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Le Sens des formes dans l’Europe d’Ancien Régime
3. Formes en mouvement : transformer, adapter, recycler

Is the Pen Really Mightier than the Sword? Poetic Fragments and Politics in Civil War Ephemeral Newspapers

La plume est-elle vraiment plus puissante que l’épée ? Politique et fragments poétiques dans les journaux éphémères des Guerres civiles anglaises
Laurent Curelly

Résumés

L’on connaît à présent l'importance de la culture de l’imprimé et de sa diffusion pendant les Guerres civiles anglaises ; de nombreux travaux ont en effet mis en évidence le rôle joué par les journaux de l’époque non seulement dans la transmission des nouvelles mais aussi dans la diffusion des idées. Jusqu’à une époque récente, les hebdomadaires publiés pendant les Guerres civiles étaient principalement étudiés pour leur potentiel historique car ils étaient perçus comme témoins d’une période troublée durant laquelle la guerre se menait à travers les pamphlets comme sur le champ de bataille, mais leur dimension littéraire était souvent négligée. Cet oubli est désormais réparé : ces publications sont de plus en plus considérées comme des objets et des produits littéraires à part entière et donnent lieu à des études s’intéressant à la manière dont elles recyclent les genres et les conventions littéraires, s’intégrant, selon les cas, aux traditions littéraires ou s’affranchissant des normes et des codes en vigueur. Mettant l’accent sur les fragments poétiques dans les journaux des Guerres civiles, cet article réconcilie les deux approches et étudie ainsi la façon dont les journaux interagissaient avec les questions politiques brûlantes de l’époque. Il prend appui sur les journaux éphémères de l'année 1648, année pendant laquelle des rébellions royalistes éclatèrent dans les provinces anglaises et se transformèrent en guerre civile. Le terme « éphémère » renvoie ici à des hebdomadaires dont la durée de vie n’excéda pas quelques semaines, mais dont l’importance et l’impact politiques n’ont encore été véritablement mesurés ni par les historiens ni par les spécialistes de littérature. Cet article met ainsi en évidence l’utilisation que font les journaux royalistes comme parlementaires des formes et des genres littéraires canoniques, singulièrement l’épigramme, la parodie et la satire, afin de diffuser leur message politique et de nourrir la polémique, espérant rallier les lecteurs à leur cause.

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  • 1 Historians now commonly refer to the events that took place in the British Isles in the 1640s and 1 (...)
  • 2 See in particular Joad Raymond’s pioneering study The Invention of the Newspaper: English Newsbooks (...)
  • 3 Investigations of news networks straddle two disciplinary fields: book history and material studies (...)
  • 4 Raymond’s Invention of the Newspaper opened new avenues of research. Important books on literature (...)

1The British Revolution of the mid-seventeenth century was accompanied by the rapid growth of cheap print.1 A wide array of newspapers rolled off the presses to satisfy the readers’ appetite for news, thus testifying to the popularity and availability of cheap print. The significance and dissemination of print during the revolutionary period is now well documented, and the role played by newsbooks, as newspapers were then called, not only as purveyors of news but also as contributors to the circulation of ideas has been ascertained by a fair amount of scholarly work.2 Newspapers of the 1640s and 1650s still tend to be studied and valued for their historical potential as witnesses of a troubled age when war was also fought in pamphlets, or as part of international networks,3 while their literary dimension is often neglected. This oversight is being redressed, and these periodicals are increasingly investigated as literary artefacts in their own right in terms of the way they appropriated literary genres and conventions, now following literary traditions, now challenging norms and twisting codes.4 Many newspapers of the period, typically – but not exclusively – royalist mercuries, contained not only journalistic reports but also a wide range of literary pieces, essentially snippets of poetry that took on a variety of forms. This contribution aims to reconcile historical and literary approaches to the press of the revolutionary era as it concentrates on poetic fragments in relation to the political reporting that was characteristic of these Civil War newsbooks. It thus looks at the way these publications engaged with pressing political issues.

  • 5 Arguably, the democratisation of print during the British Revolution of the mid-seventeenth century (...)

2Newsbooks reflected their readers’ concerns and were also instrumental in shaping public opinion, while engaging with burning political issues and not infrequently taking part in political jousting.5 Very much like today’s newspapers, they were characterised by their seriality and their composite quality. News was itemised, much as it is today, and editorialised, partly or thoroughly, depending on publications. Many of them were potpourris of news and comments, sometimes of a polemical nature. Royalist mercuries, as they were called, were remarkable for their hybrid quality. They were similar to political tracts in that news was very often mixed up with biting attacks on Parliament. They helped to carry polemic further afield as these paper bullets became part and parcel of a war that their writers thought could be won as much in print as on the battlefield. Royalist authors sought to generate support for the King in the second civil war in 1648, as when the author of the royalist ephemeral The Parliaments Vulture wrote in the opening poem of the newspaper’s first issue:

Courage brave Cavies, (Englands loyall hearts) […]

Helpe now or never to or’eturne their throwne […]

Oh let’s not Neuter be; joine heart and hand

To ease poore England of her Native foes,

And turne them headlong to some other Land:

  • 6 The Parliaments Vulture. Newes from all parts of the Kingdome, no. 1 (15-22 June 1648), p. 1. This (...)

June cannot end, without their overthrowes.6

  • 7 Some royalist newsbooks lasted for several years. Some were printed for a few weeks but a great num (...)

3This essay will look at ephemeral newspapers that were published in the year 1648. What is meant by ephemeral newspapers here are news publications that did not live longer than a few issues, although, admittedly, ephemerality is difficult to pinpoint, and even longer-running weeklies may be considered ephemeral as very few of them remained on the market for more than six years.7 The reason why 1648 ephemerals are especially interesting is that they were printed at the time of the second Civil War, which began as a series of royalist risings in the provinces and was compounded by the invasion of England by the Scottish Engager Army, which had formed an alliance with King Charles I’s supporters in England, thus giving hope of political recovery to beleaguered royalists. 1648 ephemerals had special significance with regard to these historical developments. It was these specific circumstances that caused them to appear and also disappear, from the first royalist rebellions in the spring of 1648 to the negotiations over the Treaty of Newport between the royalists and the Presbyterian Party in Parliament in the autumn.

  • 8 There are relatively few studies of royalist journalism. Reasonably recent works include Jason McEl (...)

41648 royalist mercuries are all the more interesting as they were unlicensed publications, which therefore did not come under the scrutiny of state censors. Their authors were chased and sometimes arrested, but their content was relatively unconstrained – or if there were constraints, these were mainly due to conditions of publication, since these newspapers were produced hastily both to evade censors and to keep up with the news.8

  • 9 Verse also appeared in some parliamentarian newsbooks in 1648, but the inclusion of poetry was clea (...)
  • 10 Elencticus was published from November 1647 to January 1649, Melancholicus from September 1647 to N (...)
  • 11 The word “identity” here refers to the distinguishing features of these newspapers, which marked th (...)
  • 12 On the counterfeiting of royalist mercuries see Jason Peacey, “‘The counterfeit silly curr’: Money, (...)
  • 13 See for instance the poem dedicated to Elencticus, Melancholicus and Pragmaticus, in Mercurius Insa (...)

5The inclusion of snippets of poetry is a distinguishing feature of royalist journalism.9 Not that 1648 ephemerals were especially innovative in this respect. The tradition of incorporating poetry into newspapers was initiated by three major royalist newspapers that began publication in the year 1647, after the first civil war had come to an end. These were Mercurius Elencticus, Mercurius Melancholicus and Mercurius Pragmaticus, which were still on the market in 1648.10 They came to develop a distinct identity,11 in particular because of the forms of poetry that they included and the way they turned poetry into polemic. As they gained popularity and became authoritative in royalist circles, they developed their own internal stylistic codes, which marked them off from their rivals. They seem to have been popular enough for counterfeit issues to be produced.12 Some ephemerals paid tribute to them, referring to them as models and making a point of writing in the same vein, but at the same time they were anxious to stand out from their competitors in order to carve out a place for themselves on the busy news market.13

6This paper will first study the forms and characteristics of the bits of poetry that featured in 1648 royalist ephemerals in connection with the political message that they were meant to deliver. It will then look at snippets of poetry in parliamentarian ephemerals whose format was clearly copied from royalist mercuries. As they were hounded by royalist journalists-cum-polemicists, some supporters of Parliament took up the gauntlet and fought a tit-for-tat print war against their royalist rivals; the way parliamentarian and royalist authors used poetic forms to convey polemic in their respective newsbooks will thus be compared. Last, the political and literary value of the inclusion of poetic fragments in Civil War newspapers will be highlighted. What made this poetry a formidable political weapon was its satirical quality. The successful imitation of ancient satirical models clearly imparted literary value to these hastily produced poetic fragments.

Poetry in royalist mercuries: a variety of forms made to serve the King’s cause

  • 14 Out of all the royalist ephemerals that were printed in the year 1648, ten belonged to the first ca (...)
  • 15 See for instance The Colchester Spie, which belonged to the first category but whose opening poem h (...)

7Characteristic of almost all 1648 royalist ephemerals was the inclusion of a poem on the title page as well as a final epigram, a distinguishing feature which they had inherited from their 1647 models, Elencticus, Melancholicus and Pragmaticus. Some of these mercuries had opening poems that used the same format as Elencticus and Pragmaticus – typically including four stanzas of mixed tetrameters and trimeters – while others, in slightly lesser numbers, followed the pattern of threshold poems in Melancholicus – twelve to sixteen rhymed pentameters arranged in couplets, and a final indented couplet which had an epigrammatic quality to it.14 Such patterns were sometimes loosely applied and variations occurred; whether these were the result of hasty work or a deliberate departure from forms that had become normative cannot always be ascertained.15

8In terms of content, liminal poems performed an obvious propagandistic function in defence of the King. There is always something arbitrary about categorisation, but it may be argued that these poems fall into two groups, although there may be some overlap between them: many of them were in line with current issues and adopted a martial tone whereas others were more general in scope and had a programmatic dimension to them. A few examples will illustrate this point.

  • 16 Mercurius Anglicus only had one number (27 July-3 August 1648) while The Colchester Spie had three (...)
  • 17 Mercurius Anglicus, no. 1 (27 July-3 August 1648). The Royalists were accused of using poisoned bul (...)
  • 18 Mercurius Anglicus, ibid. The author refers here to the divisions within the parliamentarian camp o (...)
  • 19 The Colchester Spie, no. 1, undated (Thomason’s manuscript date is 11 August 1648). London aldermen (...)

9Mercurius Anglicus and the Colchester Spie were paper bullets that accompanied the siege of Colchester in Essex, the longest and most bitter siege of the second civil war.16 The opening poem in Mercurius Anglicus, “On the fiery Bull which Sir Charles Lucas sent out of Colchester to sport with Tom and his Armie,” with its topical references, belongs to the first group.17 It depicts Sir Charles Lucas, who commanded the royalist insurgents of Essex, as a heroic figure who, because of the poisoned bullets he and his army fired at the assailants, would eventually triumph over the parliamentarian army. This is an adaptation of the mythological story of Jason and the Golden Fleece, one that plays on the bull-as-bullet and bull-as-ram homonymy. The poem has an epic tone to it, which starkly contrasts with the mock-dedication addressed to the “besotted City” of London on the next page, in which the author blames the Presbyterian aldermen of London for being in thrall to the Independent faction in Parliament: “Will you still beg for whats your own? you see / The Rebels do but mock your misery. / The Treaty which you wish for, they do hate.”18 Similarly, The Colchester Spie has a mock-dedication addressed to the “coward Cuckolds of the City.”19 Royalist authors tried to make the best of internecine divisions within the parliamentarian camp.

10Among poems dealing with contemporary events, although they are not focused on a specific war operation, are the ones that topped the issues of Mercurius Critticus, a newspaper intended for a Scottish readership. This publication bears the Latin motto of the Stuart dynasty: “Nemo me impune lacessit” (“No one slashes me with impunity”), which is used here as a call for revenge grounded in dynastic legitimacy. In the first issue, the opening poem has the form of a drinking song. Its aim is twofold – castigate the enemy and boost the royalists’ morale:

Give me a bowle of rich Canary;

here’s a health unto the King.

Now Loyall soules let us be merry,

and like to Princes sing.

For now the Rebels all are fleeting,

All hell cannot procure their meeting.

Down with um levell to the ground,

pull their skins or’e their eares.

For now their treacheries are found;

their fall must cure our fears.

Returne great Prince of Wales, be thou our guide;

  • 20 Mercurius Critticus, no. 1 (6-13 April 1648), p. 1. Mercurius Pragmaticus also had “Nemo me impune (...)

While we march on to fetter Regicide.20

  • 21 Mercurius Veridicus, no. 1 (14-21 April 1648), unnumbered. The opening poem here had a similar form (...)

11The threshold poem of the first issue of Mercurius Veridicus has the same purpose. The tone may not be as playful as in Mercurius Critticus but the author is as vengeful and acrimonious as his colleague. The poem, written in the form of a sonnet but for the rhymes, is to be read as a self-fulfilling prophecy – the last couplet reads like an epitaph, albeit one of a parodic nature, and it signifies, and anticipates, the hoped-for defeat of the parliamentarians: “Here Englands stately Senators are lay’d / Who Gods Anointed, and His Church betray’d.”21

  • 22 N. Smith, op. cit., p. 61. “Mercurius Insanus Insanissimus invents its own world of distraction,” p (...)

12The second category of liminal poems, those that advance a programme which does not simply boil down to a response to events, includes, for example, the poem inaugurating the first issue of Mercurius Insanus Insanissimus, which, as the title shows and as Nigel Smith argues in Literature and Revolution, promotes an “ethos of madness.”22 It goes beyond vilifying parliamentarians and cheering up royalists:

Hark boyes harke, where doe you thinke boyes,

Shall we go drinke boyes,

For the worlds turn’d topsy turvi,

The Gentry’s orethrowne,

And none knows his owne,

For which me may thanke a scurvy

Parliament I meane,

Who have banished cleane

  • 23 Mercurius Insanus Insanissimus, no. 2, undated (Thomason’s manuscript date is 28 March [1648]), p. (...)

All honesty, Right, and reason.23

  • 24 The Laughing Mercury, or True and perfect Newes from the Antipodes, no. 23 (8-16 September 1652), p (...)

13The poem and what follows describe a world that has gone awry, one in which social order has been turned upside down, “the gentry has been overthrown” and plebeian antinormative attitudes prevail. The author reports on a dream dreamt by “old Nick the footpost,” a mixture of prose and poetry in which the line between fiction and reality is blurred, but poetry proves to be more deeply rooted in reality than the prose account of Nick’s dream. Like the outside world, literary codes are pushed to the edge of insanity and nonsense. This certainly makes for a bold literary programme, which a few royalist mercuries embraced later on, such as John Crouch’s The Man in the Moon or his Laughing Mercury, where, in his own Monty-Python way, he pushed parody to such an extreme as to, for example, include an epitaph on a fart.24

14Some liminal poems include a literary and political programme that underscores the performative quality of poetry when it comes to dealing blows to the enemy and allows royalist authors to brag about their own role in waging a necessary paper war. Building upon a long-standing tradition of polemical writing, and satire and caricature in particular, these authors viewed polemic as an essential ingredient of journalism. For example, in a threshold poem that reads like a ballad, the author of Mercurius Psitacus pledges to “sing [the] Dirges” of parliamentarians:

My ink and paper cost me deare,

A Prisoner by your Vote,

Now all men behold it cleare,

I will not change my notes […]

Fairfax thus will I sluce thy Gout,

Nol thus ill twinge thy nose,

Thus do I put the Saints to rout,

  • 25 Mercurius Psitacus, or the Parroting Mercury, unnumbered (14-21 June 1648). Nine issues of this new (...)

Though they in Barres me close.25

15This is a literary manifesto by a writer who was well aware of the political potential of cheap print, and of poetry in particular, to drum up support for the royalist cause in a war that was by no means a foregone conclusion.

  • 26 Latin editions of Martial’s epigrams were published in London in 1615, 1633 and 1655. English trans (...)
  • 27 George Puttenham, The arte of English poesie, London, Richard Field, 1589, p. 43-44.

16Apart from liminal poems, another remarkable feature of royalist weeklies was the use of epigrams, especially but not exclusively at the end of newspaper issues. These various forms – epigrams as well as different kinds of longer poems, including parodies of traditional poetic forms – contributed to the poeticisation of politics and to the politicisation of poetry. In seventeenth-century Europe, Martial’s biting epigrams were back in favour and translations were produced in England.26 If “brevity is the soul of wit” (Hamlet, 2.2.92), to take up Hamlet’s words, then epigrams were praised for their witty mordancy. The early modern literary critic George Puttenham defined an epigram as “a sharpe conceit in few verses” and mentioned Martial as the “chief of this skil.”27 It is no surprise that newsbooks that included snippets of poetry also featured epigrams which, because of their shortness, fitted in nicely with news items, which were often short pieces. Newspaper authors especially used them to wrap up an argument and to impart cohesion to their quintessentially piecemeal books of news.

17Epigrams were typical of news writers shifting, almost seamlessly, from prose to poetry and back to prose, not only as a way to show off their talents but primarily to introduce variety and make their argument more forceful. For example, The Treaty Traverst, a newspaper written at the time and in support of the protracted negotiations over the Treaty of Newport, which was to put an end to the second Civil War, lashed out at the “Saints,” as he called them – whereby he meant those in Parliament who opposed the Treaty – and excoriated them for sabotaging peace efforts. For that purpose, he interpolated an epigram into his news:

[The Saints] have covenanted amongst themselves to break it off, ere ten daies are concluded, and that done to publish a declaration in defiance of King and Lords, which if they doe,

O may their cursed bodies rot alive

  • 28 The Treaty Traverst: Or, Newes from Newport in the isle of Wight, no. 1 (19-26 September 1648), p. (...)

While of all comfort, heaven doth them deprive.28

18The poem reads like a definitive sentence passed on Parliament. Because it stands out from the news in prose, visually not syntactically, and because it has an oral quality to it, the epigram here, as it does in most cases, drives the author’s point home.

  • 29 Assuming that these poems were delivered orally, it is unknown how they might have been performed – (...)
  • 30 For further information on the contribution of popular music to political debates in early modern E (...)

19Arguably, what made threshold poems and epigrams forceful as poetic forms was their musical quality. Some of these poems may have been sung to the tune of well-known songs, which made them easy to memorise and disseminate. Although there is no surviving record of how royalist mercuries were actually read, it cannot be ruled out that some of the poems they included were delivered orally in one way or other, either read out or sung, in public places – city- and town streets as well as alehouses and taverns.29 Some of them may have accompanied rituals of sociability, such as health-drinking, whose aim was ultimately to foster loyalty to the King and disparage political opponents.30

Poetry in parliamentarian mercuries: imitating forms in a bid to emulate royalist authors

  • 31 For the year 1648, see A Perfect Diurnall of Some Passages of Parliament, a middle-of-the-road publ (...)
  • 32 Mercurius Britanicus was published between August 1643 and May 1646. It was authored first by Thoma (...)
  • 33 Ann Baynes Coiro, “The Personal Rule of Poets: Cavalier Poetry and the English Revolution,” in L. L (...)
  • 34 Andrew McRae, “Manuscript Culture and Popular Print,” in J. Raymond (ed.), The Oxford History of Po (...)

20Parliamentarian mercuries is a phrase that sounds like a contradiction in terms, as the word “mercury” was typically associated with royalist newspapers in the 1640s. As a rule, parliamentarian journalism was news oriented rather than driven by polemic. Even when newsbooks included editorial content, the tone was seldom jocoserious as was the case in most royalist weeklies.31 However, parliamentarian authors saw the advantage of imitating the format and style of their royalist counterparts, which is why they responded to royalist newspapers by producing their own mercuries. The first parliamentarian mercury, Mercurius Britanicus, came as a response to the royalist mercury Mercurius Aulicus in the early stages of the first civil war.32 During the second civil war, parliamentarian mercuries were clearly outnumbered by their royalist rivals – one newspaper in five sided with Parliament – but they did come off the presses in greater numbers than ever before. Parliamentarian authors included their own poetry – and much the same forms of poetry, at that – in an effort to emulate royalist writers. The snippets of poetry that characterised royalist mercuries should not be dismissed as remnants of a court culture that was severely undermined, albeit not quite extinct, because of the King’s exile and, then, captivity, but they were not exclusively the preserve of the royalists. Poetry as circulated in court was put to new uses and was even revitalised by the civil wars. It became part and parcel of a vibrant and innovative political and journalistic culture. As Ann Baynes Coiron argues, “during the war and Commonwealth, poetry moved out of the circuit of the court and engaged directly in a wider struggle for cultural power.”33 Certain poetic genres and forms, such as the epigram, made their way over from manuscript culture to cheap print, thus acquiring greater visibility.34

21Parliamentarian mercuries featured liminal poems in very much the same form as royalist newspapers, except that they defamed the royalists and glorified the parliamentarian army. Most of them had a programmatic dimension to them but a significant difference with opening poems in royalist mercuries was that parliamentarian authors not only claimed the superiority of the parliamentarian army over royalist troops but promised to gag royalist authors forever. Reviling royalist mercuries was a task that they set upon themselves, and liminal poems reflected this endeavour. For example, the opening poem of the first issue of Mercurius Anti-Mercurius is a bitter attack on royalist journalism:

I must or vent, or burst, my spleen

Will not admit suppresse […].

Knit all my powers into rage,

And in Herculean might,

With harness’d language mount the Stage,

Let every tone affright […].

No, no, to end these barking stirres,

  • 35 Mercurius Anti-Mercurius, no. 1, 12-19 September 1648. Its full title, Impartially Communicating Tr (...)

Our pen shall write them dead.35

  • 36 Hermes Stratjcus, no. 1 (17 August 1648), p. 1. Only one issue of this newspaper was printed.

22The author’s rage in Mercurius Anti-Mercurius was specifically targeted at the three distinguished royalist mercuries, Pragmaticus, Elencticus and Melancholicus, but 1648 royalist ephemerals, like Civicus, Psitacus, and Insanus Insanissimus, were not spared in the process. Thus, it was specific publications that suffered the brunt of the author’s attack, rather than mercuries as a mode of writing, for Mercurius Anti-Mercurius used the same codes, layout and format as its royalist opponents. The liminal poem, for instance, alternated rhymed tetrameters and trimeters, in the same vein as the royalist weekly Mercurius Pragmaticus and all the ephemerals that were modelled on it. Other parliamentarian mercuries also aimed their criticism at royalist newspapers, such as Hermes Stratjcus, whose full title was A Scourge for Elencticus and the Royal Pamphleteers. The author made a point of castigating royalist newspaper writers, as indicated in his programmatic statement: “The Imparallell’d impudence of the Royall Pamphleteers hath so blowne up my sleepie zeale to the Honourable Houses, (whom those pernicious Rascalls most villainously calumniate) that I can no longer contain myself.”36 Royalist and parliamentarian mercuries used similar textual strategies and borrowed from a common repertoire of forms, including poetic forms.

  • 37 N. Smith, Literature and Revolution in England, op. cit., p. 87.

23The references to drama that appear in these two extracts need not surprise us. They were quite common in royalist mercuries. As Nigel Smith points out in his Literature and Revolution in England, “royalist newsbooks not only used drama; they argued for its reintroduction.”37 Even if, quite understandably, the authors of parliamentarian ephemeral newspapers did not pursue this particular agenda, they sometimes spiced up their news with theatrical metaphors, occasionally resorting to Marlovian excess, jocoserious bravado and (mock-)epic grandeur. Dramatic effect helped them to debase their political adversaries and, symbolically at least, suppress them. The closures of the theatres in 1642, it seems, had not put an end to the overpowering legacy of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama. It is certainly no coincidence that the reports on the regicide in serious parliamentarian newspapers had a dramatic quality to them or that the much-studied controversial passage on the execution of Charles I in Andrew Marvell’s poem “An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland” shows the regicide as a piece of drama.

  • 38 Mercurius Anti-Mercurius, no. 1, op. cit., p. 3. Mercurius Bellicus was a fairly long-lasting royal (...)

24Generic overlap was one of the main features of both royalist and parliamentarian mercuries, as is testified by their frequent use of parody. Thus, a poetic form which may also be found in both royalist and parliamentarian mercuries is occasional verse, often of a parodic nature, such as dedications or elegies. Parody was used as a satirical tool to ridicule the enemy, such as those lines from a mock funeral elegy and epitaph in Mercurius Anti-Mercurius. They are part of an attack on the royalist newspaper Mercurius Bellicus: “Here lyeth Bellicus the Wag of wit. / Whose sweet remembrance makes me freely shit / […] One thought of him is better than ten purges.”38 Scurrility was as much a feature of parliamentarian as of royalist polemical writing, and pertained to the widely shared practice of animadversion.

25Royalist and parliamentarian publications included similar poetic forms that were used to similar effect – to diminish their political opponents and make a claim for their own cause. Only educated guesses can be made as to why royalist and parliamentarian authors resorted to the same poetic forms. The royalists were the ones who first mixed news with poetry and, thus, introduced a format that was not only recognisable but also “marketable” and fairly easy to imitate. Parliamentarian authors just needed to jump on the bandwagon, adopting royalist editorial practices and somehow fighting their adversaries on their home turf – in that respect, poetry helped to reinforce polemic. Newsbook writers, irrespective of their political alignment, drew upon a common repertoire of stock-forms which they occasionally tweaked. Imitation need not have stifled creativeness altogether, and borrowing from a common cultural matrix did not forestall innovations or departures from canonical forms.

Poetry in 1648 ephemerals: political significance and literary value

26What conclusions can be drawn from this survey of poetic forms in 1648 ephemerals, both royalist and parliamentarian? First, the inclusion of poetry in newspapers was certainly meant to signal the political identity of the publication to potential readers. This feature pointed to an identity that was typically royalist. Poetry mixed in with news was indeed a hallmark of royalist journalism, but then parliamentarian authors also made a point of incorporating poetry into their newspapers.

  • 39 Mercuries were hybrid pieces of writing in that news was mixed with polemic. They resembled pamphle (...)
  • 40 Mercurius Aulicus, no. 1, op. cit., unnumbered.
  • 41 A motto taken from Juvenal’s first satire may be found in Mercurius Publicus. Horace’s third ode in (...)

27Second, the inclusion of poetry allowed authors to defend a political cause by drawing on a literary, and possibly a musical, tradition and, in the process, to fashion themselves as participants in this tradition. They were well aware that they were producing artefacts whose purpose was both to entertain readers and to convince them to support the cause they endorsed. Horatian varietas was certainly part and parcel of the textual economy of mercuries, royalist and parliamentarian alike, which reflected their hybrid nature, both newspapers and pamphlets.39 Thus, after castigating the parliamentarian army laying siege to Colchester and the supposedly subservient City of London, mostly in verse, the author of Mercurius Anglicus confessed: “But all this while I have but sported my self, now tis time that I began to do what I have promised, tell News.”40 Mercury authors often bragged about being gadflies, but they were gadflies that made a point of showing off their education by placing their newspapers under the patronage of classical authors. A number of these periodicals had mottoes taken from or adapted from Juvenal’s Satires and Horace’s Odes.41 Both royalist and parliamentarian authors conjured up classical models – occasionally the same model – in an effort to impart authority to their newspapers. Both royalist and parliamentarian news writers claimed a place for themselves within the same literary tradition, that of the greatest classical satirists – Horace, Juvenal and Lucian. Literary authority seems to have been a prerequisite for effective political fighting.

  • 42 Juvenal, Satires, I, 79: “If nature will not allow, indignation produces verse.” Three editions of (...)
  • 43 Mercurius Honestus, no. 1, undated (Thomason’s manuscript date is 29 May 1648), p. 5-7. The full ti (...)

28Third, linked to this is the fact that poetry enhanced the satirical quality of 1648 ephemerals. Satire was a popular literary genre in seventeenth-century England. The royalist mercury Mercurius Publicus had a motto borrowed from Juvenal’s first satire: “Si natura negat, facit indignatio versum.”42 The parliamentarian newsbook Mercurius Honestus included prose and drama, with fictitious characters but also types and personifications of royalist mercuries, as well as the author’s persona. The characters’ cues had poetic lines interpolated into them, much as did Horatian and Juvenalian satire, which sometimes resorted to dialogue. One of the scenes features a porter talking to his master, the stock-character “Malignant,” a derogatory term for “royalist”: “It is I, whom you sent for a Doctor. I have here brought two of note, Elencticus and Pragmaticus.” Malignant complains that he was given the wrong medicine. “Mr Tell-troth,” possibly the author’s persona, remarks: “Sir, the physick is contrary to your disease, and your Doctors have given it a contrary name.” Malignant then realises that the doctors-cum-journalists are quacks and that “all their Antidotes are nothing but the quintessence of lyes.” A poem is then interpolated into Malignant’s cue: “And we ourselves like fooles and knaves / Deserve at least to live like slaves.” Further on, in a poem incorporated into his own cue, Mr Tell-troth rejoices as he utters a final remark: “And great Brittains Parliament, / Shall flourish to their hearts content.”43 As types, the characters contributed to the satirical quality of this newspaper, and, by introducing varietas whereby drama is blended with verse, the poetry included in the dialogues made satire more forceful. The blending of poetry and drama harks back to Latin satire: the second book of Horace’s Satires, for example, includes dialogue, and Juvenal and Lucian also resort to dialogue in their satires. The fusing of poetic and dramatic forms makes the style livelier and the content more persuasive, and is thus likely to have affected readers who, regardless of their social status, were used to theatrical performances and to a thespian tradition that mixed high and low culture.

  • 44 In the 1630s and 1640s two English editions of Lucian of Samosata’s dialogues and two Latin edition (...)
  • 45 Hermes Stratjcus, no. 1, op. cit., p. 2.
  • 46 See the motto in Mercurius Publicus, discussed above: “Si natura negat, facit indignatio versum” (m (...)
  • 47 For a description of “participatory politics” in seventeenth-century England see J. Peacey, Print a (...)

29Classical satirists were conjured up, even imitated. One of them, Lucian, was held in high esteem. Some of the characteristics of his writings may have inspired a great many news writers of the 1640s – not least his keen eye for human folly, his mastery of parody and his propensity to blend prose and poetry in his philosophical dialogues.44 The parliamentarian newspaper Hermes Stratjcus derided the author of the royalist mercury Elencticus for boasting about being as well-versed in the art of satire as Lucian: “[Mr Elencticus] begins his Pamphlet with a Storie out of Lucian, but who can think such a muddie-braine slave could have convers’d with the wittie Lucian, and remained so egregiously dull?”45 The author of Hermes Stratjcus thus intimated that he was worthier of Lucian than his royalist rival. Satire was a literary weapon that allowed newsbook writers to promote an ethos of indignation.46 The tone may have been light, even playful, but the authors must surely have seen their publications as necessary contributions to the war, a form of “participatory politics.”47

30Connected with the notion of participatory politics – this is the fourth conclusion – is the idea that the inclusion of poetic snippets in newspapers authenticated and legitimised these publications as being worthy of fighting for the cause that they defended, primarily the king and the Stuart monarchy since the use of poetry in newsbooks was initiated by the royalists. The parliamentarian camp obviously saw an interest in replicating such a format. In addition to their entertaining quality and their satirical value, poetic bits and parts were suited to reading practices and rituals that accommodated fragments – such material, for example, as may be found in miscellanies and commonplace books. However, the ephemerality of news, and more generally of cheap print, probably made them more elusive.

  • 48 Mercurius Psitacus, no. 3 (21-26 June 1648), p. 2. There were nine issues of this title, published (...)

31It has been shown that snippets of poetry in 1648 ephemerals pertained to a wide-ranging repertoire of forms. Authors drew upon them to convey political meaning; they sometimes negotiated with them or even perverted them. Arguably, this testified to an impressive degree of creativeness with regard to the precarious conditions in which these newspapers were produced. Newsbook writers were aware of the political quality and potentially subversive role of their publications, and prided themselves on the literary value of their writing. As the author of the royalist mercury Mercurius Psitacus put it: “They have the power and we have the Presse.”48 To him and to his colleagues, there was no question that the pen was mightier than the sword.

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Notes

1 Historians now commonly refer to the events that took place in the British Isles in the 1640s and 1650s as the British Civil Wars. I argue that this is too restrictive a label, hence my use of the word “revolution.” Political structures were turned upside down, much as they were in France during the Revolution of 1789.

2 See in particular Joad Raymond’s pioneering study The Invention of the Newspaper: English Newsbooks, 1641-1649, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1996. On cheap print at large see Joad Raymond (ed.), The Oxford History of Popular Print Culture – Volume One: Cheap Print in Britain and Ireland to 1660, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2011; see also Raymond’s contribution to it: “News,” p. 377-397. On the interaction between cheap print and politics see Jason Peacey’s Politicians and Pamphleteers: Propaganda during the English Civil Wars and Interregnum, Aldershot, Ashgate, 2004, as well as his Print and Public Politics in the English Revolution, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013.

3 Investigations of news networks straddle two disciplinary fields: book history and material studies. These are very useful contributions to the history of cheap print. For studies of international news networks see for example Andrew Pettegree, The Invention of News: How the World Came to Know About Itself, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 2014; Joad Raymond (ed.), News Networks in Seventeenth-Century Britain and Europe, London and New York, Routledge, 2006; Joad Raymond and Noah Moxham (eds.), News Networks in Early Modern Europe, Leiden and Boston, Brill, 2016.

4 Raymond’s Invention of the Newspaper opened new avenues of research. Important books on literature and the English Revolution, although not specifically centred on newspapers, include Nigel Smith, Literature and Revolution in England, 1640-1660, New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1994; David Norbrook, Writing the English Republic: Poetry, Rhetoric and Politics, 1627-1660, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999; Laura Lunger Knoppers (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Literature and the English Revolution, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012. These are useful studies because they interrogate the literary canon and regard works pertaining to cheap print as literary productions in their own right. For an approach that combines historical and literary analysis see Laurent Curelly, “‘Ha, ha, ha’: Modes of Satire in the Royalist Newbook The Man in the Moon,” XVII-XVIII, 70, 2013, p. 73-90; see also Nicholas Brownlees (ed.), The Language of Periodical News in Seventeenth Century England, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Cambridge Scholar Publishing, 2011, a linguistic contribution to the study of news writing.

5 Arguably, the democratisation of print during the British Revolution of the mid-seventeenth century favoured the development of a public sphere and shaped a collective political consciousness, making it possible for disenfranchised individuals to participate actively in political debates. Newspapers were instrumental in the democratic appropriation of politics while reflecting a “shared political culture.” This phrase is borrowed from Jason Peacey’s study of petitions in “News, Pamphlets and Public Opinion,” in L. L. Knoppers (ed.), op. cit., p. 173-189, here p. 185. See also Peacey’s discussion of petitions in Print and Public Politics in the English Revolution, op. cit.; for a study of the way petitions both reflected and encouraged the democratisation of print see Laurent Curelly, An Anatomy of an English Radical Newspaper: The Moderate (1648-9), Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017, p. 71-96.

6 The Parliaments Vulture. Newes from all parts of the Kingdome, no. 1 (15-22 June 1648), p. 1. This newspaper only had one issue. “Cavies” is short for Cavaliers, that is to say, royalists.

7 Some royalist newsbooks lasted for several years. Some were printed for a few weeks but a great number of them did not survive their first issue. It seems that most were intended to remain on the market, if their numeration and pagination – testifying to their serial quality – is anything to go by. However, as Raymond points out, authors were well aware of the potentially ephemeral character of their publications: “Though some may have been forcibly stopped, editors internalized the principle of the ephemeral publication, and the brief run followed by poignant silence became part of the character of the royalist mercury” (Invention of the Newspaper, op. cit., p. 68). The words “author” and “editor” may be used interchangeably for most newspapers, especially short-lived periodicals, as there was no editorial team. Ephemerality is a budding field of scholarly investigation, whose importance historians and literary scholars are only beginning to appreciate. See J. Peacey, “News, Pamphlets and Public Opinion,” art. cit., p. 179.

8 There are relatively few studies of royalist journalism. Reasonably recent works include Jason McElligott, “John Crouch: A Royalist Journalist in Cromwellian England,” Media History, 10.3, 2004, p. 139-155; and his Royalism, Print and Censorship in Revolutionary England, Woodbridge, The Boydell Press, 2007. In the latter Mc Elligott contends that print culture in seventeenth-century England was not only revolutionary but also defended the preservation of established order, as royalist newspapers testify; but it may be argued that the royalist press was innovative in its discursive and literary practices.

9 Verse also appeared in some parliamentarian newsbooks in 1648, but the inclusion of poetry was clearly modelled on royalist mercuries. This probably stemmed from parliamentarian authors’ desire to emulate their royalist rivals and produce publications that were as authoritative as royalist newspapers.

10 Elencticus was published from November 1647 to January 1649, Melancholicus from September 1647 to November 1648 and Pragmaticus from September 1647 to May 1649. Their initial publication coincided with the radicalisation of the New Model Army.

11 The word “identity” here refers to the distinguishing features of these newspapers, which marked them out from parliamentarian publications, in terms of content, layout and internal organisation. In an attempt to penetrate what was a competitive news market, many newsbook writers had an interest in offering publications that were marginally or significantly different from rival weeklies.

12 On the counterfeiting of royalist mercuries see Jason Peacey, “‘The counterfeit silly curr’: Money, Politics, and the Forging of Royalist Newspapers during the English Civil War,” Huntington Library Quarterly, 67.1, 2004, p. 27-57.

13 See for instance the poem dedicated to Elencticus, Melancholicus and Pragmaticus, in Mercurius Insanus Insanissimus: “Had I your Genius, I could sing your praise, / And Crown your temples with immortall Bayes. / Stout lads, write on, Cut terrifie and kill, / Rebellion, with a sharpe fan’g Satires Quill,” unnumbered, undated (dated 24 April 1648 by George Thomason, a seventeenth-century publisher and bookseller who collected Civil War tracts).

14 Out of all the royalist ephemerals that were printed in the year 1648, ten belonged to the first category while eight fitted into the second category. The opening poems of the former newspapers had a lighter tone than those of the latter periodicals. Satire was especially used in the former poems, which does not mean that it was absent from the other mercuries.

15 See for instance The Colchester Spie, which belonged to the first category but whose opening poem had two stanzas instead of four, or The Parliaments Scrich-Owle, whose opening poem included five stanzas, or Mercurius Critticus with six-line stanzas instead of the typical quatrains. It cannot be ruled out that such variations stemmed from a desire to stand out from other newspapers. Such was clearly the case of Mercurius Insanus Insanissimus, whose opening poem took on the form of doggerel, as this address to the reader testifies: “Reader, You must Imagine Mercurie to be sufficiently zealously Mad, and out of his zeale contrary to knowledge, he begins his discourse devoutly in Rime Doggrell, as followeth,” unnumbered, undated (Thomason’s manuscript date is 24 April 1648).

16 Mercurius Anglicus only had one number (27 July-3 August 1648) while The Colchester Spie had three (from 10 to 24 August 1648). As their full titles show, Mercurius Anglicus Communicating Intelligence from all parts of the Kingdome of England Chiefly from Westminster, London, Colchester, Duke Hambleton, and Sir Marmaduke Langdale was to provide substantial news from Colchester, and The Colchester Spie Truly informing the Kingdome of the estate of that gallant Town, and the attempts of Fairfax against it: with some other remarkable passages from the English and Scots Army, also from Westminster and London was primarily concerned with the siege of Colchester. It actually proved to be a single-issue newspaper as it went out of the market altogether after the Colchester royalists had surrendered to Fairfax and his parliamentarian troops. The siege of Colchester was brutal: the population was made to starve and Fairfax’s terms for the surrender of the town were especially harsh, so that the executions of two of the royalist senior officers caused them to become martyrs of the royalist cause.

17 Mercurius Anglicus, no. 1 (27 July-3 August 1648). The Royalists were accused of using poisoned bullets that caused gangrenous wounds. Sir Charles Lucas was one of the royalist officers who were executed. “Tom” refers to Thomas Fairfax, head of the parliamentarian army.

18 Mercurius Anglicus, ibid. The author refers here to the divisions within the parliamentarian camp over the proposed Treaty of Newport between, on the one hand, the Presbyterians who overwhelmingly supported it and, on the other, the Independents and New Model Army who dismissed it as a mere political manoeuvre on the part of the royalists. Charles and Parliament’s emissaries were engaged in long-winded negotiations to the extent that the king was accused of paying lip service to his political opponents and playing for time.

19 The Colchester Spie, no. 1, undated (Thomason’s manuscript date is 11 August 1648). London aldermen are taken to task: “Are you besotted so, not to perceive / Who hath befool’d you?” This issue also bears a mock-dedication “to the hypocriticall trayterous House of Commons”.

20 Mercurius Critticus, no. 1 (6-13 April 1648), p. 1. Mercurius Pragmaticus also had “Nemo me impune lacessit” as a motto, a badge of loyalty to the Stuart king. Critticus had three issues, in April and May 1648.

21 Mercurius Veridicus, no. 1 (14-21 April 1648), unnumbered. The opening poem here had a similar form to that of opening poems in Mercurius Melancholicus while the opening poems of Critticus were modelled on those in Pragmaticus (see notes 14 and 15); it reflected a more sombre, if devastatingly critical, approach to events. There were three issues of Veridicus, printed in April and May 1648.

22 N. Smith, op. cit., p. 61. “Mercurius Insanus Insanissimus invents its own world of distraction,” p. 62.

23 Mercurius Insanus Insanissimus, no. 2, undated (Thomason’s manuscript date is 28 March [1648]), p. 1. These lines have a musical quality to them, which makes them playful and entertaining, and easy to memorise. The poem reads like a broadside ballad. For political broadside ballads see Angela McShane, “Ballads and Broadsides,” in J. Raymond (ed.), The Oxford History of Popular Print Culture, op. cit., p. 339-362, as well as McShane’s inventory, Political Broadside Ballads of Seventeenth-Century England: A Critical Bibliography, London, Pickering & Chatto, 2011.

24 The Laughing Mercury, or True and perfect Newes from the Antipodes, no. 23 (8-16 September 1652), p. 180.

25 Mercurius Psitacus, or the Parroting Mercury, unnumbered (14-21 June 1648). Nine issues of this newspaper were printed between June and August 1648. Cromwell was known to have a big nose.

26 Latin editions of Martial’s epigrams were published in London in 1615, 1633 and 1655. English translations were printed in 1629 under the title Selected epigrams of Martial. Englished by Thomas May Esquire (London, Humphrey Lownes for Thomas Walkey), and in 1655 as Ex otio negotium. Or, Martiall his epigrams translated (London, T. Mabb for William Shears).

27 George Puttenham, The arte of English poesie, London, Richard Field, 1589, p. 43-44.

28 The Treaty Traverst: Or, Newes from Newport in the isle of Wight, no. 1 (19-26 September 1648), p. 5. There was only one number of this newspaper, a publication that focused exclusively on the negotiations over the Treaty of Newport between the King and Presbyterian parliamentarians.

29 Assuming that these poems were delivered orally, it is unknown how they might have been performed – whether read out or sung. In an article about news songs, Una McIllvenna argues that conveying news through songs in early modern Europe promoted audience participation, thus facilitating dissemination and forging social and political bonds. It is tempting to suggest that some of the poems in Civil War mercuries encouraged listeners to sing along, thereby fostering political loyalty. See Una McIlvenna, “When the News Was Sung,” Media History 22.3-4, 2016, p. 317-333.

30 For further information on the contribution of popular music to political debates in early modern England, see Angela McShane, “Political Street Songs and Singers in Early Modern England,” Renaissance Studies, 33.1, February 2019, p. 94-118, and “Drink, Song and Politics in Early Modern England,” Popular Music, 35.2, 2016, p. 166-190.

31 For the year 1648, see A Perfect Diurnall of Some Passages of Parliament, a middle-of-the-road publication authored by Samuel Pecke; Perfect Occurrences, whose author, Henry Walker, adopted a non-committal approach to news; The Perfect Weekly Account, written by Daniel Border, who presented his news in a factual manner.

32 Mercurius Britanicus was published between August 1643 and May 1646. It was authored first by Thomas Audley and, as of October 1644, by Marchamont Nedham, who was to shift allegiances later and embark on the writing of Mercurius Pragmaticus, one of the three most renowned royalist newspapers of the late 1640s. Britanicus was intended as a response to the royalist mercury Mercurius Aulicus, published between January 1643 and September 1645.

33 Ann Baynes Coiro, “The Personal Rule of Poets: Cavalier Poetry and the English Revolution,” in L. L. Knoppers (ed.), op. cit., p. 206-237, here p. 206.

34 Andrew McRae, “Manuscript Culture and Popular Print,” in J. Raymond (ed.), The Oxford History of Popular Print Culture, op. cit., p. 130-140.

35 Mercurius Anti-Mercurius, no. 1, 12-19 September 1648. Its full title, Impartially Communicating Truth, correcting falsehood, reproving the wilfull, pittying the ignorant, and opposing All false and scandalous aspersions unjustly cast upon the two Honourable Houses of Parliament, reflected the author’s desire to give the lie to royalist newspapers.

36 Hermes Stratjcus, no. 1 (17 August 1648), p. 1. Only one issue of this newspaper was printed.

37 N. Smith, Literature and Revolution in England, op. cit., p. 87.

38 Mercurius Anti-Mercurius, no. 1, op. cit., p. 3. Mercurius Bellicus was a fairly long-lasting royalist mercury by comparison with other royalist periodicals. It was authored by John Berkenhead, the editor of Mercurius Aulicus, and was printed between November 1647 and July 1648.

39 Mercuries were hybrid pieces of writing in that news was mixed with polemic. They resembled pamphlets but they were primarily newspapers owing to their serial quality and to the news they included, so that they also performed an informative function. Their hybrid nature was also due to the fact that they were satirical publications (see further down), satire traditionally making use of a mix of literary forms, as the Latin word satura, designating a potpourri, testifies.

40 Mercurius Aulicus, no. 1, op. cit., unnumbered.

41 A motto taken from Juvenal’s first satire may be found in Mercurius Publicus. Horace’s third ode inspired both Mercurius Veridicus, a royalist newspaper and Hermes Stratjcus, a parliamentarian newsbook. There is some irony in a parliamentarian publication borrowing from Horace’s celebration of the Roman Emperor Augustus.

42 Juvenal, Satires, I, 79: “If nature will not allow, indignation produces verse.” Three editions of Sir Robert Stapylton’s translation of Juvenal’s satires were printed between 1644 and 1647 while a Latin edition was released in 1648. These are: The First Six Satyrs of Juvenal, Oxford, Henry Hall for Thomas Robinson, 1644; The Satyrs of Juvenal, London, Humphrey Moseley, 1646; Juvenal’s Sixteen Satyrs or, A Survey of the Manners and Actions of Mankind, London, Humphrey Moseley, 1647; Iunii Ivvenalis et Avli Persi Flacci Satyrae, London, John Legat for Christopher Meredith, 1648. The fact that the 1644 edition was printed in Oxford is significant as the royal court had left London for Oxford. Again, this shows that this form of poetry was first associated with the royalist party; royalist journalists – and then their parliamentarian rivals – came to exploit its polemical potential to the full. The poet Henry Vaughan published his own translation of Juvenal’s tenth satire in a collection of poems in 1646: Poems with the Tenth Satyre of Juvenal Englished, London, G. Badger.

43 Mercurius Honestus, no. 1, undated (Thomason’s manuscript date is 29 May 1648), p. 5-7. The full title of this publication, with its medical metaphors, is Mercurius Honestus or, Newes from Westminster, Touching the unfolding of Elencticus and Pragmaticus, the distempering of the Members, the beating of the Pulses, the underhand working of the franzie brains, and the sudden Visitation of a Welch Plurisie, with the danger of their Disease, and the opinion of the great Doctors.

44 In the 1630s and 1640s two English editions of Lucian of Samosata’s dialogues and two Latin editions were published, while the polygraph Thomas Heywood included some of these dialogues in his miscellany Pleasant dialogues and dramma’s, London, R. O[ulton] for R. H[earne], 1637.

45 Hermes Stratjcus, no. 1, op. cit., p. 2.

46 See the motto in Mercurius Publicus, discussed above: “Si natura negat, facit indignatio versum” (my emphasis).

47 For a description of “participatory politics” in seventeenth-century England see J. Peacey, Print and Public Politics in the English Revolution, op. cit. Peacey argues that a communications revolution occurred during the English revolution, whereby the growth of cheap print such as newspapers, pamphlets and ballads, transformed the public’s ability to participate in England’s political life. See also David Zaret’s study of the development of the public sphere in seventeenth-century England, Origins of Democratic Culture: Printing, Petitions, and the Public Sphere in Early Modern England, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 2000.

48 Mercurius Psitacus, no. 3 (21-26 June 1648), p. 2. There were nine issues of this title, published between June and August 1648. The conclusive remarks of this paper are encapsulated in the lines that follow the quotation as the news writer resorts to poetry: “They have the power and we have the Presse, and though it be the iniquitie of the present Age,

That those that are idoneous men

Are lookt upon as those for trust unfit,

And those that know not how to use a pen,

Do walke on stilts, and at the helme doe fit;

By us at last, their follies knowne shall be,

Their sordid vile pusillanimity,

Whose looks prodigious are, and like a Comet,

Doe threaten ruine, heaven blesse us from it.”

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Laurent Curelly, « Is the Pen Really Mightier than the Sword? Poetic Fragments and Politics in Civil War Ephemeral Newspapers »Études Épistémè [En ligne], 39 | 2021, mis en ligne le 15 mai 2021, consulté le 18 septembre 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/episteme/11105 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/episteme.11105

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Auteur

Laurent Curelly

Laurent Curelly is Professor of Early Modern Studies at Université de Haute Alsace. He specialises in English literature and history of the seventeenth century. He has written extensively on the Civil War press and on sectarian radicalism. His more recent publications include The Moderate: An Anatomy of an English Radical Newspaper (1648–9) (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2017) and a collection of essays he co-edited with Nigel Smith, Radical Voices, Radical Ways – Articulating and Disseminating Radicalism in Seventeenth-and Eighteenth-Century Britain (Manchester University Press, 2016). He is currently working on a joint translation into French of Gerrard Winstanley’s political pamphlets, to be published in 2022.

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