Friday, August 19, 2016


The Pictorial Press - Its Origin and Progress by Mason Jackson: Chapter 2 Part 3

Amongst the many publications relating to the victorious career of Gustavus Adolphus, king of Sweden, there was one entitled the Swedish Intelligencer, printed at London in 1632, for Nathaniel Butter and Nicholas Bourne, both of them names associated with the first establishment of newspapers in England. The Swedish Intelligencer gives very full accounts of the exploits of Gustavus, and it is illustrated with his portrait, a bird’s-eye view of the siege of Magdeburg, a plan showing how the King of Sweden and his army crossed the river Lech into Bavaria, and a plan or bird’s-eye view of the battle of Lutzen, where Gustavus was killed. The portrait, the siege of Magdeburg, and the battle of Lutzen, are engraved on copper, but the passage of the Lech is a woodcut. I have copied the latter, the others being too elaborate for reproduction on a reduced scale. The three last named are very curious as illustrations of war news. Gustavus had crossed the Danube, and his troops overspread the country between that river and the river Lech. Field Marshal Tilly was in front of him, waiting for reinforcements from the army of Wallenstein, in Bohemia, and the junction of fresh levies raised in Bavaria, with which he hoped to drive the invaders back across the Danube. The account in the Swedish Intelligencer of this celebrated passage of the River Lech is too long for quotation, but I give a condensed version of the circumstances from other sources.

The Lech takes its rise among the mountains of the Tyrol, and, after washing the walls of Landsberg and Augsburg, falls into the Danube at a short distance from the town of Rain. The banks are broken and irregular, and the channel uncertain. Nor are there many rivers of the same size in Germany which can be compared with it in the strength and rapidity of its current. The united forces of Bavaria and the League, with this efficient means of defence in front, extended their right wing towards the Danube and their left towards Rain, while the banks of the river, as far as the city of Augsburg, were observed by their patrols, supported by detached bodies of infantry. Tilly had taken the precaution of breaking down the bridges over the Lech, and had thrown up field works at points where he judged the passage might be considered attended with fewest difficulties. That the Swedes would attack him in his main position was a pitch of daring to which, well as he was acquainted with the enterprising spirit of the king, he could scarcely suspect him of having yet attained. Such, however, was the full determination of Gustavus. After he had reconnoitred the course of the Lech for some miles, at the imminent peril of his life, he fixed upon a point between Rain and Thierhauppen, where the river makes a sweep to the eastward, as the spot for carrying his venturous design into effect. The king’s first intention was to throw a floating bridge over the stream, but the attempt was no sooner made than it was found to be rendered hopeless by the rapidity of the current. It was then imagined that tressels might be sunk, and firmly secured by weights in the bed of the river, on which the flooring of the bridge might afterwards be securely laid. The king approved of this plan, and workmen were commanded to prepare the necessary materials at the small village of Oberendorf, situated about half a mile from the spot. During the night of the 4th of April the work was entirely finished, the supports fixed in the stream, and the planks for forming the bridge brought down to the water’s edge. The king had, in the meantime, ordered a trench to be dug along the bank of the river for the reception of bodies of musketeers, and several new batteries to be constructed close to the shore, the fire from which, as they were disposed along a convex line, necessarily crossed upon the opposite side; those upon the left hand of the Swedes playing upon the left of the enemy, and those on the right upon the wood held by the Bavarians. Another battery, slightly retired from the rest, directed its fire against the entrenchments occupied by Tilly’s centre. By daybreak on the 5th, all necessary preparations having been made, the bridge was begun to be laid, and completed under the king’s inspection. Three hundred Finland volunteers were the first who crossed, excited by the reward of ten crowns each to undertake the dangerous service of throwing up a slight work upon the other side for its protection. By four in the afternoon the Finlanders had finished their undertaking, having been protected from a close attack by the musketry of their own party and the batteries behind them, from which the king is said to have discharged more than sixty shots with his own hand, to encourage his gunners to charge their pieces more expeditiously. The work consisted merely of an embankment surrounded by a trench, but it was defended both by the direct and cross fire of the Swedes. As soon as it was completed, Gustavus, stationing himself with the King of Bohemia at the foot of the bridge, commanded Colonel Wrangle, with a chosen body of infantry and two or three field-pieces, to pass over, and after occupying the work, to station a number of musketeers in a bed of osiers upon the opposite side. The Swedes crossed the bridge with little loss, and after a short but desperate struggle the Imperialists were routed. The whole of the Swedish army was soon upon the eastern bank of the Lech, where the king, without troubling himself with the pursuit of the enemy, commanded his army to encamp, and ordered the customary thanksgivings to be offered for his victory.

The account in the Swedish Intelligencer is wound up in these words: ‘And this is the story of the King’s bridge over the Lech, description whereof we have thought worthy to be here in Figure imparted unto you.’ Then follows an ‘Explanation of the Letters in the Figure of the Bridge,’ given below the illustration. The engraving does not appear to have been entirely satisfactory to the author, for on its margin the following words are printed: ‘Our Cutter hath made the Ordnance too long, and to lye too farre into the River. The Hole also marked with R, should have been on the right hand of the Bridge.’



A The King of Sweeden, and the King of Bohemia by him.
B The Bridge.
C A Trench or Brestworke, in which the Kings Musketeers were lodged, betwixt the severall Batteryes of the great Ordnance, which Musketeers are represented by the small stroakes made right forwards.
D Divers little Field-pieces.
E Plat-formes or Batteryes for the Kings greater Cannon.
F The Halfe-moone, with its Pallisadoe or Stocket, beyond the Bridge, and for the guard of it. It was scarcely bigge enough to lodge a hundred men in.
G A little Underwood, or low Bushy place.
H A plaice voyd of wood; which was a Bache, sometimes overflowne.
I A Brestworke for Tillyes Musketeers.
K K Tilly and Altringer; or the place where they were shot.
L The high wood where the Duke of Bavaria stood.
M Tilleyes great Batteryes to shoot down the Bridge.
N A small riveret running thorow the wood.
O Tillyes great Brestworke; not yet finished. Begun at sixe in the morning; and left off when he was shot.
P Some Horse-guards of Tillyes: layd scatteringly here and there all along the river from Rain to Augsburg.
Q The kings Horse-guards, and Horse-sentryes.
R A hole in the earth, or casual advantageable place; wherein some of the Kings Foot were lodged.
S The Hill behind Tillyes great worke.
T The fashion of the Tressels or Arches for the Kings Bridge.’
In 1636 the Sallee Rovers had become very troublesome, and not only hindered British commerce on the high seas, but even infested the English coasts. They had captured and carried into slavery many Englishmen, for whose release a ‘Fleete of Shippes’ was sent out in January 1636. Assisted by the Emperor of Morocco, the nest of pirates was destroyed and the captives released. A full account of this expedition is given in a curious pamphlet, entitled, ‘A true Journal of the Sally Fleet with the proceedings of the Voyage, published by John Dunton, London, Mariner, Master of the Admirall called the Leopard. Whereunto is annexed a List of Sally Captives names and the places where they dwell, and a Description of the three Townes in a Card. London, printed by John Dawson for Thomas Nicholes, and are to be sold at the Signe of the Bible in Popes Head Alley, 1637.’ This tract is illustrated by a large plan of Sallee, engraved on copper, with representations of six English vessels of war on the sea. After minutely describing the proceedings of the voyage, and giving a long list of the captives’ names, the journalist winds up in these words: ‘All these good Shippes with the Captives are in safety in England, we give God thanks. And bless King Charles and all those that love him.’

At the end of the pamphlet is printed the authority for its publication: ‘Hampton Court, the 20. of October, 1637. This Journall and Mappe may be printed.’

There is an illustrated pamphlet of this period which I have not been able to see. It is entitled, ‘Newes, and Strange Newes from St. Christopher’s of a Tempestuous Spirit, which is called by the Indians a Hurrycano or Whirlwind; whereunto is added the True and Last Relation (in verse) of the Dreadful Accident which happened at Witticombe in Devonshire, 21. October, 1638.

The Weekly News, begun in 1622, had been in existence sixteen years when the idea of illustrating current events seems to have occurred to its conductors; for in the number for December 20, 1638, there is, besides the usual items of foreign news, an account of a ‘prodigious eruption of fire, which exhaled in the middest of the ocean sea, over against the Isle of Saint Michael, one of the Terceras, and the new island which it hath made.’ The text is illustrated by a full-page engraving showing ‘the island, its length and breadth, and the places where the fire burst out.’ I have not been able to find a copy of the Weekly News for December 20, 1638, either in the British Museum or elsewhere. My authority for the above statement is a letter in the Times of October 13, 1868. As far as I have been able to ascertain, no other illustrations were published in the Weekly News, so that we must conclude the engraving of the ‘prodigious eruption of fire’ was an experiment, which in its result was not encouraging to the proprietor or conductors of the journal.


When the Irish Rebellion of 1641 broke out, many news-books were published describing the transactions in that country, and several of them are illustrated. I may here remark that the illustrations of events in these pamphlets, as well as many of those contained in the numerous tracts published during the Civil War in England, appear to be works of pure imagination, and were, probably, invented by the artist just as a modern draughtsman would illustrate a work of fiction. Others, again, were evidently old woodcuts executed for some other purpose. A few instances occur, however, where drawings have been made from actual scenes, and sometimes maps and plans are given as illustrations of a battle or a siege. This rising of the Roman Catholics in Ireland began with a massacre of the Protestants, and, according to the tracts published at the time, the atrocities of recent wars in Bulgaria and elsewhere were equalled in every way by the Roman Catholics in Ireland in the seventeenth century. The illustrations in these tracts are very coarse woodcuts. One represents the arrest of a party of conspirators, and another is a view of a town besieged, while a third gives a group of prisoners supplicating for mercy. The best illustration that I have met with of this Irish news is contained in a pamphlet entitled, ‘Approved, good and happy Newes from Ireland; Relating how the Castle of Artaine was taken from the Rebels, two of their Captaines kild, and one taken prisoner by the Protestants, with the arrival of 2000 foot, and 300 horse from England. Also a great skirmish between the Protestants and the Rebels at a place near Feleston, wherein the English obtained great renowne and victory: Whereunto is added a true relation of the great overthrow which the English gave the Rebels before Drogheda, sent in a letter bearing date the 27 of February to Sir Robert King, Knight, at Cecill house in the Strand. Printed by order of Parliament. London, Printed for John Wright 1641.’ The woodcut on the title-page of this tract represents the taking of the castle of Artaine, but there is only the following very short paragraph relating to it:—‘The last news from Ireland 7 March 1641. The 10 of February our men went to Artaine against a castle so called, which had before done some mischiefe, to some of our men, the enemy being in it. But the enemy fled before our second coming, and left the Castle, and a garrison was left in it by us.’ The other news is related more at length, and one of the paragraphs runs thus:—‘On the 13 a man was brought to our City, being taken by some of our scattering men scouting about our City, who confest without constraint, that he had killed an Englishwoman at a place called Leslipson, 6 Miles West of our City, and washed his hands in her bloud, being set on by the popish Priests so to doe; he was presently hanged, but dyed with much repentance and a protestant, which few do.’ The concluding paragraph of this pamphlet shows the writer to have been a man of a commercial spirit:—‘Tis to be feared that a famine is like to be in our City, in that still men come to us and provision is short, and none of yours that come to us bring any vittailes, great taxes are upon us, more than can be borne. He that had Butter, and Cheese, and Cloath, at between 6 and 14 shillings a yard here sent by any out of London might make a good trade of it. Cheshire Cheese is sould here for sixpence a pound already. Some of your Londoners are come hither (acquaintance of mine) that will send for such things, for great profit may be made by them and quicke returne.’

Several other pamphlets relating to the Irish Rebellion are illustrated, but, with a few exceptions, the cuts bear very little relation to the subject, and were probably not executed for the purpose. One gives an account of a victory obtained by the English at Dundalk in 1642, and it has a woodcut of a man firing a cannon against a town, a copy of which is appended.


The description is in the following words:—‘Newes from Ireland. On Monday morning came three Gentlemen to our City of Dublin from Sir Henry Tichbourne, who brought a message to the state of a great and happy victory obtained by the aforesaid Sir Henry Tichbourne with 2000 horse and foot marched to Ardee, and there put 400 of the Rebels to the sword, yet lost not one man of our side; from thence upon the Saturday following, he mustered up his forces against a place called Dundalke some 14 miles northward from Tredath, where the enemy was 5000 strong, and well fortified. At his first approach there issued out of the Towne 3000 of the Rebels who all presented themselves in Battallia, our Forlorne hopes of horse and foot had no sooner fired upon them, but they routed the Rebels. Captaine Marroe’s Troope of horse setting on killed great store of the Rebels who thereupon retreated to the Towne, made fast the gates, and ran out at the other end to their boats beforehand provided: Our Army coming in fired the gates, entred, and killed those within. Captain Marroe followed the flying foe, and slew abundance of them upon the strand, and it is reported by them that if he had known the Fords and the River, he had cut them all off, if he had gained the other side of the River, but being a stranger, could not doe it (wanting a guide) without endangering the Troope. There was slaine of the Rebels in this sudden skirmish not less than 1100 besides what they took prisoners. Sir Philomy O’Neale fled with the rest of the Commanders; but 10 common soldiers were lost of our side. Sir Philomy O’Neale made speed away to a place called Newry, a chiefe garrison of the Rebels. Sir Henry Tichbourne hath sent 600 men more to Dublin, intending that place shall be the next he begins withall, which is granted, and tomorrow there goeth to him 500 men, if not 5000, for whose safety and prosperity in the meantime is the subject of our daily prayers that he may have as good success as in all his other designs from the first till this time; for no man was ever so beloved by his souldiers, that protest to follow him while they can stand. We are in great hope he will recover the Newry very shortly; it is credibly reported, that they got 20,000 pounds at least in pillage at Dundalke.’

In another pamphlet, dated 1642, there is an account of a battle at Kilrush, which is also illustrated with a woodcut. The circumstances are related in detail, but they are sufficiently set forth in the title, without further quotation:—‘Captaine Yarner’s Relation of the Battaile fought at Kilrush upon the 15th day of Aprill, by my Lord of Ormond, who with 2500 Foot and 500 Horse, overthrew the Lord Mountgarret’s Army, consisting of 8000 Foot and 400 Horse, all well armed, and the choyce of eight Counties. Together with a Relation of the proceedings of our Army, from the second to the later end of Aprill, 1642.

Many other illustrated pamphlets relating to current events were published at this time. It would appear that in 1641 there was a visitation of the plague in London, and a tract of that date has reference to it. It is entitled:—‘London’s Lamentation, or a fit admonishment for City and Country, wherein is described certain causes of this affliction and visitation of the Plague, yeare 1641, which the Lord hath been pleased to inflict upon us, and withall what means must be used to the Lord, to gain his mercy and favour, with an excellent spirituall medicine to be used for the preservative both of Body and Soule.’ The ‘spiritual medicine’ recommended is an earnest prayer to heaven at morning and evening and a daily service to the Lord. The writer endeavours to improve the occasion very much like a preacher in the pulpit and continues his exhortation thus:—‘Now seeing it is apparent that sin is the cause of sicknesse: It may appear as plainly that prayer must be the best means to procure health and safety, let not our security and slothfulnesse give death opportunity, what man or woman will not seem to start, at the signe of the red Crosse, as they passe by to and fro in the streets? And yet being gone they think no more on it. It may be, they will say, such a house is shut up, I saw the red crosse on the doore; but look on thine own guilty conscience, and thou shalt find thou hast a multitude of red crimson sinnes remaining in thee.’ I have copied the illustration to this tract, and it will be seen that it is divided into two parts—one representing a funeral procession advancing to where men are digging two graves—the other showing dead bodies dragged away on hurdles. The first is labelled ‘London’s Charity.’ The second ‘The Countrie’s Crueltie.’ This was perhaps intended to impress the reader in favour of the orderly burial of the dead in the city churchyards, a subject on which public opinion has very much changed since that time.

We have already noticed that the vicissitudes of the sea and the accidents of maritime life, which supply so much material to modern newspapers, were not less attractive to the early news-writers. There is a very circumstantial account of the voyage and wreck of a ship called the Merchant Royall in a pamphlet published in 1641. The engraving it contains is the same block used by Thomas Greepe in 1587. It is entitled, ‘Sad news from the seas, being a true relation of the losse of that good Ship called the Merchant Royall, which was cast away ten leagues from the Lands end, on Thursday night, being the 23 of September last 1641 having in her a world of Treasure, as this story following doth truly relate.’ Another illustrated pamphlet, dated 1642, contains a long and minute narrative of how a certain ship called the Coster was boarded by a native of Java, who, watching his opportunity, murdered the captain and several of the crew, but who was afterwards killed when assistance arrived from another ship. There is a woodcut representing the murders, and the title runs as follows:—‘A most Execrable and Barbarous murder done by an East Indian Devil, or a native of Java-Major, in the Road of Bantam, Aboard an English ship called the Coster, on the 22 of October last, 1641. Wherein is shewed how the wicked Villain came to the said ship and hid himself till it was very dark, and then he murdered all the men that were aboard, except the Cooke and three Boyes. And lastly, how the murderer himselfe was justly requited. Captain William Minor being an eye-witnesse of this bloudy Massacre. London: Printed for T. Banks, July the 18, 1642.’ The very full particulars given in this pamphlet show how minute and circumstantial the old news-writers were in their narratives. It will be seen by the following extracts that the story has an air of truth given to it by careful attention to various small matters of detail:—

‘On Friday the 22 of October last 1641 towards night there came aboard an English ship called the Coster, in a small Prow (or flat Boat with one paddle) a proper young man, (a Java, which is as much as to say as a man born or native of the Territory of Java.) This man, (or devill in mans shape) with a pretence to sell some Hews, (hatching mischiefe in his damned minde,) did delay and trifle time, because he would have the night more dark for him to do his deeds of darknesse. At last he sold 6 Hews for half a Royall of 8 which is not much above two shillings. There came also another Java aboard, (with the like small Prow or Boat) to whom he gave the half Royall, sent him away and bade him make haste; he being asked for what the other Java went for, the answer was that he had sent him for more Hews and Goates to sell.

‘Night being come, and very dark, (for it was the last night of the wane of the Moone) this inhumane dog staid lurking under the half deck having 2 Crests (or dangerous waving daggers) and a Buckler, of which he would have sold one and the Buckler with it, and as he was discoursing he took off one of the Crests hefts and put cloth about the tongue of the Blade, and made it sure fast: on the other Crest he rolled the handle with a fine linnen cloth to make it also sure from slipping in his hand; these things he did whilst the Master, Robert Start, Stephen Roberts, his mate, Hugh Rawlinson, Chirurgeon, William Perks, Steward, James Biggs, Gunner, and 3 Boys or Youths attending. At supper they were very merry, and this Caitiffe took notice of their carelessnesse of him to suffer him to sit on the quarter deck upon a Cot close by them.

‘Supper being ended about 6 at night the Master went to his Cabin to rest, the Gunner asked leave to go ashore, (the ship riding but half a mile from landing.) Afterwards Robert Rawlinson and Perks walked upon the quarter deck; and the devilish Java perceiving the Master to be absent, he asked the Boyes where he was, who answered he was gone to sleepe. This question he demanded 3 or 4 times of the Boyes, and finding it to be so, he arose from the place where he sate, which was on the starboard side and went about the Table next the Mizzen Mast (where Roberts, Rawlings and Perks were walking) with his Target about his Neck for defence against Pikes, or the like; and his 2 Crests in his hand, and upon a sudden cries a Muck, which in that language is I hazard or run my death. Then first he stabd Roberts, secondly he stabd Rawlinson, thirdly Perks, all three at an instant. After that he let drive at the Boyes, but they leapd down, and ran forward into the forecastle, where they found the Cooke, to whom the Boyes related what had happened.’

Further details are given at great length, showing how the savage continued his bloody work, and how he was finally overpowered. The narrative thus winds up:—

‘It is observable that of all these men that were thus butchered, the Hel-hound did never stab any man twice, so sure did he strike, nor did he pursue any man that kept clear of his stand under the quarter-deck. So there dyed in all (in this bloody action) Robert Start, Master, Stephen Roberts, his Mate, Hugh Rawlinson, Chirurgeon, William Perks, Steward, Walter Rogers, Gunner’s Mate, and Francis Drake, Trumpeter of the Mary. And after the Muck, Java, or Devill, had ended the first part of this bloody Tragedy, there was only left in the ship, the Cooke, 3 Boyes, and one John Taylor, that was almost dead with a shott he foolishly made. So that 7 men were unfortunately lost (as you have heard) and the Gunner escaped very narrowly through God’s merciful prevention, from the like of these related disasters and suddaine mischiefs, Good Lord deliver us.’

The engraving, like all those belonging to this period, is very rough; but it was evidently prepared specially for the occasion, and some care appears to have been taken to represent the ‘Java’ as he is described. It is a genuine attempt to illustrate the story, and on that account is more interesting than some of the woodcuts in the early newspapers.

The Earl of Strafford, who was executed on Tower Hill, May 12, 1641, forms the subject of more than one illustrated tract of this period. In 1642 was published a curious pamphlet, consisting of an engraved title and eight pages of illustrations, representing the principal events of 1641-2. There are sixteen illustrations, exclusive of the title, two on each page. They are all etched on copper, and are done with some freedom and artistic ability. I shall have occasion to refer to this pamphlet hereafter; but at present I have copied the engraving entitled, ‘The Earle of Strafford for treasonable practises beheaded on the Tower-hill.’


In this example of illustrated news the artist has faithfully represented the locality in his background, but there the truth of his pencil stops. Strafford himself, although his head is not yet severed from his body, lies at full length on the scaffold, and instead of the usual block used for decapitations the victim’s head rests on an ordinary plank or thick piece of wood. There is no one standing on the scaffold but the executioner, whereas history asserts that the Earl was attended in his last moments by his brother, Sir George Wentworth, the Earl of Cleveland, and Archbishop Usher. These omissions, if they were noticed at all, were no doubt looked upon as trivial faults in the infancy of illustrated journalism, and before a truth-loving public had learnt to be satisfied with nothing less than ‘sketches done on the spot.’ What appears to be a more correct view of the execution was, however, published at the time. In the British Museum are two etchings by Hollar (single sheets, 1641), representing the trial and execution of the Earl of Strafford. They both look as if they had been done from sketches on the spot, that of the execution giving a correct view of the Tower and the surrounding buildings, but they are too crowded to admit of reproduction on a reduced scale.

The taste of the time tolerated the publication of satires and petty lampoons even upon dead men. Soon after Strafford’s death a tract was published entitled ‘A Description of the Passage of Thomas, late Earle of Strafford, over the River of Styx, with the Conference betwixt him, Charon, and William Noy.’ There is a dialogue between Strafford and Charon, of which the following is a specimen:—

‘Charon.—In the name of Rhodomont what ayles me? I have tugged and tugged above these two hours, yet can hardly steere one foot forward; either my dried nerves deceive my arme, or my vexed Barke carries an unwonted burden. From whence comest thou, Passenger?

‘Strafford.—From England.

‘Charon.—From England! Ha! I was counsailed to prepare myselfe, and trim up my boat. I should have work enough they sayd ere be long from England, but trust me thy burden alone outweighs many transported armies, were all the expected numbers of thy weight poor Charon well might sweat.


‘Strafford.—I bear them all in one.

‘Charon.—How? Bear them all in one, and thou shalt pay for them all in one, by the just soul of Rhodomont; this was a fine plot indeed, sure this was some notable fellow being alive, that hath a trick to cosen the devil being dead. What is thy name?

‘(Strafford sighs.)

‘Charon.—Sigh not so deep. Take some of this Lethæan water into thine hand, and soope it up; it will make thee forget thy sorrows.

‘Strafford.—My name is Wentworth, Strafford’s late Earle.

‘Charon.—Wentworth! O ho! Thou art hee who hath been so long expected by William Noy. He hath been any time these two months on the other side of the banke, expecting thy coming daily.’

Strafford gives Charon but one halfpenny for his fare, whereat the ferryman grumbles. Then ensues a conversation between Strafford and William Noy, part of which is in blank verse. The tract is illustrated with a woodcut, representing Strafford in the ferryman’s boat with William Noy waiting his arrival on the opposite bank.


No man of his time appears to have excited the hostile notice of the press more than Archbishop Laud. The Archbishops of Canterbury had long been considered censors of the press by right of their dignity and office; and Laud exercised this power with unusual tyranny. The ferocious cruelty with which he carried out his prosecutions in the Star Chamber and Court of High Commission made his name odious, and his apparent preference for ceremonial religion contributed to render him still more unpopular. Men were put in the pillory, had their ears cut off, their noses slit, and were branded on the cheeks with S. S. (Sower of Sedition), and S. L. (Schismatical Libeller). They were heavily fined, were whipped through the streets, were thrown into prison; and all for printing and publishing opinions and sentiments unpleasing to Archbishop Laud, under whose rule this despotic cruelty became so prevalent that it was a common thing for men to speak of So-and-so as having been ‘Star-Chambered.’ No wonder, when the tide turned, that the long-pent-up indignation found a vent through the printing-press. Amongst the numerous tracts that were published after the suppression of the Star Chamber were many which held up Laud to public execration. He was reviled for his ambition, reproached for his cruelty, and caricatured for his Romish sympathies. During the four years between his fall and his execution, portraits of him and other illustrations relating to his career may be found in many pamphlets. I propose to introduce the reader to some of these, as examples of the kind of feeling that was excited by a man whose character and actions must have contributed not a little to bring about a convulsion which shook both the Church and the throne to their foundations. It must have been with a peculiar satisfaction that Prynne, one of the chief sufferers under Laud’s rule, found himself armed with the authority of the House of Commons to despoil his old enemy. Probably a similar feeling caused many others to chuckle and rub their hands when they read, ‘A New Play called Canterburie’s Change of Diet, printed in 1641.’ This is a small tract illustrated with woodcuts, and is written in the form of a play. The persons represented are the Archbishop of Canterbury, a doctor of physic, a lawyer, a divine, a Jesuit, a carpenter and his wife. The doctor of physic is intended for either Dr. Alexander Leighton, or Dr. John Bastwick, both of whom had their ears cut off; the lawyer is Prynne; and the divine is meant for the Rev. Henry Burton, a London clergyman, who also suffered under Laud’s administration. In the first act enter the Archbishop, the doctor, the lawyer, and the divine. Being seated, a variety of dishes are brought to the table, but Laud expresses himself dissatisfied with the fare placed before him and demands a more racy diet. He then calls in certain bishops, who enter armed with muskets, bandoleers, and swords. He cuts off the ears of the doctor, the lawyer, and the divine, and tells them he makes them an example that others may be more careful to please his palate. On the previous page is a copy of the cut which illustrates the first act.



In the second act the Archbishop of Canterbury enters a carpenter’s yard by the waterside, and seeing a grindstone he is about to sharpen his knife upon it, when he is interrupted by the carpenter who refuses to let him sharpen his knife upon his grindstone, lest he should treat him (the carpenter) as he had treated the others. The carpenter then holds the Archbishop’s nose to the grindstone, and orders his apprentice to turn with a will. The bishop cries out, ‘Hold! hold! such turning will soon deform my face. O, I bleed, I bleed, and am extremely sore.’ The carpenter, however, rejoins, ‘But who regarded “hold” before? Remember the cruelty you have used to others, whose bloud crieth out for vengeance. Were not their ears to them as pretious as your nostrils can be to you? If such dishes must be your fare, let me be your Cooke, I’ll invent you rare sippets.’ Then enters a Jesuit Confessor who washes the bishop’s wounded face and binds it up with a cloth. There is also an illustration to this act which is here copied.


In the third act the Archbishop and the Jesuit are represented in a great Cage (the Tower) while the carpenter and his wife, conversing together, agree that the two caged birds will sing very well together. The woodcut to this act represents a fool laughing at the prisoners.

There is a fourth act in which the King and his Jester hold a conversation about the Bishop and the confessor in the cage. There is no printer’s or publisher’s name to this play, only the date, 1641.

The pamphlet previously referred to as containing a picture of Strafford’s execution, has also an engraving showing how the tide of public feeling had set against Archbishop Laud. The powerful Churchman had been impeached for high treason; he was deprived of all the profits of his high office and was imprisoned in the Tower. All his goods in Lambeth Palace, including his books, were seized, and even his Diary and private papers were taken from him by Prynne, who acted under a warrant from the House of Commons. The engraving under notice is entitled ‘The rising of Prentices and Sea-men on Southwark side to assault the Archbishops of Canterburys House at Lambeth.’

In a tract entitled ‘A Prophecie of the Life, Reigne, and Death of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury,’ there is a caricature of Laud seated on a throne or chair of state. A pair of horns grow out of his forehead, and in front the devil offers him a Cardinal’s Hat. This business of the Cardinal’s Hat is alluded to by Laud himself, who says, ‘At Greenwich there came one to me seriously, and that avowed ability to perform it, and offered me to be a Cardinal. I went presently to the king, and acquainted him both with the thing and the person.’ This offer was afterwards renewed: ‘But,’ says he, ‘my answer again was, that something dwelt within me which would not suffer that till Rome were other than it is.’ It would thus appear that the Archbishop did not give a very decided refusal at first or the offer would not have been repeated; and that circumstance, if it were known at the time, must have strengthened the opinion that he was favourably inclined towards the Church of Rome. At all events, the offer must have been made public, as this caricature shows.

Though Laud behaved with dignity and courage when he came to bid farewell to the world, if we are to believe the publications of the time, he was not above petitioning for mercy, while any hope of life remained. In 1643 a pamphlet was published with the following title, ‘The Copy of the Petition presented to the Honourable Houses of Parliament by the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, wherein the said Archbishop desires that he may not be transported beyond the Seas into New England with Master Peters in regard to his extraordinary age and weaknesse.’ The petition is dated ‘From the Tower of London this 6th of May 1643,’ and in it the petitioner sets forth that out of a ‘fervent zeal to Christianity’ he endeavoured to reconcile the principles of the Protestant and Roman Catholic religions, hoping that if he could effect this he might more easily draw the Queen into an adherence to the Protestant faith. He deplores that his endeavours were not successful, and he begs the honourable Parliament to pardon his errors, and to ‘looke upon him in mercy, and not permit or suffer your Petitioner to be transported, to endure the hazard of the Seas, and the long tediousnesse of Voyage into those trans-marine parts, and cold Countries, which would soon bring your Petitioners life to a period; but rather that your Petitioner may abide in his native country, untill your Petitioner shall pay the debt which is due from him to Nature, and so your Petitioner doth submit himselfe to your Honourable and grave Wisdoms for your Petitioners request and desire therein. And your Petitioner shall humbly pray &c.’


If Archbishop Laud was really the author of this petition he appears to have expected that his long imprisonment would end in banishment rather than death. He was beheaded on Tower Hill, January 10, 1645. There is a woodcut portrait of the Archbishop printed on the title-page of the petition.


[from Allan: reading through the rest of this book, I'm seeing that the author is far more interested in reprinting odd and interesting woodcuts from these ancient publications, along with long extracts from the texts, and the actual HISTORY of the publications and art is getting very little coverage. I thought there was much more meat about publications and techniques than I'm now seeing. Therefore I've decided to cut the book off here, as it is not what I really wanted to showcase here. If you'd like to read more of this interesting book, you'll find it available from]


Comments: Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]