Page images

scious of their vile deeds; they were afraid

Shorn of his beams; or from behind the moon,
In dim eclipse, disastrous twilight sheds
On half the nations, and with fear of change

Perplexes monarchies.” What notable work these gentlemen licensers made, even with old and approved books, we may learn from the following account, given us by Burnet: “ When I writ Bishop Bedells Life,” says he, “his book against Wadsworth was found to be so well written, and was so much out of prints that it was thought fit to reprint it, . and bind it up with his life. I could not but take

notice of the case of subjects resisting their prince fully stated and justified by him; and that in a book dedicated to king Charles the First, then prince of Wales : and this was never once objected to him, nor he obliged to retract it; but, instead of that, he was afterwards made provost of Trinity College in Dublin, and then bishop of Kilmore and Ardagh in that kingdom.- I thought myself bound to warn Mr. Chiswell of that passage. He was much threatned at that time for having printed Julian, and he was afraid of raising a new storm against hiinself. I told him, I would not suffer the book to be printed, unless that passage were printed in it. He shewed it to Sir Roger L'Estrange, who would not let it pass till several words were scattered quite through it, to give it an air, as if Bedell had been only repeating the arguments of other men: and even that did not serve turn. A marginal note was to be added to the end of that paragraph, which was framed by Sir Roger himself.-Such was the severity of our expurgators at that time 6."

* Toland's Life of Milton, p. 121. 8vo. Lond. 1761. . • Reflections on a Pamphlet, p. 69. 8vo. Lond. 1696

But to go on. It was an article of impeachment against Scroggs, chief justice of the King's Bench, “ That · whereas one Henry Carr had, for some time before, published every week a certain book, intituled, “ The weekly packet of Advice from Rome; or, The History of Popery:"", wherein the superstitions and cheats of the church of Rome were, from time to time, exposed; he, the said Scroggs, together with the other judges of the said court, before any legal conviction of the said Carr of any crime, did, in a most illegal and arbitrary manner, make and cause to be entered a certain rule of that court, against the printing of the said book, in hæc verba. Ordinatum est quod liber intitulat. The weekly packet of Advice from Rome; or, The History of Popery: non ulterius imprimatur vel publicetur per aliquam personam quamcumque.

per Cur. And did cause the said Carr, and divers printers, and other persons, to be served with the same; which said rule, and other proceedings, were most apparently contrary to all justice, in condemning, not only what had been written, without hearing the parties, but also all that might for the future be written on that subject; a manifest countenancing of popery, and discouragement of protestants; an open invasion upon the right of the subject, and an encroaching and assuming to themselves a legislative power and authoritya." There wanted not ground for this accusation. For Scroggs had given out warrants to one Stephens, a messenger of the press, to seize all books unlicensed; together with the authors, printers, and publishers of them.- -As a curiosity, I will here transcribe one of them. Whereas the kings majesty hath lately

* Journal, 3d Jan. 1680.


issued out his proclamation for suppressing the print ing and publishing unlicensed news-books, and pamphlets of news: notwithstanding which, there are divers persons who do daily print and publish şuch unlicensed books and pamphlets. These are therefore to will and require you, and in his majesty's name to charge and command you, and eyery of you, from time to time, and at all times, so often as you shall thereunto be required, to be aiding and assisting to Robert Stephens, messenger of the press, in the seizing all such books and pamphlets as aforesaid, as he shall be informed of, in any booksellers shop, or printers shop or warehouses, or elsewhere whatsoever, to the end they may be disposed of as to law shall appertain. Likewise, if you shall be informed of the authors, printers, or publishers of such books and pamphlets, you are to apprehend them, and have them before me, or one of his majesty's justices of the peace, to be proceeded against as to law shall appertain. Dated this 28th day of May, Anno Dom. 1680.

[ocr errors]

“ To all mayors, sheriffs,

bayliffs, constables,
and all other officers WILLIAM SCROGGS.
and ministers whom

these may concern.
« To Robert Stephens, messenger of the press."

What treatment this man gave to such as were had: before him, on account of these kind of transgressions; will best appear from the report of the committee of the commons, appointed to examine the proceedings of ihe judges. In this report, we find, “That the committee were informed, by Francis Smith, bookseller, that he was brought before the chief justice by

his warrant, and charged by the messenger, Robert Stephens, that he had seen some parcels of a pamphlet, called, 'Observations on Sir George Wakemans Tryal, in his shop: upon which the chief justice told him, he would make him an example; use him like a bore in France; and pile him and all the booksellers and printers up in prison, like faggots; and so committed him to the kings-bench: swearing and cursing at him in great fury. And when he tendred three sufficient citizens of London for his bail, alledging imprisonment in his circumstances would be his utter ruin; the chief justice replyed, the citizens looked like sufficient persons, but he would take no bail: and so he was forced. to come out by Habeas Corpus, and was afterwards informed against for the same matter, to his great charge and vexation. '

“And a while after, Francis (the son of the said Francis Smith) was committed by the said chief justice, and bail refused, for selling a pamphlet, called, 'A New Years Gift, for the said Chief Justice,' to a coffee-house; and he declared to them, he would take no bail, for he would ruin them all. And further it appeared to the committee, that the said chief justice committed, in like manner, Jane Curtis, she having a husband and children, for selling a book, called, “A Satyr against Injustice, which his lordship called a libel against him; and her friends tendring sufficient bail, and desiring him to have mercy on her poverty and condition ; be swore, by the name of God, she should go to prison, and he would shew no more mercy than they could expect from a wolf that came to devour them; and she might bring her Habeas Corpus, and come out so: which she was forced to do; and after informed against and prosecuted, to her utter ruin, four or five terms after. .


“In like manner it appeared to this committee, that, about that time also, Edward Berry (stationer, of Greys Inn) was committed, by the said chief justice, being accused of selling, the 'Observations on Sir George Wakemans Tryal;' and though he tendered 10001. bail; yet the chief justice said, he would take no bail; he should go to prison, and come out according to law. And after he, with much trouble and charge, got out by Habeas Corpus, he was forced by himself, or his attorney, to attend five terms before he could be discharged, though no information was exhibited against him in all that time. " Possibly Scroggs was of Wolsey's mind; who publicly forewarned the clergy, " that if they did not destroy the press, the press would destroy them."- It is, indeed, a bitter enemy to tyranny of every kind - Mr. Johnson, for writing Julian the Apostate, in opposition to the succession of the duke of York, was condemned, by the infamous Jefferies, in a fine of five hundred marks, and committed prisoner to the King's Bench till he should pay it, which was the same as perpetual imprisonment, since he was not able to raise that sum - I will only just mention one fact more, and it shall be that of the immortal Algernon Sidney; who being obnoxious to the court, on account of his principles and his virtue, had his closet searched by a warrant from Jenkins, secretary of state, and his papers carried away. Among these were found a manuscript of the admirable book of Government, which was given in as evidence on his trial, and made an instrument of his destruction -:-Such a hatred and dread had the mo

a Journal, 23 Dec. 1680.

It should be observed, that the act, for regulating printers and printing-presses, though twice renewed, was now expired ; and, consequently, all these proceedings were illegal. See Johnson's Life, prefixed to his works. od See Sidney's Trial.

« PreviousContinue »