchant, attended by a World of Peope, who give the Bride and Bridegroom joy. Two or three Days after he commands his Ship to be in a readiness. The Seamen long to see the Lady. The Guards form themselves into two ranks, to let the new married Couple pass through to the Ship. The Merchant, that their curiosity might not be too dangerous to Leandro, scatters small pieces of Money upon the Ground, throwing some before him all the way, which the Souldiers greedily and continually stooping to take up, they passed through them with admirable facility…
    …they land safely at Dover, where the Merchant privately procured an ordinary Seaman’s habit for Leandro, and then dismiss’d him, with reciprocal Embraces and endearing Expressions on both sides, the Merchant reporting to the Seamen, that he had sent his Bride to London by the Stage-Coach.

Leandro responds to all these extraordinary efforts with his usual gratitude and resolution:

Leandro now sees himself safe from the Persecution of Lewis, but not from the Malice of Fortune. He found himself in a strange Country, known to none, and but little Money in his Pocket. True, he had Cloaths, but so poor and unbecoming so brave a Person, that he seldom look’d upon ’em, but his tears and sighs evidently declared how cruelly he bore such a vast change in his State. He had about five or six Guineas about him, which he ow’d to the Bounty of the Merchant; but still he miss’d that respect and reverence he had been us’d to in Orleance; all which reflections were as at so many Darts to his grieved Spirits…

Again, not to worry. The first person Leandro bumps into in London is his own servant, who ran away when the thieves attacked, made it to England on his own, and is in the process of being arrested on suspicion of selling stolen goods—the good in question being his (Leandro’s) clothes.

Having reclaimed his wardrobe – and dismissed his servant – Leandro takes lodgings near St. James’s; where apparently he just sits around being FABULOUS and waiting for Fortune to have a change of mood and smile on him—as, of course, She must:

Leandro was a Person of such exquisite comeliness, that it was almost impossible for a Lady to look upon him without loving him, he was something above the ordinary height of Men, his Limbs and make of his Body being exactly proportionable; his Hair, after the French fashion, being exceeding long, and curiously curl’d towards the end, was a vast addition to his other Graces; his Eyes were grey, and so piercing, that they seem’d to command at one time both love and awe from the Beholder; nor did he appear in any Company, where the Eyes of all were not continually fix’d upon him, as upon an Object that did really challenge admiration. He was naturally of a pleasing conversation, and so ingeniously winning, that his Society was desired by all the young Gallants in the English Court. He was Majestick, but not Haughty; of a Noble and Generous Spirit, without the least shew of Pride or Disdain; of a brisk and gay Countenance, and without that affectation which renders our Town Fopps so intolerably ridiculous to the true Gentry. In short, he was composed of nothing but Majesty and Sweetness, and which was so natural to him, that it attributes vast presumption to my Pen, in pretending an exact Description of what is so much above Comprehension…

There is, I must stress again, no overall suggestion that this novel is not meant to be taken seriously; yet at certain moments, such as that rider to the paragraph above, it is hard not to picture Smythies snickering to himself while writing; particularly when the immediate consequence of all these perfections is that they enable Leandro to turn to prostitution to support himself.

Oooooooooooookay, the narrative doesn’t put it quite like that; though it does provide, a priori, a rationalisation even longer than that description of Leandro:

    …he saw he must fall from the highest precipice of Honour and Gallantry, to the lowest abyss of Beggary and Misery, a thought so cruel and severe, that even cut him to the very soul, at a foresight of such base unworthiness, which he must suffer. Then did he look back upon the Grandeur he once liv’d in, when the Greatness of his Birth rendred his Company acceptable to the highest in the Kingdom, and desired by all. He remembered he was then the Son of Arcanius, and the admired Leandro: But now, poor Gentleman! he saw himself the Son of Misfortune, and the poor Leandro; Leandro that once charm’d the Eyes of all that saw him, and who was now to be the derision of the very Abjects.
    These misfortunes were so hard for the brave son of Arcanius to undergo, that he could not meditate upon them, without that insupportable Grief, that often drove him to the most desperate Resolutions, that despair and anguish could suggest to him. At last he was reduced to the utmost Drachma, and now he beheld nothing but Sorrow and Poverty just seizing on him, and which was represented to his distracted Mind in such dark and dismal colours, that bursting into a Flood of tears, Heavens, said he, with a languishing tone, what has Leandro done above other Mortals, that he is thus more persecuted than they? Since you design such misery for the unfortunate Son of Arcanius, you ought in reason either to lighten his afflictions, or give him ability equal to them: But ’tis too late, added he, and starting up seriously, my misery is already decreed, which I’ll never meet but upon the point of my Sword…

Aren’t you impressed with how this devout Protestant bows to the will of Heaven?

Anyway—it turns out that God has a rather twisted sense of humour, since in response to Leandro’s petulant demand for his “afflictions” to be “lightened”, He sends in his landlady, who first prevents his suicide, then listens patiently to “his story of his Life and Miseries”. So moved is she by this—

    …extorting an Oath from him, never to make any more attempts upon his Life, she frankly flung a small Purse of Gold into his Lap.
    Leandro, at first, was too modest to receive a Gift from one who was so much his Inferiour, denying it with very pretty evasions, till Marcia pressing earnestly upon him, he at last accepted it…

Marcia then makes a passionate declaration of her wishes:

Leandro could not hear this Discourse without a bashful confusion, having to do with a Modesty of which he was a great Master: But gratitude obliging him to to reflect upon her bounty, he soon overcame all scruples of that Nature, and finding how pliant she was, and that he might hope to keep himself in his usual splendour by her means, he quickly yielded to her. We need not batter that Fort, whose breaches are wide enough already to enter, especially when the Garrison it self is willing to surrender. She stood not long to ballance her resolutions, but silently told him, she was intirely his own, which advantage our young Count taking hold of, he soon gave her all the satisfaction she was capable of receiving…

So Leandro begins a new career as Marcia’s paid toy-boy. The two are at it like rabbits whenever they can evade her husband’s notice, until they get a little careless. Jealous by temperament anyway, he becomes suspicious and pulls the old “I’ll be away from home the entire night” manoeuvre, and, sure enough, catches them at it.

But he forgets that he’s dealing with “a gentleman”:

…[Leandro] began to struggle with Corvinius, and getting him down, presented his Sword to his Throat, vowing to dispatch him presently, if he made the least outcry…

Leandro terrifies Corvinius into promising to turn a blind eye, and then takes himself off to better accommodation—which, thanks to Marcia, he can now afford:

…being Master of about fifteen Guineas, he takes his Lodgings at another part of the Town, at a rich Gentleman’s House, who was the Father of the most celebrated Fair accounted in all London…

Because rich men with beautiful heiress daughters like nothing better than to invite good-looking but impecunious young men into their houses, right?

Smythies soon makes it clear that Leandro and Felicia are destined for one another, by insisting on her perfections in that same overpowering yet curiously disinterested manner:

To endeavour to characterize the charming Felicia, would be a talk almost as difficult as to perform impossibilities. Let it suffice then, in short, she was composed of nothing but Sweetness, Beauty, and every thing that’s required to compleat an Angel.

Of course the two of them begin to fall in love, with Leandro’s courtship taking exactly the expected form:

…the Son of Arcanius gave her the relation of his own Life, but laid not the Scene in France, neither did he yet tell her it was himself who was such a Sufferer, but told it her as from the sufferings of a Friend, waiting till she had given her sentiments upon it. Leandro told the History of his Misfortunes in an Air and Stile so well and so exactly fitted to the several parts of it, that Felicia, by her often lifting her Handkerchief to her Eyes, testified what share she took in the Misfortunes of the Son of Arcanius; but when he frankly confes’d himself to be the Person, Felicia gave him a regard both of Pity and Respect…

One wonders how largely Leandro’s previous career as a gigolo featured in his narrative.

Leandro is emboldened to move on to frank declarations, and finally draws an admission from Felicia in turn; however she tells him that in respect of her marriage, her father’s word will be law. Having gone this far in entire consciousness of his own ineligibility as a suitor, in light of his current circumstances, Leandro nevertheless chooses to take this as one more act of a malign Fate:

…he began now to look upon himself, as upon a Man whom Fortune had design’d to persecute with with the greatest Misery…

Leandro nevertheless declares himself to the father, Foscarius:

…he open’d his whole Breast to him, telling him, The greatness of his Birth and Parentage; adding, that he wanted not Friends in the Court of Paris, to solicite the French King on his behalf.

That should give Louis a good laugh.

Foscarius responds to this in a perfectly reasonable manner, telling Leandro he will consent to his marriage to Felicia when he can demonstrate that he’s capable of keeping her in the style to which she is accustomed. And Leandro responds to this response as he responds to everything:

He returns to Felicia, and with distracted look, flinging himself at the Feet of that Lady, Madam, said he, all trembling, Providence has decreed my ruine, and Foscarius has signed it. I must no longer love my Felicia; nor any more think of my self, but as one of the most miserable Abjects upon the whole Earth. O God, added he, rising up, with his Hands and Eyes erected towards Heaven, for what further Miseries have you design’d the unfortunate Son of Arcanius?

Leandro realises he can’t stay at the house any longer and prepares to depart—which he does on a horse gifted to him by Foscarius, which he accepts unhesitatingly, as he does all else. And his thoughts, as he rides away, are – after all this! – about nothing less than scraping back into favour with Louis by converting to Catholicism!—

He had not yet conquered those scruples in his Conscience, so far as to think of changing a Persuasion, so true and Orthodox, for one so erroneous and ill-grounded as that of the Romans…

But happily for Leandro – no less for the rest of us:

Fortune, who had so long taken pleasure to sport her self with this unfortunate Man, at last weel’d a-bout, and happily reversed his State, when he least expected it…

Riding along, Leandro hears shots. He at first thinks it might be a duel, but then comes across a man holding off no less than four highwaymen, his servant having already been killed. Leandro plunges into the fray. He kills one of the highwaymen, but has his second pistol struck from his hand and must rely on his sword against his second attacker. Not to worry:

…with his Sword brandish’d above his Head struck him such a deep cut in the Forehead, that, descending with an unparallel’d strength, it par’d off one side of his Face, which, with a piece of his Shoulder, fell at his Horses Feet; the Thief being so amazed at the blow, that he left his Body unguarded…

Leandro is so busy killing this highwayman, he is nearly killed by another (who is carrying a scimitar!); but the stranger saves his life in turn. The last attacker runs away, leaving Leandro and the stranger to pat each other on the back—and to look each other in the face for the first time: at which point Leandro recognises the merchant of Calais, and the merchant his erstwhile “bride”.

The two make their way to the nearest town where – as it is rather bizarrely put – “orders were taken for the dead Bodies” – and Leandro catches his friend up on what has happened to him since they parted; and oh, surprise! – not without some sorrowful complaints”. The merchant, however, is the means by which everything is to be put right for Leandro: he knows Foscarius, and persuades him to agree to the immediate marriage of Leandro and Felicia, partly by vouching for Leandro’s character (!!), but more practically by bestowing a fortune upon him. Which, of course, Leandro accepts without hesitation:

I shall conclude with telling the Reader, that the next two days put a period to the fears of our overjoy’d Lovers, and they saw themselves at Night in each others Arms, attended with a triumph as splendid as the Match was extraordinary and illustrious.

 

30/09/2018

Enough is enough!

I took what I considered a well-earned break after dealing with a number of the relevant documents identified during my most recent return to the Chronobibliography. Now it seems that I accidentally chose just the right place to do it. A quick sweep of the remaining ones, meant to organise them into the proper historical and in-fighting order, reveals that they are actually less relevant than it initially seemed.

Moreover, when I realised that in fact most of them refer right back to the reign of Charles, and re-hash all the same old stuff yet again—well, as I say, it was a case of enough is enough.

So I’m neither going to read or review (most of) these documents. Instead, I’ll post about them briefly – and for once I do mean briefly – and explain (i) what they are, and (ii) why not.

First and least on the list of rejects is The Pagan Prince: or, A Comical History Of The Heroick Achievements Of The Palatine Of Eboracum, published in 1690 “By the Author of the Secret History of King Charles II. and K. James II.” (who my research indicates was probably Nathaniel Crouch). This roman à clef is such a farrago of incomprehensible nonsense, it’s nearly impossible to tell who it is supposed to be about. Thus we find Srinivas Aravamudan, in his Enlightment Orientalism: Resisting The Rise Of The Novel, commenting that The Pagan Prince “…continues this literary obsession with Charles II’s love life…”; whereas the listing of the document in the Early English Books Online database describes it as, “A satire on James, Duke of York, later James II.” As for me, while trying to make head or tail of it I began to think it may even have been about Louis XIV, who inspired his own crop of scurrilous literature at about this time.

You can just imagine how well this thing works as a satire.

Anyway—one passage, slightly more interpretable than the rest, finally made it clear that, not surprisingly, the EEBO people were correct:

After this the Palatine sold the Reversion and Remainder of the three Kingdoms of Albion, Caledonia and Hibernia, with all the Giblets thereto belonging, after the King of Albions decease, to the King of Astopia and his Heirs forever; Provided that the Palatine should hold them in Vassalage of the King of Astopia during his own Life. On the other side it was covenanted and agreed that the King of Astopia should furnish the Palatine with whatever summ or summs of Money he should ask or demand, to be expended all toward the Extermination of the Christians from the face of the Earth…
 

 
Another 1690 publication which does continue the literary obsession with Charles II’s love life is the anonymous The Secret History Of The Dutchess Of Portsmouth: Giving an Account of the Intrigues of the Court, during her Ministry. And of the Death of K. C. II. The ‘Dutchess of Portsmouth’ was Louise de Kérouaille, the most hated of all of Charles’ mistresses because of the (probably correct) perception that she was really there to spy for Louis, or at least push French interests. Even so—five years after both Charles’ death and Louise’s return to France, this one seems like a piece of supererogation. Perhaps the persistence of the campaign against her was due to the widespread belief that she was involved in, if not outright responsible for, the sudden death of Charles. Like its similar predecessor, The Amours Of The Sultana Of Barbary, The Secret History Of The Dutchess Of Portsmouth concludes with “Francelia” (as she is called in this roman à clef) poisoning “the Prince” after he discovers her infidelity:

It was there, that a little before he fell ill of his last fit of Sickness, coming into her Chamber, and finding fault with some odd kind of smell, which did offend him, she treated him with some excellent Cordial, which she said, she had newly received from Spain or Italy, but the Prince did very much dislike the taste of it, and divers times found fault with it that night; however, he retired Indispos’d, and never held up his Head after that…

Actually—the more I look at this thing, the more it seems to me to be a plagiarised version of The Amours Of The Sultana Of Barbary, with the names changed and the story tweaked just a bit; which makes it ever more unnecessary.
 

 
Meanwhile, the same year gives us an example of the anti-Louis literature I mentioned, in—

—wait for it—

The Most Christian Turk: or, a view of the life and bloody reign of Lewis XIV. present King of France: Containing an account of his monstrous birth, the transactions that happened during his minority under Cardinal Mazarine; afterwards his own unjust enterprizes in war and peace, as breach of leagues, oaths, &c. the blasphemous titles given him, his love-intrigues, his confederacy with the Turk to invade Christendom, the cruel persecution of his Protestant subjects, his conniving with pirates, his unjustly invading the empire, &c. laying all waste before him with fire and sword, his quarrels with the Pope and Genoieze, his treachery against England, Scotland, and Ireland, the engagements of the confederate princes against him; with all the battles, sieges, and sea fights, that have happened of consequence to this time.

I see no need to add anything to that.

(Ooh! Except, now that I look at its title-page, to point out that this is the first publication I have so far noticed as emanating from Fleet Street!)
 

 
A more interesting subset of literature (if not interesting enough to make me read any of it) finds recent historical events being turned into plays, or pseudo-plays: it is not clear that any of them were ever performed, or indeed ever meant to be. Either way, these are really just romans à clef in a different format; there’s nothing new here but the presentation.

Three of these would seem to be the work of the same anonymous author. The first is actually an account of the Monmouth Rebellion: The Abdicated Prince: or, The Adventures of Four Years. A Tragi-Comedy, As it was lately Acted at the Court of ALBA REGALIS, By Several Persons of Great Quality. This was followed by The Bloody Duke: Or, The Adventures for a Crown (which has the same subtitle), an account of the reign and downfall of James; with the trilogy completed by The Late Revolution: Or, The Happy Change. A Tragi-Comedy, As it was Acted throughout the ENGLISH DOMINIONS In the Year 1688. This last signs itself, “Written by a Person of Quality.”

I gather that these documents were a revival of sorts of something that went on during the English Civil War; that seems to be where the term ‘tragi-comedy’ originated, in any event.

Possibly not by the same author but cashing in on the same idea is 1693’s The Royal Cuckold: Or, Great Bastard. Giving an account of the Birth and Pedigree of Lewis le Grand, The First French King of that Name and Race. A TRAGY-COMEDY, As it is Acted by his Imperial Majesty’s Servants.
 

 
And this, by a circuitous path, brings me to the one piece of this literature that I did read, and do want to comment upon: The Great Bastard, Protector Of The Little One, from 1689.

“The Little One” is of course the infant Prince of Wales…or the Sham Prince, if you prefer. However, he really figures only in passing in this short piece of writing, which instead is an attack upon Louis XIV. It starts well and amusingly:

We find in holy writ, that, in the Jewish law, it was expresly provided by the supreme legislator, That a bastard should not enter into the congregation of the Lord, even to the tenth generation: but it seems the unhappy kingdom of France allows the bastard himself, not only to enter into the congregation, but to settle himself upon the throne, and to bear it higher than all the preceding kings before him, which had a better right to do it, as being the offspring of kings, and not the sons of the people, the proper term the Roman law gives to bastards. We have heard of the Salick law, in force in that kingdom, for a great many ages, by which the crown of France cannot fall from the sword to the distaff; but, ’till the blessed days of our august monarch, we never had the happiness to be acquainted with a law or custom, by which that was in the power of a Queen of France, to provide us an heir to the crown, without the concurrence of her husband, and to impose upon us, for our king, a brat of another man’s making. All the reign of our invincible monarch has been a constant series of wonders; but, amongst them all, this is none of the least, That he, who was, in the opinion of all the world, the son of a private gentleman, from his birth to the end of the Prince of Conde’s wars, has had the good fortune to be ever since, no less than the son of Lewis the Thirteenth.

Unfortunately, the tone is not maintained throughout. Instead, the author devotes most of the document to “proving” that Louis XIII could not have been the father of Louis XIV due to his impotence, and that Cardinal Mazarin probably was. (Whatever the whole truth, historians have established that Mazarin was in Rome at the time of Anne’s conception.) Most of this is tiresome, except for a reference to something I certainly hope was a real phenomenon—

Common fame was ever looked upon as a great presumption of the truth of a thing, especially if joined to other concurring circumstances; and never did that prating goddess extend her voice louder, than in proclaiming to the world the spurious birth of our august monarch. Time was, when she did not whisper it in corners, but expressed it in publick pictures, plays, farces, and what not? Modesty will not allow me to mention the bawdy shapes of these two sorts of bread, called to this day the Queen’s Bread, and the Cardinal’s Bread, sold through Paris, and in most places of France; so that, at that time, one could scarce sit down to eat, but he was put in mind of the queen and the cardinal’s amours…

Without getting into the details, it seems that doubt over Louis XIV’s parentage has long been a point of argument amongst historians (and others with an axe to grind). It is not the doubt itself, but the reason – or excuse – for it that caught my interest. I was unaware, until now, that a similar situation surrounded the birth of the future Louis XIV, as did that of—well, let’s call him James Francis Edward Stuart: that is, that Louis XIII and Anne of Austria had been married for twenty-three years before the birth of their first surviving child, with several stillbirths preceding that event, and with several long periods of estrangement punctuating those years. As with the pregnancy of Mary of Modena, there was widespread suspicion about the baby’s paternity, partly because of the long unproductive years, partly because of Anne’s behaviour, but also, I gather, because Louis may well have been homosexual and therefore a bit lax about his royal duties. (“Impotence” was probably a euphemism.)

In any event, when the boy was born, he was seen (ironically or not) as a miracle; and consequently he was baptised Louis Dieudonné, literally Louis the God-Given.

There is, as I say, a body of anti-Louis literature that emerged towards the end of the 1680s, and which tends to fall into one of two categories—both of which we’ve seen here. Most are straightfaced denunciations of Louis as a tyrant: The Most Christian Turk is an example. A few, however, question Louis’ parentage, and therefore his right to the throne—as in The Great Bastard, Protector Of The Little One.

But all of this is only the background to the truly fascinating thing about this last document—which is that it is perfectly clear that the anonymous author took a good long look at what had gone on in England, and how the Sham Prince propaganda contributed to forcing James off the throne—and decided to try it on with Louis.

It didn’t work, of course; something which the author (who I am very sure was not French) attributes, in the document’s funniest passage, to France being a Catholic country, and therefore accustomed to miracles:

Among a great many other quarrels I have with the English nation, this is one, That they are a people too nice in believing miracles; and their haughtiness is such, as they scorn, forsooth, to believe Impossibilities: for albeit they, and all the rest of the world about them, are firmly persuaded, that the little bauble Prince of Wales was never of Queen Mary’s bearing, much less of King James’s begetting ; yet, if these infidels had been as well-mannerly credulous, as we in France have been, of the wonderful transmutation of our Lewis le Grand, they needed not have made all this noise about the little impostor infant, but might have comforted themselves in the hopes, that he, who was a spurious Prince of Wales to-day, might some years hence, by a new French way of transubstantiation, become a lawfully begotten King of England. But the mischief of all is, these stiff-necked hereticks, ever since they fell off from the communion of the holy church, make bold to call in question all our miracles ; and such a one, as this would be, I am afraid they would stick at, amongst others.

But it is a grave and empassioned denunciation with which the author leaves us:

Good God! how happy had it been for France, yea, for a great part of the world, that the French had been as great infidels, upon the point of miracles, as the heretick English; and that our Lewis the Fourteenth had been hurled out of France, when but Dauphin of Viennois, as the little mock Prince of Wales has been out of England, when scarce well handled into the light? What dismal tragedies has our French impostor caused in Christendom? How many cities laid in ashes, countries ruined, families extinguished, and millions of lives sacrificed to the vanity and ambition of a bastard?
 

 

 

16/04/2018

The Blatant Beast Muzzl’d

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The Reader needs but Reflect on this Description, as he peruses this Libel, and he will all the way discover that the Poets Idea of Calumny, is the perfect Pourtraicture of this Contumelious Scribler; for he will observe how he plays upon all the Keyes of Satyr that can be imagin’d; and, according as his Passion tunes his Fancy, he either wrawls discontentedly, or grunts churlishly, or grins and snarls angrily, or rails licentiously, or barks currishly, or stings venomously; and this indifferently both High and Low, Kings and all sorts of Subjects that are not of his own Blatant Kind; either blotting their Names infamously, or biting them injuriously…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most immediately striking thing about this entry in the ongoing political brawl is how late it was to the party.

There was a reason (of sorts) for this, however, as the reader is informed via a pre-title page:

The Copy of this Treatise was Given out to be Printed a Year and half ago; but by Accident or Negligence, was laid by, and could not be Retriev’d till very lately; which may, I hope, serve to Excuse this Delay in Publishing it.

In context, we can only be thankful that there was thought to be any point in publishing The Blatant Beast Muzzl’d at all—that “Year and half” encompassing the Battle of the Boyne and the final crushing of the hopes of the former James II, and the settling down of England under the almost pugnaciously Protestant rule of William and Mary.

There are several extremely interesting things about this “treatise”, however, that makes me glad the author, who identifies himself only as ‘N. N.’ (and for whom I have not been able to come up with even a guess as to his full name), persisted in getting it into print.

In informational terms, the most worthwhile aspect of this publication is not its main text, but its lengthy preface. It is within this introduction that the author rails against the explosion of crude and slanderous writing via which the reality of James, and the memory of Charles, were being attacked: thus bringing to my attention a whole new batch of political writing from this time of growing unease.

The preface also explains the author’s choice of title, which is drawn from Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, and which comprises a fascinating piece of cross-textual referencing. As academic Christopher Hill puts it in a recent paper, The Blatant Beast: The Thousand Tongues Of Elizabethan Religious Polemic:

“This article addresses the final two books of the 1596 edition of Spenser’s Faerie Queene, in which there arises a formidable adversary: the Blatant Beast. This monster, whose presence dominates the end of Book Five and a substantial portion of Book Six, represents the worst excesses of caustic and satirical rhetoric as manifest in the theological and ecclesiastical pamphlet disputes that erupted after Fields and Wilcox’s 1572 Admonition to Parliament.”

From this we see that the author could hardly have chosen a better symbol for the anti-Stuart / anti-Catholic writing of the time, which is perfectly summed up in the phrase, The worst excesses of caustic and satirical rhetoric.

Throughout his own text, the author refers to “the Blatant kind” and “the Blatants”, lumping together all the objectionable attacks upon Charles and James under a single heading. However, the individual who infuriated him the most was the one responsible for The Secret History Of The Reigns Of K. Charles II, And K. James II – who he insists that he knows, though he does not identify him by name:

I shall do the Author a greater Kindness than he deserves, by not naming him at present, though he is known to more than he dreams of, and may justly fear that his second Recantation will not be so easily prevalent to procure his Pardon, as was his first. His Character is best drawn by himself; for the whole Meen of his Books do amply acknowledg, that he is a wild Debauchee, who has devoted him Life to Sensuality and Amorous Intrigues with his Misses; whence his Heart being full of Affection for those Darling Pleasures, his Fancy could not be at ease till it was delivered of them, by venting them after a very pathetical manner; and, hoping the better to ennoble his own Beastly Conceptions, he applies (without regarding whether there be the least shadow of Ground for it) his own Immodest Pranks to Kings and Queens…

(It is clear from the text, which references a publication supporting Titus Oates, that the author was one of those who believed that John Phillips wrote The Secret History… Whether this description fits Nathaniel Crouch is another matter.)

Though we do not know who the author of The Blatant Beast Muzzl’d is, we do know something about him from his writing. He was not a Catholic—but he was a Tory, the kind of Tory who believed sincerely in the sacredness of kings—and who managed, somehow, to hold onto that belief despite living through the Stuart era. The whole tone of The Blatant Beast Muzzl’d makes it clear that the author was both astonished and mortally offended by the discovery that someone had dared be so disrespectful towards royalty. In fact, he can only explain this body of literature to himself by supposing that its authors are all – gasp! – republicans.

But there’s royalty, and then there’s royalty. There are tacit criticisms of William scattered through this text, oblique but unmistakable; not least the charge that he was actually behind this school of writing. I should note here that the entirety of The Blatant Beast Muzzl’d is presented in the form of a letter to a friend of the author, who asked his opinion of it. In this way, the author can pass off his most extreme opinions as being those of his friend, which he himself deprecates. For example:

Nay, were that Unlikely Supposition of yours True, yet ’tis incredible, that Persons even of Ordinary Prudence, (much less such as they) would not have been chary to abuse Princes so nearly Ally’d to them, with such Foul and Contumelious Language; but would rather have made Choice of some sober and grave Writer, who knew what good Manners and Decency meant, to lay open the plain Naked Truth, (had Necessity so requir’d) in a Style full of charitable and respectful Expressions towards their Persons, and with a sensible regret that he was forced to expose their Faults…

But if no-one else will defend slandered royalty, the author will. Putting ladies first, he weighs in on the insults offered to Mary of Modena:

But alas! What a most improper Subject has this poor unfortunate Ribald made choice of, to fix that Disgraceful Character upon! A PRINCESS, whose Incomparable Worth and Unblemish’d Virtue is such, that it never permitted any occasion to the least sinister Imagination in any that knew her. Nor durst Malice it self ever be so bold, as to taint her Unspotted Life so much as with a Suspicion of deviating from the severest Rules of Modesty…

…which, after “Malice” being “so bold” as to produce three years’ worth of Sham Prince literature, seems an odd thing to say.

Also odd, and extremely revealing, is the attitude taken towards James. Explaining his reasons for writing this defence, the author remarks:

Nor shall I be afraid heartily to own that I had a dutiful Respect, very particularly to the Honour of those two Excellent Princes, whom he so Injuriously and Barbarously traduces, as the Blackest Monsters that ever liv’d, and little less than Devils Incarnate.

Here’s the thing, though: that is one of very few mentions of James in the document; the author makes only a half-hearted effort to defend him against the specific charges brought by his antagonist, even though these encompass crimes including complicity, to put it no more strongly, in the murder of Charles. And in fact, even those efforts tend more to attacks upon his rival author, than true support of James.

Instead, the author devotes almost his entire publication to vindicating Charles. I can only assume that James’ behaviour, including – or perhaps specifically – his leaguing with Louis XIV, offset his inherent “sacredness”.

Despite offering a point-by-point counter-argument to everything proposed by The Secret History…, The Blatant Beast Muzzl’d is a much easier read. The author, while highlighting the innumerable idiocies and lies of his target, keeps his temper surprisingly well—instead employing a tone of disgusted sarcasm that not only deconstructs the opposing text much better than ranting could do, but is pretty funny to boot.

Here, to start with, are just a few of the author’s opinions of his rival:

The Author places a peculiar Felicity in expressing everything waspishly; and no Ragoust of Eloquence pleases his Palate, but that of Satyr and Invective. Never was Man in a higher Salivation with Rage, or drivell’d more Foam. I should take him to be possest with Fits of Madness, but that he has no Lucid Intervals…

I desire you to Note how candidly this Libeller tells you what you may expect from him in that kind, and how plainly he not only confesses, but excellently proves himself to be an Insulting Barbarian…

I am given to understand for Certain, That this Gallimawsry of Scurrility, was writ by an Atheistical, Damning, Swearing, Drunken Fellow…

…such a foul-mouth’d Thersites, whose whole Book is woven quite thorow with such rancorous Invectiveness, that, could a Mad Dog speak, he could scarce vent his Cereberean Foam with more Venome…

With what impertinent and ridiculous Flams does this Baffling Fellow hope to fool his Readers! Yet this is his constant handy-dandy method in every point he handles: Voluntary Talk serves him for Well-Grounded Truth, meer Pretences for Proofs, and flimflam Stories for clear Evidences…

As for The Secret History… itself, the author is not slow to seize upon its overarching absurdity; nor to jeer at its main thesis:

He Fancies himself a little God Almighty, and dives into their very Thoughts; and (which is a Prerogative peculiar to the Divinity) searches their very Hearts and most retruse Intentions; and when he has done, he turns their Consciences inside-outwards: For, otherwise, the Particulars he huddles up together, will fall short of inferring what is still the Burthen of his Song, The Design of introducing Popery and Slavery.

Taking the high ground, the author makes a shrewd and well-reasoned argument against his rival’s approach, pointing out the absurdity of his insistence (highlighted in my post on The Secret History…) that EVERYTHING in the reigns of Charles and James tended to this outcome, and that even the most seemingly commonplace events of the time held a secret and sinister meaning, if only we knew it. Again and again the author shows the bizarre illogic inherent in the efforts made to prove this contention, mocking the notion that EVERYTHING was cause and effect, that EVERYTHING had “consequences”—

But let our Blatant take the business in hand, with his special Gift of drawing Consequences, the whole Action, and every Step that was taken in it, shall clearly demonstrate an arrant Design of introducing Slavery and Popery, however remote and impertinent the Premisses are from the Conclusion.

—even Charles’ sexual adventures:

But, alas! This is one of his stoutest and most Achillean Arguments; K. Ch. the Second could not keep a Miss for his Pleasure, but, have-at-him with a Consequence, cries Blatant, ergo, it was a meer Plot of his to debauch the Nation, and so to introduce Popery and Slavery…

He also takes a somewhat more prosaic view of war with the Dutch than we find in the earlier document:

The Dutch War is levell’d by him at the meer bringing in of Popery and Slavery. Whereas, they being our known Competitors in Shipping and Trade, and daily encroaching upon us…a War once in Seven or (at farthest) Ten Years was ever held by our wisest Statesmen, in former times…as seasonable and necessary, as is the lopping off the under-growing Suckers, that intercept the Sap from the Tree…

And of James’ supposed sabotage:

The then D. of York took an innocent Nap at Sea. A clear Case, says our man of Consequences, that it was a meer treacherous Plot, to let the Dutch  beat the English, and make ’em destroy one another to bring in Slavery and Popery. Our all-seeing Blatant could peep into his Fancy, though all the Windows of his Senses were shut up, and craftily spy out his very Dreams, and there read plainly, that he was still plotting Slavery and Popery, even in his Sleep. Nay more, he makes him to be a man of such a Chimerical Composition, that he both procur’d the firing the Dutch Ships in their Harbours, and also procur’d the firing of our Ships at Chatham; and to mend the Jest, our implacable Blatant, whose ambi-sinistrous Humour nothing can please, is very angry with him for doing both the one and the other…

As for Charles’ supposed incestuous affairs with Barbara Villiers and his sister, Henrietta, the author passes over the shocking nature of the accusations to focus on the ridiculous details of the presentation:

But Blatant makes that Lady King Ch. his sister by the Mother’s side only, which renders it but Incestuous to the half part, and so in his Opinion does not blemish the King enough. Have-at-him then once again (says he) with another and a more compleat Incest with the Dutchess of Orleans, who was his own Sister by Father and Mother’s side both… I demand then his Proof for this double foul-mouth’d Calumny: Not a jot, he thanks you; his own ipse dixit, and bare Affirmation, is all he can afford us: For, sure he cannot think that the D. of B—‘s holding the Door looks, in the least, like a Proof, were it true, which ’tis very unlikely to be; for, Why could they not (were such a shameful Wickedness intended) go into a Room where they could themselves fasten the Door on the inside?

The author sobers when considering the accusations made with respect to the Popish Plot and its associated executions and murders; but he regains his voice after refuting the various attempts to show Charles in a conspiracy with the Pope:

…what gives a kind of Counterfeit Life to his whole Discourse, is his sputtering, and keeping a great coil and clutter to amuse weak Readers, and put them at theit Wits-end what to think. Only, they can see, that either Blatant is the Greatest Lyar living, or, every man he is offended at, is the Greatest Knave in Nature. Whether of them is thus faulty, any sober man may easily divine by his Natural Reason, without needing to go to a Wizzard…

But notwithstanding, he supposes that a few readers will come down on Blatant’s side:

So, if any had to sute with Blatant’s Fancy, (and as will be seen anon, ’tis hard to hit it, without complying with both sides of the Contradiction) then you shall be Saints, Cherubims, or what else you would wish; but if you do not, your Doom is passed; for, be as many for Quantity, or as great for Quality as you please, Igad you are all stark naught, every Mothers Son of you, and he packs you all away in a Bundle to Old Nick, for a company of Doting, Frantick, Knavish, Villanous, Treacherous, Incestuous, Murthering, Fasting, Popish and Atheistical Rogues and Rascals…

If The Blatant Beast Muzzl’d had left it there, it would have served its dual purpose of vindicating Charles and exposing the vindictive lies of the author of The Secret History… – with the bonus of making us laugh – but alas, it did not.

Instead, almost half of the document – no less than 45 pages out of 93 total (including the preface) – is handed over to an attempt to refute one accusation made, by direct testimony:

These few Instances are more than sufficient to demonstrate, that this Self-conceited Coxcomb makes it his least concern to regard either Sense, Reason, Authority, Truth, or Honesty, but rails on contentedly to himself and his Friends. I could have presented you with thrice as many, had it been needful; yet, tho’ I omit them, I stand engaged to add one more…which I was the willinger to examin, because I was inform’d, that he was held by all that knew him (the Lords of the Privy-Council amongst the rest) to be a man of Sincerity and Ingenuity.

The person in question is John Sergeant, of whom The Secret History… has this to say:

Nor must it be omitted as an Argument of His Majesty’s great Zeal for the Protestant Religion, That when one Sergeant, a Priest, made a discovery of the Popish Plot from Holland, which he caus’d to be transmitted to the Court, with an intention to have discovered several others, he was first brib’d off…then sent for into England, slightly and slily examined, had his Pardon given him, and sent back with Five Pound a week, to say no more.

According to the author of The Blatant Beast Muzzl’d, he made a point of seeking out Sergeant, sending him the excerpt in question from The Secret History… and asking for his version of events. Sergeant’s response occupies those 45 pages. He explains how, while he was in exile in Holland, and so presumed to be disaffected against Charles, an attempt was made to draw him into the Popish Plot, one way or the other: that on one hand he was offered a very large bribe to implicate James in the Plot; that on the other, if he would not, he would be ruined by accusations that he was himself involved in that plot and several others; and that this double-threat was immediately acted upon, via accusing letters sent to England, which resulted in Sergeant being summoned to Court.

Sergeant goes on to explain how, luckily, he had contacted Henry Sidney, ambassador to The Hague, when matters first began to stir; and that he could call him to witness that he brought the matter to the attention of the authorities as soon as he reasonably could; and that by spending as much of the intervening time in Sidney’s company, he could account for his movements and disprove many of the accusations against him. Called to England to give his version of the matter, Sergeant was therefore able to convince Charles and the Court of his innocence.

This inserted document is a clear, detailed account of events and how, more by luck than judgement, an innocent man avoided the snare that had been laid for him.

The trouble is—as far as I have been able to determine, it’s also a complete lie. Ironically enough, this seems to be one time where the author of The Secret History… is making claims with some validity (at least up to a point; the part about Sergeant being bribed to shut up by Charles is of course nonsense).

John Sergeant was a Catholic, and a secular priest (that is, he was not a member of a particular order). He was a controversial figure both with and without his faith—carrying on long-running disputes with Protestant divines, but also being critical of English Catholic priests for acting too much on their own authority, and having a hostile, disputatious relationship with the Jesuits. His role in the Popish Plot remains controversial: it has even been suggested that he was one of the originators of the plot, and that it was he who convinced Titus Oates of its reality; while others contend, conversely, that Oates convinced him.

A third line of argument (the one most generally accepted) was that Sergeant no more believed in the Plot than anyone else, but saw an opportunity to act on his hatred of the Jesuits. To the scandal of the Catholics, and the delight of the Protestants, Sergeant volunteered to give evidence – or “evidence” – against the Jesuits to the Privy Council. He was questioned a second time some months later, and on that occasion his testimony was supported by that of another secular priest, David Morris (or Maurice); their depositions were printed, and widely distributed, and contributed to the growing hysteria that finally claimed some twenty victims on the scaffold before there was a revulsion in public feeling. It was later proved that both Sergeant and Morris were paid for their efforts.

This, then, is the individual whom the author of The Blatant Beast Muzzl’d singles out to support his own line of argument.

(The official Catholic stance on Sergeant, by the way, is that, “His mind was unbalanced at the time”…)

Here’s the thing, though: in its own right, the testimony offered by Sergeant within the pages of The Blatant Beast Muzzl’d (assuming he did in fact write it, but either way) is, as I have remarked, clear and detailed—and convincing. Therein lies its danger. We have no difficulty recognising in The Secret History…, with its bluster and hysteria, a specious piece of politicking; but this is something else: a presentation of “the facts” as false as anything offered by its overtly exaggerated predecessor, but one whose leading quality is its seeming reasonableness.

In other words, a textbook example of “truthiness”…
 
 

15/04/2018

A Letter From Lewis The Great, To James The Less

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So it turns out that the next entry in our journey through this particular outbreak of political brawling is not prose – still less an actual “letter” – but a poem. Given its relatively short length, I’ve decided to transcribe it rather than deal in excerpts.

This work, whose complete title is A LETTER From LEWIS the Great, To JAMES the Less, His Lieutenant in IRELAND. With Reflections by way of ANSWER to the said LETTER, or serious CONTEMPLATIONS at an Unseasonable Time, is one of the slander-writings that provoked the anger of the author of The Blatant Beast Muzzl’d; although in this case, we assume that it was the crass language and crude sexual innuendo which upset him, rather than the content.

Obviously this poem was part of that subset of political writing which decided that the best way to deal with James was not ranting and raving and tub-thumping, but mockery. It offers the by-now standard view of James as a fool and a cuckold; but it also adds a further smear—presenting him as a coward.

The dating of this poem is uncertain, being unhelpfully listed as 1689-1690 in the catalogues; but there isn’t any doubt that it was published after the Battle of the Boyne, when James’ fate had been decided.

And while there is plenty of crude humour in the text, the poem’s best joke is actually a pretty subtle one: it has Louis XIV offering James the choice of two fates, Death or Glory; but as we know, he found a third option…

(I suppose I should add a warning here for “coarse language” and “sexual references”. Just noting that the censored language is in the original document. And that some of the censoring choices, and non-choices, seem…odd.)

 

I

TO James our Lieutenant this greeting we send:
As you hope to preserve us your Patron and Friend,
As you trust to the vertue of us and your Wife,
Who leads in your absence a dissolute life;
          Now you’ve sold us your Land,
          Obey Our Command,
As your Spouse does our Pego when e’re it will st—,
And what I enjoyn you be sure to observe,
Since you know not to Rule, I will teach you to Serve.

II

To reduce our new Subjects, we sent you ’tis true,
But be sure take upon you no more than you’re due;
Submit to the Fetters your self have put on,
You’ve the Name of a King but the Majesties gone.
          For your bold Son-in-Law,
          The valiant Nassaw,
Who values not you nor my self of a straw,

Will neither be cullied nor bubbled like you,
I’ve a prospect already of what he will do.

III

Let not Infant or Bedrid your pity implore,
You’ve lost all your Kingdoms by that heretofore,
A Hereticks life like a Dog’s I do prise,
Murther all that oppose you, or ‘gainst you dare rise:
          They were Subjects to you,
          Therefore make ’em all rue,
And either give them, or I’le give you your due:
I acknowledge your folly has made me more wise,
I see with my own, and not Jesuits eyes.

IV

These Courses in Ireland, I charge you to steer,
In the Head of your Army be sure to appear,
You’re a Souldier of Fortune and fight for your pay,
You know your reward, if you once run away;
          Either Conquest or Death,
          I to you bequeath,
And therefore prepare for a Shrowd or a Wreath:
So thus I commit you to one of the Two,
If I see you no more here, I bid you adieu.

**********

I

WHEN that Remnant of Royalty Jimmy the Cully,
Had receiv’d this Epistle from Lewis the Bully,
His Countenance chang’d, and for madness he cry’d,
I’ve the Devil to my Friend, and his Dam to my Bride;
          Sure I am the first
          That’s in all things accurst,
Nor can I determine which Plague is the worst,
That of losing my Realms or the News I’ve receiv’d,
Which from any Hand else, I could ne’re have believ’d.

II

I find they agreed when for Ireland they sent me,
And if I knew how, ’tis high time to repent me;
I’ve abandon’d my reason to pleasure a Trull,
Who has made me her Bubble, her Cuckold, and Fool;
          We’re all in the Pit,
          Our designs are besh-t,
And hither I’m sent to recover my Wit:
If this be the fortune proud Este does bring,
Wou’d I’de been a Tinker instead of a King.

III

How or which way to turn me, or whither to go,
By the Faith of a Jesuit I’me a Dog if I know;
For this going to War I do mortally hate,
Tho’ of Sieges and Battles I ever cou’d prate;
          I thought I had Valour,
          But I find it was Choler,
Tho’ thirty years I have been Lewis’s Scholar;
I’ve trac’d all his Policies, Maxims and Rules,
By which I’ve attain’d to be chief of his Fools.

IV

Had I courage to dye I’de refuse to survive,
I’m buried already altho’ I’m alive,
My Story’s like that of unfortunate Jack,
I’ve shuffled and cut till I’ve quite lost the Pack:
          He that trusts to the Pope,
          No better must hope,
Or to Lewis or she whom that Pagan does grope:
For no Monarch must ever expect a good Life,
Who is rid by a Priest, or a damn’d Popish Wife.

V

May Lewis succeed me in all Circumstances,
His Arms unsuccessful where e’re he advances,
May his ill gotten Laurels be blasted and dry,
May a Shrowd be deny’d him when e’re he does dye;
          May his Land be o’re-run,
          By that Champion our Son:
So I’le close up with her who that mischief begun;
May the Curse of Three Kingdoms for ever attend her,
While to WILLIAM and MARY my Crown I surrender.

 
 

 

 

14/04/2018

The Secret History Of The Reigns Of K. Charles II, And K. James II

.

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…the Prince who strives to subvert the Fundamental Law of the Society is the Traytor and the Rebel, and not the People who endeavour to preserve and defend their own. Nor must we ascribe the Miscarriages of his Reign altogether to the remissness of his Nature but to a Principle of Revenge, which his Mother had infus’d into him, not so much for the loss of her Husband, but out of her inbred Malice to the Protestant Religion, which no where flourish’d in that Splendour as in England, foster’d and cherished by the vow’d Enemy of this Nation, his Brother the D. of York, who has been openly heard to declare in his Bedchamber at St. James’s, “That he was resolv’d to be reveng’d upon the English Nation for the Death of his Father”: And what an Ascendant this Brother had over him, the whole Kingdom has felt by sad and woeful experience. For indeed the King had all along an Affection for him, so entire and baneful to the Nation, that he could only be said to Reign, while his Brother Rul’d.

 

 

 

 

Though Pierre Jurieu allowed himself both anger and contempt in his A Defence Of Their Majesties King William And Queen Mary, compared to the second reaction to Antoine Arnauld’s attack upon the incumbent English monarchy his response was only a mild admonition.

Published in 1690, The Secret History Of The Reigns Of K. Charles II, And K. James II is equally furious and scurrilous: an ugly and ultimately absurd piece of scandal-writing that devotes itself to the thesis that Charles was from the start a secret Catholic; and that the sole goal of his reign was the establishment in England of – get used to hearing this expression, folks! – Popery and Slavery.

The Secret History… has been attributed over the years to two different authors—most commonly to John Phillips, a nephew of John Milton, who wrote well-received poetry, translations and history, but also supported himself by hack-work. Phillips’ attribution may have originated in his support of Titus Oates, and his efforts to “prove” the Popish Plot. But whatever the original reason, this looks like a case of one person saying something and everyone else copying it.

Anthony Wood’s extraordinary bibliographical work, Athenæ Oxonienses. An Exact History of All the Writers and Bishops who have had their Education in the University of Oxford, remarks of Phillips that:

He is also supposed to be the author of The Secret History of the Reigns of King Charles II. and King James II. printed 1690. oct. ‘Tis a vile piece.

However, in the 1813 edition of the Athenæ Oxonienses, edited by Philip Bliss (which updates and annotates the original entries), we find the comment:

That it is a vile piece is most certain; but that Phillips was the author rests on no good authority, nor is it probable either from the style or the matter of the book.

The first Secret History was followed by The Secret History Of K. James I And K. Charles I. Compleating The Reigns Of The Last Four Monarchs. By The Author Of The Secret History Of K. Charles II And K. James II—which was itself followed by an updated compilation, The Secret History, Of The Last Four Monarchs Of Britain, which contains the same texts, along with an altered preface and an appendix describing James’ movements between his abdication and “this present January, 1691”, and focusing upon events in Ireland. This document is widely attributed to Nathaniel Crouch, although apparently without anyone joining the dots backwards.

Nathaniel Crouch was a printer and bookseller, and also a writer who generally published under the initials “R. B.”, standing for Richard or Robert Burton, his pseudonym of choice. A pseudonym was necessary, as Crouch had  a reputation as a plagiarist. Debate continues over his legacy, however, because though he certainly plundered other people’s writing, he used it to create simplified history texts aimed at the newly literate, the first such “opening up” of material previously aimed exclusively at the upper-classes. Historians tend to be kinder to his memory than publishers and authors.

Further, albeit indirect, support for this alternative attribution of The Secret History… to Crouch may be found in what seems to be yet another re-working of the material, a much-toned-down document entitled, The History Of The Two Late Kings, Charles the Second and James the Second, which promises an account of “secret French and Popish Intrigues and Designs”. This 1693 publication carries the initials “R. B.” and the detail, “Printed for Nath. Crouch”.

But whoever the author—it is not exactly surprising that The Secret History… was published anonymously, and without any publication details. Even by the standards of the scandal-histories with which we are familiar, this is an outrageous attack with no limit to what the author is willing to accuse the Stuarts of: treason, murder, national sabotage and incest being only the head-liners.

However, the very relentlessness of the attack ultimately makes this a wearisome read—and an absurd one. The anonymous author was, apparently, everywhere during the reigns of Charles and James: lurking in corners at Court, hiding in bedrooms, onboard ships in the English navy, hopping between England and France and back again, somehow getting access to everyone’s correspondence; even getting literally inside people’s heads, or so we assume from his willingness to tell us what everyone was thinking and planning.

All this is intended to prove not merely that Charles was devoted to establishing Popery and Slavery in England, but that everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – he did during his reign was with this goal in mind; and if it sometimes looked like he was doing something to the benefit of England, well, that was just because you didn’t know the secret history.

And here we hit the real issue with The Secret History… because, while in order to argue his thesis the author needs to present Charles as a kind of master-conspirator, manipulating the people around him and pulling strings across Europe, at the same time every word he writes drips with a contempt for Charles so profound, you can hear the sneer inside your head while you’re reading.

But this contradiction is perfectly in tune with the subject matter presented, wherein we learn such interesting facts as that England went to war with Dutch not over trade and territory, but because the Dutch were the defenders of the Protestant faith; that to to damage England, Charles (via James) sabotaged the English fleet during the Raid on the Medway; that Charles was behind the Popish Plot, even though (as the author seems to have forgotten) *he* was the target of it; and that the Pope was so intent upon backing Charles in bringing about Popery and Slavery, he instituted a levy upon Roman Catholic priests all over the world, in order to fund his efforts.

And so on.

I don’t intend to consider The Secret History… in any detail, partly because it would be tedious for both of us, and partly because someone else already did—and I’ll be considering that. Instead, I thought I would simply provide a series of quotes, which would give you a taste of this document, while highlighting a few things that struck me as particularly outré.

This early passage (dealing with the negotiations for the Restoration) gives a good idea of the author’s approach to his material: sweeping condemnatory statements about events that for one reason or another, he can’t produce any proof of just at the moment, or that didn’t come to light at the time for one reason of another…

And as for the second, his Zeal for the Protestant Religion, nothing could render him more a Hypocrite then such a Profession, when at the same time he was both himself a Papist, and under Promises and Obligations to the Pope and the Romish Clergy, to destroy the Protestant and introduce the Roman Catholick Religion, as afterwards appear’d by the Attestations of Ocular Witnesses, who often saw him at Mass during his Exile: and was yet more evident by a Letter under his own Hand, written in the Year 1652 to the Pope himself; which once was printed in Whitlocks Memoirs; but upon considerations of the danger that might ensue upon divulging it at that time to the World, torn out before the publishing of the Book.

We also learn that Charles’ sexual irregularities were even more irregular than we thought:

Soon after he arrived in England, where he was receiv’d with all the Pomp and Splendour, and all the Demonstrations of Joy that a Nation could express; but then, as if he had left all his Piety behind him in Holland, care was taken against the very first Night that his Sacred Majesty was to lie at Whitehall, to have the Lady Castlemain seduc’d from her Loyalty to her Husbandand entic’d into the Arms of the happily restor’d Prince. Which was not only Adultery, but Incest in the Lord’s Annointed, it being the Opinion of several Persons, who had reason to know more than others did, that she was his Sister by the Mother’s Side, as being begotten by the E. of St. A. upon the Queen’s Body, after the Death of C. the First: which is the rather to be believ’d, for that I my self have often heard Mr. R. Osborn, then at Paris with the Exil’d King, affirm, That he saw the said E. and the Queen solemnly marry’d together.

(I don’t know who Mr. R. Osborn is; there was a Sir Richard Osborne, an Irish baronet, but he doesn’t seem to have had any connection to Charles.)

But indirect, possibly unknowing incest isn’t good enough for our Charlie:

To which purpose the Duchess of Orleans was sent over, as one that would be a welcom Guest to her Brother, and whose Charms and Dexterity, joyn’d with her other advantages, would give her such an ascendent over him, as could not fail of Success; and indeed she acquitted herself so well of her Commission, that she quite supplanted all the King;s good Councils, and by yielding to his Incestuous Embraces, while the D. of B. held the Door, so charmed his most Sacred Majesty, that he quite and clean forgot his Tripple League…

But there’s more to all this than just Charles’ overactive hormones:

…he gave these lewd Examples himself, on purpose, that after he had thus Enervated the Minds and Resolutions of his Subjects, he might the more easily trample upon their Necks, and reduce them under the perpetual Yoke of Antichrist, in expectation of his Mothers Blessing, and to fulfil the Agreement between himself, the Pope, and the French King.

Much of the text of The Secret History… is devoted to explaining how the Triple Alliance between England, Sweden and the United Provinces, formed to support Spain against France, was actually meant to help France; and how the Popish Plot – supposedly a Catholic plan to murder Charles, for the benefit of James – was actually part of Charles’ plot to introduce Popery and Slavery:

So that now all things running on the Papistical side to their Hearts desire, what with Popish Souldiers, Popish Officers, Popish Counsels, Popish Priests and Jesuits swarming about the Town and Country, and France at leisure to help them who help’d him to be more a Conqueror by the Peace, than he could have expected by a War; the Duke of York was for the King pulling off his Vizard, and for setting up Alamode of France, according to what had been so often debated at White Hall and St. James’s…

Having explained the role of Charles in the Popish Plot, and similarly his guilt with respect to the deaths of Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey and the Earl of Essex, the author huffs:

If this be not enough to discover his Inclinations, and the whole drift of his Intrigueing Reign, there can be nothing sharp enough to penetrate the stupid and besotted Bigotry of those that stand up in his Justification. But notwithstanding the wilful Blindness of such People, it is to be hoped, that other Men less biassed, and having the same just pretensions to common Understanding, have a greater value for their Reason, than to forfeit it to Prejudice, and an Interest, now exploded by all the sober part of the World…

Despite all this, Charles is eventually considered too dilatory in his introduction of Popery and Slavery; and James is tasked with putting someone more active in charge of proceedings—i.e. himself. Thus Charles dies, conveniently enough.

…it was as plain, That he had a mortal Antipathy against the Protestant Religion, and more particularly against the Professors of it in England; but more especially the Dissenters, upon the score of Revenging his Father’s Death. An Imbitter’d Hatred, which he deriv’d from his Mother, who mortally malic’d England upon the same Account, and which he acknowledg’d in his Bedchamber at St. James’s, where he openly declar’d: That he was resolv’d to be reveng’d upon the English Nation for his Father’s Death. Which if those unthinking People, who are so eager to have him again, would but consider, they would not be so forward for his return…

One of the few genuinely interesting things about The Secret History… is its twinned views of Charles and James—the former a better plotter than his brother, but selfish and greedy, stringing along his co-conspirators while he demanded money, and more money, until he overreached himself; the latter red-hot and incautious in his rush to Catholicism, so that he undid his own design.

The text is on firmer ground here, inasmuch as most of what is laid to James’ charge is open fact instead of “secret intrigue”: his alterations to the religious laws, the placing of Catholics in high civil and military positions, and the horrifying reprisals that followed the Monmouth Rebellion.

On the other hand, James is accused of abetting the Catholics who started the Great fire; and we have to hash over the Popish Plot yet again; and of course, there’s always the Sham Prince:

    The World that grows Wiser every day than other, will never be made believe, that a Person debilitated by the unfortunate Effects of the exasperated Revenge of an injured Bed, and meeting a Consort no less infirm, by whom he never had before any Child, but what dropt into the Grave, as soon as Born, not having any substantial Rafters for Life to build upon, should so seasonably nick it, to be both the Parents of a sound Off-spring for the preservation of Popery…
    It was look’d upon all over Europe, as a very low and mean Condescension of a Sovereign Prince, Hedge-Sparrow like, to hatch the Cuckoo’s Egg…

Fortunately, help was at hand—or at least in Holland. Or maybe heaven:

For now the Nation, no longer able to brook such such a deluge of illegal Oppressions, and the whole Body of the Nobility and Gentry of the Kingdom, observing such a general Desolation impending upon their Religion, Lives, and Fortunes, apply themselves to their Highnesses the Princess and Prince of Orange, as the only Cherubims on Earth, under whose Wings they could retire for Safety and Protection…

And if our author’s language has been extreme in dealing with Charles and James, well, you ain’t heard nothing yet; even if it is now tending in the other direction:

It seem’d a Labyrinth of Providence, to which the Belov’d of Heaven WILLIAM HENRY only had the Clue; while Prudence and Fortitude were the Ariadnes that gave him their Assistance to subdue the Minotaur that devoured our Religion and Liberties. Two conspicuous Examples at one of Heaven’s Indignation , and the Almighty’s Favour; the one pursuing to his downfal an Apostate from God, and an Oppressor of his People, and exposing him among unbelieving Bog-trotters upon the lingering death-bed of his gasping Glory, the fetter’d Vassal of his once fawning Confederate. The other prospering with Miracles of Success, the Generous Redeemer of the True Reformed Religion, from the devouring Jaws of that double-headed Monster, Popery and Slavery; By whose Auspicious Conduct two late languishing Kingdoms, groaning under the heavy weight of Misery and Tyranny, enjoy a Jubilee of Peace and Tranquility, and freed from the daily fears of Massacre and Destruction, in the fair way to recover their Pristin Glory, have now no more to do, but to repay their Praises to Heaven, and their due Acknowledgments to Them that have approv’d themselves the truly Indulging Father and Mother of their Country: A Prince, the Wonder of His Age; a Princess, the Miracle of Her Sex; in whom all Virtues, as in their proper Center meet; rendring the Nation happy in Two in One, as the whole World is blest in Three in One…