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Ha, ha, ha”: Modes of Satire in the Royalist Newsbook The Man in the Moon

Laurent Curelly
p. 73-90

Résumés

The Man in the Moon fut publié pour la première fois en avril 1649 après le régicide alors que les autres journaux royalistes avaient définitivement disparu du marché ou connurent une brève renaissance. Affublé de qualificatifs péjoratifs tels que « grossier », « obscène », ou encore « réactionnaire et populaire » par plusieurs générations d’historiens, il ne serait rien d’autre qu’un exemple de « journalisme sensationnel et pornographique ». C’est précisément ce qui fait le sel de ce périodique, et la satire, revendiquée par son rédacteur John Crouch, occupe une place de choix dans ses colonnes, comme le montre le poème à visée programmatique qui ouvre le premier numéro. Le présent article a pour objectif de définir l’identité satirique de The Man in the Moon relativement à d’autres journaux royalistes. Il montre à quel point le rire donne forme au journal, puis explore les ressorts de la satire politique qu’il véhicule avant de s’interroger sur la façon dont la satire, et le rire qu’elle était censée susciter, permirent à un discours post-élégiaque de s’imposer dans la presse royaliste. Usant du rire en réponse à la propagande officielle diffusée par les publications proches du Commonwealth, The Man in the Moon s’employait avec légèreté à jouer la mouche du coche cependant que les cercles royalistes étaient pour l’essentiel en proie à l’abattement. C’est à ce titre que ce journal mérite une attention renouvelée.

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Texte intégral

  • 1  The heyday of royalist journalism was the spring and summer of 1648, which produced ephemerals wit (...)
  • 2  The surrender of Colchester on 28 August 1648 after a long siege spelt doom for the royalists defe (...)

1Amongst the many newsbooks that sprang up during the English Civil Wars, royalist mercuries occupied a fair share of the flourishing news market. The Oxford-based royalist weekly Mercurius Aulicus gave the Court Party in exile a voice in the first Civil War, forcing the parliamentarian camp to take up the gauntlet and fight an enduring and bitter paper war. Thus, Mercurius Aulicus and its parliamentary rival Mercurius Britannicus attacked each other in a tit-for-tat polemical battle that testified to the country’s internecine divisions. Royalist involvement in journalism became even stronger in the second Civil War, and 1648 witnessed the emergence of a host of royalist ephemerals in addition to the established newspapers.1 They all contributed to royalist propaganda by making fun of their political opponents. However, setbacks on the battlefield with the New Model Army gaining the upper hand caused the royalist camp to lose heart,2 and many royalist news-sheets went out of publication as a result. The trial and execution of Charles i in January 1649 dealt a further blow to the royalist press, with the long-running Mercurius Elenticus going silent.

  • 3  Mercurius Elenticus was published intermittently after the regicide. It was briefly revived from M (...)
  • 4  England was declared a “Commonwealth and Free State” on 19 May 1649 with supreme authority vested (...)
  • 5  The “Act for Subscribing the Engagement” (Firth 325-29) was passed on 2 January 1650 in a bid to c (...)
  • 6  The radical weekly The Moderate berated the new government; the not so radical Presbyterian newsbo (...)
  • 7  The “Act against unlicensed and scandalous Books and Pamphlets, and for better regulating of Print (...)
  • 8  The other one was Mercurius Pragmaticus (for King Charles ii), which ran from April 1649 to May 16 (...)
  • 9  Authorship of The Man in the Moon, like that of many royalist newsbooks, is a vexed issue. It has (...)

2The Man in the Moon was the only royalist mercury to come to life after the regicide in 1649 while other royalist newsbooks had either disappeared from the market or were briefly revived.3 It was issued for slightly over a year from April 1649 to June 1650, a watershed in the history of the British Isles. Its publication coincided with the establishment of the republic, the Commonwealth’s military campaign in Ireland, radical agitation in the New Model Army with Leveller-led mutinies in the spring of 1649 and the last stint of Leveller activism triggered by Lilburne’s trial in the autumn of 1649.4 The publication of The Man in the Moon was also contemporaneous with the Engagement controversy following the imposition of the Engagement, an oath to be taken by all English male adults aimed at securing obedience to the Commonwealth.5 The republic got off to an uncertain start and from its very inception it was beset by political instability coming not only from royalists, notably in Ireland, but also from the radical fringe in- and outside the Army. The last thing the Commonwealth wanted in 1649-50 was for the press, royalist papers of course but also home-bred parliamentary newsbooks, to fan the flames of discord,6 hence the passing of the stringent September 1649 licensing Act aimed at scandalous books and pamphlets, a final attempt to gag the press.7 Even licensed parliamentary newsbooks were forced out of publication while The Man in the Moon was one of two unlicensed news-sheets to survive this strictly-enforced law.8 Its author John Crouch9 delighted in playing cat-and-mouse with state censors and managed to evade the ban on seditious publications.

  • 10  The Man in the Moon owed its bad reputation to early twentieth-century historians of Civil War jou (...)

3Apart from being the only new post-regicide royalist newsbook, The Man in the Moon differed from other royalist mercuries because of its tone. It has variously, and somewhat dismissively, been labelled as “smutty” (Frank 204), “obscene” (Raymond 151), as well as “reactionary and popular” (Frank 196), providing an example of “uninformative and pornographic journalism” (Raymond 182).10 All this it may have been, although such sweeping statements would certainly need to be qualified, but vulgarity was just a means to an end. Like other royalist weeklies it intended to satirise political enemies, but its originality stemmed from the fact that it used laughter as a weapon at a time – starting in the spring of 1649 – when royalists were busy mourning their departed king.

4This paper purports to look into the satirical identity of The Man in the Moon in comparison with other royalist newspapers. First, it will assess how much Crouch’s The Man in the Moon was shaped by laughter. Next, it will highlight the main features of political satire in it. Last, it will discuss how far satire – and the laughter that it was meant to provoke – contributed to the emergence of a post-elegiac mood that overcame royalist journalism.

Laughter and the art of news-writing

  • 11  It is impossible to identify the readers of The Man in the Moon in terms of numbers or sociologica (...)
  • 12  There were occasional occurrences of “Ha, ha, ha” in other royalist newspapers, but these were sca (...)
  • 13  Cromwell and his army embarked for Ireland in August 1649 in order to subdue the royalists there. (...)

5Laughter shaped Crouch’s writing of news more than it did other royalist news writers. Laughing with his readers at the expense of Commonwealth leaders and all those who opposed the interests of monarchy was a conscious attitude on his part.11 He repeatedly used the onomatopoeia “Ha, ha, ha” as a stylistic representation of laughter to taunt and deride his political enemies, but also to have his readers laugh at them,12 as for instance when he rejoiced in the Leveller-backed Army mutinies of the spring of 1649 as a sign that divisions between Commonwealth leaders and the New Model Army rank-and-file were unlikely to be ever mended (MM no7, 21-30 May 1649). Similarly, the rumour that Cromwell might not come back from the campaign in Ireland unharmed seemed to command hearty laughter, hence Crouch’s exclamation: “Cromwell would needs go for Ireland though he went without Doublet or Breeches; and now he is like to come home without Head or Armes: Ha, ha, ha; I could cry now, but that I cannot. Is it possible that that invincible Conqueror Cromwell should be overcome?” (MM no26, 17-24 October 1649).13 Laughter was so persuasive an argument, especially when news could not be ascertained, and it was such an integral part of The Man in the Moon’s identity that Crouch occasionally felt the need to apologise for his apparent superficiality and lack of seriousness: “Pray Brethren be not angry for jeasting, I shall be a little more serious” (MM no1, 16 April 1649), before relapsing into jokes.

  • 14  The 1649 translation of Horace’s Satires has: “Although a laughing man the truth to tell what doth (...)
  • 15  Both “Nol” and “Snout” were nicknames for Cromwell.
  • 16  Mercurius Pragmaticus adopted an especially scathing tone after the regicide.
  • 17  The radical newsbook The Moderate, for instance, featured editorial inserts, especially in its spr (...)

6A comic writer Crouch was, and a professed one at that, who turned satiric jousting with his adversaries not only into a political imperative but also into an idiosyncratic form of news writing. This was not entirely unfamiliar territory, and The Man in the Moon actually owed much to its royalist predecessors in terms of political satire. The long-running newsbook Mercurius Elenticus bore the Latin epigraph “Ridentem dicere verum / quid vetat?” [“what stops one telling the truth while laughing?”], a reference to Horace’s Satires (I.1.24-25).14 Royalist weeklies typically opened with a four-stanza rhyming poem pertaining to doggerel and had rhyming couplets interpolated into news reports, a feature that The Man in the Moon retained. As a rule, this verse was light in tone and served a satiric purpose. Royalist mercuries included ad hominem attacks on their political adversaries, and after the regicide, they literally lashed out at Commonwealth leaders. Thus, Mercurius Elenticus mocked “Crumwell, the Devill, and the Army his evill Angels” (no2, 5-12 November 1647), as it reported on the Putney debates in late October 1647, and Mercurius Pragmaticus indulged in caricature as it provoked Commonwealth leaders, and Cromwell in particular, in the spring of 1649: “Come now Prag. Ring Cromwell a peale that shall make Rebells eares tingle with terror. Now Nol have at thy nose, I have shot nothing but paper bullets all this while. […] Therefore Snout looke about thee, for if thou be cacht we’le put thy neck (in stead of thy nose) in a noose” (no53, 1-8 May 1649).15 Crouch borrowed from this stock of comic ingredients to write The Man in the Moon; he was not the only royalist news writer to focus on Cromwell’s and others’ supposed physical deformities, or to rely on punning so as to best ridicule his victims. This will be discussed below. Other quills could be just as vitriolic as his was.16 While parliamentary weeklies occasionally inserted editorial material into news reports,17 royalist mercuries typically had news clothed as polemics, so that there was no clear demarcation line between facts and opinion writing. In this respect The Man in the Moon followed much the same pattern as other royalist news-sheets.

  • 18  Bedlam referred to the Hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem in London, an infamous asylum that accommo (...)
  • 19  This inscription appeared only in the first issue, but was dropped in all the following numbers. I (...)

7Where Crouch differed from his royalist colleagues, however, concerned his apparent sense of detachment from contemporary events and his confidence that what was happening around him, especially the doings of the new regime, could not be taken in earnest but was best seen as a comedy performed by idiots and madmen in a country that had become “universall Bedlam” (MM no8, 28 May – 5 June 1649).18 The title-page of the first issue is especially revealing of his attitude both to political events and to what he thought journalism should be about in the post-regicide era. The very title of the newsbook offered an alternative to standard royalist publications: intelligence was not just to be imparted to the readers by a “mercury,” that is to say a messenger darting to and fro in pursuit of news, but by “a man in the moon,” an observer writing from a vantage point that allowed him to scrutinise the contemporary political stage while affecting distance in his report on events that he cannot have been entirely indifferent to. An inscription at the bottom of the title page of the first issue said that The Man in the Moon was to be “printed at the full of the Moon, and […] sold at the sign of Scorpio” (MM no1, 14 April 1649), a detail which of course defied gravity – or perhaps gravitas? – while other royalist newspapers included no mention of a printer’s name for the obvious reason that they were underground publications.19 The title The Man in the Moon was very probably a reference to the play performed by Bottom and his colleagues in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which one of the artisans, Starveling, dressed up as the moon, introduces himself as the “Man in the moon”: “All I have to say is to tell you that the lanthorn is the moon; I the Man i’ th’ Moon; this thorn-bush, my thorn-bush; and this dog, my dog” (5.1.243-45).

8The opening poem in the first issue of the newsbook includes a number of textual echoes to A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

I Travell Night and Day to finde
Out Knavery is done,
Good
Reader prove not thou unkinde,
My
course I mean to run.
[…] With
pricking Bushes at my back,
I’le make
Satyrick Whipps,
There’s not a
Traytor but Ile thwack
Until he winch and Skipps.
My
Dogge is old, and bites full sore,
Then
Tyrants have a care,
You never were thus
plagu’d before,
You shall know what to
Feare
(MM no1, 14 April 1649).

9Starveling’s bush and dog find an echo in these lines, and the word “tyrant,” which reverses the accusations levelled at the late king by those who have become the targets of Crouch’s satire, is also used by Bottom: “What is Pyramus? A lover or a tyrant?” (1.2.17). This poem reads like a programmatic text in which the author John Crouch set out his polemical intentions to persuade his readers that the only thing to be taken in earnest in the sublunary world was his resolve to lampoon the actors involved in the political show playing itself out in the spring of 1649. His satire was meant to be biting, as may be gathered from Crouch’s repeated mention of his dog whose job was, metaphorically if not literally, to take on the “Stately Tyrants” (MM no7, 21-30 May 1649) at Whitehall and the “rebels” in the House of Commons. He promised to give them all a hard time: “I have greased my Dogs teeth, and provided new Whips for these Rebellious Monsters” (MM no19 [wrongly numbered 18], 23-30 August 1649).

  • 20  Crouch is punning on his own name.
  • 21  “Towzer” was a common name for a large dog. “Surreverence” has two meanings here: great reverence (...)
  • 22  See MM no23 (19-26 September 1649) and no57 (29 May – 5 June 1650). Crouch’s satire of parliamenta (...)

10In the face of adversity, at a time when the execution of King Charles had caused a loss of morale within the royalist camp, The Man in the Moon acted the part of a gadfly, stinging and biting its political opponents both with all the playfulness and all the ferocity it could muster, as the opening poem of a February 1650 issue testifies: “Ye Cannibals, beware my Whip, / my Satyrs bite and sting, / They’l make you bow, wince kick and skip, / and Crowch unto your KING” (MM no43, 13-20 February 1650).20 Behind its apparent lightness, The Man in the Moon showed deep contempt for Commonwealth leaders and their supporters. Crouch’s persona did not have much in common with Shakespeare’s Starveling alias “the man i’ th’ moon,” who only made a fool of himself because of his inability to grasp what drama was about, but was much more of a Robin-like figure who, at least in writing, pulled the strings of the political farce that Cromwell, Fairfax and other members of the so-called “Juncto” were assumed to be acting out. The Man in the Moon boasted about being a thorn in the side of his enemies; he haunted them wherever they went but was never to be apprehended, let alone swayed: “Towzer feares them not, but surreverence discharges his taile in their very Faces: he is a right English Mastiffe, of no linsie-woolfie Mongrill Independent breed, that will snarle creep behind them, and snap one by the shins” (MM no41, 30 January – 6 February 1650).21 The mischievous sprite was also – perhaps more significantly – a jester who claimed to be speaking true when most of those around him supposedly lied to the people, notably the authors of parliamentary newsbooks whom he derided as “lyurnal” writers.22 Crouch made a point of making fun of those whose “condition [was] as ridiculous, as risible,” to quote Montaigne (165).

Laughter and political satire23

  • 23  Satire was a polymorphous genre. The Man in the Moon cannot be said to borrow from one kind of sat (...)
  • 24  A series of bad harvests had sent food prices soaring and famine was rampant in rural areas in 164 (...)

11Those whose condition was risible, precisely, were first of all those who had been instrumental in the demise of the Stuart monarchy and occupied prominent political positions in post-regicide England. Among the members of the so-called “Juncto,” namely the Commonwealth elite whether they sat on the Council of State or in the Rump Parliament or commanded the New Model Army, Cromwell, his son-in-law Ireton, and Fairfax, commander of the Army, especially bore the brunt of Crouch’s satire. They were presented as oligarchs prospering at the expense of the people while heavy taxes were imposed on the nation to sustain the military campaign in Ireland. These tax levies combined with a severe economic crisis to ruin the lives of the meaner sort, for whom The Man in the Moon affected some concern.24

  • 25  Members of the Rump Parliament also received a fair share of abuse. The House of Commons was frequ (...)

12Very seldom, though, did Crouch provide his readers with political analysis. His presentation of news – because there was news in The Man in the Moon – was slanted in order to make it fit his satiric purpose. Caricature was one of his favourite weapons to denigrate Commonwealth leaders, whom he constantly objectified as he punned on their names or focussed on one particular part of their anatomy. Thus, he turned Thomas Fairfax’s name into either “Thomas Fair-faux” or “Tom-ass Fairfax,” and reduced Cromwell, whom he ironically exalted as “God Cromwell,” to his nose, which afforded him a whole range of nicknames: “Nose,” “King Nose,” “Nose Almighty,” “Snout,” “His Noseship” and “God Nose.” Cromwell’s nose was ubiquitous in The Man in the Moon, and it was used as a cliché in various contexts such as: “the Irish news [was] nos’d about” (MM no27, 14-31 October 1649) and “some of Cromwels Garisons would be glad to Nose after their leader if they could” (MM no38, 9-16 January 1650). Those in power were irreverently denied their institutional titles and status: Fairfax was referred to as “His Foolship” and the Commonwealth elite as “rebelships.” Cromwell’s wife was called “Her Pus-ship,” and Crouch falsely pitied her when rumour had it that her husband had lost his virility in battle.25

  • 26  The “Act for discharging from imprisonment poor prisoners unable to satisfy their Creditors” was p (...)

13The City of London did not fare much better under Crouch’s pen, in particular since the Lord Mayor Abraham Reynoldson had been removed from office and imprisoned for refusing to proclaim the abolition of monarchy in the spring of 1649 and Thomas Andrews had been appointed to replace him. The Council of State threatened to dismiss aldermen who protested. Crouch likened the City of London to a bawdy-house and its members to pimps or cuckolds. The City was nicknamed “Nodnol,” i.e. “London” read backwards combined with a pun referring to the London Council’s supposed subservience to Cromwell and his colleagues of the ruling Council of State: London’s aldermen were assimilated to mere puppets who would nod to Noll, alias Cromwell. Crouch seemed to long for the recent past, the year before, when the City of London, ruled by a Presbyterian-dominated Council, had stood up to the Independents and pressed for negotiations with King Charles as a way out of England’s political crisis. Crouch also took pleasure in mocking the House of Commons for producing Acts of Parliament which he derisively called “crack farts” or “cracks,” and he often had an animal metaphor up his sleeve to refer to parliamentary work, as when for example he exclaimed: “What a goodly litter of Acts have we Puppied this week” (MM no20, 30 August – 5 September 1649). A scatological metaphor would sometimes do the trick when it came to ridiculing legislation passed by the House of Commons, such as the law on debtor relief: “A parliament Crack-foyst was hamered out this Weeke at Plutoes Forge, for discharging of poore Prisoners for Debt; but quando? […] These Parliament-fisgiggs […] give a Crack, a Fuzze, and so goe stinking out (MM no36, 26 December 1649 – 2 January 1650).26 The House of Commons received all the more criticism, as it was officially the core institution of the Commonwealth.

14Those in the parliamentary camp who partly escaped Crouch’s scurrilous pen were the Levellers. Thus, John Lilburne and his friends were given relatively fair treatment, even if they occasionally fell prey to his censure, in particular when he felt the need to deny any collusion with them, as in this tirade:

  • 27  William Lenthall was Speaker of the House of Commons from 1640 to 1660. Although he supported the (...)

This Parliament device [spreading rumours of conspiracies] is so stale […] they would make the world believe, That the Loyallists hold compliance with Lilburne and his Faction, and both Plot to have Billy Lenthal removed from being Speaker, (very pritty!) and Bradshaw advanced into the Chair. A very good change I’le promise you for the Loyalists. […] What are these Levellers? Why none but the godly party, the ladder that the Rebellious Iuncto have got up to the height of their wickedness, and now […] having no further use of them, would fling them down, and destroy them. […] [It] is at best a just judgement of God, that those that formerly could unite to destroy the King, should now seek to destroy one another. (MM no22, 12-19 September 1649).27

  • 28  Such pamphlets, for example, were England’s New Chains Discovered, published in January and Februa (...)

15Crouch had no sympathy for the Levellers’ political programme based on a defence of the free people of England, whose natural rights were to be enshrined in a binding constitutional text, The Agreement of the People. It is a fact, though, that he regarded them and their followers as objective allies in a hostile environment and hoped to capitalise on their own dissatisfaction with the Commonwealth, which they expressed in a series of pamphlets in the spring and summer of 1649.28 Crouch probably thought it wise and politically expedient to encourage their protest in case it should weaken and destabilise the Commonwealth.

  • 29  A mock-petition by The Man in the Moon addressed to “the Right Honorable JOHN BRADSHAW, Pedler, an (...)
  • 30  The expression is borrowed from a tract published in the 1640s and taken up by the late Marxist hi (...)

16Crouch’s satire drew upon a whole gamut of rhetorical strategies: double entendre and punning, sometimes based on uninventive word-play which he borrowed from royalist newspapers that had come before The Man in the Moon; invective and caricature, occasionally of a scatological and pornographic character; irony and parody – the parody of political practices, like petitions and acts of Parliament, as well as the parody of specific forms of news-writing such as advertisements for books and announcements for animals that had gone missing.29 All of these contributed to the denigration and debasement of the political clique in office in post-regicide England, a world which he probably thought had been turned upside down30 and hoped to redress with his journalism. Gone was the Stuart monarchy of divine right in the smoking ruins of which a republic of self-styled “Saints” had been established. To Crouch, such a profound reversal of values certainly made a breach of propriety acceptable. Decency was reserved for the royalists, the late King in particular, whose tragic end required tears rather than laughter.

“Was ever laughter like mine?”: ridicule after the regicide31

  • 31  The phrase “was ever laughter like mine?” is adapted from Quarles’s “was ever grief like mine?” (3 (...)
  • 32  These, among others, included An Elegy Sacred to the Memory of […] King Charles (London, 1649), St (...)
  • 33  The full title was Eikon Basilike: The Portraiture of his Sacred Majestie in his Solitudes and Suf (...)

17When The Man in the Moon first appeared, the execution of King Charles had sparked a continuous flood of elegy writing. Thus, a great many verse elegies and prose lamentations composed by royalists mourned the king’s death.32 Most of them were inspired by Eikon Basilike, attributed to King Charles,33 the late monarch’s recordings of what were perceived to have been his own sufferings for his people since the outbreak of the Civil War. Charles was portrayed as a Christ-like figure who had sacrificed himself for the good of his country. Eikon Basilike became a best-seller and ran to no less than thirty-five editions within a year of its first publication.

  • 34  In one of the issues of the newsbook, Crouch undertook to write an elegy for King Charles: “Since (...)
  • 35  Crouch’s homage to Eikon Basilike was accompanied by an attack on “that Long Gualter Frostiface in (...)

18Crouch in The Man in the Moon occasionally gave himself over to elegiac writing which seemed to reflect the gloomy mood he shared with his royalist friends, as the last lines of the first issue prove: “Must the best of Kings, goe to his silent grave with nothing but KING CHARLS, 1648? ‘Tis true, his refulgent Vertues are both Monument and Verse, that time can nere raze out.”34 This mournful comment was followed by an advertisement for a collection of poems written by John Quarles and published by Crouch’s kinsman Edward: “There is a worthy Gent. hath strew’d some flowers on his grave, in a Poëm entitled, A Kingly Bed of misery; a Limbick would distill tears from a Heart of Adamant” (MM no1, 16 April 1649). In another issue, he responded to the attacks on Eikon Basilike made by one of the official newsbooks that were produced after the September 1649 law on seditious publications. In a poetic couplet characteristic of royalist newspapers he exclaimed: “We still Adore that Booke, because ‘tis good, / Writ by King CHARLS, and sealed with his Blood” (MM no29, 7-14 November 1649).35

  • 36  For other items of Christological writing, see MM no21 (5-12 September 1649), no30 (14-21 November (...)

19Crouch appropriated all the ingredients of martyrological writing associated with what was regarded as the sacrificial death of King Charles. Like other royalist writers, he contributed to his post-mortem literary sanctification by drawing on a stock of images that often appeared in religious emblems and devotional poetry. He made use of royalist commonplaces, such as the image of King Charles who endured Christ-like sufferings and who, by shedding his precious blood, wrung onlookers’ hearts to grief and tears. Crouch even paraphrased the poem that accompanied the emblem inaugurating many versions of Eikon Basilike as he admired Charles’s sacrifice: “Thy woefull Crowne of thornes is laid aside, / And by thy Saviour thou sit’st glorify’d” (MM no11, 20-27 June 1649).36 Crouch’s deferential exaltation of the late King’s body contrasted with his irreverent defilement of Commonwealth leaders’ bodies. While Charles’s blood testified to the King’s divinity, members of the Commonwealth elite were characterised by their not so precious bodily fluids; Cromwell’s salient feature was his nose. Those were clear signs of their despicable materiality and moral baseness.

20Even when the political observer-cum-news-writer Crouch succumbed to one of his elegiac moods, he soon pulled himself together and the satirist took over: in one of the autumn 1649 issues he confessed to being “lost in passion” (MM no30, 14-21 November 1649) and in a spring 1650 number he suggested that he should “recall [his] passion, and communicate [his] Intelligence” (MM no51, 10-26 April 1650). It is difficult to know whether his elegiac writing resulted from the heartfelt sympathies of a loyalist grieving for his King, one who was prone to sombre moods, or whether it was a deliberate strategy to make the King’s execution even more horrendous and gratuitous than it appeared to royalists and thus enhance his satiric condemnation of those “regicidious deicides [whose] new Idoll miscalled a Government, may stand for a while; but so ticklish, and upon so sandy and unstable a Foundation, that the man in the moons Dogge would run it down with his tayle, or but holding up his legge against it, p---- it into a confused chaos” (MM n 52, 24 April – 2 May 1650).

  • 37  Examples are the mock-epitaphs for Robert Lockier, the Leveller ringleader of a New Model Army mut (...)

21In the same way as King Charles and his royalist supporters had drunk their cup of sorrow, Crouch was confident that it was the turn of the Commonwealth elite to suffer. He met his own call for revenge by avenging the King’s death himself through relentlessly ridiculing his adversaries. Even when they were dead, he did not leave them in peace and wrote mock-epitaphs for them.37 Provoking laughter by making opponents ridiculous so that they would pay for the death of King Charles, at least symbolically, was a concern of The Man in the Moon throughout its existence, as well as a last-ditch attempt to advance royalist interests when chances of a final victory were getting slimmer.

  • 38  Mercurius Democritus, continued as Laughing Mercury, appeared from April 1652 to February 1654.
  • 39  Crouch’s reference is to Macbeth 3.4.135-37.

22More than any other royalist weekly, The Man in the Moon might have followed Montaigne who showed his preference for Democritus over Heraclitus in his Essays: “I like the first humour [laughter] best, not because it is more pleasing to laugh, then to weepe; but for it is more disdainefull, and doth more condemne us then the other” (164-65). It was perhaps no coincidence that in 1652 Crouch took up writing a newsbook entitled Mercurius Democritus.38 Back in 1649, paraphrasing Lady Macbeth, he made a point of revealing the wrongs committed by those who “ha[d] waded so deep in Rebellion, that [they] must forward” (MM no15, 25 July – 2 August 1649).39

*

23The Man in the Moon deserves reappraisal as a publication offering not only a counterblast to official propaganda disseminated through pro-Commonwealth newsbooks, but also a playful variation on the post-regicide elegiac mood that had set in among royalists. Not only did its author make fun of what he considered to be the political farce taking place before his eyes but he pretended to pull the strings of this comedy and toy with the actors by making them look like flat, insubstantial characters, no better than the artisans in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Commonwealth politics, it seems, was a mere travesty, and laughing at the so-called “rebels” helped to provide a comic resolution to the state tragedy that had been enacted with the trial and the execution of King Charles – and, therefore, to anticipate the restoration of the Stuart monarchy. The Man in the Moon made a strong case for the return of monarchic order and intended to right with its pen the wrongs committed by the Commonwealth oligarchy; to that extent, it may be called “reactionary.” From a literary perspective, however, it may be argued that it revolutionised journalism and was in fact the first British satirical weekly, which made it possible in the post-regicide era once again to laugh one’s head off.

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Bibliographie

Primary Sources

A Briefe Relation of some affaires and transactions, Civill and Military, both Forraigne and Domestique (October 1649 – October 1650).

Burton, Robert. The Anatomy of Melancholy. 5th ed. Oxford, 1638.

Eikon Basilike: The Portraiture of his Sacred Majestie in his Solitudes and Sufferings. London, 1649.

Firth, C. H. & R. S. Rait, eds. Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 1642-1660. London, 1911.

Horace. The Lyrick Poet, Odes and Satyres Translated out of Horace into English Verse, By J. S. London, 1649.

The Man in the Moon, discovering a world of knavery vnder the sunne (April 1649 – June 1650).

Mercurius Elenticus. Communicating the unparallell’d proceedings at Westminster, the Head-Quarters, and other places (November 1647 – January 1649).

Mercurius Melancholicus: Or newes from Westminster (September 1647 – November 1648).

Mercurius Pragmaticus. Communicating intelligence from all parts (September 1647 – May 1649).

Montaigne, Michel de. The Essayes or Morall, Politike and Millitarie Discourses. Trans. John Florio. London, 1603.

Morton, A. L., ed. Freedom in Arms: A Selection of Leveller Writings. Berlin: Seven Seas Publishers, 1975.

Quarles, John. Regale Lectum Miseriae: Or, A Kingly Bed of Miserie, 1649.

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Achinstein, Sharon. “Texts in conflict: the press and the Civil War.” Writing of the English Revolution. Ed. N. H. Keeble. Cambridge: CUP, 2001. 50-68.

Frank, Joseph. The Beginnings of the English Newspaper 1620-1660. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard UP, 1961.

Gargarino, Alex. “Mourning the Headless Body Politic: the Regicide Elegies and Marvell’s ‘Horatian Ode’.” Exemplaria 15.2 (2003): 509-50.

McElligott, Jason. “John Crouch: A Royalist Journalist in Cromwellian England.” Media History, 10.3 (2004): 139-55.

McElligott, Jason. “The Politics of Sexual Libel: Royalist Propaganda in the 1640s.” Huntington Library Quarterly, 67 (March 2004): 75-99.

McElligott, Jason. Royalism, Print and Censorship in Revolutionary England. Woodbridge: The Boydell P, 2007.

Nelson, Carolyn, & Matthew Seccombe. British Newspapers and Periodicals 1641-1700. A Short-Title Catalogue of Serials Printed in England, Scotland, Ireland, and British America. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1987.

Potter, Lois. Secret Rites and Secret Writing – Royalist Literature 1641-1660. Cambridge: CUP, 1989.

Raymond, Joad. The Invention of the Newspaper. English Newsbooks 1641-1649. Oxford: Clarendon, 1996.

Underdown, David. “The Man in the Moon: Loyalty and Libel in Popular Politics, 1640-1660.” A Freeborn People: Politics and the Nation in Seventeenth-Century England. Oxford: Clarendon, 1996. 90-111.

Williams, J. B. A History of English Journalism to the Foundation of the Gazette. London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1908.

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Notes

1  The heyday of royalist journalism was the spring and summer of 1648, which produced ephemerals with suggestive titles like Mercurius Aquaticus, Mercurius Fidelicus, Mercurius Gallicus, Mercurius Insanus Insanissimus and Mercurius Psitacus. Established royalist newspapers included Mercurius Elenticus, from November 1647 to January 1649, Mercurius Melancholicus, from September 1647 to November 1648, and Mercurius Pragmaticus, from September 1647 to May 1649.

2  The surrender of Colchester on 28 August 1648 after a long siege spelt doom for the royalists defeated by the New Model Army at Preston on 19 August. Royalist risings in Wales had been suppressed as early as June 1648.

3  Mercurius Elenticus was published intermittently after the regicide. It was briefly revived from May to November 1649 but its day of publication was changed.

4  England was declared a “Commonwealth and Free State” on 19 May 1649 with supreme authority vested in the House of Commons. Ireland was a hotbed of royalist activism. Cromwell was commissioned to raise an army to invade Ireland in March 1649 but he and his troops did not land at Dublin until August. When Cromwell left Ireland in May 1650, the subjugation of the island was almost complete. New Model Army soldiers’ anger over Parliament’s refusal to settle pay arrears caused unrest within the army in the spring of 1649, when troops were to be raised for the expedition to Ireland. The Levellers capitalised on soldiers’ discontent and encouraged mutinies. The suppression of the Burford mutiny in May 1649 signalled the end of Leveller activity in the Army. There was one last bout of radical agitation in England with the high-profile trial of the Leveller leader John Lilburne in October 1649 when he was acquitted of a charge of high treason against the Commonwealth.

5  The “Act for Subscribing the Engagement” (Firth 325-29) was passed on 2 January 1650 in a bid to contain dissent. It sparked a pamphlet war which questioned the nature of oaths.

6  The radical weekly The Moderate berated the new government; the not so radical Presbyterian newsbook The Moderate Intelligencer also adopted a critical stance at times.

7  The “Act against unlicensed and scandalous Books and Pamphlets, and for better regulating of Printing” was passed on 20 September 1649. It proved to be more effective than previous printing laws.

8  The other one was Mercurius Pragmaticus (for King Charles ii), which ran from April 1649 to May 1650.

9  Authorship of The Man in the Moon, like that of many royalist newsbooks, is a vexed issue. It has been attributed to John Crouch. Civil War newspapers, in particular royalist weeklies, were often collaborative publications. For clarity’s sake, this paper identifies John Crouch as the author of The Man in the Moon, this attribution being supported by textual evidence, such as puns on the name “Crouch.”

10  The Man in the Moon owed its bad reputation to early twentieth-century historians of Civil War journalism, deeply shocked by what they regarded as its vulgarity. Since then it has received relatively little attention from scholars, who have mostly studied royalist newsbooks as illustrations of Civil War print culture. One such study is Lois Potter’s Secret Rites and Secret Writing: Royalist Literature 1641-1660. Only recently did a historian, Jason McElligott, give the royalist press its due in his Royalism, Print and Censorship in Revolutionary England. McElligott analyses The Man in the Moon as a historical object but, unlike this paper, does not address stylistic issues. The Man in the Moon is shortened to MM in citations. (Mis)spelling and italics have been retained in extracts from the newsbook.

11  It is impossible to identify the readers of The Man in the Moon in terms of numbers or sociological profile. There are no print-run figures. It is unlikely that royalist newsbooks were profitable business ventures, especially after the regicide, as unfavourable political conditions took their toll.

12  There were occasional occurrences of “Ha, ha, ha” in other royalist newspapers, but these were scarcer than in The Man in the Moon, as in this address to readers: “Come Royalist, laugh with me. Ha, ha, ha, ha” (Mercurius Pragmaticus no 46, 13-20 March 1649).

13  Cromwell and his army embarked for Ireland in August 1649 in order to subdue the royalists there. By the time this issue of The Man in the Moon came out, the storming and massacre of Drogheda had taken place, and Cromwell’s troops were making significant headway. Crouch appears to be twisting the news to boost the morale of English royalists.

14  The 1649 translation of Horace’s Satires has: “Although a laughing man the truth to tell what doth forbid?” (Horace 137).

15  Both “Nol” and “Snout” were nicknames for Cromwell.

16  Mercurius Pragmaticus adopted an especially scathing tone after the regicide.

17  The radical newsbook The Moderate, for instance, featured editorial inserts, especially in its spring 1649 issues, but these were clearly signposted, italics being used as a rule, and thus stood out from the news proper.

18  Bedlam referred to the Hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem in London, an infamous asylum that accommodated the mentally ill. In its mid-seventeenth century extended usage the word designated a madhouse. Mercurius Democritus, which Crouch authored from 1652 to 1654, was subtitled “Published for the right understanding of all the Mad-merry-People of Great-Bedlam.” Crouch may well have borrowed the image of universal madness as a metaphor for contemporary England from Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy, in whose preface to the reader the author’s persona, Democritus Junior, the laughing philosopher, satirises a world gone mad. Burton also suggests the name “the Man in the Moon” as an alternative identity to Democritus (1) and as a personification of madness, the link between the moon and lunacy – as etymology shows – being common currency in early modern culture.

19  This inscription appeared only in the first issue, but was dropped in all the following numbers. It may have been intended as a satiric comment on astrology.

20  Crouch is punning on his own name.

21  “Towzer” was a common name for a large dog. “Surreverence” has two meanings here: great reverence and excrement. Independents were members of the parliamentary faction that gained power after Pride’s purge of the House of Commons in December 1648.

22  See MM no23 (19-26 September 1649) and no57 (29 May – 5 June 1650). Crouch’s satire of parliamentary newsbook writers was especially targeted at Henry Walker, the author of Perfect Occurrences, but all of them received their due, in particular when the Man in the Moon rejoiced in the suppression of their “weekly legends of lies” after the passing of the Licensing Act in September 1649.

23  Satire was a polymorphous genre. The Man in the Moon cannot be said to borrow from one kind of satire rather than another. Its satire was as much Juvenalian as it was Horatian and Menippean. The genre was popular in the 1640s to the point that new editions of the works of Latin satirists were published, particularly Juvenal, either in Latin or in English translations.

24  A series of bad harvests had sent food prices soaring and famine was rampant in rural areas in 1648-49.

25  Members of the Rump Parliament also received a fair share of abuse. The House of Commons was frequently dubbed “the House of rebels” or “the House of robbers.” Neologisms were also part of Crouch’s arsenal when it came to castigating Commonwealth officials. Isaac Dorislaus, for example, fell prey to Crouch’s satire. As legal adviser to the High Court of Justice, he had helped to draw up charges against the King. He was murdered by a group of English royalists in The Hague in May 1649, within a few days of his appointment there as Commonwealth envoy to the States General of Holland. Crouch turned his name into a verb which he used as a synonym for “to murder” as in: “The Counsel of State being informed by the Man in the Moon of a dangerous PLOTT intended against them at Darby-house, have adjourned to White-hall, where they may keep a stronger Guard upon their Persons, for fear of being Dorislow’d” (MM no7, 21-30 May 1649).

26  The “Act for discharging from imprisonment poor prisoners unable to satisfy their Creditors” was passed on 21 December 1649 (Firth 321-24). Crouch puns on “fisgig,” a frivolous woman and a small firework. The subtext is that the Act on debtor relief was no more than a damp squib. Belittling parliamentary work was an ingredient of Crouch’s satire.

27  William Lenthall was Speaker of the House of Commons from 1640 to 1660. Although he supported the Independents against the Presbyterians, he was known for his moderation, and would have been happy with a form of bounded monarchy. John Bradshaw, however, presided over the trial of Charles i and pronounced the death sentence on him. He was appointed first President of the Council of State, the Commonwealth’s executive body, in March 1649. Crouch dismisses the rumour of a Leveller-Royalist plot to have Lenthall removed from office and replaced by Bradshaw as a mere fancy since Bradshaw was not likely at all to advance the interests of monarchy in England.

28  Such pamphlets, for example, were England’s New Chains Discovered, published in January and February 1649, as a result of which Leveller leaders were committed to the Tower of London, The Legal Fundamental Liberties of the People of England, dated June 1649, and The Levellers Vindicated, dated August 1649, which stated that subjection to a king was preferable to enslavement under the republic: “We will chuse subjection to the Prince, chusing rather ten thousand times to be his slaves then theirs, yet hating slavery under both” (Morton 314).

29  A mock-petition by The Man in the Moon addressed to “the Right Honorable JOHN BRADSHAW, Pedler, and the rest of the Counsell of ESTATES, sitting at White-hall” may be found in MM no7, 21-30 May 1649. Crouch wrote a parody of the Act for the sale of the late King’s lands, “Ordered by the Man in the Moon and his Dog,” in MM no13 (4-11 July 1649). He also made much of the lack of news as to Ireton’s whereabouts in Ireland in the summer of 1649, as he included a parody of an announcement for a missing animal in one of the newspaper issues: “If any manner of man or Woman, in Town, City or Country, can tell any tale or tidings of the Commissary General of the Army, a tall black Thief, with bushy curl’d haire, a meagre Envious face, sunk hollow eyes, a Complection between Choler and Melancholly, a four-square Machiavillian head […], let them bring word to the Supream Authority alias Iuncto, and they shall have their Delinquency remitted, their fine taken off, and be otherwise well rewarded for their pains” (MM no16, 1-8 August 1649). Petitions and Acts of Parliament were common fodder for parliamentary newspapers; announcements for missing animals that offered rewards were not infrequent in some of them, so that parodying these news items was also a way for Crouch to disparage parliamentary journalism.

30  The expression is borrowed from a tract published in the 1640s and taken up by the late Marxist historian Christopher Hill in his book on sectarian radicalism, The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas During the English Revolution, first published in 1972.

31  The phrase “was ever laughter like mine?” is adapted from Quarles’s “was ever grief like mine?” (3), itself inspired by the Book of Lamentations and used as a leitmotif by the Anglican poet George Herbert in “The Sacrifice.”

32  These, among others, included An Elegy Sacred to the Memory of […] King Charles (London, 1649), Stipendiae Lacrymae (1649) and The Scotch Souldiers Lamentation upon the Death of the most Glorious Illustrious Martyr, King Charles (London, 1649). See Gargarino 509-10.

33  The full title was Eikon Basilike: The Portraiture of his Sacred Majestie in his Solitudes and Sufferings. John Gauden, King Charles’s confessor, claimed to have written it but authorship is still disputed.

34  In one of the issues of the newsbook, Crouch undertook to write an elegy for King Charles: “Since the Regicides are so liberall in the distribution of other mens goods amongst themselves, I shall be so liberall, as to bestow an Elegy on that glorious Saint and Martyr that they have both murdered and robb’d.” These are the opening lines of his poem: “Ha! Is the King dead, and are we yet alive?” (MM no11, 20-27 June 1649), with the onomatopoeia “ha!” expressing the author’s sighs and offering a counterpoint to “ha, ha, ha!” used to express laughter. Elegies were very much in favour with royalist circles in the late 1640s: for example, the collection of elegies mourning the untimely death of Lord Henry Hastings assembled by Richard Brome and entitled Lachrymae Musarum, or the elegies in manuscript for Lord Francis Villiers, to whose memory Andrew Marvell also contributed “An Elegy Upon the Death of My Lord Francis Villiers.”

35  Crouch’s homage to Eikon Basilike was accompanied by an attack on “that Long Gualter Frostiface in his last weeks Legend of lies [who took] upon him to bespatter the Kings Meditations, calling it reverend Idoll. [...] The more such doggs bark against this Picture of King Charls, the more veneration will be given it” (MM no29, 7-14 November 1649). The object of Crouch’s criticism was Walter Frost and his official Briefe Relation, one issue of which featured an advertisement for Milton’s Eikonoklastes, a pamphlet intended to open readers’ eyes so that they “may see the gold taken off from that Idol” (no9, 13-20 November 1649).

36  For other items of Christological writing, see MM no21 (5-12 September 1649), no30 (14-21 November 1649), and no51 (10-26 April 1650).

37  Examples are the mock-epitaphs for Robert Lockier, the Leveller ringleader of a New Model Army mutiny in April 1649, ironically glorified as “a Saint departed not long since” (MM no4, 30 April – 7 May 1649), and for the Commonwealth envoy in The Hague Isaac Dorislaus “written on him by a friend of his, known by the Name of the man in the Moon” (MM no10, 13-20 June 1649).

38  Mercurius Democritus, continued as Laughing Mercury, appeared from April 1652 to February 1654.

39  Crouch’s reference is to Macbeth 3.4.135-37.

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Laurent Curelly, « Ha, ha, ha”: Modes of Satire in the Royalist Newsbook The Man in the Moon », XVII-XVIII, 70 | 2013, 73-90.

Référence électronique

Laurent Curelly, « Ha, ha, ha”: Modes of Satire in the Royalist Newsbook The Man in the Moon », XVII-XVIII [En ligne], 70 | 2013, mis en ligne le 01 août 2016, consulté le 19 avril 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/1718/510 ; DOI : 10.4000/1718.510

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Auteur

Laurent Curelly

Université de Haute Alsace – Mulhouse

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