Sunday, June 24, 2012

“After this they fell all to dancing the Hays, about three flower-pots”: welcoming the apocalypse in Berkshire, 1650.

My text is a Thomason tract. Only ‘…ber’ for the month appears in his title page dating, it was perhaps September, certainly the 20th of the relevant month.

A most faithful relation of two wonderful passages which happened very lately (to wit, on the first and eighth days of this present September, being Lords days) in the parish of Bradfield in Berk-shire 1650.

The London writer has a preamble, in which the millenarian hopes entertained by Dr John Pordage and his wife are represented as (inevitably) the devil’s work prospering in Berkshire, just as they are prospering everywhere as never before:

“This is an Age of wonders: for I dare affirme, that since the deplorable Fall of our first Parents, at which time Sin was first ushered into the World, the ill spirit was never so busie, he never made such a harvest, or had such a latitude of power given him to ramble up and down in any part of the earth, as he hath had lately in this island; witness else in what various forms he hath appeared, and what sundry feats he hath played in Essex, Suffolk, Cambridge-shire, and other places, especially in Scotland, where thousands have been possest by him, and so brought to the Gallows: And now it seems he hath taken footing in Berk-shire, as appears by these two uncouth Examples following.”

The writer renders Pordage’s name as ‘Doctor Pordich’ (making me wonder how often you would give, in those spelling-permissive days, a subtly denigratory spelling to a person’s name – ‘poor ditch’). John Pordage, as his ODNB life makes clear, was only just holding on in the regular church. The ‘Commissioners for ejecting of Scandalous Ministers’ would finally oust him in 1655. Pordage seems to have been involved or interested in the Family of Love, was prone to denunciations of marriage, was accused of denying the Trinity, was a Behmenist; while the ‘Everet’ named here as the likely ‘conjurer’ who has directed the devil to make these possessions in Berkshire, was actually John Everard - Leveller, Grindletonian, alchemist, etc, etc.

So, what would be represented as diabolic intrusion into parish life in Berkshire was really product of Pordage’s earnest and ecstatic belief that the heavens were about to open. Marvellously, he was in his pulpit preaching when it became somehow apparent to him that the big moment had come, and he exited his church then and there, anxious to get back to where the real action was going to be:

“Doctor Pordich being preaching in the Parish-Church of Bradfield (on the eighth of this instant September, being Lords day) within a quarter of an hour he fell into a Trance, running out of the Church, and bellowing like a Bull, saying that he was called, and must be gone.”

In its small way, it is a moment with something of the significance of the famous time when Mohammed turned his followers round during worship, away from Jerusalem, and towards Mecca. The Vicar of Bradfield exits his church, to be translated into heaven from home, along with his true followers - his wife, and some of their female friends. In his case, it proved not to be so epochal.

Understandably, when he left his church at such a moment in such a state, Pordage was pursued and questioned, but only replied that he must be gone ‘home to his house’. Fortunately, William Foster (a local gentleman rich enough to own a coach) followed Pordage home and witnessed what happened when the vicar got home:

“Where being come, he going up the Stairs, found his Wife, (Mistress Pordich) Clothed all in White Lawne, from the crown of the head, to the sole of the foot, with a White Rod in her hand.”

What’s pleasing about all this is that the apocalypse seems to be egalitarian in regards to gender. Now Pordage had heterodox views about marriage, and ambiguous relations with a number of women. He probably regarded his women followers as being in a state higher than marriage anyway. But at this moment, his wife (in the eyes of the normal world) Mistress Pordage, is garbed as a prophetess, and will soon call for ‘Elijah’s mantle’. Female followers gather: “Mistress Chevill coming in fell on her knees, saying, That she was to meet with her Spouse, and her Prophetess. After this comes in Mistress Tracie, holding of her head, and making of strange noyses, that were heard within her, in a very hideous passion. After this they fell all to dancing the Hays, about three flower-pots…”

Mr Foster, who has followed from church, asks Pordage what is meant by the dancing, and learns that “It was a rejoicing, because they had overcome the Devil.” Of course, joy that you have vanquished Satan in Berkshire can easily be represented in London as Satan’s victory over you. Perhaps there is a Familist touch in Mistress Chevill arriving to meet ‘her Spouse’ – Christ? Pordage? Though being the man he was, Pordage was inclined to deny that there was very much significant difference.

“With that his Wife cries out for Elijah’s Mantle, and then comes up Mistress Chevill, and Mistress Pordich fell of adoring her; and then in came one Goodwife Pukerig, and bended her body, and kissed her knee; Mistress Pordich assuring her that there was a place prepared for her in heaven, to sit at the right hand of the Virgin Mary.”

‘Elijah’s mantle’ because of the second book of Kings, verse 11: “And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.” Mistress Pordage is ready to ascend to heaven without death, as happened to Elijah. (“Knowest thou that the Lord will take away thy master from thy head to day?”)

But, as usual with these moments when the rapture is about to commence, there’s a snag – someone is missing, and it seems that this someone, who perhaps was important in making up the right numbers, was Foster’s own wife. Foster, having seen enough, leaves, but is urgently sent after and asked to return, bringing his wife with him. With her husband very much awake to strange goings-on, Foster’s wife gets cold feet, and simply refuses to go. In his 1655 publication, Innocencie appearing, through the dark mists of pretended guilt, Pordage over-confidently (and very conveniently) cites all the charges that were made against him, and in that work, it sounds as though Mistress Foster was rather frightened by the thought of seeing the heavens opened, as had been promised. As for Foster himself, he was probably involved at some lesser level himself. His wife having refused to answer the summons to be present at this Pang Valley ascension into heaven, Foster “tooke his Coach, and went alone: so coming into the Doctors house, he found the Doctor sitting in a Chaire all in black Velvet.” Costumes, as ever with early modern culture, were important for the show – as prophetess, Mistress Pordage has head to foot white linen, and her husband, black velvet (costly material and dye!). The mantle of Elijah itself was probably still in a wardrobe waiting to be deployed.

Asked where his wife is, Foster says she is not well, and therefore she cannot come: “Then said the Doctor, there is nothing can be done without her.” Crisis indeed! Mistress Pordage also asks the coachman, and hears confirmation that it is all going wrong. But they seem to have endeavoured to prolong the celestial window of opportunity, perhaps in hope that Mistress Foster would relent and show up just in time: “So there they keep dancing of the Hayes, and Trenchmore, and expecting when they shall be taken up to heaven every hour.”

The writer concludes with a dark imputation – Everard, as witch, was directing all this from far away: “By what means this Distraction came, is not as yet certainly known; but it is thought it was done by one Everet (a man suspected to be a Sorcerer or Witch) who much-frequented the Doctors house, and would often play with the children; and he was seen at London in a frantick posture, much about the time that these things happened.”

The little tract has ‘two wonderful passages’, however. Out of a sense of social status, the London  writer has told the story of Doctor Pordage’s folly first. He then moves on to detail what had happened the week before in the very same parish church. As this had happened to a thirteen year old youth, an illiterate member of a poor man’s large family (well, illiterate for the moment, but that all would change), it became the secondary story. The writer has relegated the one of the local signs that probably triggered Pordage to announce the apocalypse from its proper chronological place. Something of this sort would happen in Pordage’s church: on Sept 1st, a youth of 13, “son to one Goodman Snelling”, “being in the Parish-Church of Bradfield, fell into a very strange Fit, foaming at the mouth for the space of two hours.”

Now to fall into a fit and foam at the mouth seems to me a very likely reaction to one of John Pordage’s sermons – he seems to have been a preacher worth hearing, wildly unpredictable, charismatic, full of novel doctrines, and easily misunderstood. The youth, whose sanity has probably been affected by listening to Pordage preach every Sunday,  finally emerges from his fit, and announces that he must go to London, taking his father with him. In London, they will find an old man there “living without Temple-bar, and said to be a Gold-smith”) who was “possest with two devils, and had the Root of Corruption in him.”

Exactly what you’d want to visit London to do – to locate the root of corruption. One can perhaps sense Pordage’s influence here, and a touching willingness on behalf of his young parishioner to come up with some marvel to interest his raving vicar. Exactly as foretold, they do indeed find the old man, who has been lying in a trance, from which he revives at the very instant that they arrive. This mysterious personage gives them yet more bewildering instructions: they are to go to Beacon Hill (it is just south of Newbury, close to Highclere house, aka Downton Abbey), “and there he should finde, at such a place, a crooked stick lying on the ground, and in it there should be an Inkhorn and a pen, and directions how to write and read, and to speak several Languages, and by the stick should be lying a lamb.”

The eagerness to attain literacy, by hook or by crook, is commendable. Off they trudge out to the west. Arrived at the hill, first of all they see the lamb, then they find the crooked stick, and “therein an Inkhorn and pen: and the boy taking up the stick, the Lamb vanished.” Then the visionary experiences start: they hear “strange voices in the air; and they saw the King with his head off, and then again they saw him with his head on, and a Crown upon it: also they saw Wallingford on fire, and the Governours head off.”

Emotional perturbation indeed, a perfect 17th century mixture of political and religious anxieties: the King, a troubling beheaded phantom, and then re-headed. Heaven’s anger striking Wallingford (which had been the last royalist stronghold to hold out in 1646, but finally failed the king’s cause) and its Parliamentarian governor (Colonel Arthur Evelyn, it would have been). The father and son take the bad news to Wallingford, and seem to have been received in a level-headed way: “Whereupon, this Goodman Snelling and his son went to the Governour of Wallingford, and told him of it; who answered, that he hoped no such thing would come to pass.”

No great outcome at Wallingford, which would not burn down till 1675, and they are left with the suddenly literate younger Snelling, who also does his best to manifest the languages he has supernaturally acquired:

“This Goodman Snelling hath a great family, and they are all in a very strange frantick condition. he is a pot-ash-maker; and when his Fit is over, he is as sensible as any one; and he hath told his neighbours that he would give all that he has in the world, so that he were free of this business. And he saith that his son did bring him to such a hill, as right as though he had been there a thousand times before. And the boy can now write very well, which before he could not. Also, there are strange confused sound of Languages heard within him, but he does not speak them distinctly.”

Our writer concludes: “These things are certainly true, and avouched by a cloud of witnesses, young and old, who are the people of the best reputation in that County. My Conclusion shall be with this short prayer, which never was more seasonable then now: God deliver us from the Devil and all his shifts.

As I said, Pordage somehow kept his job in the church until he was ejected in 1655 after hearings in1654. There’s nothing at the church in Bradfield that remains from his time: the Victorians made a thoroughgoing and very heavy-handed restoration of the building in 1848.

Pordage himself features pricelessly in A Collection of modern relations of matter of fact concerning witches & witchcraft upon the persons of people (1693), which has an account of the quite staggering manifestations taking place in the Pordage’s house in 1649. The fun here is that it starts as Pordage’s defence of himself from charges of conjuration. He too takes the line that Satan is empowered as never before:
“How then can Bradfield, or any other Place, be exempted from his Appearing when God permits? And may not all this be for the manifesting of his Glory, Goodness and Power? And who can tell whose Family may be next exposed by God’s permission, to be tryed and proved by the Representation of Satan? And I desire you seriously to consider how any such Apparitions raised by the Devil, and permitted by God for his own Glory, argue me either Ignorant, Scandalous, or Insufficient …”

But, whenever he was in a hole, which (unsurprisingly in view of his beliefs), was often, and seriously, Pordage could not resist enlarging and improving the hole to suit his own fancy. He can’t hold back from telling how, yes, the spirit of Everard appeared nocturnally in his bedchamber in August 1649, how then he saw a terrifying giant, then a dragon.

Pordage sounds off (as was his wont) largely about the different spiritual worlds, and then produces this undeniably striking witness to the activities of the evil side of the spirit world: “the Spirits made some wonderful Impressions upon visible Bodies without, as Figures of Men and Beasts upon the Glass Windows and the Ceilings of the House, some of which yet remain. But what was most remarkable was the whole visible World represented by the Spirits upon the Bricks of a Chimney, in the form of two half Globes, as in the Maps. After which, upon other Bricks of the same Chimney, was Figured a Coach and four Horses, with Persons in it, and a Footman attending, all seeming to be in Motion, with many other such Images, which were wonderful exactly done. Now, fearing lest there might be any Danger in these Images, through unknown Conjuration and false Magic, we endeavoured to wash them out with wet Cloths, but could not, finding them engraven in the substance of the Bricks, which indeed might have continued till this day, had not our fear and suspicion of Witch-craft, and some evil design of the Devil against us in it, caused us to deface and obliterate them with Hammers. Now, what the Devil’s End in the former Apparitions, and those figurative Representations was, the Lord knows: But it was certainly Evil.”

In Innocencie appearing, through the dark mists of pretended guilt, Pordage obligingly lists all the charges made against him locally, and something of the same kind of optical hallucination appears: “in Dr Pordage’s house in Bradfield, lately the new Jerusalem hath been seen to come down from heaven, all of precious stones; and in the new Jerusalem was a Globe, which Globe was eternity”.

I wonder what was going off. Were these things products of Pordage’s heated imagination? He was capable of seeing a lot, indeed, seeing infinity, in almost anything, as his wild commentary on very basic images of circles and dots in Theologia mystica shows. But his house seems to have become notorious, and to have had all kinds of people turning up there. Everard was an experimenter: could he have done devised some method of projecting or etching the pictures?

I cycled over to what had been his church earlier today. The church as an institution expelled Pordage, and the over-sized and frowsty Victorian pile, which seems in part to have been used for services attended by boys from Bradfield College, testifies to the enduring dull power of that church. Pordage is listed in a manuscript list of previous incumbents as one who ‘intruded’ on the proper pastoral succession: Elias Ashmole is down as his patron to the living. The Victorians in their re-build obliterated any chance of finding a church with a furtive alchemical emblem or Rosicrucian enigma.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Executing all the enemies of a Utopian England: John Dunton's 'The Informer's Doom', 1683

These curious woodcuts derive from and expand on the familiar woodcut frontispiece to Matthew Hopkins’ The Discovery of Witches. I found them - among many others - in The informer’s doom, or, An unseasonable letter from Utopia directed to the man in the moon giving a full and pleasant account of the arraignment, tryal, and condemnation of all those grand and bitter enemies that disturb and molest all kingdoms and states throughout the Christian world (1683),which John Dunton probably both wrote and published, or maybe just put into print as bookseller (the former seems more likely). As publisher, Dunton is keen to let his potential purchasers know what a good deal they are getting: “I have comprized this Treatise in an Eighteen Penny Book, (though considering the Cuts, it cannot be well afforded so) that as it is of real use and publick concern, so it might be the better disperst throughout this English Nation.” The sixty plus woodcuts – as they are small, derivative, and crude - in a book priced at eighteen pence might not have been all that much of a bargain.

Whoever wrote The informer’s doom, he was a keen reader of John Bunyan, whose Pilgrim’s Progress had appeared five years before. The work closely copies Bunyan’s very direct allegory, even down to that reluctance some of Bunyan’s allegorical characters understandably show about disclosing their all too revelatory names. It is a fantasy of a Utopian England, where “all those grand and bitter Enemies, that disturb all Kingdoms and States, throughout the Christian World” (‘the Christian world’ actually means England) can be brought to trial, found guilty, and (surprise, surprise!) executed. Pope Innocent XI, supreme pontiff when Dunton was writing, is depicted being burned at the stake, Justice Implacable (part of Dunton’s long campaign against Judge Jeffreys) gets hanged himself, Mrs Bad Wife ends up “Carted to the Great Ducking-stool that is in this Town, and there shall you sit (in the presence of all the women in Utopia for a warning to them) till you expire out your poysonous and infectious breath.” A long denunciation of Sir John Fraud, as he appears in all professions, rounds out the work.

In each allegorical trial, suitable witnesses appear to testify to the guilt of the accused: “there came into the Court Mr. Witch-finder General, Mr. Hate-device, and Mr. Spy-Imp, and said, They could prove all the Prisoners at the Bar guilty of hainous Crimes and Offences, and that they were real Witches.”

This witchcraft material is part of the final resistance to the middle to late 17th century movement to deny the existence of witches and their pacts. I have already shown Dunton retailing a witch yarn in his most successful venture, The Athenian Mercury:
Dunton is lining up beside the recently dead Joseph Glanvill, whose Saducismus triumphatus had appeared in 1681, with a flurry of reprints. But to turn back to Matthew Hopkins as late as 1683 suggests that Dunton was either a witchcraft die-hard, shrilly insisting that it all had to be believed, at whatever cost in hangings, or (perhaps just as likely) that a page-covering motive impelled this part of the text. No specific witchcraft case is in view, witches in general are the subject. There are some signs of confusion between the demonic familiar and the witch. When, finally, a witch named ‘Holt’ is singled out, it seems confusingly derived from ‘Holt’, a familiar spirit in the form of a ‘white kitling’ in Hopkins’ Discovery of Witches. There’s a similar suggestion of confusion in this extract from the allegorical trial: “Mr. Witch-finder General, ‘My Lord, then first as to Vinegar-Tom, He is a Witch in grain …’

Dunton has his presiding man of law ask an intelligent question about why spirits should want to suck blood from a witch:
Mr. Attorney General,
Pray Mr Witch-finder, How comes it to pass, that the Devil being a Spirit (and so consequentially wanting no Nutriment or Sustentation, should desire to suck any blood; and indeed as he is a Spirit he cannot draw any excresences, having neither flesh nor bone, and cannot be felt.
Mr. Witchfinder,
He seeks not their blood, as if he could not subsist without that Nourishment, but he often repairs to them and gets it, the more to aggravate the Witches Damnation, and to put her in mind of her Covenant

As so often happened in the ruthless speed of a real 17th century court, a weak-minded accused person is harried into confession: “The old Hag stands up and answers for her self, confessing her Imps Names to the Judge, and the reason how she come to turn Witch.”

Hag. My Lord, I must confess I am a Witch, and have several Imps, whose Names are Illemauzer, Pye-wacket, Peck in the Crown, Griezel Greedigut; but I hope your Lordship will spare my life.

But Dunton goes on in a more considered fashion, with his ‘Hag’ explaining why she made her pact with the devil:
The reason why some become Witches.
“Because I had never been a Witch had not Poverty come upon me like an armed man, and that continuing, filled my mind with discontent; and in that discontented humuor, the Devil striking in, told me, if I would give up my self to him, I should not want as long as I lived. Oh, pray my Lord, therefore spare me, spare me, for I had never been a Witch had it not been for Poverty! Poverty! Poverty! and a discontented mind.”

And likewise beg’d of the Judge that her Life might be spar’d, adding withal, that if the Judge would forgive her, she would confess to his Lordship, The Cheats and Delusions the Devil imposeth upon Witches, and many other remarkable things. When she had done speaking, the Judge told her, He could not save her life, but if she would make any Confession, he would not put her to so severe Death as she deserv’d both by the Law of God and Man.”

Using the invented ‘Holt’ as his mouthpiece, Dunton addresses the much-discussed issue of the limits of a devil’s power. His version isn’t unprecedented, but he does at least go into the detail of the devil’s deceptive pretence to power, he has thought through the whole process. The devil has no power to kill; rather, thousands of years of observation have made him an excellent physician. When he infers that a person is about to die, the devil actually promotes an enmity between the person who will soon die, and the witch he wishes to delude. Once a quarrel, or fear, has been provoked, the purely natural death of the newly created opponent is represented to the witch as the devil carrying out her malefice. By this means the devil simultaneously convinces the witch, and damns her through a metaphysical version of the legal mens rea.
Here is the whole bizarre edifice of argument, in Dunton’s own invented exchange:

Holt makes large Confessions of the Wiles of the Devil.

Holt, “My Lord, (to begin then) The Devil doth (as I now can tell by dreadful experience) often play the Deluder and Impostor with Witches, in perswading them that they are the cause of such and such a Murther, and that he hope them in the effecting of it, when indeed neither he nor they had any hand in it: And he being of long standing, above six thousand years, must needs be a great Scholar in all knowledges of Arts and Tongues, and so have the best skill in Physick, judgment in Physiognomy, and knowledge of what Disease is reigning or predominant in this or that mans body, (and so for Cattel too) by reason of his long experience. This subtile Tempter knowing such a man liable to some sudden disease, (as by experience I have found) As Plurisie, Imposthume, &c. he resorts to divers Witches; If they know the man, he seeks to make a difference between the Witches and the party, it may be by telling them he hath threatned to have them very shortly searched, and so hanged for Witches; then they all consult with Satan to save themselves, and Satan stands ready prepared.”

The Devil’s Speech to the Witches. “What will you have me to do for you, my dear and nearest children, covenanted and compacted with me in my hellish league, and sealed with your blood, my delicate firebrand-darlings.”

“Oh thou (say they) that at the first didst promise to save us thy Servants from any of our deadly Enemies discovery, and didst promise to avenge and slay all those, we pleased, that did offend us; Murther that Wretch suddenly who threatens the downfall of your loyal Subjects. He then promiseth to effect it: Next news is heard, the party is dead; he comes to the Witch, and gets a world of reverence, credence, and respect for his power and activeness, when and indeed the Disease kills the party, not the Witch, nor the Devil, (only the Devil knew that such a Disease was predominant) and the Witch aggravates her damnation by her familiarity and consent to the Devil, and so comes likewise in compass of the Laws. This is Satans usual impostring and deluding, but not his constant course of proceeding, for He and the Witch do mischief too much.”

Dunton’s judge has no hesitation in passing sentence; and Dunton (who earlier in the same work denounced 'Judge Implacable' so resoundingly, seems to invent a new mode of appropriate execution for convicted witches
“The Judge passes Sentence upon the Witches.
And so the Judge past Sentence upon them all, which Sentence was this: Viz. You Vinegar-Tom, Holt, old Hag, with your four Imps, &c. shall return from the place whence you came, and from thence he dragged upon an Hurlde to the chiefest Street in Utopia, there to be buried alive in the mid-day, that all may see your sin and folly, and fly for ever, the first thought that ever shall dare to enter into their minds of making Contracts with a deceitful Devil.”

Monday, June 04, 2012

"I pray you, remember the porter"

My image comes from the church at Wing in Buckinghamshire. This church is famous for the Dormer tombs, which are indeed spectacular. But the gentry commemorated themselves in more or less every parish church: this wall brass commemorates Thomas Cotes, whose life was spent as porter at the nearby Ascott House: ‘Set up at the apoyntment and charges of his frend Geo Houghton’. He died on November 20th, 1648.

Cotes is depicted at the moment of leaving his life-long office behind: he extends his hands towards heaven, and we can imagine that he is seeing the divine light. Falling from him are the markers of his purely temporal role: his beaver hat (which gave him status and warmth), the great key to Ascott Hall, and his staff. At Spenser’s Bower of Bliss, the false genius as porter holds a staff ‘in hand for more formalitee’. But that’s at a place without any proper restraints; it’s always a bad sign in Spenser if simply anyone can get past the porter, as is the case with ‘Malvenu’, the porter at the House of Pride ‘who entrance none denied’. A proper porter’s duties obviously involved regulating entry into the house, but he would also have been in charge of throwing people out – the drunk, the unruly, anyone who had been or threatened to be offensive – so the porter’s staff is sturdy and long, a super-truncheon. There is a faint piquancy about an image of a man who regulated entry depicted at the instant of admission into the most exclusive premises of all.

I will transcribe the verses:

Honest old Thomas Cotes, that sometime was
Porter at Ascott=Hall, hath now (alas)
Left his key, lodg, fyre, friends and all to have
A roome in heaven, This is that good mans grave
Reader, prepare for thine, for none can tell
But that you two may meete to night, Farewell.

Two further possible nuances strike me: is there perhaps a suggestion that Cotes, so excellent a porter, might simply slip into his old role in his new heavenly mansion? The reader is enjoined to think that their end might come suddenly, and that they might meet Cotes in charge of ingress at the gate of heaven.

And the whole plaque says, in a different sense, what Cotes may well  have spent his life saying: ‘I pray you, remember the porter’.

I sought another early modern text about porters (this little project rapidly turning into another unwritten monograph, ‘The Porter in early modern society and literature’), and soon found Ianitor animae: the soules porter to cast out sinne, and to keepe out sinne. A treatise of the feare of God. Written by William Price, Batchelour of Divinitie, and vicar of Brigstocke in Northamptonshire (1638).

This little treatise took its inspiration from St Bernard: “The feare of God is the porter of the soul, that casts out sinne, and keepeth out sinne, so Bernard”, with a side note: Ianitor animae, Bern. Thomas Watson liked the same figure: “St Bernard calls Holy Fear Ianitor Animae, The Door-keeper of the soul’. Spenser does not directly allegorise the Porter at the House of Temperance in the Faerie Queene II ix, who has an alarm bell. He is of course the tongue, with his rows of warders as his assistants the teeth, but there may be a sense that this well-regulated tongue that excludes ‘utterers of secrets’, ‘babblers of folly’ and ‘blazers of crime’ may in part be ‘the fear of God’, Janitor Animae.

William Price’s treatise about the fear of God is a typical early 17th century performance, with masses of carefully made distinctions strenuously fighting against the essential repetitiousness of the theme. I was pleased to see an early version of the academic gambit that says piteously that ‘hardly anyone has written about this topic’: “though many have brief essays, yet few, or none, have done this Royal Grace the honour, or right to allot unto it a Compleat full treatise”.

Price wrote in a carefully sustained plain style: “Wherein I have studied plainness to leave the lowest capacities without excuse”, and some of the most expressive parts of his work come when he uses a simple analogy: a Christian between flesh and spirit “is like a peece of iron between two lode-stones”. A good person may be shaken by a sudden terror, but should recover: Price uses the analogies of oil gradually separating out if it has been shaken with water, and then the needle of a shaken compass settling back on its north. The Soul standing on Grace, Love, Joy and Hope is like “a four square stone, whichever way soever you cast it, it falls upright”.

Only rarely does he forget simplicity: the poor Christian might “oscitantly demeane himself”: from the Latin for yawning, and this adverbial use is narrowly an OED antedating over a line cited from Henry More: “Which those drowsie Nodders over the Letter of the Scripture have very oscitantly collected.” A delightful word, expressive of a very 17th century disapprobation (“was not Ruffinus, as learned men observe, a very careless and oscitant Historian?” – from a EEBO keyword search).

Price dedicated his work to a later William Cecil. Whoever introduced Nathaniel Tucker’s Theophosoi [as EEBO adds – ‘sic’] theophiloi: God's fearers are God's favourites, or, An encouragement to fear God in the worst times delivered in several sermons in 1662 had clearly looked at it, but Tucker himself seems free of plagiary.

Back in Price (to conclude), isn’t “the filiall feare of oGd” (as the heading for Chapter 7) one of the better 17th century misprints - and not even corrected in the corrections? The type-setter must have been ‘oscitant’.