Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > The Beginnings of English Journalism > John Crouch, Oliver Williams and Canne
  Martin Parker, Sheppard, Wharton, Hall, Frost, Harris and Mabbott Henry Muddiman and The Gazette  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

XV. The Beginnings of English Journalism.

§ 6. John Crouch, Oliver Williams and Canne.

John Crouch the printer first appears on the scene in 1647 as the writer of occasional counterfeits of Mercurius Melancholicus and Pragmaticus. In 1649 and 1650, he wrote the vulgar, scurrilous and occasionally amusing Man in the Moon, spending some time in the Gatehouse prison in consequence. Between the years 1652 and 1655, he wrote the licensed periodicals known as Mercurius Democritus, Fumigosus and so forth, which were indecent and obscene throughout. Some numbers, duly licensed and authorised by Cromwell’s licenser, Mabbott, during the years 1653 and 1654, contain songs comparable to the most indecent verse of Rochester himself.   48
  When Cromwell turned out the Rump in 1653, a printer called John Streater, a captain and quartermaster–general of the Irish army, circulated a paper of “queries” among his brother officers; for this, Cromwell dismissed him from the army as “unfit,” and Streater underwent a lengthy and illegal imprisonment, at the expiration of which he issued two remarkable periodicals, entitled, respectively, Observations, Historical Political and Philosophical, upon Aristotle’s first book of Political Government, together with a narrative of State affairs (no. 1, 4 April, 1654) and A Politick Commentary on the life of Caius July Caesar with Perfect and Impartial Intelligence (no. 1, 23 May, 1654). These, in some sort, were an anticipation of Killing no Murder, and it is odd that they should have been unnoticed in modern times. Streater’s account of his troubles is to be found in his Secret Reasons of State (23 May, 1659). The Rump gave him a regiment in 1659, and, though he was arrested in 1661, the licensing act of 1662 honoured his stand for freedom of parliament by expressly exempting him by name from all its provisions. He was a prosperous printer (chiefly of law books) for the rest of his life, and died in 1687.   49
  Cromwell’s last journalist was Marchamont Nedham, who, unlike Walker, was an educated man, a graduate of All Souls, Oxford. But he possessed neither honour, religion, morals nor definite political convictions. He wrote anything for anybody and lived simply for money. He shall never be mentioned “but to his everlasting shame and infamy,” wrote Cleiveland; yet, at the time when this was said, Nedham had not touched his lowest depths. In 1648 (probably not before this time, nor after February, 1649), he wrote the royalist Mercurius Pragmaticus, taking it out of the hands of Samuel Sheppard, and adopting the same tiresome trailing one which he had used in his roundhead journal Britanicus. After his imprisonment, in 1649, he was willing to write pamphlets for the regicides, was rewarded by a pension of £100 a year and, on 13 June, 1650, started the first permanent official journal, Mercurius Politicus. Cromwell left for Scotland at the end of the month, after a sermon by Henry Walker, and Nedham then inserted so scandalous a series of articles on the Scots in Politicus that, at last, Cleiveland came forward (on 14 August, 1650) with a Character of Mercurius Politicus, a furious and merciless exposure, in which he described Nedham’s wit as having
scandalized both sexes, disobliged three parties, reproached our whole nation, and not only ours but all others having declared himself as the disgrace so to be the public enemy of mankind … our lay spalatto, a three piled apostate, a renegade more notorious than any in Sally or Algier;
adding, in conclusion:
Yet it is not fit that we should be at the mercy of a Tavern, and the drunkenness of an arbitary Pen. Must we be subjected to his two sheets of “High Court of Justice?” We are content to serve, but it mads us to be reproached, and by such a one as him; for there is no such torment to a Christian as to be tyrannized over by a Renegade…. So insatiable is his appetite of speaking ill that there is no person so intimate to him, or so deserving; nothing so secret or religious which he abuseth not to that purpose; so that he is neither to be tolerated in Society nor policy, neither in Conversation nor a State; but, rather, as a public parricide, to be thrown into the sea in a sack, with a cock, and ape, and a serpent, the right emblems of his politic triplicity.
  On this, Nedham’s articles were stopped, and it is probable that he was removed from his authorship, and John Hall, the other paid writer, installed, for a time, in his stead. 23    51
  Beginning with 26 September, 1650, and ending with 12 August, 1652, Politicus contained a series of leading articles advocating republican institutions, with studied moderation. Their style is good, and they occasionally quote Thomas May’s Lucan. There were one or two reprints of parts of them in pamphlet form, and, on 29 June, 1656, Thomas Brewster (Vane and Marten’s publisher) reprinted the articles which were published between 16 October, 1651 and 12 August, 1652, condensed into a book under the title The Excellencie of a Free State, by way of an attack upon Cromwell, as, at the time, trying to stamp all semblance of a free state into the dust. The book was also prefaced by an attack upon Howell, who had urged Cromwell to take all power into his hands. It has quite absurdly been attributed to Nedham, at that time Cromwell’s paid spy as well as journalist and the very last man likely to attack him. According to Sheppard’s The Weepers, published on 13 September, 1652, Politicus, at that time, was written by someone in authority (the reference is clearly to these articles) and some member of the council of state, possibly Marten, must have been the writer of them. Milton licensed Politicus for a portion of the time, from January, 1651 to January, 1652 (the fact is not to the credit of the author of Areopagitica); but the supposition that he may have had a hand in the composition of the articles may, on internal evidence, at once be dismissed.   52
  When Cromwell finally suppressed the licensed press in September, 1655, Nedham began a second official periodical, The Publick Intelligencer, published on Mondays. Other periodicals written by him before this were Mercurius Pragmaticus, 1652 (probably not more than one number), in opposition to Sheppard’s Pragmaticus, Mercurius Britannicus, 1652 (the first five numbers only), Mercurius Poeticus, 1654, and The Observator, 1654.   53
  With the exception of his own advertising periodical The Publick Adviser of 1657, Nedham had no competitor until the Rump was restored in 1659. He then lost his pension, and his two periodicals were handed over to John Canne, the anabaptist printer and preacher, on 13 May, 1659. Nothing dismayed, Nedham changed sides once more, wrote a book for the Rump entitled Interest will not lie, levelled against the restoration of Charles II, and recovered his periodicals on 16 August, 1659. General Monck’s council of state “prohibited him” altogether in April, 1660, and he then fled to Holland, but, having obtained his pardon under the great seal, returned in September, 1660. 24  He afterwards practised medicine and died in 1678, but succeeded in writing pamphlets for Charles II before his death.   54
  A periodical in French was issued throughout the wars.   55
  This was Le Mercure Anglois, apparently written by John Cotgrave, under Dillingham’s influence, from 17 June, 1644 to 14 December, 1648. A second periodical, entitled Nouvelles Ordinaires de Londres, was started in 1650, and lasted to the restoration, being revived again in 1663 by Henry Muddiman and Thomas Henshaw of Kensington. Unfortunately, it has almost entirely vanished.   56
  One phenomenon to be noticed in all the pamphlets of the great rebellion is the fact that, though the writers, in many cases, were drawn from the most uneducated classes, their style continually improves. Correct English and spelling are as conspicuously present in Pecke’s and Walker’s latest periodicals as they are markedly absent in the earlier years. For this, the correctors of the press were responsible. Many a poor clergyman ejected from his living must have earned his bread in this way. In the case of Pecke’s periodicals, the career of the corrector of the press of Mrs. Griffin, publisher of Pecke’s last Perfect Diurnall, is well known, owing to his having been thrown into prison for treason in 1660. He was Cromwell’s “son-in-law,” Thomas Philpot  25  of Snow hill, and his examination after his arrest shows that he had been very well educated. 26  He began life as a scholar of Christ Church near St. Bartholomew’s hospital, and, after this, became a king’s scholar at Westminster school. Then he went to Trinity college, Cambridge, for about eight years, proceeding M.A. From 1641, he was schoolmaster at Sutton Vallamore, Kent, for four years. After this, he became corrector of the printing presses of John Haviland and Mrs. Griffin, of Richard Bishop and widow Raworth, and, at the restoration, was employed by Robert White and Edward Mottershead. Philpot, therefore, was responsible for the neat appearance and correct language of Pecke’s later pamphlets.   57
  At the end of April, 1659, the Rump parliament had permitted licensed newsbooks to be revived; but when, thanks to general Monck, it resumed its sittings for the second time in 1659, in December, its council of state—of which Thomas Scot was the head—decided to suppress all outside “newsbooks.” 27  Two journalists only were allowed to publish news twice a week. One was Nedham, with his Publick Intelligencer and Mercurius Politicus, and the other was one Oliver Williams, Scot’s protégé with his Occurrences from Foreign parts and An Exact Accompt, published on Tuesdays and Fridays. From a postscript to the Occurrences for 8–15 November, 1659, it appears that John Canne was then writing his periodicals for Williams, though he did not do so before this date.   58
  Oliver Williams was the holder of the unexpired term of a patent for an advertising or registration office granted to captain Robert Innes many years previously by Charles I. On the strength of this, he had tried to prohibit Nedham’s Publick Adviser in 1657, and, after the restoration, asserted that it conferred upon him the sole right to publish newsbooks. This was a falsehood. When Nedham fled the kingdom, he at once seized the opportunity and issued a new Politicus and Publick Intelligencer, as well as other periodicals, marking them “published by authority.” It is very probable that his advertising offices and newsbooks masked some conspiracy, but the end came when he attacked the duly authorised journalist, Henry Muddiman, and drew attention to his own claims; for his periodicals were then (in July, 1660) suppressed. But, when the Rump authorised Nedham and Williams to print news, Clarges, general Monck’s brother-in-law and agent in London, also obtained permission to have a third bi-weekly published under his direction, selecting as his writer a young schoolmaster educated at St. John’s college, Cambridge, called Henry Muddiman, who had never written for the press before. As the son of a Strand tradesman, he must have been well known, both to Clarges (a Strand apothecary) and to his sister Mrs. Monck (widow of a Strand tradesman). The general, if the Rump had only known it, was about to have someone to see that his manifestoes were truthfully put before the nation. One has only to compare Nedham’s and Williams’s periodicals with those of Monck’s journalist to see that this was necessary. 28    59
  On Monday, 26 December, 1659, the new journalist issued his first newsbook, The Parliamentary Intelligencer (afterwards the Kingdom’s Intelligencer), with the ominous motto on the title-page, Nunquam sera est ad bonos mores via; and, on the following Thursday week, the first number of his other weekly “book,” Mercurius Publicus, appeared. Thus, he was in opposition to Nedham from the start.   60
  A few days later, Pepys made Muddiman’s acquaintance and went with him to the Rota club, where he paid eighteenpence to become a member. The club met at a coffee-house called the Turk’s head, which was kept by one Miles, in Palace yard, “where you take water,” as Audrey remarks, and which was frequented by a number of “ingeniose gents,” who discussed Harrington’s idea of yearly balloting out a third of the House of Commons in so skilful a manner that the arguments in the parliament house “were but flatt” to it. Pepys found that his new acquaintance had a very poor opinion of the Rump, “though he wrote news-books for them,” and recorded his impression that he was a “good scholar, and an arch rogue” for speaking “basely” of the Rump. Needless to add, he was soon to be undeceived as to the nature of the parliament for which the new journalist was writing.   61

Note 23. Wood intimates that Nedham left off writing Politicus soon after the start. The Hue and Cry after those rambling protonotaries of the times, Mercurius Elencticus, Britanicus, Melancholicus and Aulicus (7 Feb., 1651) contains a personal description of the writer of Politicus which can only apply to Hall. [ back ]
Note 24The Man in the Moon, 1 October, 1660. [ back ]
Note 25. He signs himself “your son-in-law” to his printed petition to Cromwell presented 9 October, 1654. He is identified in Mercurius Aulicus, no. 1, 13–20 March, 1654. Nos. 54 ff., 143 and 147 Tanner MSS. at Oxford are by Thomas Philpot. [ back ]
Note 26Calendar of State Papers Domestic, Chas. II, vol. XXIV, no. 105 (Calendar of 1660–1, p. 427). [ back ]
Note 27. See Thomason’s notes on his tracts, E 1013 (2) and (23). [ back ]
Note 28. The confidence placed by Monck in him is shown by the following titlepages:

(11 April, 1660) The Remonstrance and Address of the Armies of England, Scotland and Ireland to the Lord General Monck. Presented to his Excellency the 9th of April 1660. St. James’s April 9, 1660. Ordered by his Excellency the L. Gen. Monck. That the Remonstrance and Address of the officers of the Army presented this day to his Excellency be forthwith printed and published by Mr.Henry Muddiman. William Clarke Secretary. London Printed by John Macock.

(28 May, 1660) His Majesty’s letter to His Excellency the Lord General Monck. To be communicated to the officers of the Army. Brought to his Excellency from his Majesties Court at the Hague by Sir Thomas Clarges. Rochester. 24 May, 1660. I do appoint Mr. Henry Muddiman to cause this letter to be forthwith printed and published. George Monck. Printed by John Macock. [ back ]

  Martin Parker, Sheppard, Wharton, Hall, Frost, Harris and Mabbott Henry Muddiman and The Gazette  

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