Skip to main content

Print, Censorship, and Ideological Escalation in the English Civil War

  • David R. Como
Hide All

1 For a distinct, if complementary, recent attempt to think about the process of ideological escalation, see Braddick, Michael J., “History, Liberty, Reformation and the Cause: Parliamentarian Military and Ideological Escalation in 1643,” in The Experience of Revolution in Stuart Britain and Ireland, ed. Braddick, Michael J. and Smith, David L. (Cambridge, 2011), 117–34.

2 For a classic statement of this view, see Hill, Christopher, “Censorship and English Literature,” in Writing and Revolution in 17th Century England (Amherst, MA, 1985).

3 For an early and influential return to the problem of censorship, see Patterson, A., Censorship and Interpretation: The Conditions of Writing and Reading in Early Modern England (Madison, WI, 1984); for the emerging revisionist view, see Worden, A. B., “Literature and Political Censorship in Early Modern England,” in Too Mighty to Be Free: Censorship and the Press in Britain and the Netherlands, ed. Duke, A. C. and Tamse, C. A. (Zutphen, 1987), 4562; Lambert, Sheila, “Richard Montagu, Arminianism and Censorship,” Past and Present 124 (August 1989): 3668; Lambert, Sheila, “The Printers and the Government, 1604–1637,” in Aspects of Printing from 1600, ed. Myers, Robin and Harris, Michael (Winchester, 1992); Clegg, Cyndia, Press Censorship in Elizabethan England (Cambridge, 1997), and Press Censorship in Jacobean England (Cambridge, 2001); Shuger, Deborah, Censorship and Cultural Sensibility (Philadelphia, 2006).

4 Mendle, Michael, “De Facto Freedom, De Facto Authority: Press and Parliament, 1640–1643,” The Historical Journal 38, no. 2 (June 1995): 307–32; Peacey, Jason, Politicians and Pamphleteers: Propaganda during the English Civil Wars and Interregnum (Aldershot, 2004); McElligott, Jason, Royalism, Print and Censorship in Revolutionary England (Woodbridge, 2007).

5 For a more comprehensive discussion, see Como, David, “Search and Seize: Partisan Publishers and Press Controls in Thomason’s London,” in Collecting Revolution: the History and Significance of the Thomason Tracts, ed. Mandelbrote, Giles and Peacey, Jason (forthcoming).

6 For another recent work that treats the broader context of the book, see Hughes, Ann, “Milton, Areopagitica, and the Parliamentary Cause,” in The Oxford Handbook of Milton, ed. McDowell, Nicholas and Smith, Nigel (Oxford, 2009), 200217; for attempts to address the ideological context(s), see Wilding, Michael, “Milton’s Areopagitica: Liberty for the Sects,” in The Literature of Controversy, ed. Corns, Thomas (London, 1987), 738; Smith, Nigel, “Areopagitica: Voicing Contexts, 1643–5,” in Politics, Poetics, and Hermeneutics in Milton’s Prose, ed. Loewenstein, David and Turner, James Grantham (Cambridge, 1990), 103–22; for a different assessment from the one offered here, see McKenzie, D. F., “The London Book Trade in 1644,” in Bibliographia: Lectures 1975–1988 by Recipients of the Marc Fitch Prize, ed. Horden, John (Oxford, 1992), 131–52.

7 For an account stressing the dramatic and revolutionary nature of this change, see Cressy, David, England on Edge: Crisis and Revolution, 1640–1642 (Oxford, 2006).

8 Changes during the 1630s had invested ever more power in these courts, leaving the stationers less authority to police their own members and thus creating an even greater vacuum than might have been the case earlier. See Clegg, Cyndia, Press Censorship in Caroline England (Cambridge, 2008), 186234.

9 [William Walwyn], The Compassionate Samaritane (1644), sig. A4r; John Milton, Areopagitica; A Speech of John Milton For the Liberty of Unlicenc’d Printing (1644), 26 (British Library [BL], Thomason Tracts, shelf mark: E.18[9]; hereafter, all Thomason Tracts items will be cited by shelf mark); Vox Plebis, Or, The Peoples Out-cry Against Oppression, Injustice, and Tyranny (1646), title page, E.362[20].

10 See Mendle, “De Facto Freedom,” which outlines the succession of (failed) ordinances that Parliament passed to try to stem the tide; for the secret press and Overton’s involvement, see Como, David R., “Secret Printing, the Crisis of 1640, and the Origins of Civil War Radicalism,” Past and Present 196 (August 2007): 3782.

11 Firth, C. H. and Rait, R. S., eds., Acts and Ordinances of the Interregnum, 3 vols. (London, 1911), 1:184–86.

12 For an overview, see Sirluck, Ernest, ed., Complete Prose Works of John Milton, 8 vols. (New Haven, CT, 1953-), 2:160–63; for overlap in the arguments and language of the remonstrance and the ordinance, compare Firth and Rait, Acts and Ordinances, 1:184–86, against To the High Court of Parliament: The humble Remonstrance of the Company of Stationers, London (1643), E.247[23]. Thomason attributed the remonstrance to the parliamentary propagandist Henry Parker. Perhaps Parker used his well-known connections to major MPs to help craft the legislation. It is also worth noting that the Stationers’ Company counsel by early 1644 was the puritan lawyer William Prynne, who also had access to high-ranking MPs (Court Book C, fol. 200v, Stationers Company, Stationers Hall, London). These hypotheses must remain speculative in the absence of further evidence.

13 Firth and Rait, Acts and Ordinances, 1:184–87; Journals of the House of Commons (CJ) 3:123; Journals of the House of Lords (LJ) 6:95. The Ordinance passed the Commons on 10 June and the Lords on 14 June.

14 Diary of Lawrence Whitacre, BL, Add. MS 31116, fol. 56v.

15 Diary of Sir Simonds D’ewes, BL, Harleian MS 165, fols. 108v–113r, wherein D’ewes also alludes to his continuing membership on the committee.

16 Indeed, it is possible that despite Whitacre’s silence on the matter, the ordinance actually emerged from his Committee for Examinations, which five months earlier had been enjoined to “consider of some effectual Course for the speedy Suppressing the Printing of scandalous Pamphlets, and the inordinate Licentiousness of Printing” (CJ 2:953).

17 The National Archives (TNA): Public Record Office (PRO), SP 16/498/96A, fol. 174r. On 16 June, two days after the ordinance passed, the Commons had also ordered that the Royalist stationer Richard Royston be summoned as a delinquent. It is possible that this, too, related to the new ordinance, but firm evidence is lacking. CJ 3:131.

18 See Thomason’s note on A Discourse, or Parly, Continued betwixt Partricius and Peregrine (1643), E.61[14]. Herne was already in prison when the raid took place, but his wife and servants had continued to operate his business in his absence.

19 Court Book C, fol. 196v, Stationers Company, Stationers Hall.

20 Clement Walker, for instance, claimed that when he went to publish his attack on Lord Saye’s son, he “found the Presse obstructed.” Clement Walker, An Answer to Col: Nathaniel Fiennes Relation (1643), “To the Reader,” E.67[36]. He published anyway, without license.

21 Haller, William, Liberty and Reformation in the Puritan Revolution (New York, 1955), 112–88, remains an able survey. Additional material and commentary can be found in Sirluck’s “Introduction” in Sirluck, Prose Works of John Milton, vol. 2.

22 An Apologeticall Narration, Humbly Submitted to the Honourable Houses of Parliament (1644), E.80[7].

23 Two of the leading company men during this period were, for instance, Henry Seile and Robert Meade (not to be confused with the London salter of the same name), both of whom were suspected of royalist sympathies: see London Metropolitan Archives, Col/CC/01/01/41, fol. 22v; Lindley, Keith, Popular Politics and Religion in Civil War London (Aldershot, 1997), 193; Diary of Walter Yonge, BL, Add. MS 18777, fol. 109a; McElligott, Royalism, 141–42, 180. The most notably godly member of the court of assistants in these years was John Bellamy, a rabid parliamentarian, but also in the months to come, a zealous presbyterian. The enlistment of Prynne as company counsel is also perhaps indicative of the orientation of the leadership.

24 To the Right Honourable, the Supreme Authority of this Nation, the Commons of England in Parliament Assembled (1649), 669.f.13[73].

25 The Leveller petition claimed that he “suffered … for printing” his book (ibid.), suggesting that despite its wording, the bond was imposed after the book had already been printed, presumably to preempt republication or further circulation of the text. It remains possible, however, that the book was surreptitiously printed after the entry of the bond, in which case Eames and Walwyn presumably forfeited their money.

26 TNA, PRO SP 28/131, part 3, fol. 11r–v.

27 Thomas Edwards, The Third Part of Gangraena. Or, A New and Higher Discovery of the Errors, Heresies, Blasphemies, and insolent Proceedings of the Sectaries (1646), 112, E.368[5], where Edwards refers to it as “Blunt, Emmes, and Wrighters Church”; Wynell, Thomas, The Covenants Plea for Infants (Oxford, 1642), sig. Bv, E.115[17].

28 Edwards, Third Part of Gangraena, 112–13.

29 Thomas Edwards correctly claimed that by 1645, the two men were collaborating together. See TNA, PRO C54/3357 (11), for an important document of 1646, discovered by Keith Lindley, which shows Walwyn and Writer entering into a legal arrangement; see also TNA, PRO, PROB 11/307, fols. 233–234, for Writer’s will, in which he left substantial bequests to Walwyn, Walwyn’s daughters, and Walwyn’s son-in-law.

30 L[awrence] S[anders], The Fulnesse of Gods Love Manifested: Or, A Treatise discovering the Love of God, in giving Christ for All (1643), 137, E.1158[1].

31 For an account stressing the fluidity of baptist communities and arguing that the sharp divide between particular and general baptists was still very much in formation in 1643, see Wright, Stephen, The Early English Baptists, 1603–1649 (Woodbridge, 2006).

32 S[anders], Fulnesse, 25–28. Sanders explicitly argued that when people died, their souls did not go to hell, and he hinted that the like was true of heaven (only at the last judgment and resurrection would God mete out reward and condemnation). Thomason acquired Mans Mortallitie on 19 January 1644. For the printing of Mans Mortallitie, see Como, “Secret Printing,” 68–74; for the various shadings of mortalist sentiment during the period, see Burns, Norman, Christian Mortalism from Tyndale to Milton (Cambridge, MA, 1972).

33 S[anders], Fulnesse, 154, 157, 158. On antinomianism, see Como, David R., Blown by the Spirit: Puritanism and the Emergence of an Antinomian Underground in Pre–Civil War England (Stanford, CA, 2004).

34 S[anders], Fulnesse, 165–66.

35 For Walwyn’s flirtation with mortalist ideas, see H[umphrey] B[rooke], The Charity of Church-men: or, A Vindication of Mr William Walwyn Merchant (1649), 4, E.556[20]. Although Brooke suggested that his father-in-law Walwyn pulled back from overt heterodoxy, his account of Walwyn’s position—that a literal hell was to be expected “succeeding judgment”—suggested that he believed that condemnation to hell followed the resurrection and last judgment, which mirrors exactly Sanders’s stance. For Walwyn’s own self-identification as antinomian, see William Walwyn, Walwyns Just Defence (1643), 8; for an expression of both universalism and antinomianism, see The Power of Love (1643), E.1206[2], usually attributed to Walwyn.

36 For his military service, and for the earlier run-ins with authority, see Main Papers, HL/PO/JO/10/14/9/3599 (undated petition of Abigail Dexter), Parliamentary Archives; CJ 2:205–6, 269–70.

37 The final title on which Oulton’s name appeared was Mather, Richard, Church-Government and Church-Covenant Discussed, In an Answer of the Elders of the severall Churches in New-England (London: Printed by R[ichard] O[ulton] and G[regory] D[exter] for Benjamin Allen, 1643), E.106[8], which was acquired by George Thomason on 15 June. After this point, Dexter’s name appears alone on all titles.

38 On Crispe, see Hill, Christopher, “Dr. Tobias Crispe, 1600–1643,” in Balliol Studies, ed. Prest, John M. (London, 1982); Parnham, David, “The Humbling of ‘High Presumption’: Tobias Crisp Dismantles the Puritan Ordo Salutis,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 56, no. 1 (January 2005): 5074.

39 Tobias Crisp, Christ Alone Exalted in Fourteene Sermons (1643), E.1106[1]. Thomason dated it 22 July 1643. Richard Badger printed it, at the charge of “M.C.,” and the prefatory materials bore Lancaster’s name.

40 Diary of John Lightfoot, MS Dd. 14. 21, fols. 14v, 24r, 29r, Cambridge University Library.

41 Tobias Crisp, Christ Alone Exalted; In Seventeene Sermons: Preached In or Neare London (1643), sig. Ar, 31. The printing history of this book is very complicated, and it survives in at least four different states. The copy in the Thomason Tracts (BL, E.1107[1]) was executed using two typefaces; the one associated with Dexter was used for the first three sheets (including those pages in which the incriminating ornaments appear) and the final sheet of the book.

42 For this initial “T” in a less damaged state, see Lewes Roberts, Warfare Epitomized (1640), 1, printed by Oulton, soon to be Dexter’s partner.

43 John Milton, The Judgement of Martin Bucer, Concerning Divorce (1644), sig. B2r, E.4[19], which claims that Milton attached his name because many had already surmised that he was the author.

44 On this, see Thompson, Claud A., “‘Coded’ Signatures: A Printer’s Clue to the Bibliographical Tangle of The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce (1644),” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 68, third quarter (1974): 297305, drawing on the extended account in Thompson, Claud Adelbert, “Milton’s The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce: A Bibliographical Study” (PhD diss., University of Wisconsin, 1971).

45 Parker, William R., “Contributions toward a Milton Bibliography,” The Library 16, no. 4 (March 1936): 425–38.

46 [Williams, Roger], Queries of Highest Consideration, Proposed to the five Holland Ministers and Scotch Commissioners (So Called.) Upon occasion of their late Printed Apologies for themselves and their Churches (1643), 3, 6–8, E.32[8].

47 For its identification as the work of Williams, see Guild, R. A., “Introductory Remarks,” to “Queries of Highest Consideration,” in Publications of the Narragansett Club, 1st ser., 2 (1867): 110.

48 Queries of Highest Consideration, sig. A2r.

49 The use of these ornaments was noted in 1947 by Bradford Swan, who identified Dexter as the likely printer of both Mr Cottons Letter Lately Printed and Queries of Highest Consideration. Swan, Bradford F., Gregory Dexter of London and New England, 1610–1700 (Rochester, NY, 1949), 4849.

50 Court Book C, fol. 197r, Stationers Hall, Stationers Company. The text has now been printed in McKenzie, D. F. and Bell, Maureen, A Chronology and Calendar of Documents Relating to the London Book Trade, 1641–1700, 3 vols. (Oxford, 2005), 1:109.

51 See Two Speeches spoken at a Common Hall Octob. 27 1643. 1. By Sir Henry Vane. 2. By Master Marshall (1643), E.74[7]. This pamphlet claimed that it had been “Printed for Peter Cole.” Typographical analysis shows that the first sheet was indeed printed in the same typeface as a number of other pamphlets produced either “by” or “for” Cole in 1643 and 1644. The second sheet of the book was, however, executed in a different typeface, and used printers’ ornaments that belonged to Gregory Dexter. This collaboration raises very interesting questions about the relationship between the two men, and in turn about Overton’s role. It is not impossible, for instance, that some sort of combination or partnership lurked behind Dexter’s line in illicit pamphlets, although in the absence of concrete evidence, this remains speculative. For comments on Cole’s 1643–44 pamphlets, see Como, “Secret Printing,” 70–74.

52 Court Book C, fol. 202v, Stationers Company, Stationers Hall (McKenzie and Bell, Chronology, 1:116).

53 This presumes that the seizure mentioned when Dexter sold his press was one and the same as the raid that took place on 5 February. This seems the most likely reading of the evidence. However, it remains possible that there were two separate raids, one in February, and one later in the spring. Although Dexter’s name ceased to appear on books after 5 February, there survives one book from March 1643/4 that shows the cracked, historiated “T” that Dexter had employed in printing Williams’s Key and Crispe’s sermons: Richard Mather and William Tompson, A Modest & Brotherly Answer To Mr. Charles Herle his Book (1644), sig. A2r, E.37[19]. This book was printed (with license) for the bookseller Henry Overton; Thomason purchased it on 15 March. Perhaps only one of Dexter’s presses was disassembled, and he retained access to another. Or perhaps his business was shut down, but some of the printing materials escaped seizure, and were employed by someone else (it should be noted that Dexter’s ornaments were eventually dispersed to more than one other printer: the crucial broken factotum, which had been used on books by Crispe, Milton, and Williams, was acquired by Matthew Simmons: see John White, The Troubles of Jerusalems Restauration (1646), 1, E.310[1]. This has misled at least one later commentator into identifying Simmons as the printer of the 1644 edition of The Doctrine and Discipline; adding an additional twist to the story, the same ornament was used on one of the 1645 editions of The Doctrine and Discipline, strongly implicating Simmons as the probable printer). Finally, it is possible that Dexter began work on the book and that it was completed by another party, a possibility rendered somewhat more likely by the fact that the book appears to have been executed using two different typefaces (compare Mather and Tompson, Modest & Brotherly Answer, 2–3, against subsequent pages).

54 See Swan, Gregory Dexter.

55 See, e.g., W. K. Jordan, Men of Substance (Chicago, 1942); Haller, Liberty and Reformation; Sirluck, “Introduction.”

56 [Henry Robinson], Liberty of Conscience, or the Sole means to obtaine Peace and Truth (1643), 27. E.39[1].

57 [Walwyn], Compassionate Samaritane, sig. A4r–v, 38–39, 59–60.

58 For the former strain of argument, see ibid., 45.

59 Ibid., 21–41, 47–48.

60 Ibid., 64–68. As is clear from his statements here, when Walwyn referred to “parliament,” he meant the two houses alone (as distinct from the king) and not the king-in-parliament. It is this that gives his closing comments on treason such implicit force.

61 Remonstrans Redivivus: Or, An Accompt of the Remonstrance and Petition (1643), E.61[21]. For Walwyn’s involvement, see Walwyn, Just Defence, 8. For the best analysis of the Remonstrance, see Brenner, Robert, Merchants and Revolution: Commercial Change, Political Conflict, and London’s Overseas Traders, 1550–1653 (Princeton, NJ, 1993), 444–48.

62 For a similar tendency in Milton’s later thought, see Worden, Blair, “Milton’s Republicanism and the Tyranny of Heaven,” in Machiavelli and Republicanism, ed. Bock, Gisela, Skinner, Quentin, and Viroli, Maurizio (Cambridge, 1990), 230–31.

63 [William Walwyn], A Helpe to the right understanding of a Discourse Concerning Independency (1645), 4, E.259[2]. For Walwyn’s admission of authorship of this work, see Walwyn, Just Defence, 31.

64 Englands Lamentable Slaverie (1645), 4, 5, E.304[19]. For discussion of the immediate context of this pamphlet, see Como, David R., “An Unattributed Pamphlet by William Walwyn: New Light on the Prehistory of the Leveller Movement,” Huntington Library Quarterly 69, no. 3 (September 2006): 353–82.

65 See Como, “An Unattributed Pamphlet”; Gregg, Pauline, Free-Born John: The Biography of John Lilburne (London, 2000), 112–46; W. Prynne, The Lyar Confounded (1645), 3–8, E. 267[1]; David R. Adams, “The Secret Printing and Publishing Career of Richard Overton the Leveller, 1644–46,” The Library, 7th ser., 11, no. 1 (March 2010): 3–88.

66 Como, “Unattributed Pamphlet by William Walwyn”; for Overton’s press, see the comprehensive account in Adams, “Secret Printing.”

67 Walwyn, Just Defence, 25; Richard Overton, A Defiance against all Arbitrary Usurpations Or Encroachments (1646), 26, E.353[17].

68 To the Right Honourable, the Supreme Authority of this Nation.

69 Milton seems to accept the notion of postpublication punishment, which renders problematic his status as the progenitor of modern notions of press freedom. But see Fulton, Thomas, Historical Milton: Manuscript, Print, and Political Culture in Revolutionary England (Amherst, MA, 2010), 102.

70 In Martin Bucer, sig. B2v, Milton notes that he dedicated the second edition of The Doctrine and Discipline to Parliament, expecting that “the house of justice and true liberty” would accept it, and remarked that “Nor doth the event hitherto, for some reasons which I shall not heer deliver, faile me of what I conceiv’d so highly.” Scholars have seized on this cryptic remark—with its allusion to a nameless “event”—to argue that Milton tried at some point unsuccessfully to obtain a license for The Doctrine and Discipline. This strikes me as a large inference from very thin evidence. If Milton was alluding to any specific event—doubtful, but not impossible—it might now seem more plausible to suggest that he was referring to the ruin of his printer. For slight variants on the aforementioned interpretation, see Sirluck, Prose Works of John Milton, 2:140–41, 435, 479; Parker, William Riley, Milton: A Biography, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1968), 1:262–63; Lewalski, Barbara, The Life of John Milton (London, 2000), 169, 180.

71 Milton, Martin Bucer, sig. B3r, which Thomason acquired on 6 August, claimed that The Doctrine and Discipline had been “twice printed, twice bought up.”

72 Most famously in a parliamentary fast sermon, delivered in August 1643 and published as Herbert Palmer, The Glass of Gods Providence Towards his Faithfull Ones (1644), 57, E.6[8].

73 Diary of Lawrence Whitacre, BL, Add. MS 31116, fol. 156v.

74 CJ 3:606. Depending on the text of the Stationers’ petition, this might suggest that the Stationers themselves were unaware that Dexter had printed the second edition of The Doctrine and Discipline.

75 Scholars have frequently (and misleadingly) suggested on the basis of the Commons’ response on 26 August that the petition and ordinance must have been directed primarily against unlicensed printing, and hence, that the new ordinance would have been obliquely directed against Milton (see, e.g., Parker, Milton, 1:264–65). Compare Court Book C, fol. 206v, Stationers Company, Stationers Hall, London: on 20 September 1644, “The peticion by the Company preferred to the Parliament for the printing of the Bibles, the order thereupon for an ordinance, and the said ordinance nowe drawen up, were publiquely read,” amended, and approved; ibid., fol. 216r shows it had still not been passed in early 1645; a draft ordinance in Main Papers, HL/PO/JO/10/1/173, 18 September 1644, Parliamentary Archives (but in fact endorsed only “1644”) is not the ordinance under discussion here, as it does not deal with bibles at all.

76 For the classic account of the immediate context of the publication of Areopagitica, see Masson, David, The Life of John Milton, 7 vols. (London, 1873), 3:160–65, 255–75; Sirluck, Prose Works of John Milton, 2:142, closely follows Masson’s account.

77 A tradition inaugurated in Kendall, Willmore, “How to Read Milton’s Areopagitica,” Journal of Politics 22, no. 3 (August 1960): 439–73; and furthered by Illo, John, “The Misreading of Milton’s Areopagitica,” in Radical Perspectives in the Arts, ed. Baxandall, Lee (Harmondsworth, 1972), 178–92; for later and varying iterations, see Abee Blum, “The Author’s Authority: Areopagitica and the Labour of Licensing”; and Fish, Stanley, “Driving from the Letter: Truth and Indeterminacy in Milton’s Areopagitica” in Re-membering Milton: Essays on Texts and Traditions, ed. Nyquist, Mary and Ferguson, Margaret W. (New York, 1988), 7496, 234–54; Gertz-Robinson, Genelle, “Still Martyred after All These Years: Generational Suffering in Milton’s Areopagitica,” ELH 70, no. 4 (Winter 2003): 963–87. Into this category might also fit the Straussian reading found in Paul M. Dowling, Polite Wisdom: Heathen Rhetoric in Milton’s Areopagitica (Lanham, MD, 1995).

78 See, e.g., Loewenstein, David, “Areopagitica and the Dynamics of History,” Studies in English Literature 28, no. 1 (Winter 1988): 7793; Klinge, Marcus, “The Grotesque in Milton’s Areopagitica,” Milton Studies 45 (2006): 82128; Sucich, Glenn, “‘Not without Dust and Heat’: Alchemy and Areopagitica,” in The Uncircumscribed Mind: Reading Milton Deeply, ed. Durham, Charles W. and Pruit, Kristin A. (Selingrove, 2008): 4466.

79 Achinstein, Sharon, Milton and the Revolutionary Reader (Princeton, 1994); Norbrook, David, Writing the English Republic: Poetry, Rhetoric and Politics, 1627–1660 (Cambridge, 1999), 118–39; Hoxby, Blair, “The Trade of Truth Advanced: Areopagitica, Economic Discourse, and Libertarian Reform,” Milton Studies 36 (1998): 177–97; Rose, Mark, “The Public Sphere and the Emergence of Copyright: Areopagitica, the Stationers’ Company, and the Statute of Anne,” in Privilege and Property: Essays on the History of Copyright, ed. Deazley, Ronan, Kretschmer, Martin, and Bently, Lionel (Cambridge, 2010), 6788.

80 Norbrook, English Republic; Dzelzainis, Martin, “John Milton, Areopagitica,” in A Companion to Literature from Milton to Blake, ed. Womersley, David (Oxford, 2000), 151–58; Nelson, Eric, “‘True Liberty’: Isocrates and Milton’s Areopagitica,” Milton Studies 40 (2001): 201–21.

81 See, e.g., Fish, “Driving from the Letter,” 235: “Milton is finally, and in a profound way, not against licensing, and … has almost no interest at all in the ‘freedom of the press’ as an abstract or absolute good.”

82 Milton suggested that in an ideal regime of press regulation, printers would identify themselves by openly registering their work; however, by mid-1644 the operations of the licensing regime had rendered publishers highly vulnerable, ensuring that those who aspired to produce certain kinds of controversial material could do so only by shrouding themselves in anonymity. Areopagitica is itself ironic testimony to this reality: unlicensed, lacking imprint, and executed with minimal ornamentation, the book has succeeded in concealing its printer for nearly four centuries. Milton, Areopagitica, 39.

83 See, e.g., the highly uncertain account of this trajectory as outlined in Campbell, Gordon and Corns, Thomas N., John Milton: Life, Work, and Thought (Oxford, 2008), 159–61, 192–95, 271–76.

84 For an attempt to argue that Milton’s position in Areopagitica was self-consciously republican, in a strong and indeed anti-monarchical sense, see Nelson, “True Liberty.”

85 Sirluck, Prose Works of John Milton, 2:479; Walwyn, Helpe, 2; [Walwyn], Lamentable Slaverie, 8.

86 “The Letters of Sir Cheney Culpeper (1647–1657),” ed. Braddick, M. J. and Greengrass, M., in Camden Miscellany XXXIII, Camden Society, 5th ser., vol. 7 (London, 1996), 181. The prophetic verses from Revelation cited by Culpepper were telling, if gruesome: “Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God; that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men.” For a prior discussion which sees parallels between Milton and Culpepper, and which in fact proposes that Culpepper might have read Areopagitica, see Norbrook, English Republic, 123–24.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of British Studies
  • ISSN: 0021-9371
  • EISSN: 1545-6986
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-british-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed