Posts tagged ‘Henry Neville’

19/08/2011

The English Rogue (Part 1)

“Thus have I given you a summary account of my life, from the Non-Age to the Meridian of my days. If there be any expressions either scurrilous or obscene, my onely design was to make Vice appear as she is, foul, ugly, and deformed: and I hope, he that hath sense will grow wiser by the folly that is presented him; as Drunkards are often cured by the beastliness of others that are so. The subject would not permit to be serious, neither would it have been suitable to our merry age, being generally of Tully’s minde, when he said, Lectionem fine ulla delectatione negligo: He hated reading where no pleasure dwelt.”

And so do I, Tully, and so do I…

Hindsight being what it is, I can now see clearly enough that I would have been much better off knuckling down to The English Rogue in the first place, rather than finding excuses to push it further along in the chronobibliography, so that I ended up dealing with some of its obvious descendents first. This grand-daddy of all English rogue’s biographies is easily three times the length of most of its imitators; and in a genre where a little goes a very long way, reading The English Rogue has been something like setting out for a stroll up Mt Wycheproof and finding myself confronted by the Matterhorn instead.

No offence to Mt Wycheproof intended.

All in all, I find it profoundly depressing to reflect that this was probably the most successful and popular work of its time. Its original publisher, Henry Marsh, reissued it several times between its original appearance in 1665* and his death in 1666. The rights then fell to Marsh’s former partner, Francis Kirkman, who not only followed suit, but tried desperately – and vainly – to persuade Richard Head to write a sequel. Furthermore, this was one of the very first English works, possibly the first, to be widely translated and distributed across Europe, where it achieved an equal success; and while the picaresque tale from which the rogue’s biography evolved was already an established genre in France and Spain in particular, the influence of The English Rogue in what would become the Netherlands (I never know what to call that territory at this time!) is clear enough from the subsequent wave of similar publications appearing in Dutch—some of which, as we have seen, ended up being turned into mock-English works.

(*Of course, at its real first appearance some months earlier, The English Rogue was denied a publication licence on the grounds that it was “too much smutty”. Copies of the original manuscript were, it seems, in circulation anyway; but the book achieved its real success after Head reworked it and resubmitted it. Given what survives, I can only suppose that he reduced the detail of the various sexual encounters described; he certainly doesn’t seem to have reduced their frequency.)

The details of Richard Head’s life are shadowy, and there is a definite tendency on the part of biographers to take the early sections of The English Rogue as straight autobiography—as their author probably intended them to be taken, not reckoning on the consequences.  Genuine biographies were very popular at the time, and the writers of fiction soon learned to imply that the events they were describing were based upon real people and events. The English Rogue is told in the first person, with the apparent name of its protagonist, Meriton Latroon, mentioned nowhere in the text beyond a faux-preface attached to the first edition; the namelessness of the teller of the tale would have helped to fuse his identity with that of his author. However, as has been mentioned previously, this ploy backfired on Richard Head when readers of his book took him at his word, and concluded him to be just the same sort of scoundrel as his alter-ego.

The English Rogue being what it is, a synopsis is largely pointless. The text is divided into phases according to the particular type of criminal enterprise in which Latroon is involved at a given time. In this respect, it is worth considering the boundary between the picaresque tale and the rogue’s biography—and as far as I can see, the division between these closely related styles of fiction is that in the picaresque tale, the central character tends to be the victim of fate, however criminal his (or, occasionally, her) actions become of necessity after that; whereas in the rogue’s biography, its all a matter of choice and inclination.

The opening phase of The English Rogue is perhaps its most inherently interesting, as the child Latroon and his family, living in Ireland, get caught up in the 1641 Catholic uprising. Latroon’s father and infant brother are killed, while he and his mother are helped to escape back to England by a loyal servant. They spend some years drifting about, Latroon’s mother professing whatever religion is necessary to draw financial aid from the local minister and his flock, while her son gives hints of the glories that are to come via acts of animal cruelty (and we know what modern psychologists would have to say about that) and an alarmingly precocious sexuality. In time, Latroon is packed off to school where his criminal career starts in earnest with a course of theft and extortion—accompanied, of course, by that great signifier of this school of fiction, the commission of acts of grotesque revenge against anyone who has, or who is perceived to have, in any way injured him:

“That he, going about to correct me for this unlucky and mischievous fact, was by me shown a very shitten trick, which put him into a stinking condition, for having made myself laxative on purpose I squirted into his face upon the first lash given. That being upon boys’ backs, ready to be whipped, I had often bit holes in their ears. That another time sirreverencing in a paper, and running to the window with it, which looked out into the yard, my aged mistress looking up to see who opened the casement, I had like to have thrown it into her mouth; however for a time deprived her of what little sight she had left. That another time I had watched some lusty young girls, that used in summer nights about twelve o’clock to wash themselves in a small brook near adjacent, and that I had concealed myself behind a bush, and when they were stripped, took away their clothes, making them dance home after me stark naked to the view of their sweethearts whom I had planted in a place appointed for that purpose, having given them before notice of my design.”

Our hero, ladies and gentlemen. And can I just point out that this thing is nearly 300 pages long??

In our previous examinations of Richard Head’s work, we discovered that he is well-known in academic circles as a plagiarist, and long seems to have been so. George Saintsbury, writing in 1913, points out that while Head certainly stole ideas and content from other works for The English Rogue, he had a tendency to follow the conventions of, and steal from, works that were popular decades earlier, with the result that his writing often had an odd anachronistic feel. We saw a concrete example of this in The Floating Island, which was identified as being plagiarised from a work published in 1623, and barely altered by the thief.

Another such “throwback” happens here, after Latroon eventually runs away from both his school and his mother and is taken in by a band of gypsies, where he is taught criminality as a career rather than just a hobby. While describing his new life, Latroon appends to his text a dictionary of thieves’ cant, which runs for several pages, and which George Saintsbury suggests was drawn from a series of publications about the criminal milieu that were popular in the 1620s and 1630s. Here, however, we can’t really condemn Richard Head without acknowledging his possible influence upon a much later writer. As you might recall, in Rookwood, published in 1834, William Harrison Ainsworth also provided an extensive translation of thieves’ cant for his readers, one which subsequent writers have, only too clearly, plundered for their own purposes. Confronted now by Richard Head’s own urban dictionary, I can’t help wondering whether Ainsworth, too, wasn’t guilty of a little pilfering…

Anyway, Latroon becomes a professional beggar and thief, usually successfully, sometimes attracting retribution, until a passing merchant takes a fancy to him, “Being extraordinarily pleased with the form of my face and body [and] liking well both my speech and understanding.” On this basis, the merchant takes Latroon into his employ—more fool he. Latroon soon falls into company with a band of apprentices who make it their business, literally their business, to defraud their masters—although the profits made are generally wasted in drinking, gambling and whoring. Meanwhile, Latroon has been sleeping with the maidservant (as well as drinking, gambling and whoring), and she gets pregnant. Knowing that doing the right thing would both be expensive and damage him in his employers’ eyes, Latroon comes up with an alternative:

“Well, I bethought myself how to be rid both of cow and calf. I told her I would get together what money I could, and so marry her, upon condition she would be willing to travel with me whither I went, which I knew was her only desire. I informed her of my intention to go for Virginia… She assented to all I propounded, relying herself solely on me to dispose of her as I pleased. To palliate my design, I went with her to Gravesend… Being aboard, I suddenly seemed to have forgot something ashore; having well laid my plot upon the basis of a good sum of money I had distributed among the seamen, with a considerable present to the master, and telling my Lindabrides I would return to her instantly, I got into the boat, and immediately after, the ship weighed anchor, and quickly was under sail…”

We should pause here upon this momentous occasion: this is the single point in his entire career when Latroon admits to feeling bad about something he’s done…although it doesn’t stop him seducing and robbing the next woman he sees…who he meets on the dock. And in fact, later on it actually inspires him, as he embarks upon a dizzying orgy of seduction, impregnation, and enforced emigration.

Its attitude to women is one of the more perversely interesting things about The English Rogue, which, while it is certainly an extreme example, is by no means alone at this time in the opinions it expresses. Put simply, if men are bad, women are worse—perhaps because while men have a choice in the matter, women are just made that way, their whole lives being built about their insatiable sexual desire, and their behaviour utterly without conscience or restraint as they seek to satisfy it.

And by the way, gentlemen: if you can’t get into a woman’s, any woman’s, drawers after no more than ten minutes’ trying, well, you aren’t really a man. All you have to do is get your hand between her legs, and the battle will be over. Although at the same time, you’d best be careful: women are just naturally carriers of venereal disease, from which men are in great danger…poor things.

While having to listen to Latroon as he sits in judgement on women generally is rather sickening, I have to admit I’m both bewildered and fascinated by the abrupt evolution of society’s vision of the female sex. How on earth, and in a reasonably short space of years, could we have gone from “woman as uncontrollable sexual demon” to “woman as sexless”!?

At the same time, the one thing that hasn’t changed is that, as a woman, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. Later on, Latroon hears a friend’s account of his pursuit of a married woman, who turns out to be virtuous and true to her husband—and so outraged is this individual at having his advances rebuffed, he revenges himself on the woman by destroying her marriage, Iago-like, with forged love letters.

Anyway— From mercantile fraud Latroon graduates to professional thievery, and from there to forgery and confidence tricks, and finally to highway robbery. (I’m skipping over about 150 pages here. No, no, don’t bother to thank me!) I may say here that the stretch concerning the defrauding of merchants gave me my only moment of genuine amusement while reading this book, in spite of its subtitle’s insistence on Latroon’s “wittiness”—probably because it’s a rare moment where Richard Head is simply speaking in his own voice:

“If I discover the fraud of any particular person, as long as I name him not, I do him no wrong; but if I detect by what deceitful and sinister means he worketh upon the infirmity of the youth of a green-witted gallant, it may serve for an use of instruction. In the most famous Universities there are some dunces resident, that by disgracing themselves, disgrace also their fellow students. In the most virtuous Courts there will be some parasites. So in the most goodly and glorious city under Heaven’s canopy, there are some asps lurking, that sting the reputation of their brethren by their poisonous and corrupt dealings. There are knaves in all trades but book selling.”

His career as a highwayman Latroon practices for a considerable time, both as a solitary marauder and as a member of various gangs. The most interesting phase of this enterprise is when Latroon himself is attacked on the road, and ends up battling an adversary who is at length overcome and found to have a great secret:

“Then did I come to his breeches (which I laid open) my curious search omitted not any place wherein I might suspect the concealment of moneys. At last proffering to remove his shirt from between his legs, he suddenly cried out (and strove to lay his hand there, but could not) ‘I beseech you, sir, be civil,’ said he. I imagining that some notable treasure lay there obscured, I pulled up his shirt (alias smock) and found myself not much mistaken…”

Latroon hastily apologises for his roughness and “rude dealings”, asserting – get this – the “greatness of love and respect I have for your sex.”  The “highwayman” subsequently introduces Latroon to two friends of hers who have likewise donned men’s clothing and taken to the road rather than submit to a life of marriage and domesticity. For a time Latroon joins forces with these sisters in crime, but although the partnership is profitable, he finally has to separate himself from them—because he just can’t keep up with their sexual demands…

Hereabouts we reach the most tiresome part of The English Rogue, wherein every other rogue that Latroon encounters insists on telling him their life-story, with every criminal enterprise spelled out in detail. Subsequently, Latroon himself, supposedly as evidence of his “reformation” (we’ll get to it), provides an equally lengthy guide to how the average punter can recognise when he’s in the company of rogues, and what he should do to keep himself safe. As any number of critics have demonstrated, much of this content is lifted from popular jest-books and pamphlets released over the preceding few decades; and however edifying these accounts may be in small doses, the reader of The English Rogue (as least these days) can only cry out in exhausted gratitude when the forces of law and order finally, finally, catch up with Our Hero and cart him off to Newgate, from whence the gallows beckon.

You know—I’m not generally an exponent of the death penalty, but in this guy’s case I would have made an exception. Alas, that’s the problem with first-person biographies: while they can end at Tyburn, miraculous escapes are far more the norm. So it is here, when for no earthly reason we can conjure Latroon’s sentence is commuted to seven years’ (!!) transportation. First, however, we have to sit through the rather nauseating spectacle of his repentence and discovery of religion; this it is that provokes his helpful guide to avoiding the criminal element.

And with this next phase of Latroon’s career we get a rather glorious blunder on the part of his author, who apparently forgot that he gave his anti-hero the same same birthdate as himself, 1637:

“The ship that was to transport me lay at Woolwich, about the latter end of Aug. 1650…”

Although, granted, we have spoken once or twice before about age-inappropriateness in the literature of this time…

Ironically enough, Latroon’s destination is Virginia—and just think of all the women (and children) who’d be there to meet him! But alas once more for those of us who would rather enjoy seeing Latroon undergoing hard labour—or being beaten to death by his discarded mistresses—we are thwarted again here, as he manages to survive not one but two shipwrecks. He finally ends up in Spain, and becomes the comrade of a Spanish merchant, who he agrees to accompany to “the Indies”. They have not been long at sea before their ship is attacked by three Turkish galleys; Latroon, one of the very few survivors, is sold into slavery. Now that’s more like it!

Sadly, however, even this doesn’t last: Latroon is passed from master to master—allowing him, who now professes Christianity, to throw ugly slurs at first the Muslims, then the Jews—and finally ends up owned by a Greek, “that in show was a Mahometan, but cordially a Christian”, despite the fact that he does things like owning slaves. The Greek and his possessions embark for the East Indies, but have gotten no further than southern India when they are yet again attacked by the Turks, from whom Latroon yet again excapes.

From here, The English Rogue turns from rogue’s biography to travelogue—another extremely popular form of literature and one where a writer could make quite an impression, as long as he didn’t have too much regard for the facts. As we saw in the early days of this blog, many and varied were the literary hoaxes practised on the reading public in the second half of the 17th century, fake accounts of travel, or descriptions of non-existent lands, being perhaps the most popular form. Richard Head dabbled openly in this brand of writing, with his pamphlets The Western Wonder and O-Brazile.

Perhaps the single most notorious example of the genre, however, is The Travels Of Sir John Mandeville, which was first—well, not published, but circulated in the 1370s. This often openly fantastical work was immensely successful and widely believed, in spite of its extravagance, and continued to be read well into the 17th century. And apparently one of those who did read it was Richard Head, since (as has been demonstrated in a paper published by Charles Moseley, who translated and edited a 1983 edition of the Travels) the last section of The English Rogue is a cut-down, plagiarised version of portions of it.

With a group of companions, Latroon spends time travelling around what we take to be territories in Africa and India, describing to the reader some of the more outré customs of the locals, such as cannibalism and suttee—the latter explained as a means of dissuading women from murdering their husbands, Which they were frequently guilty of, by reason of their extreme lechery and insatiate venery—shaking his head disapprovingly over their religious practices, and dwelling upon their sexual practices…as well as indulging in them. Like the protagonist of The Isle Of Pines, Latroon goes out of his way her to tell us how nauseating her finds the thought of having sex with a woman who isn’t white; and also like George Pine, he shuts his eyes, grits his teeth, and does it anyway.

Latroon’s wanderings take him from India to Zeyloon (Ceylon, Sri Lanka), where we get an account of the worshippers of Jagannath being crushed under temple cars; from there to Siam (Thailand), and onwards again to Do-Cerne (Mauritius) and Bantam in Indonesia. On the personal front, Latroon progresses from dallying with the natives, to castrating and murdering a man who tries to sodomise him (while he’s dallying with a native), to elaborately defrauding a Chinese merchant – an act that sees most of his companions end up the victims of a revenge killing:

“Whereupon I was strictly examined; but for all this sifting, I would not let drop anything of a confession that should convict me of guilt; but with lifting up of hands and eyes to Heaven, I utterly denied that e’er I saw this man, or ever had any dealing with him… I had now forgot what promises and vows I made to Heaven, when in Newgate, and sentenced to be hanged at Tyburn, what a serious, pious, and honest life I would lead, if I escaped that eminent danger…”

You don’t say.

But we’re nearly in the home stretch, folks, because after all this wandering and his narrow escape from the Chinese merchant’s vengeance, Latroon decides to settle down, in company with an Indian woman whom he marries—or rather, “marries”, since he’s been down that road two or three times before—after a severe struggle with himself:

“She from the first shewed me as much kindness as could be expected from that lump of Barbarism; and I could discern her inclinations in the same manner as a man may from beasts, when they are prone to generation, but yet it went against my stomach to yield to her motions. However, she continued her love to me… Gold and jewels she had in great quantity, with an house richly furnished after the Indian fashion. For this consideration I persuaded myself to marry her; and with several arguments alleged, I gained so much conquest over myself that I could kiss her without disgorging myself…”

Oh, Latroon, you romantic devil!

And having found a woman who can and will keep him in the style he is convinced he deserves, Our Hero settles back to reflect upon his life and closes with an extensive piece of moralising that very nearly made me disgorge myself. As for writing down his life, well, that was done with the very best of intentions, and above all in the most delicate language, as we have seen:

    “As the daylight is purest, so I have endeavoured to make my slender wit appear terse and spruce, without the fulsomeness of wanton language. If I have in any place transgressed the bounds of modesty by loose expressions, you need not fear to be offended with their unsavoury breath, for I have perfumed it: but if it should chance to stink, it is only to drive you from my former inclination and conversation…
    “If any loose word have dropped from the mind’s best interpreter, my pen, I would have the Reader to pass it over regardless, and not like a toad, gather up the venom of a garden; or like a goldfinder, make it his business to dive in stench and excrements…”

21/11/2010

The art of the run-on sentence

Back when we were discussing The Isle Of Pines, blog visitor Supersonic Man exclaimed, “Holy crap, that thing has a 397 word sentence immediately followed by a 340 word one” – prompting me to the facetious observation that, “Historians generally agree that the late 17th and early 18th centuries were the Golden Age of the run-on sentence.” Well, many a true word is spoken in throwaway facetious remark. In The Perplex’d Prince, the anonymous author gives Henry Neville a run for his money by concluding with a sentence of some 268 words, which in its original formatting ran for over two pages.

And I quote:

“Very well, replyed the Prince, I think I never slept sounder in my life: the Country man expressed abundance of Joy thereat, intreating him that since he had been so happily directed to his house, he would do him the honour to stay and dine with him, the King desired to be excused, but yet upon his importunity he consented, and found his entertainment very much to exceed his expectation; dinner being over, and his Horse and all things being got ready and having taken his leave, he mounted and Rode towards Carmanio, until he came to a pleasant Path way that led unto a delightful Shady Grove situated upon an hill, from whence he might take a view of the neighbouring Vallies, and having viewed it he dismounted and entered the Grove, and being very much delighted with the umbrage, sat himself down beneath the spreading Boughs on the flowery Bank of a Christal Spring, whose murmuring Streams in Silver Trills discharged themselves into a neighbouring Brook, and with much admiration took a delightful view of the out spread Plaines and Vallies, which were curiously fringed with Trees and Blossom Shrubs, nor was he less delighted to see the careful Shepherds Feeding their Numerous Flocks, whose pritty bleatings answered still those rural Songs which they on Slender Reeds Tuned, Harmonious as the Musick of the Spheres; nor was there any other Rustick Exercise or Pleasing Object wanting to his sight, which had been hitherto been represented to his View in Land-skips dextrously drawn by the most curious Pencils, where we at present leave him to his Contemplations.”

Reading that sentence in context was an almost hypnotic experience. It’s all in the punctuation, of course. I guess you could cut it off at “the Country man”, or even at “dinner being over”; but I prefer the strict interpretation of fullstop to fullstop.

I also love the way that, as a piece of closure to a tale of deceit, conspiracy and danger, it builds to such a marvellous anticlimax.

13/11/2010

O-Brazile; or, The Inchanted Island

“This story seems very fabulous, yet the Letter is come to a known Merchant, and from a good hand in France, so that I thought fit to mention it, it may be that there may be some mistake in the number of the Leagues, as also of the exact point of the Compass, from Cape Finis Terre; I shall enquire more particularly about it. Some English here suppose it may be the Island of Brasile which have been so oft sought for, Southwest from Ireland, if true, we shall hear further about it.”
— Abraham Keek (Henry Neville) (1668)

“As for the Island of Pines it self, which caused me to Write this Relation, I suppose it is a thing so strange as will hardly be credited by some, although perhaps knowing persons, especially considering our last age being so full of Discoveries, that this Place should lie Dormant for so long a space of time; Others I know, such Nullifidians as will believe nothing but what they see, applying that Proverb unto us, ‘That Travelors may lye by authority’. But Sir, in writing to you, I question not but to give Credence, you knowing my disposition so hateful to divulge Falsities.”
— Henry Cornelius Van Sloetten (Henry Neville) (1668)

“New Discoveries of late, are as much admired as Miracles of old, and as difficultly believed, notwithstanding the variety of apparent proofs which demonstrate their undoubted Veracity; and without question this Incredulity proceeds from no other cause, than the abuse of Belief, occasioned by such monstrous Fictions as the Isle of Pines, A New World in the Moon, with the like Lunatick Stories, by which the credulous World hath been misguided into a Faith wholly preposterously erroneous and ridiculous.”
— Richard Head (1675)

In 1675, Richard Head followed the publication of The Western Wonder; or, O-Brazeel with O-Brazile; or, The Inchanted Island: Being a perfect relation of the late discovery and wonderful dis-inchantment of an island on the north of Ireland: With an account of the riches and commodities thereof. Communicated by a letter from London-derry to a friend in London. This nine-page pamphlet consists of a single letter supposedly written by a man called William Hamilton, and sent from Londonderry on 14th March, 1674, to his cousin in England. Hamilton begins by thanking his cousin for the news of the death of “that Arch-Pirate Captain Cusacke“, then proceeds to repay the favour with an account of the true and final discovery of “that long-talk’t-of island O-Brazile.”

What follows is an oddly straightforward account of clearly magical (or at least, demonic) events. Hamilton admits that he had never believed the stories of O-Brazile: “Yet I lookt upon it as a perfect Romance, and many times laught the Reporters to scorn: Though many Sober, and Religious persons, would constantly affirm, That in bright days, (especially in Summer-time) they could perfectly see a very large absolute Island; but, after long looking at it, it would disappear.

(We may recall that in The Western Wonder, the narrator and his crew search for O-Brazile to the south-west of Ireland; in O-Brazile, the peripatetic land mass is found off the north coast. That “floating island” again.)

Recently, however, a certain Captain John Nisbet had succeeded in discovering the truth of the mysterious island. Nisbet was carrying a cargo of French goods back to Ireland when his ship became lost in an impenetrable mist, which vanished as suddenly as it had appeared, leaving the ship close to unfamiliar land. Dropping anchor, Nisbet and most of his crew went ashore, where they saw animals of all sorts and an old castle, but no sign of human life, although they approached the castle and called out. Night falling, the men built a fire, and were warming themselves when the most appalling sound suddenly swept across the island – emanating, as it seemed, from the castle. Terrified, the men hurried back to their ship, but could not sail away, as the tide was out.

The next morning, to their amazement, the crew saw three men standing upon the shore, who persuaded them to come back onto the island. There they learned that this was indeed the legendary O-Brazile, which had been, A Receptacle of Furies, made (to Mortals) unserviceable, and invisible; and that when Nesbit and his men were calling at the castle, its inhabitants, By the malicious, diabolical Art, of a great Necromancer, had been tyrannically shut up [with] neither power to answer any that spoke to them, nor free themselves from imprisonment. However, the crew had indavertently lifted the curse upon the island when, Fire was indeed kindled upon the Island by some good Christians. The terrifying noises heard by the men signalled the permanent departure of the island’s demonic inhabitants.

Hamilton concludes his report by relating how Nesbit and his men, having been richly rewarded by the grateful residents of O-Brazile, returned to Ireland with their story; how others had since set out to find the island, now that it was stationary and visible; and that he, Hamilton, had heard the tale from Nesbit himself.

Short and to the point, O-Brazile differs from much of Richard Head’s writing by not straying from its main theme, and by maintaining a serious tone. We can understand how it could have been taken for a true account upon its first publication, far more so than The Western Wonder; although time, of course, would eventually have exposed it as yet another hoax. And it is as a hoax that O-Brazile is most interesting, not just in light of the culture of hoaxing that prevailed at this time, but with respect to one very particular hoax that we have already examined.

We know already that Richard Head had few scruples about borrowing from other writers – and that “borrowing” is putting it mildly – but what he did in O-Brazile is something a bit more subtle. As the 17th century wore on, and hoaxes began to pile upon hoaxes, there was an increasing tendency for the writers concerned to wink at each other, and at the more savvy of their readers: the clues to a piece of writing being a hoax were often there if you knew where to look. Mentioning another hoax by name and in opprobrius terms was a particularly popular touch.

Typically, the author of such a work would start by declaring the truth of his tale, and then decry all those wretched hoaxers who made it so hard for honest men to be believed. Another common tactic would be to have the story told by a third party, usually a merchant or a sailor, someone too “plain-spoken” and “uneducated” to make up a fabulous story. A piece of supporting evidence, separate from the main narrative, was often provided.

These are exactly Henry Neville’s tactics in The Isle Of Pines, as we have seen. The account of Van Sloetten, in which he apologises for the bluntness of his language, Being more a Seaman than a Scholler, is framed by the letter of Abraham Keek, a Dutch merchant of good repute. Van Sloetten shakes his head over the, Nullifidians as will believe nothing but what they see; while Keek, agreeing that the story of the Isle of Pines is fabulous, nevertheless gives it credence because, The Letter is come to a known Merchant, and from a good hand in France.

In terms of both fame and financial return, The Isle Of Pines was one of the most successful of the literary hoaxes, even if its cover was soon blown (as its author intended, of course). It became, in effect, the yardstick by which other such hoaxes were measured. O-Brazile is interesting in this context for two reasons: first, the actual mention of “the Island of Brasile” in The Isle Of Pines, which could even have given Richard Head the idea for a hoax of his own; and second, the fact that Head pinched Henry Neville’s framing device, initially publishing The Western Wonder, with its account of a failed landing upon the island, and then following up with O-Brazile, in which apparently reputable sources declare the mystery solved. In the latter, Head also adds to the credibility of his story by beginning it with a reference to a real and well-known event, the death of the Irish pirate George Cusack in 1674.

Both of these pamphlets shake their heads sadly over those despicable hoaxes so prevalent in the marketplace (one bemoans the sceptiscism, the other the gullibility, of the reading public), before asserting their own truth. Yet in O-Brazile, at least, there is a clear sign that this, too, is a hoax, in the shape of Head’s direct mention of The Isle Of Pines, here stigmatised as a “Lunatick Story” and a “monstrous Fiction”; to the cognoscenti, this would have been the literary equivalent of a broad grin.

And yet it seems that Head’s stories were believed – or at least debated. As Kate Loveman points out, early in 1675, according to his diary, Robert Hooke met Francis Lodwick at Garraway’s Coffee House in London, where the two natural philosophers discussed “O.Brazill and longitude”. Unfortunately, we don’t know what those two inquiring minds had to say about Richard Head’s accounts of the discovery of the elusive island. In all probability – “Oh, bollocks.”

09/10/2010

The Isle Of Pines (Part 3)

“You would have blessed yourself to see how the naked islanders flocked unto us, so wondering at our ship as if it have been the greatest miracle of nature in the whole world.”
— Henry Cornelius Van Sloetten

Truthfully, trying to work out the religious implications of The Isle Of Pines is as difficult as trying to work out Henry Neville’s own religious attitudes. We do know that he scorned the idea of the Divine Right of Kings, and that he was charged with atheism and blasphemy, although his accusers couldn’t make it stick. We also know that while in exile in Italy, he became close friends with Cosimo III, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, with whom he held a long correspondence; and that when he returned to England, even while involving himself in the Exclusion Crisis, Neville campaigned for greater tolerance for English Catholics and an end to the scapegoating of the Catholics by the government.

The deployment of religion in The Isle Of Pines seems finally more about Neville’s attitude to monarchy and governance than it does about religion itself. Under the benign, unstructured “rule” of George Pine, there is peace on the island. There may or may not be religion: it is not mentioned until near the end of George’s life. At that time he institutes monthly (not weekly) Bible readings, but not until he has already ordered the dispersing of his descendants to all corners of the island, so we may infer that not everyone is receiving instruction. While overtly this dispersal is partly to do with the increasing population, and partly to work against the continuance of incestuous relationships, there is also an amusing sense of “hey, you kids, get off my lawn!” about it, with an ageing and cranky George Pine commenting, “I liked not the wanton annoyance of young company.”

But in fact, George has always been about leaving his children to fend for themselves, even from a scarily young age: the first babies born to him and his “wives” are simply abandoned, with George explaining, “When they had sucked, we laid them in moss to sleep, and took no further care of them; for we knew, when they were gone more would come.” This hair-raising attitude to parenting is, I think, best read metaphorically: Neville was against an absolute monarchy and in favour of power being dispersed amongst the people, who he believed to a large extent should be left to govern themselves. Thus, under the indirect and unstructured rule of George Pine, the island flourishes; but with the passing of control to “King Henry” Sparks Pine, everything starts to go wrong.

While George Pine exhorts his children to follow the tenets of Christianity, it is a very Old Testament set of laws finally introduced by King Henry. It was upon the authority of the Old Testament that England’s monarchs made their claim for a Divine Right, and based their refusal to recognise any earthly bounds to their power.  Here, Neville seems to be offering a sardonic reminder that, after all, a king is just a man: even backed by the Old Testament, the power of the island’s monarchy grows ever weaker, as we see in the unexplained descent in the status of the ruler from “king” to “prince”, and in the fact that ultimately, Prince William cannot control his people, but must beg help from outsiders.

The Isle Of Pines must be read in the context of the humiliations suffered by the English at the hands of the Dutch. Whatever pretexts were found, the wars between the two nations were all about dominance in trade and colonisation. Henry Neville was, in this respect, very much a man of his time: he was all for an aggressive foreign policy and the expansion of England’s territories, by force of arms if necessary, and he despised Charles II for what he perceived as his failures and weaknesses in this respect.

However, within the text of The Isle Of Pines we find evidence that Neville recognised that certain dangers were inherent in being a colonising nation. The most unpleasant aspect of the story is its handling of Phillippa, the slave – which becomes no less unpleasant if viewed as a manifestation of “coloniser’s anxiety”. There’s no work to do on the island, so Phillippa is technically no longer a slave. Nevertheless, she is treated at all times as a thing apart, something less human than the island’s other denizens. Their first night on land after the shipwreck, while the white people fall into an exhausted sleep, Phillippa is left to keep watch – “the blackamore being less sensible than the rest”. Later, it is she who pursues George for sex, and although she is referred to as one of his wives, he treats her as he would an animal, mere breeding stock. Always resorting to the cover of darkness to quell his disgust at sleeping with her – otherwise, “my stomach would not serve me” – George has sex with Phillippa less often than any of the others, since she invariably gets pregnant after one coupling, and he doesn’t touch her while she is. She suffers no pain at all during her labours. Over time she bears George twelve children, but as soon as she reaches menopause, “I never meddled with her more.” All of this is capped by Phillippa’s casually abrupt dismissal from the story: “After we had lived there twenty-two years, my negro died suddenly, but I could not perceive anything that ailed her.”

The most curious aspect of Phillippa’s story is that her children are white – at least on the outside: her first is “a fine white girl” who is “as comely as the rest”. But throughout the story, it is Phillippa’s overtly white, covertly black descendants who are responsible for the island’s violent and sexual upheaval – or who are blamed for being so. In the time of King Henry, the island is beset by “whoredoms, incests, and adultery”; and although the transgressions are widespread, the only guilty party named is, “John Phill, the second son of the Negro-woman”. Convicted of rape, he is executed. That being done, “the rest were pardoned for what passed”. A generation later, Prince William must beg for Dutch help to quell a rebellion led by, “Henry Phill, the chief ruler of the tribe or family of the Phills”, who has betrayed the authority granted him by his monarch, under which he is meant to be keeping order amongst his people and ensuring that they practise their religion, and has “ravished the wife of one of the principal of the family of the Trevors”.

There is something more here, I think, than just the usual racist slurs about sexually insatiable black men with a yen for white woman. The point is that you can’t tell the Phills from anyone else, except by their actions. This seems to be an expression of the dangers of colonisation, whereby “superior” English blood  might be diluted – polluted – resulting in a people that look English but whose “inferior” native blood will inevitably betray them. If colonisation is to succeed, then, the local population must be separated, contained and ruled; there cannot be integration.

There are many ambiguities in The Isle Of Pines, but the aspect of the story wherein there is no question whatsoever of Henry Neville’s intentions is the involvement of the Dutch. Written in the wake of the humiliating conclusion of the second Ango-Dutch war, the tale is a clear denunciation of the direction of England under the Stuart monarchy.

Such is the bounty of the island that George Pine and his descendants do nothing to cultivate it further. They never explore their surroundings, or domesticate the wildlife, or attempt to grow crops. They make use of the supplies tossed ashore by the shipwreck and when they are gone, simply do without. By the time the Dutch get there, the Pines have become a race of English-speaking savages, running naked on the shore and gaping in astonishment at the Dutch ship. “You would have blessed yourself to see how the naked islanders flocked unto us, so wondering at our ship as if it have been the greatest miracle of nature in the whole world,” comments Henry Cornelius Van Sloetten.

And it goes from bad to worse. The Dutch end up treating the Englishmen exactly as they did the native population of St Lawrence, making them gifts of implements such as knives, shovels and axes – “Of which we thought they had great need,” observes Van Sloetten. He’s right: the axe salvaged by George Pine has since been cast aside as useless, with no effort made to resharpen it. Burial on the island consists of covering the body with rocks, as no tool has been fashioned for digging the soil. Although living on an island, the descendants of George Pine have no idea what a ship is – they’ve never conceived of such a thing. (And George, we infer, content in his sexual paradise, didn’t bother to teach them.) The whole is a picture of sloth and degeneration.

In contrast, the technologically advanced and efficient Dutchmen spend their time on the island doing what civilised people are supposed to do. They communicate with the locals through a translator and learn the history of the island, obtaining George Pine’s account of its founding in the process. They think about how the land might be cultivated. They explore and map the island, taking inventory of its flora and fauna. In the process, they frighten the natives by shooting one of the small, goat-like beasts. “These poor naked unarmed people, hearing the noise of the piece and seeing the beast tumbling in his gore, without speaking any words betook them to their heels, running back again as fast as they could drive,” reports Van Sloetten. We have all of us, of course, read and seen in movies any number of scenes that played out just like this, the superior white people terrifying and bewildering the ignorant savages with their advanced technology and greater intelligence. Such scenes, we imagine, were nothing new even in Henry Neville’s day. What is new is that the “ignorant savages” are Englishmen.

The final humiliation comes with the rebellion of Henry Phill. Prince William is powerless to deal with the situation, finding “his authority too weak to repress such disorders”, and he must beg the Dutch for their help. The Dutch, ready to depart the island, duly arm themselves and go back ashore to intervene. The rebellion is quelled in a matter of moments – “For what could nakedness do to encounter with arms?” Van Sloetten shrugs. Henry Phill is captured, tried, and executed by being thrown off a cliff, this being “the only way they have of punishing any by death, except burning.” It seems that even when it comes to carrying out judicial sentence, the English are embarrassingly backwards.

No, there’s not much doubt about what Henry Neville intended by all of this. The Isle Of Pines is a dire warning about the fate of England should the country continue on its Stuart-(mis)guided path, and of the extent of the threat posed by the Dutch to English commerce and expansion. (Neville’s admiration for the Dutch is evident, even as he recognises the danger they represent.) The question is, rather, whether Neville’s intention was clear to the first readers of his pamphlets. I can find little evidence that it was so. Under the laws of the day there was a real danger to Neville in publishing at all, and it was to get around the laws and to protect himself that he disguised his cautionary tale as a sexually-charged travelogue. He may have disguised it too well: the first pamphlet caught public attention by its sexual situation, and the whole was recognised soon enough as a sham – but upon being so, it was apparently tossed aside in disappointment. As far as it was analysed by its readers, The Isle Of Pines seems to have been perceived only as a crude joke, one probably perpetrated by the Dutch themselves, insult added to injury in the wake of the Battle of Medway. As far as we can tell, Henry Neville’s warning missed its mark altogether.

Of course, the real joke here is the ultimate survival of The Isle Of Pines, which out-lived countless thousands of contemporary publications and finally reached an audience capable of reading the text as Neville intended – a few centuries late, granted, but better late than never. The irony is that what hid Neville’s purpose in the pamphlet’s own time, the daring central premise of George Pine and his “several wives”, is also what ensured that the story would still be finding readers more than three hundred years later.

It’s kind of sad, when you think about it.

07/10/2010

The Isle Of Pines (Part 2)

“…for having nothing else to do, I had made me several arbors to sleep in with my women in the heat of the day. In these I and my women passed the time away, they never being willing to be out of my company. And having now no thought of ever returning home as having resolved and sworn never to part or leave one another, or the place; having by my several wives forthy-seven children, boys and girls, but most girls, and growing up apace; we were all of us very fleshy…”
— George Pine

To be fair to Henry Neville, it is quite clear upon examining The Isle Of Pines that he did mean more by it than merely to titillate the reader – or at least, it is when you read the final, cut-together version. Those people who only received the first pamphlet, George Pine’s account of life on his island, might be forgiven for thinking otherwise. No doubt they were eager to obtain the second instalment, when it was released – and no doubt they were very disappointed it in. (The disparate survival histories of the two pamphlets speak for themselves.) However, the framing of the first part of the story by the Dutch travellers’ own view of the island two generations later takes much of the ribald enjoyment out of the tale of George Pine and his “wives”.

As discussed by Kate Loveman, this was a time of literary hoaxes, and of wary, close reading of any text – particularly when the text in question contained some fabulous story. As we’ve seen, Neville’s hoax was recognised as such only weeks after the interpolated version was released. It is hardly surprising: there are a number of clues scattered throughout the story that indicate that it was indeed a sham – and that its author wanted it recognised as such. For one thing, the dates included don’t add up, and the geographical references are wrong. For another (as you may have noticed already from my own responses to it) the surname of the characters keeps switching from “Pine” to “Pines” and back again. This is a story told by a Dutch sailor, yet all of a sudden we hear that George Pine’s narrative was brought back to Europe by the French. There’s even a clue to the story’s authorship: hardly anyone in it is given a first name, but among those who are we find no less than three Henrys. In short, Neville went out of his way to make sure that his readers understood that there was a deeper purpose to his writing. The question is, what? This is the frustrating and tantalising thing about The Isle Of Pines. Various commentators have found a found a surprising number of hidden meanings in this short narrative, but how closely their interpretations meet Henry Neville’s purpose we have no way of knowing.

Briefly, The Isle Of Pines is an account of the life of George Pine, who is shipwrecked on an uncharted island to the north-east of “St Lawrence” (Madagascar) in the late 16th century. The only other survivors are four women: the daughter of Pine’s master, two maidservants, and a black slave. The wreck also casts up on shore enough essential items to tide the castaways over until they can examine their environment, upon which they find themselves in an earthly Eden. Food and water are abundant, the climate is perfect, the terrain is gentle, and there are no dangerous animals, only birds and small, goat-like beasts tame enough to be caught and eaten. There is, in short, no need for the castaways to exert themselves to survive – and so they don’t. Instead, Pine institutes a system of “rotation”, wherein he impregnates each woman in turn, over and over again. The babies are brought forth without difficulty and, when they stop breastfeeding, are abandoned to the elements; but so kind is this island that they all survive, growing up on their own while their parents busy themselves producing more. In time, the children are old enough to join the family business, and George Pine pairs off the half-siblings and sets them to work. By the time he was spent forty years on the island, he has five hundred and sixty descendants; another twenty, and the population of the island has reached one thousand, seven hundred and eighty-nine.

The most obvious reading of The Isle Of Pines is as a satire of Charles II, so busy filling his island with illegitimate children that he forgets to actually govern it, leaving it to degenerate into a land of sloth and helplessness. Hand-in-hand with this, we find a subject familiar from our earlier reading. As Mary Fissell pointed out in Vernacular Bodies, the mid-to-late 17th century was a time of “paternity anxiety”, stemming from uncertainty over the inheritance of the English crown, and reflected in the flood of lewdly-toned popular writings about deceitful women and cuckolded men. There are two echoes of this in The Isle Of Pines. Towards the end of the story, there is an odd digression when the Dutch sailors, having left the island, reach India. For no readily apparent reason, the captain then tells us about the local tradition of royal inheritance, wherein the king is succeeded not by his own children, but by his sisters’ – who he can be certain have at least some royal blood, as he cannot be certain of his own. In George Pine, however, we have a man, and an Englishman, who is in the apparently rare position of being quite certain that all of his children are his: he makes a point of telling us that it is four months before he begins to contemplate sex with his companions, and six before he acts on his urges; quite long enough for any pre-existing pregnancy to show itself.

Life on The Isle Of Pines soon becomes a rather one-sided wish-fulfilment fantasy, complete with classist and racist overtones. Alone of all the many shipwreck survivors of 17th and 18th century literature, George Pine never once thinks of trying to escape his island – for obvious reasons. George first initiates sex with the two maidservants, who are willing enough to accommodate him. They start out sneaking around, but soon, “our lusts gave us liberty”, and they start doing it in the open in broad daylight. In contrast, his “master’s daughter”, being better born, is not eager but submissive, “content to do also as we did”. Meanwhile, “my negro, who seeing what we did, longed also for her share”. George is not initially keen to gratify himself in that direction, but with the permission of the others the woman slips into his bed one night, hoping that he will not notice the substitution. He does, but proceeds anyway, being “willing to try the difference. [I] satisfied myself with her, as well as with one of the rest.” And George continues to sleep with “my Negro”, but, as he hastens to assure us, only at night, so that he won’t have to look at her. All four women fall pregnant; they deliver without complications or difficulty, and “were soon well again”. As so George institutes his rotation system, getting each woman pregnant in turns, so that in the end he has forty-seven children.

The lives of the five castaways are spent all together within a single shelter – “They never being willing to be out of my company,” George comments complacently. For all we know, it may be true: we hear not one word from any of them at any point in the narrative. We don’t even know their names until after they are dead, and then only because George has begun to worry about the social arrangements on the island. He divvies his descendants up into “tribes” and names each according to its mother: the “English”, the “Sparks”, the “Trevors” and the “Phills”, after Sarah English (“my master’s daughter”, natch), Mary Sparks, Elizabeth Trevor, and Phillippa, the negro – “She having no surname”.

There have been various attempts to interpret the way the story dwells upon its polygamous foundation and the necessarily incestuous arrangements of the subsequent generations. Some have read it as a belated slap at the Protectorate – to go along with the current slap at Charles – given that during Cromwell’s time there were at least two attempts to make polygamy legal in England, and several serious analyses of the subject, pro and con, published. (I hasten to stress, polygamy – never polyandry. George is careful to tell us that, conveniently enough, girls always outnumber boys on the island: crisis averted.)

Other analysts, much more versed in such matters than I, I’m afraid, have found a myriad of biblical references in the text, both overt and covert. We hear in time about “the 6 commandments”, instituted by George’s eldest son, Henry Sparks Pine, who has taken over as leader of the island. As Susan Bruce, the editor of one of the recent editions of The Isle Of Pines, points out, two out of the six are against blasphemy and sedition, both of which Henry Neville himself was arrested and/or jailed for. The tale has been read as a re-working of the story of Noah, with the children of Phillippa standing in for Ham’s son, Cush, who was “black and loathsome”. Among the items safely cast up upon the shore after the shipwreck is a Bible – of which we hear nothing for the next sixty years. However, as George Pine feels the end of his life approaching, he institutes a law forbidding marriage within the same tribe – “not letting any to marry their sisters, as we did formally out of necessity” – and also instigates regular Bible readings, thus introducing his descendants to the concept of “sin”. He informs his people of “the manners of Europe”, and in place of his own exceedingly laissez-faire system of rule, appoints his son Henry “King and Governor of all the rest”.

In short, George Pine introduces his people to Christianity, monarchy and European mores – and his island proceeds to go to hell in a handbasket.

[To be continued…]

05/10/2010

The Isle Of Pines (Part 1)

Let’s see, what’s next on the list…

Seventeenth-century pornography? Lucky me!

It’s all Kate Loveman‘s fault. She’s the one who brought The Isle Of Pines to my attention, and made it sound so interesting that I put it on The List, even though it violated my self-imposed cut-off by being published in 1668.

It think I’ve discovered a corollary to “may you live in interesting times”: “may you read an interesting book”.

As discussed in Reading Fictions, Henry Neville’s The Isle Of Pines was one of the numerous “shams” perpetrated during the time of the Restoration. It was one of the more successful ones, if not in terms of how long people were fooled, then for how widely it was read: in addition to a huge print run in England, The Isle Of Pines was published in translation in at least four other countries. It would be nice to be able to report that it was the literary merit of the work that made it so successful, but it seems that its main attractions lay rather in its premise – that of an Englishman cast away on an uncharted island in company with four young woman, who with great enthusiasm set about populating their new home.

Neville’s tale was published as a series of pamphlets in the middle of 1668. The first part, issued in June, was the self-narrative of George Pines, written shortly before his death seventy-four years after he and his companions were cast away. The second part, which followed in July, is another first-person narrative, this time of a Dutch sea captain, Henry Cornelius Van Sloetten, who with his crew were driven upon the same island some eighty years later, and found it populated by a contradiction, apparent savages of European descent who “speak English and yet to go naked”. Van Sloetten receives from the current leader of these people, George Pines’ grandson William, George’s written history, which he carries back to Europe. The third pamphlet, released in early August, interpolated Pines’ narrative into Van Sloetten’s, and also appended two letters from a merchant in Amsterdam to a “credible person in Covent Garden”, in which it is agreed that the tale is “a fabulous story”, but one that should be believed, as issuing from reliable sources.

Documents from the time make it clear that people did believe the story, although not for very long: the sham appears to have been exposed as early as the end of August. Many people suspected it to be a hoax perpetrated upon the English by the Dutch, and it was much resented upon that account. No-one seems to have seen The Isle Of Pines as more than, on one hand, a silly joke, or on the other, a bit of smut. This attitude persisted, for the most part, well into the 20th century. In 1920, the American historian and bibliophile Worthington Chauncey Ford reprinted Neville’s work in its entirety, accompanying it with an essay that was predominantly an account of the tale’s confusing publishing history, but also contained some ruminations on its possible influences and meanings – as well as an embarrassed apology for its salacious nature.

As time passed, however, the sexual content of The Isle Of Pines became nothing to get worked up about, and critics were finally able to look past its prurient surface to see what else was going on. At this point, an amusing truth about previous attempts to analyse The Isle Of Pines became evident: that most of them were skewed because they only considered the first part of the story, George Pines’ narrative – because after the initial time of publication it was only that section of the story that was reprinted and reissued, while the framing devices were allowed to fall into obscurity. The Isle Of Pines may not be pornographic in the contemporary sense – it’s more intent upon who did what to whom, and how often, than what they did it with and how – but its sexual frankness, and the nature of its sexual content, still serve to distract the modern reader from what might have been Henry Neville’s deeper intention.

However – in order to understand that intention, we first have to understand its author, and the events of his lifetime. This is one story that needs to be read in its context.

Henry Neville was one of a long line of Henry Nevilles, most of them politicians, as well as travellers and scholars; he is often distinguished from the other members of his family by being called “the satirist”. (His grandfather, who was Elizabeth I’s ambassador to France, is, I see, the latest person to be credited with “writing Shakespeare”.) Neville entered Parliament in the wake of the English Civil War. He was a staunch republican who quickly began to look upon Cromwell with suspicion, and broke with him altogether after Cromwell used armed forces to “dissolve” the Parliament in 1653. Neville had already by this time published various satirical pamphlets, as well as some more serious efforts, and now he began to use his pen again, publishing Shuffling, Cutting and Dealing, in a Game at Piquet, Being Acted From the Year 1653 to 1658, by Oliver, Protector, and Others. Much too blunt about Cromwell’s manoeuvring, this effort saw Neville exiled from England until after Cromwell’s succession by his son, Richard, in 1658. Neville then not only returned to England, but was re-elected to Parliament. Accusations of atheism and blasphemy were brought against him in an effort to exclude him, but the tactic failed.

In any event, Richard Cromwell soon had more important things to worry about than Henry Neville’s pen. He was forced to abdicate in May of 1659, and England began a slow but inexorable journey back to monarchy. This put Neville in a bind: much as he had battled the Cromwells, he most assuredly did not want the Stuarts back, and he fought against the Restoration up until the last moment. Neville was subsequently involved in various subversive, anti-monarchic activities, and accused of others. In 1663, he was arrested and held in the Tower of London on suspicion of having been involved in the Farneley Wood Plot, an anti-Royalist rebellion by the members of a former parliamentary community in Yorkshire. (Supposedly. No-one seems to know what really did happen with respect to this failed revolt, but twenty-six people were executed in its aftermath.) Neville was eventually released due to lack of evidence, and this time he didn’t wait to be asked, but spent the next four years in self-imposed exile in Italy.

During the 17th century, the English were spasmodically at war with the Dutch, who at that time posed a genuine threat to England’s colnies and trade. The first round of the Anglo-Dutch wars was fought during the Interregnum and was largely inconclusive. Both sides eventually ran out of steam, and a peace treaty was signed in 1654. The Dutch had hung on to their position as the world’s preeminent trading nation, however, and antagonism between the two nations remained close to the surface.

At this time, the Dutch, learning from past mistakes, set about building up its navy; while in England, the monarchy was restored, releasing a surge of patriotic feeling that (as patriotic feeling often will) led to war. The second Anglo-Dutch war started well for the English with victory in the first battle, but after that the tide turned towards the Dutch. England was already in financial difficulties, and in the wake of the twin blows of the Great Plague and the Fire of London, Charles II began a series of attempts to negotiate peace.

However, the continuing hostilities culminated in “the English Pearl Harbour”, the Battle of Medway. Due to their financial inability to maintain their fleet, the English had withdrawn their heavier vessels to dock at Chatham. In June 1667, the Dutch broke through the fortifications at the mouth of the Thames and attacked the immobile fleet. Fifteen ships were destroyed and the navy’s flagship, HMS Royal Charles, was captured and towed back to the Netherlands. Charles II again sued for peace, and a treaty was ratified at the end of July 1667.

And in 1668, Henry Neville returned to England, and published The Isle Of Pines.

[To be continued…]