Category Archives: Samuel Pecke

Censorship as language

Sorry for the delay.  I recently finished a little foray into a series of censorship events (let’s just go with that for a term) in 1645-6.  I will try to sum up.

To set the scene, parliament, the Scots, and the king are trying to come to some kind of peace.  Unfortunately, everybody wants something different, and all are keen to justify their behavior and demands to the larger public.  In a series of pamphlets, the Scots Commissioners tried to make their case.  For the most part, these pamphlets were made up of the Scots Commissioners’ own papers.  Parliament responded by making gestures through censorship. When it finally succeeded in censoring an entire Scot pamphlet, it appeased the Commissioners by making another gesture.

Parliament had a difficult time trying to silence the Commissioners.  On one occasion, it made an inquiry into an offending pamphlet clearly published with the Commissioners’ consent, only to let the matter drop.  Without punishing anyone, parliament was trying to make its displeasure clear.

On another occasion, parliament ordered the preface and introduction to a Scot pamphlet burnt, condemning David Buchanan, a friend of the Commissioners and author of the preface as well as another condemned pamphlet.  Buchanan was relatively safe to attack, but the Scots managed to smuggle him out of England in time anyway.  The pamphlet also contained 3 of the Scots’ papers, which were left unscathed by the flames.  Parliament managed to avoid an open conflict with the Scots by not burning their papers, but successfully conveyed its displeasure with the pamphlet.  As well, parliament seems to have intentionally avoided carrying out a further inquiry into the authorship of the introduction after it discovered that it was likely authored by either the Commissioners’ secretary or the earl of Lauderdale.  Parliament thus sidestepped another complication by avoiding knowingly condemning a work by the Commissioners themselves.  This was certainly a more threatening gesture, but fell far short of censoring the Scots.

In one final move, parliament managed to block the publication of some of the earl of Loudoun’s speeches in a conference with parliament.  The Scots were offended and made a few attempts to retrieve the seized pamphlets.  Parliament could not return the pamphlets, but not wishing to force a breach with the Scots, appear to have tried to mollify them with a further act of censorship.  This time, it brought in Henry Walker for publishing a pamphlet that had particularly offended the Scots.  Walker claimed that he had received Mabbott’s permission for publication, and parliament ordered him to bring in proof.  As far as I can tell, that is where the matter ended.  Unable to satisfy the Scots’ demand for the return of their papers, parliament made another gesture, this time toward censoring an offender against the Scots, again without punishing anyone.

There is certainly a language to all of this.  I find it useful to remember that censorship was a tool in the early modern government’s toolbox which could be used for many purposes.  Here, it was a soft sort of diplomacy.  It also carried some important ramifications for some of the publishers, printers, and authors involved, their allegiances, and Mabbott, but I think that is a story for another time.

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Filed under censorship, Henry Walker, Long Parliament, Mabbott, Print Culture, Samuel Pecke

Forecast is sunny and warm

I am back in comfortable Santa Barbara, CA now.  It is nice to go outside without a scarf.  I should do a long update after having been gone so long, but I am afraid I do not have the time just yet.  I am presenting at PCCBS this weekend and I need to finish up the paper.  It’s mostly done, but it isn’t very polished, and I think it might be a bit confusing.  Work, work, work.

It’s taken from a paper I wrote last year that I will be turning into a chapter of my dissertation.  I am looking at the publication of accounts of Charles I’s trial, and Mabbott’s role in disseminating them.  In doing so, I look at Mabbott’s relationship with two other major newsbook editors: Samuel Pecke and Henry Walker.  I find that Mabbott used his (and the army’s) relationship with Pecke to facilitate the dissemination of the version of the trial published in the Moderate.  The version in the Moderate was in turn extracted from the separate published as the Narrative.  To make a long story short, the New Model organized the publication of that account of the trial, using Mabbott and his connections in London to facilitate it.  At the same time, Mabbott’s rivalry with Walker allowed/forced Walker to publish his own account of the trial, the Notes.  Thus, the episode shows an odd mix of personal, official, and public in the production of the news.  That could be interesting, right?

My work lately has been indicating the extreme importance of Mabbott’s personal relationships throughout his careers (licenser, agent, lobbyist, embezzler, etc.) which grew as government continued to professionalize, and I will probably have more to say on that in the future.  Being a parliamentary clerk opened a lot of doors for him.

I have also found out that Mabbott was a bit of a rake, though a very energetic one.  But I digress.

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Filed under Henry Walker, Mabbott, New Model, Samuel Pecke, William Clarke

England, teaching, and Los Angeles

So I’m back in the United States.  I’m actually at the Clark Library in Los Angeles right now.  I’ve been finishing up cataloguing the pictures I took in the various archives.  It’s kind of annoying, but I’ve already figured out a bunch of stuff I missed, including something rather interesting.  One of the parliamentary clerks was having at least one of his correspondents send his newsletters directly to Mabbott, even before the clerk got his hands on them.  So I’ve found some of the newsletters and need to go take a look, since the calendar of them is rather imprecise.  I’ve also found direct evidence that Mabbott had access to at least the Commons Journal when he was writing his newsletters in the 1650s.  That could have been assumed, but it’s nice to have the supporting evidence.  Mabbott did start his career as a parliamentary clerk after all.

I’ve also got my hands on a few interesting print cases, including one with forged publisher information.  I guess it goes to show parliament’s determination to uphold its printing laws that while the perpetrators got in trouble for what they were printing, parliament seems not to have cared about the forgery.  And they were released a few days later.  Interestingly, the Commons said that while it was okay for the material to be printed, the real problem was that it only presented one side of the argument (the other side, of course).

A lot of this has to go on hold for a while because I’m trying to get a course ready for second summer session.  I decided to teach a course on the English Civil War, the Fronde, and the Catalan Revolt, and then found out how little there was in translation for the last two.  There is a reasonable amount for the Fronde, I suppose, but not many mazarinades, and almost nothing for the Catalans.

In other news, the symposium in Hull went very well, despite a sudden cold I caught the second day.  The papers were really interesting and thoughtful, and I think they showed both the progress made in this field of history as well as how many avenues there are left to explore.  What they all showed was the importance of not underestimating the power of religion as a motivator.  Of course, what else would we expect?

Although anyone reading this blog has undoubtedly already seen it, I should still point out the series of great posts over at Mercurius Politicus on the spat between John Taylor and Henry Walker.  Neither of them was particularly pleasant, so you know it has to be good.  Also, please check back regularly at my girlfriend’s blog isaacnewtonalso for updates on how her part of the UK trip went.

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Filed under Henry Walker, Long Parliament, Mabbott, Print Culture, Samuel Pecke

Mabbott, Skippon, and the Moderate

So now I’m starting to wonder a bit more about Mabbott and the Moderate.  I found a letter by Clarke published by Robert Austin.  I can’t figure out Austin’s connection, but his publication was not licensed.  Anyway, I looked through the rest of the stuff published and I found that Perfect Diurnall and the Moderate had the only other copies.  This plays well with my theory that Mabbott had some kind of connection to the Moderate and Samuel Pecke.  I’m thinking that it will be worthwhile to sit the two newsbooks side-by-side to see just how much intelligence they share, and perhaps cross-check that with Walker’s Perfect Occurences.

I’m still digging around in the Provost Marshal position that Mabbott supposedly wanted for himself.  As I said in my last post, I don’t think Mabbott wanted to be Provost Marshal.  I’m starting to wonder if te office was not instead a hodge-podge solution to a number of problems, as well as a Presbyterian reaction against Major General Skippon.  Skippon had had more or less the powers of the Provost Marshal and may have earned some enemies among Presbyterians from his firm control of London during the Second Civil War.  I need to look into it some more.

I like the sense of freedom I have in my research these days.  Although so much of Civil War history has been well worn, I am still finding new pieces of evidence.  I am not just checking references; I feel like an honest-to-God historian.  There is something very gratifying in it.  I suppose that this is not uncommon, but it’s great to be in a profession that allows me such freedom.

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Filed under Henry Walker, Mabbott, Print Culture, Samuel Pecke