Yesterday, Debora Shuger from UCLA gave a small talk on the start of a new project. I still need to read her book on censorship, but hopefully I’ll be able to get to that soon. It was an interesting talk. She was using the case of a tract by Sir Thomas Browne and a few responses, one by Sir Kenelm Digby, to show that Laudianism was actually a theological big tent religion (not her words). Rather, it was Laud’s insistence on external conformity and his own biting manner that made him appear so uncompromising (some of that was from the Q&A). At least, that’s how I gathered it. I’ll have to hear more before I decide what I think about it, but the project does show a lot of promise. I’m curious to see what else she comes up with on Laudian theology.
Monthly Archives: October 2008
Sorry it has been this long since the last post. I guess I just didn’t have too much to report. I’ve been looking into Mabbott’s property a bit more. It would seem he moved up the social scale quite a bit. Frances Henderson thinks he was the son of a cordwainer. I think Williams says he was the son of a cobbler. Either way, he seems to have become definite landed gentry. I don’t have anything I’m ready to report on yet, but I’m finding some interesting material.
I was reading Peter McCullough’s article, “Print, Publication, and Religious Politics in Caroline England” and he makes a really interesting point. We can find some of the patrons of various clerics by finding out who stood surety for their First Fruits. I think I even saw a calendar of First Fruits and Tenths on google books the other day. As McCullough points out, there were a lot of printers.
I was surprised to discover how deep the ties between the Mabbott and Clarke families ran. In a published version of his will, George Clarke (Sir William’s son) left a fair amount of property to Mabbott’s grandson (also Gilbert) as well as to a few other Mabbotts I don’t recognize. Anyway, that’s all for now.
I do like going down to the Huntington Library to do some work. If you’ve never been and get the chance, I highly recommend it. My girlfriend and I were there, and at lunch we took a break to explore the old Huntington mansion, which has been brilliantly renovated, and we looked at the Gainsborough paintings. There was some kind of orchid show going on as well, but we didn’t go by that. It’s almost always unpleasant getting to the Huntington, but once there, it’s a great place to work.
Meanwhile, I was following one of Frances Henderson’s references on Mabbott to a letter sent by Sir Thomas Clarges to Major George Rawden. In it, Clarges mentions that he was lodging at Mabbott’s house on [St.] George’s street in Dublin. Clarges, Rawden, and Sir Richard Clifton were all clients of George Monck (by then Duke of Abermarle), and there’s a number of letters by them trying to sort out some of Monck’s affairs for him: the interminable business of the lease on his house in Dublin, his livestock, and Captain Hill’s accounts. Not real page-turners. Mabbott used to send newsletters to Monck (I know I’ve found one from 1654 and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen others). I’ve been trying to see if Mabbott was being coopted into any of Monck’s business, but so far, no luck. It appears their relationship was strictly scrivener-subscriber. What makes me think otherwise is that Clarges stayed with Mabbott soon after his arrival in Dublin. Could that really just be chance? It’s possible, but I think it merits further investigation.
So I followed up a footnote in Alastair Bellany’s The Politics of Court Scandal in Early Modern England, a reference which I later discovered was also in Joad Raymond’s Invention of the Newspaper. In 1637, John Taylor published a list of where the carriers from a number of cities and areas stayed while in London. He republished it, with some minor corrections and additions (at least as I can see from a brief skimming) in 1642. The first one was called The Carriers Cosmographie and the second A Brief Director. I’m not yet entirely certain what to make of these pamphlets, but they very much interest me. Assuming that it is the same John Taylor, one can see how he got into newsmongering; he knew where to get news from around the country. However, it is the fact that he, a publisher, and a printer carried out the project that I find most intriguing. The first post began in 1635, so it would seem that these pamphlets were geared either to those who wanted their letters carried more quickly or specifically wanted to avoid the post. I’m not sure how secure these carriers were, but since the post was monitored, they certainly would have been more discreet than the official post. Anyway, I can spend more time on that later; I just thought it was interesting.
I also had another thought today. I’ve still been mulling over explanations for the explosion of printing in 1640-2. I took another look at the great chart that Cressy has in England on Edge of numbers of publications per year. In Politicians and Pamphleteers, Jason Peacey discusses how and why politicians resorted to print, often in clandestine ways. Well, there were large spikes in publications in late 1640-2, 1646-7, and 1658-1660. These periods have in common intense politicking and uncertainty. I would argue that these spikes were the result of politicians trying to win political battles. I don’t think it is a rise in demand or that censorship was that much less effective in these periods than the rest of the 1640s and 50s. I have to assume that people would be as interested in the peace as in whether or not someone had won the war, or whether or not the war would be in their backyards soon. If anything, I would guess that there was more demand for news of actual battles. Politicking went on in the winters, but newsbooks tended to fail without military news to report (at least according to Anthony Cotton’s dissertation, “London Newsbooks in the Civil War”). At the very least, there would not be such a widely varying demand. I think it would be better to think of the print explosions in the 1640s and 1650s not so much as a result of the breakdown of censorship, but of its active circumvention by political elites: a push rather than a pull. The more stable periods in between the spikes represent the regular “demand.” I’d be happy to hear other peoples’ thoughts on the matter.
I guess I have something of an answer to my question of how good of an agent Mabbott was. I found another letter with no news, just an update on the response to one of Hull’s petitions. It sounded fairly positive; Hull was getting some extra security for its shipping.
More fighting with the Dutch, news about fighting on the continent, and the expedition to Jamaica. I kind of wish I was actually doing something on any of these. I’m almost done with the newsletters, though. 19 more photos to look over. I’m not expecting any huge revelations, but I think this has been worthwhile. I can at least prove that Mabbott had access to the Commons’ Journal, and I can talk about some of his work as an agent. He seems to have been something of a professional at that.
I just found another bit of evidence that I’m pleased with (unrelated to the above newsletters). A newsletter that Mabbott most likely received was partially reprinted in the Moderate. It’s not a smoking gun, but it is another piece of evidence to show Mabbott’s hand in the newsbook. Now I should check to see if it is in the Perfect Diurnall. But that will have to wait for tomorrow; it’s time for bed.
I found this in one of Mabbott’s newsletters:
“Mr Peters is now growne soe distracted that hee hath severall persons watching with him day & night whoe are some times necessitated to use all the strength they have to keepe him in Bed. hee raves much of the divell, his lookes are very wild and his discourse many times end with halfe sentences” (1656).
I also just read (most of) David Cressy’s England on Edge. He does make a pursuasive case that the breakdown of deference to authority and the general panic of the early 1640s contributed and in many ways led to the civil war. Early in the book he argues that the word “revolution” did take on the implications of a drastic political change and popular insurrection by the 1650s. I found this interesting, as I’ve so often heard the argument that seventeenth-century Englishmen would not have conceived of the term that way. It would seem, rather, that the events of the 1640s redefined the term.
There is a lot of material in this book, and it is rich with anecdotes, such that I highly recommend reading it just to see the use of such a wide range of sources as a means to get a picture of life in 1640-2 England. However, for my purposes, the sections on print are the most important. For Cressy, the central event leading to the explosion of printing was the calling of the Long Parliament, not the dissolution of Star Chamber. While this makes sense according to the statistics he provides, I have to wonder if this places too much onus on the collapse of censorship for the “print revolution” in the early 1640s. Cressy is careful not to overstate the power of the censors; in fact, I found his brief discussion of censorship to be quite insightful. Perhaps I am simply seeing something that isn’t there.
I guess that isn’t much to say about the book, but I’m tired. England on Edge is very useful in showing just how the events of 1640-2 made civil war possible and imaginable to contemporary English men and women.
So I’ve been looking at more of Mabbott’s newsletters. There isn’t anything terribly groundbreaking in them, but if anyone is looking at the Anglo-Dutch War or is interested in accounts of what the Nominated Assembly was up to, it’s worth a look. I’ve been cross-checking the newsletters with ones in the Clarke Papers, volume 3. I’m betting that if I look at the actual papers I’ll find more, but right now I’m still seeing a number of these newsletters showing up in Clarke’s possession as well. They are largely identical, but with some interesting differences, usually toward the end of the letter.
I’ve been looking at how these letters are written, and I think that they are written on an almost daily basis, meaning that Mabbott writes down the news for a day or two, then comes back and adds more. The newsletters will often say something like “this business put off till tomorrow,” and the pick it back up in the same letter with “today, the committee for . . . .” As well, the letters to Hull and to Clarke are often dated on the same day. Since newsbooks were often written in a very similar manner, there’s more fodder for the newsbooks-from-newsletters argument, the difference being that while the newsbook editor had to allow the printer the necessary time to work, the newsletter writer is taking into account his inability to write letter after letter on the same day.
I also liked this little ps to Mabbott’s letter on June 14, 1653: “Lt Coll Lilburne came yesterday to Towne hee wilbee secured this night.”
The other thing I have been wondering about is how good of an agent Mabbott actually was. He occasionally reports back to the Hull city fathers about some petition or other that he is pressing on some committee or the like. There are frequent delays, which he of course says are not his fault. He does seem to be able to get face time with some important people. And Mabbott was originally hired as the New Model’s agent, so he was well experienced, and he was also the agent for Leith, though I haven’t looked into that yet.
However, Hull’s use of Mabbott to forward their petitions does support Derek Hirst’s argument in “Making Contact: Petitions and the English Republic” that it was generally believed that you needed the right person to get your petition read.
Well, more work to do.