[Note: This is taken From P.H. Ditchfield's Books Fatal to Their Authors.]
John Fisher—Reginald Pole—“Martin Marprelate”—Udal—Penry—Hacket—Coppinger—Arthington—Cartwright—Cowell—Leighton—John
R. Doleman—J. Hales—Reboul—William Prynne—Burton—Bastwick --John Selden—John Tutchin—Delaune—Samuel Johnson—Algernon Sidney—Edmund Richer—
John de Falkemberg—Jean Lenoir—Simon Linguet—Abbe Caveirac—Darigrand—
Pietro Sarpi—Jerome Maggi—Theodore Reinking.
The thorny subject of Politics has had many victims, and not a few English authors who have dealt in State-craft have suffered on account of their works. The stormy period of the Reformation, with its ebbs and flows, its action and reaction, was not a very safe time for writers of pronounced views. The way to the block was worn hard by the feet of many pilgrims, and the fires of Smithfield shed a lurid glare over this melancholy page of English history.
One of the earliest victims was John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, a prelate renowned for his learning, his pious life, and for the royal favour which he enjoyed both from Henry VII. and Henry VIII. The Margaret Professorship at Cambridge and the Colleges of St. John’s and Christ’s owe their origin to Fisher, who induced Margaret, the Countess of Richmond and mother of Henry VII., to found them. Fisher became Chancellor of the University, and acted as tutor to Henry VIII. High dignities and royal favours were bestowed upon the man whom kings delighted to honour. But Bishop Fisher was no time-serving prelate nor respecter of persons, and did not hesitate to declare his convictions, whatever consequences might result. When the much-married monarch wearied of his first wife, the ill-fated Catherine, and desired to wed Anne Boleyn, the bishops were consulted, and Fisher alone declared that in his opinion the divorce would be unlawful. He wrote a fatal book against the divorce, and thus roused the hatred of the headstrong monarch. He was cast into prison on account of his refusing the oath with regard to the succession, and his supposed connection with the treason of Elizabeth Barton, whose mad ravings caused many troubles; he was deprived, not only of his revenues, but also of his clothes, in spite of his extreme age and the severity of a hard winter, and for twelve long dreary months languished in the Tower. The Pope added to the resentment which Henry bore to his old tutor by making him a Cardinal; and the Red Hat sealed his doom. “The Pope may send him a hat,” said the ferocious monarch; “but, Mother of God, he shall wear it on his shoulders, for I will leave him never a head to set it on.” He was charged with having “falsely, maliciously, and traitorously wished, willed, and desired, and by craft imagined, invented, practised, and attempted, to deprive the King of the dignity, title, and name of his royal estate, that is, of his title and name of supreme head of the Church of England, in the Tower, on the seventh day of May last, when, contrary to his allegiance, he said and pronounced in the presence of different true subjects, falsely, maliciously, and traitorously, these words: the King oure soveraign lord is not supreme hedd yn erthe of the Cherche of Englande.” These words, drawn from him by Rich, were found sufficient to effect the King’s pleasure.
The aged prelate was pronounced guilty, and beheaded on July 22nd, 1535. On his way to the scaffold he exclaimed, “Feet, do your duty; you have only a short journey,” and then, singing the Te Deum laudamus, he placed his head upon the block, and the executioner’s axe fell. Although Bishop Fisher was condemned for denying the King’s supremacy, he incurred the wrath of Henry by his book against the divorce, and that practically sealed his fate. His head was placed on a spike on London Bridge as a warning to others who might be rash enough to incur the displeasure of the ruthless King.
Another fatal book which belongs to this period is Pro unitate ecclesiae ad Henricum VIII., written by Reginald Pole in the secure retreat of Padua, in which the author compares Henry to Nebuchadnezzar, and prays the Emperor of Germany to direct his arms against so heretical a Christian, rather than against the Turks. Secure in his retreat at the Papal Court, Pole did not himself suffer on account of his book, but the vengeance of Henry fell heavily upon his relations in England, in whose veins ran the royal blood of the Plantagenets who had swayed the English sceptre through so many generations. Sir Geoffrey Pole, a brother of the cardinal, was seized; this arrest was followed by that of Lord Montague, another brother, and the Countess of Salisbury, their mother, who was the daughter of the Duke of Clarence, brother of Edward IV. They were accused of having devised to maintain, promote, and advance one Reginald Pole, late Dean of Exeter, the King’s enemy beyond seas, and to deprive the King of his royal state and dignity. Sir Geoffrey Pole contrived to escape the vengeance of Henry by betraying his companions, but the rest were executed. For some time Pole’s mother was kept a prisoner in the Tower, as a hostage for her son’s conduct. She was more than seventy years of age, and after two years’ imprisonment was condemned to be beheaded. When ordered to lay her head upon the block she replied, “No, my head never committed treason; if you will have it, you must take it as you can.” She was held down by force, and died exclaiming, “Blessed are they who suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake.” Henry endeavoured to tempt the cardinal to England, but “in vain was the net spread in sight of any bird.” In his absence he was condemned for treason. The King of France and the Emperor were asked to deliver him up to justice. Spies and emissaries of Henry were sent to watch him, and he believed that ruffians were hired to assassinate him. But he survived all these perils, being employed by the Pope on various missions and passing his leisure in literary labours. He presided at the Council of Trent, and lived to return to England during the reign of Mary, became Archbishop of Canterbury, and strived to appease the sanguinary rage of that dreadful persecution which is a lasting disgrace to humanity and to the unhappy Queen, its chief instigator.
The rise of the Puritan faction and all the troubles of the Rebellion caused many woes to reckless authors. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth the Puritan party opened a vehement attack upon the Episcopalians, and published books reviling the whole body, as well as the individual members. The most noted of these works were put forth under the fictitious name of Martin Marprelate. They were base, scurrilous productions, very coarse, breathing forth terrible hate against “bouncing priests and bishops.” Here is an example: A Dialogue wherein is laid open the tyrannical dealing of L. Bishopps against God’s children. It is full of scandalous stories of the prelates, who lived irreproachable lives, and were quite innocent of the gross charges which “Martin Senior” and “Martin Junior” brought against them. The Bishop of Lincoln, named Cooper, was a favourite object of attack, and the pamphleteers were always striving to make “the Cooper’s hoops to flye off and his tubs to leake out.” In the Pistle to the Terrible Priests they tell us of “a parson, well-known, who, being in the pulpit, and hearing his dog cry, he out with the text, ‘Why, how now, hoe! can you not let my dog alone there? Come, Springe! come, Springe!’ and whistled the dog to the pulpit.” Martin Marprelate was treated by some according to his folly, and was scoffed in many pamphlets by the wits of the age in language similar to that which he was so fond of using. Thus we have Pasquill of England to Martin Junior, in a countercuffe given to Martin Junior; A sound boxe on the eare for the father and sonnes, Huffe, Ruffe, and Snuffe, the three tame ruffians of the Church, who take pepper in their nose because they cannot marre Prelates grating; and similar publications.
Archbishop Whitgift proceeded against these authors with much severity. In 1589 a proclamation was issued against them; several were taken and punished. Udal and Penry, who were the chief authors of these outrageous works, were executed. Hacket, Coppinger, and Arthington, who seem to have been a trio of insane libellers, and Greenwood and Barrow, whose seditious books and pamphlets were leading the way to all the horrors of anarchy introduced by the Anabaptists into Germany and the Netherlands, all felt the vengeance of the Star Chamber, and were severely punished for their revilings. The innocent often suffer with the guilty, and Cartwright was imprisoned for eighteen months, although he denied all connection with the “Marprelate” books, and declared that he had never written or published anything which could be offensive to her Majesty or detrimental to the state.
The Solomon of the North and the Parliament of England dealt hard justice to the Interpreter (1607), which nearly caused its author’s death. He published also Institutiones Juris Anglicani ad seriem Institutionum imperialium (Cambridge, 1605, 8vo), which involved him in a charge of wishing to confound the English with the Roman law. Dr. Cowell, in the former work, sounded the battle-cry which was heard a few years later on many a field when the strength of the Crown and Parliament met in deadly combat. He contended for the absolute monarchy of the King of England. His writings are especially valuable as illustrating our national customs. The author says: “My true end is the advancement of knowledge, and therefore I have published this poor work, not only to impart the good thereof to those young ones who want it, but also to draw from the learned the supply of my defects.... What a man saith well is not however to be rejected because he hath many errors; reprehend who will, in God’s name, that is with sweetness and without reproach. So shall he reap hearty thanks at my hands, and thus more soundly help in a few months, than I, by tossing and tumbling my books at home, could possibly have done in many years.” The Attorney-General, Sir Edward Coke, was the determined foe of the unhappy doctor, endeavouring to ridicule him by calling him Dr. Cowheel; then, telling the King that the book limited the supreme power of the royal prerogative; and when that failed, he accused our author to the Parliament of the opposite charge of betraying the liberties of the people. At length Cowell was condemned by the House to imprisonment; James issued a proclamation against the book, but saved its author from the hangman. However, Fuller states that Dr. Cowell’s death, which occurred soon after the condemnation of his book, was hastened by the troubles in which it involved him.
A Scottish divine, Dr. Leighton, the father of the illustrious Archbishop, incurred the vengeance of the Star Chamber in 1630 on account of his treatise entitled Syon’s Plea against Prelacy (1628), and received the following punishment: “To be committed to the Fleet Prison for life, and to pay a fine of ten thousand pounds to the king’s use; to be degraded from the ministry; to be brought to the pillory at Westminster, while the court was sitting, and be whipped, and after the whipping to have one of his ears cut, one side of his nose slit, and be branded in the face with the letters S.S., signifying Sower of Sedition: after a few days to be carried to the pillory in Cheapside on a market-day, and be there likewise whipped, and have the other ear cut off, and the other side of his nose slit, and then to be shut up in prison for the remainder of his life, unless his Majesty be graciously pleased to enlarge him.” A sentence quite sufficiently severe to deter any rash scribe from venturing upon authorship! Maiming an author, cutting off his hands, or ears, or nose, seems to have been a favourite method of criticism in the sixteenth century. One John Stubbs had his right hand cut off for protesting against the proposed marriage of Queen Elizabeth with the Duke of Anjou, which bold act he committed in his work entitled Discoverie of a Gaping Gulf whereinto England is like to be swallowed by another French marriage, if the Lord forbid not the banes by letting her Majestie see the sin and punishment thereof (1579). Hallam states that the book was far from being a libel on the Virgin Queen, but that it was written with great affection. However, it was pronounced to be “a fardell of false reports, suggestions, and manifest lies.” Its author and Page, the bookseller, were brought into the open market at Westminster, and their right hands were cut off with a butcher’s knife and mallet. With amazing loyalty, Stubbs took off his cap with his left hand and shouted, “Long live Queen Elizabeth!”
The autocratic Queen had a ready method of dealing with obnoxious authors, as poor Peter Wentworth discovered, who wrote A Pithy Exhortation to Her Majesty for establishing her Successor to the Crown, and for his pains was committed to the Tower, where he pined and died. This work advocated the claims of James VI. of Scotland, and was written in answer to a pamphlet entitled A Conference about the Next Succession to the Crown of England, published by R. Doleman (1594). The Jesuit R. Parsons, Cardinal Allen, and Sir Francis Englefield were the authors, who advocated the claims of Lord Hertford’s second son, or the children of the Countess of Derby, or the Infanta of Spain. The authors were safe beyond seas, but the printer was hung, drawn, and quartered.
John Hales wrote A Declaration of Succession of the Crown of England, in support of Lord Hertford’s children by Lady Catherine Grey, and was sent to the Tower.
James I., by his craft and guile, accomplished several notable and surprising matters, and nothing more remarkable than actually to persuade the Pope to punish an Italian writer, named Reboul, for publishing an apology for the English Roman Catholics who refused to take the oath of allegiance required by the English monarch in 1606, after the discovery of the gunpowder plot. This certainly was a singular and remarkable performance, and must have required much tact and diplomacy. It is conjectured that the artful King so flattered the Pope as to induce him to protect the English sovereign from the attacks of his foes. Reboul’s production was very virulent, exhorting all Catholics to go constantly to England to excite a rising against the King, and to strangle the tyrant with their hands. The Pope ordered the furious writer to be hanged, and an account of his execution, written by a Venetian senator, is found among Casaubon’s collection of letters.
The most famous victim of the Star Chamber was William Prynne, whose work Histriomastix, or the Player’s Scourge, directed against the sinfulness of play-acting, masques, and revels, aroused the indignation of the Court. This volume of more than a thousand closely printed quarto pages contains almost all that was ever written against plays and players; not even the Queen was spared, who specially delighted in such pastimes, and occasionally took part in the performances at Court.
Prynne was ejected from his profession, condemned to stand in the pillory at Westminster and Cheapside, to lose both his ears, one in each place, to pay a fine of L5,000, and to be kept in perpetual imprisonment. A few years later, on account of his News from Ipswich, he was again fined L5,000, deprived of the rest of his ears, which a merciful executioner had partially spared, branded on both cheeks with S.L. (Schismatical Libeller), and condemned to imprisonment for life in Carnarvon Castle. He was subsequently removed to the Castle of Mont Orgueil, in Jersey, where he received kind treatment from his jailor, Sir Philip de Carteret. Prynne was conducted in triumph to London after the victory of the Parliamentarian party, and became a member of the Commons. His pen was ever active, and he left behind him forty volumes of his works, a grand monument of literary activity.
Associated with Prynne was Burton, the author of two sermons For God and King, who wrote against Laud and his party, and endeavoured to uphold the authority of Charles, upon which he imagined the bishops were encroaching. Burton suffered the same punishment as Prynne; and Bastwick, a physician, incurred a like sentence on account of his Letany, and another work entitled Apologeticus ad Praesules Anglicanos, which were written while the author was a prisoner in the Gatehouse of Westminster, and contained a severe attack upon the Laudian party, the High Commission, and the Church of England. He had previously been imprisoned and fined 1,000 pounds for his former works Elenchus Papisticae Religionis and Flagellum Pontificis.
During this period of severe literary criticism lived John Selden, an author of much industry and varied learning. He was a just, upright, and fearless man, who spoke his mind, upheld what he deemed to be right in the conduct of either King or Parliament, and was one of the best characters in that strange drama of the Great Rebellion. He was the friend and companion of Littleton, the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, and together they studied the Records, and were expert in the Books of Law, being the greatest antiquaries in the profession. Selden had a great affection for Charles; but the latter was exceedingly enraged because Selden in an able speech in the House of Commons declared the unlawfulness of the Commission of Array, for calling out the Militia in the King’s name, founded upon an ancient Act of Parliament in the reign of Henry IV., which Selden said had been repealed. When Lord Falkland wrote a friendly letter to remonstrate with him, he replied courteously and frankly, recapitulating his arguments, and expressing himself equally opposed to the ordinance of the Parliamentarians, who wished to summon the Militia without the authority of the King. With equal impartiality and vigour Selden declared the illegality of this measure, and expected that the Commons would have rejected it, but he found that “they who suffered themselves to be entirely governed by his Reason when those conclusions resulted from it which contributed to their own designs, would not be at all guided by it, or submit to it, when it persuaded that which contradicted and would disappoint those designs.” [Footnote: Clarendon’s History of the Rebellion, vol. i., p. 667.] His work De Decimis, in which he tried to prove that the giving of tithes was not ordered by any Divine command, excited much contention, and aroused the animosity of the clergy. In consequence of this in 1621 he was imprisoned, and remained in custody for five years. On the dissolution of Parliament in 1629, being obnoxious to the royal party, he was sent to the Tower, and then confined in a house of correction for pirates. But as a compensation for his injuries in 1647 he received L5,000 from the public purse and became a member of the Long Parliament. He was by no means a strong partisan of the Puritan party, and when asked by Cromwell to reply to the published works in favour of the martyred King he refused. He lived until 1654 and wrote several works, amongst which are Mare clausum, which was opposed to the Mare liberum of the learned Dutch historian Grotius, Commentaries on the Arundel Marbles (1629), and Researches into the History of the Legislation of the Hebrews.
John Tutchin, afterwards editor of the Observator, was punished by the merciless Jeffreys in his Bloody Assize for writing seditious verses, and sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment and to be flogged every year through a town in Dorsetshire. The court was filled with indignation at this cruel sentence, and Tutchin prayed rather to be hanged at once. This privilege was refused, but as the poor prisoner, a mere youth, was taken ill with smallpox, his sentence was remitted. Tutchin became one of the most pertinacious and vehement enemies of the House of Stuart.
Delaune’s Plea for the Nonconformists was very fatal to its author, and landed him in Newgate, where the poor man died. Some account of this book and its author is given in a previous volume of the Book-Lover’s Library (Books Condemned to be Burnt), and the writer founds upon it an attack upon the Church of England, whereas the Church had about as much to do with the persecution of poor Delaune as the writer of Condemned Books! There are other conclusions and statements also propounded by the writer of that book, which to one less intolerant than himself would appear entirely unwarrantable. But this is not the place for controversy.
A book entitled Julian the Apostate was very fatal to that turbulent divine Samuel Johnson, who in the reign of Charles II. made himself famous for his advocacy of the cause of civil liberty and “no popery.” He lived in very turbulent times, when the question of the rights of the Duke of York, an avowed Roman Catholic, to the English throne was vehemently disputed, and allied himself with the party headed by the Earl of Essex and Lord William Russell. He preached with great force against the advocates of popery, and (in his own words) threw away his liberty with both hands, and with his eyes open, for his country’s service. Then he wrote his book in reply to a sermon by Dr. Hickes, who was in favour of passive obedience, and compared the future King to the Roman Emperor surnamed the Apostate. This made a great sensation, which was not lessened by the report that he had indited a pamphlet entitled Julian’s Arts to undermine and extirpate Christianity. Johnson was subsequently condemned to a fine of one hundred marks, and imprisoned. On his release his efforts did not flag. He wrote An Humble and Hearty Address to all the Protestants in the Present Army at the time when the Stuart monarch had assembled a large number of troops at Hounslow Heath in order to overawe London. This was the cause of further misfortunes; he was condemned to stand in the pillory, to pay another five hundred marks, to be degraded from the ministry, and publicly whipped from Newgate to Tyburn. When the Revolution came he expected a bishopric as the reward of his sufferings; but he was scarcely the man for the episcopal bench. He refused the Deanery of Durham, and had to content himself with a pension and a gift of L1,000.
All men mourn the fate of Algernon Sidney, who perished on account of his political opinions; and his Discourse on the Government, a manuscript which was discovered by the authorities at his house, furnished his enemies with a good pretext. A corrupt jury, presided over by the notorious Jeffreys, soon condemned poor headstrong Sidney to death. He was beheaded in 1683. His early life, his hatred of all in authority, whether Charles I. or Cromwell, his revolutionary instincts, are well known. A few extracts from his fatal MS. will show the author’s ideas:--“The supreme authority of kings is that of the laws, and the people are in a state of dependence upon the laws.” “Liberty is the mother of virtues, and slavery the mother of vices.” “All free peoples have the right to assemble whenever and wherever they please.” “A general rising of a nation does not deserve the name of a revolt. It is the people for whom and by whom the Sovereign is established, who have the sole power of judging whether he does, or does not, fulfil his duties.” In the days of “the Divine Right of Kings” such sentiments could easily be charged with treason.
Political authors in other lands have often shared the fate of our own countrymen, and foremost among these was Edmund Richer, a learned doctor of the Sorbonne, Grand Master of the College of Cardinal Le Moine, and Syndic of the University of Paris. He ranks among unfortunate authors on account of his work entitled De Ecclesiastica et Politica, potestate (1611), which aroused the anger of the Pope and his Cardinals, and involved him in many difficulties. This remarkable work, extracted chiefly from the writings of Gerson, was directed against the universal temporal power of the Pope, advocated the liberties of the Gallican Church, and furnished Protestant theologians with weapons in order to defend themselves against the champions of the Ultramontane party. He argues that ecclesiastical authority belongs essentially to the whole Church. The Pope and the bishops are its ministers, and form the executive power instituted by God. The Pope is the ministerial head of the Church; our Lord Jesus Christ is the Absolute Chief and Supreme Pastor. The Pope has no power of making canons; that authority belongs to the universal Church, and to general councils. Richer was seized by certain emissaries of a Catholic leader as he entered the college of the Cardinal, and carried off to prison, from which he was ultimately released on the intercession of his friends and of the University. But Richer’s troubles did not end when he regained his freedom. Having been invited to supper by Father Joseph, a Capuchin monk, he went to the house, not suspecting any evil intentions on the part of his host. But when he entered the room where the feast was prepared he found a large company of his enemies. The door was closed behind him, daggers were drawn by the assembled guests, and they demanded from him an immediate retractation of all the opinions he had advanced in his work. The drawn daggers were arguments which our unhappy author was unable to resist. As a reward for all his labour and hard study he was obliged to live as an exile, as he mournfully complained, in the midst of a kingdom whose laws he strenuously obeyed, nor dared to set foot in the college of which he had been so great an ornament. In his latter days Richer’s studies were his only comfort. His mind was not fretted by any ambition, but he died in the year 1633, overcome by his grief on account of his unjust fate, and fearful of the powerful enemies his book had raised. The age of Richelieu was not a very safe period for any one who had unhappily excited the displeasure of powerful foes.
A strange work of a wild fanatic, John de Falkemberg, entitled Diatribe contre Ladislas, Roi de Pologne, was produced at the beginning of the fifteenth century, and condemned by the Council of Constance in 1414. Falkemberg addressed himself to all kings, princes, prelates, and all Christian people, promising them eternal life, if they would unite for the purpose of exterminating the Poles and slaying their king. The author was condemned to imprisonment at Constance on account of his insane book. As there were no asylums for lunatics in those days, perhaps that was the wisest course his judges could adopt.
The hostility of the Pope to authors who did not agree with his political views has been excited by many others, amongst whom we may mention the learned Pietro Sarpi, born at Venice in 1552. He joined the order of the Servites, who paid particular veneration to the Blessed Virgin, and of that order Sarpi and a satirical writer named Doni were the most distinguished members. Sarpi adopted the name of Paul, and is better known by his title Fra Paolo. He studied history, and wrote several works in defence of the rights and liberties of the Venetian Republic against the arrogant assumptions of Pope Paul V. The Venetians were proud of their defender, and made him their consultant theologian and a member of the famous Council of Ten. But the spiritual weapons of the Pope were levied against the bold upholder of Venetian liberties, and he was excommunicated. His Histoire de l’Interdit (Venice, 1606) exasperated the Papal party. One evening in the following year, as Sarpi was returning to his monastery, he was attacked by five assassins, and, pierced with many wounds, fell dead at their feet. The authorship of this crime it was not hard to discover, as the murderers betook themselves to the house of the Papal Nuncio, and thence fled to Rome. In this book Sarpi vigorously exposed the unlawfulness and injustice of the power of excommunication claimed by the Pope, and showed he had no right or authority to proscribe others for the sake of his own advantage. Sarpi wrote also a history of the Council of Trent, published in London, 1619. His complete works were published in Naples in 1790, in twenty-four volumes.
Another Venetian statesman, Jerome Maggi, very learned in archaeology, history, mathematics, and other sciences, hastened his death by his writings. He was appointed by the Venetians a judge of the town of Famagousta, in the island of Cyprus, which was held by the powerful Republic from the year 1489 to 1571. After one of the most bloody sieges recorded in history, the Turks captured the stronghold, losing 50,000 men. Maggi was taken captive and conducted in chains to Constantinople. Unfortunately he whiled away the tedious hours of his captivity by writing two books, De equuleo and De tintinnabulis, remarkable for their learning, composed entirely without any reference to other works in the squalor of a Turkish prison. He dedicated the books to the Italian and French ambassadors to the Sublime Porte, who were much pleased with them and endeavoured to obtain the release of the captive. Their efforts unhappily brought about the fate which they were trying to avert. For when the affair became known, as Maggi was being conducted to the Italian ambassador, the captain of the prison ordered him to be brought back and immediately strangled in the prison.
The unhappy Jean Lenoir, Canon of Seez, was doomed in 1684 to a life-long servitude in the galleys, after making a public retractation of his errors in the Church of Notre-Dame, at Paris. His impetuous and impassioned eloquence is displayed in all his writings, which were collected and published under the title Recueil de Requetes et de Factums. The titles of some of his treatises will show how obnoxious they were to the ruling powers—e.g., Heresie de la domination episcopale que l’on etablit en France, Protestation contre les assemblees du clerge de 1681, etc. These were the causes of the severe persecutions of which he was the unhappy victim. He was fortunate enough to obtain a slight alleviation of his terrible punishment by writing a Complainte latine, in which he showed that the author, although black in name (le noir), was white in his virtues and his character. He was released from the galleys, and sent to prison instead, being confined at Saint Malo, Brest, and Nantes, where he died in 1692.
In times less remote, Simon Linguet, a French political writer (born in 1736), found himself immured in the Bastille on account of his works, which gave great offence to the ruling powers. His chief books were his Histoire Impartiale des Jesuites (1768, 2 vols., in-l2) and his Annales Politiques. After his release he wrote an account of his imprisonment, which created a great sensation, and aroused the popular indignation against the Bastille which was only appeased with its destruction. Linguet’s Annales Politiques was subsequently published in Brussels in 1787, for which he was rewarded by the Emperor Joseph II. with a present of 1,000 ducats. Linguet’s experiences in the Bastille rendered him a persona grata to the revolutionary party, in which he was an active agent; but, alas for the fickleness of the mob! he himself perished at the hands of the wretches whose madness he had inspired, and was guillotined at Paris in 1794. The pretext of his condemnation was that he had incensed by his writings the despots of Vienna and London.
The Jesuit controversy involved many authors in ruin, amongst others Abbe Caveirac, who wrote Appel a la Raison des Ecrits et Libelles publies contre les Jesuites, par Jean Novi de Caveirac (Bruxelles, 1762, 2 vols., in-12). This book was at once suppressed, and its author was condemned to imprisonment in 1764, and then sent to the pillory, and afterwards doomed to perpetual exile. He was accused of having written an apology for the slaughter of the Protestants on the eve of St. Bartholomew’s Day, but our last mentioned author, Linguet, endeavours to clear his memory from that charge.
A friend of Linguet, Darigrand, wrote a book entitled L’Antifinancier, ou Releve de quelques-unes des malversations dont se rendent journellement les Fermiers-Generaux, et des vexations qu’ils commettent dans les provinces (Paris, Lambert, 1764, 2 vols., in-12). It was directed against the abominable system of taxation in vogue in France, which was mainly instrumental in producing the Revolution. Darigrand was a lawyer, and had been employed in la ferme generale. He knew all the iniquities of that curious institution; he knew the crushing taxes which were levied, and the tender mercies of the “cellar-rats,” the gnawing bailiffs, who knew no pity. Indignant and disgusted by the whole business, he wrote his vehement exposure L’Antifinancier. The government wished to close his mouth by giving him a lucrative post under the same profitable system. This our author indignantly refused; and that method of enforcing silence having failed, another more forcible one was immediately adopted. Darigrand was sent to the Bastille in January 1763. His book is a most forcible and complete exposure of that horrible system of extortion, torture, and ruination which made a reformation or a revolution inevitable.
Authors have often been compelled to eat their words, but the operation has seldom been performed literally. In the seventeenth century, owing to the disastrous part which Christian IV. of Denmark took in the Thirty Years’ War, his kingdom was shorn of its ancient power and was overshadowed by the might of Sweden. One Theodore Reinking, lamenting the diminished glory of his race, wrote a book entitled Dania ad exteros de perfidia Suecorum (1644). It was not a very excellent work, neither was its author a learned or accurate historian, but it aroused the anger of the Swedes, who cast Reinking into prison. There he remained many years, when at length he was offered his freedom on the condition that he should either lose his head or eat his book. Our author preferred the latter alternative, and with admirable cleverness devoured his book when he had converted it into a sauce. For his own sake we trust his work was not a ponderous or bulky volume.
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