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"An Alembick of Innuendos": Satire, Libel, and The Craftsman.

In familiar lines from the Imitations of Horace, Sat. ii, no. 1 (1733), Alexander Pope insists that he is the author of "grave Epistles, bringing Vice to light," not "Libels and Satires! lawless Things indeed!" Pope's lawyer, Fortescue, answers half in jest that "The Case is alter'd--you may then proceed. / In such a Cause the Plaintiff will be hiss'd / My Lords the Judges laugh, and you're dismiss'd." (1) A number of central concerns are compressed in this particular exchange, including the assumption, common to almost all Augustan satirists, that there was an important distinction (both literary and legal) between libel and satire, and therefore "grave Epistles" or general satires ought somehow to be immune from prosecution. There was some legal basis for this belief. In the libel trial of Henry Carr (1680, 32 Car. II), Sir Francis Winnington, counsel for the defense, argued that since Carr was thought to be "a Satyrist against Popery," he could hardly have libeled members of the government and should not be prosecuted. (2) We find further evidence of the belief that satire offered immunity from prosecution in Defoe's response to the indictment of The Shortest Way with the Dissenters (1702) for seditious libel. In his Brief Explanation of a Late Pamphlet Entituled, The Shortest Way with the Dissenters ... (1703), written before his trial, Defoe argued that he had done no more than to imitate or parody the sentiments of High Churchmen, " tho' not in Words so plain, and at length, and by an Irony, not Unusual',' sentiments suggesting that Defoe also considered irony to be a defense against charges of libel. (3) He was mistaken. Convinced by his lawyer to plead guilty and throw himself on the mercy of the court, Defoe discovered to his distress that none of his arguments concerning irony or impersonation carried any weight. Indeed invocations of general satire as a defense against prosecution became almost pro forma, as satirists seemingly came to accept that the avoidance of prosecution would require a more complex battery of satirical techniques.

According to one summary of eighteenth-century libel law, "a paper may be a libel whether the charges in it be true or false, against a good or a bad man, the living, or the dead; nay, that the truth of it is even an aggravation of the crime; that every libel is, by construction of law, even against the peace, and (in very late times) that it is an actual breach of the peace." If one accepted this definition that a libel might be true or false, addressed to the living or the dead, touching upon either the wicked or the righteous, then what form of writing was not potentially libelous? When was any writer, a political satirist in particular, ever safe? The author of this pamphlet was understandably concerned to discover "by what certain signs one can know whether any particular pamphlet or paper will induce any body to commit a breach of the peace," (4) and thus inspire prosecution for libel.

Writers maintained, of course, that there was a distinction between legitimate satire and libel. Dryden condemned lampoons as "a dangerous sort of Weapon, and for the most part Unlawful. We have no Moral Right on the Reputation of other Men. 'Tis taking from them, what we cannot restore to them." (5) But because it corrected vice or misbehavior, the argument went, satire served as an adjunct to the law and ought not to be prosecuted. Addison contends that "tis an action of virtue to make examples of vicious men." Even so, he concedes that he "cannot but look upon the finest Strokes of Satyr which are aimed at particular Persons, and which are supported even with the Appearances of Truth, to be the Marks of an evil Mind, and highly Criminal in themselves." (6) Dryden observes that libel laws had been issued during the reign of Augustus Caesar, who, in order to protect his own reputation, had made an "Edict against Lampoons and Satires," which Tacitus had described as "famosos libellos." Dryden points out that "the Law to which Tacitus refers, was Lex laesae Majestatis; commonly call'd, for the sake of brevity Majestatis, or as we say, High Treason." Such a law was not unprecedented. As Dryden observes, a similar law had been "made by the Decemviri ... To prevent the aspersion of the Roman Majesty." (7) Edward P. Nathan points out that in the sentence preceding the passage from Tacitus that Dryden translates here, one encounters the argument that while "deeds were challenged [by the law in the years preceding Augustus's reign], words went immune." In short, Augustus "extends the law to a new realm of activity, the realm of literature." (8)

This presumed "immunity" of the satirist's words and the attempt to extend the law of libel to the realm of literature are central to literary discussions of libel in the eighteenth century. Indeed, one may argue that the fear, if not always the fact, of a new form of prosecution helped shape the particular contours of eighteenth-century satire. This is implicit in Alexander Pope's assurances that "no considerable man" was "very angry" at Gulliver's Travels. There are some who "think it rather too bold, and too general a Satire: but none that I hear of accuse it of particular reflections." (9) These firm denials that Gulliver's Travels contained "particular reflections" serve as an encoded confirmation that libelous personal reflections were precisely what readers were expecting to find. As David Bywaters observes, Pope is relishing both "Swift's studied abjuration" of satiric parallel, and his "brilliant manipulation of it so as to embarrass statesmen ... without exposing himself to coherent political attack." (10) Perhaps most important, Pope seems to be anticipating a concern that Gullivers Travels might be prosecuted for seditious libel, an issue Swift addresses long after the fact. In the introductory "Letter from Capt. Gulliver to his Cousin Sympson," added to Faulkners edition (1735), Gulliver notes that "People in Power were very watchful over the Press; and apt not only to interpret, but to punish every thing which looked like an Inuendo (as I think you called it)." He offers the familiar defense that because his remarks are general they should not be interpreted as "particular reflections," and should therefore not be considered libelous. (11)

Nathan remarks that "in a variety of ways Dryden depicts the history of satiric style as a history of censorship," and as I argue, the peculiar forms of political satire in the early eighteenth century with their layers of suggestion, irony, and indirection are a response to the threat of prosecution. (12) It certainly seems to be the case that, in response to the increased reliance on irony and indirection, the courts sought to redefine the presence of irony as a "certain sign" of libelous intent. In the case of Regina v. Browne (1707), for example, to the question as to "whether a person could be criminally libeled by ironical expressions," Chief Justice Holt responded that if "this were not a crime, he might ... libel any person." (13) As Hawkins's Pleas of the Crown summarized the consensus, "such scandal as is expressed in a scoffing and ironical manner, makes a writing as properly a libel, as that which is expressed in direct terms." (14)

The effort to criminalize satiric indeterminacy, partially outlined in Pleas of the Crown, found a focus in the attempts of the Walpole administration to convict The Craftsman for "seditious libel," first in 1729, then again in 1731. Indeed, the attempt to convict The Craftsman of seditious libel offers a case study of the larger effort on the part of the government to establish legal criteria by which such polyvalent literary forms as satire, allegory, fable and parallel history might be redefined as essentially subversive modes of discourse, and therefore punishable by law. For as The Craftsman observes, if "general Reflections upon Vice, Ambition and Corruption, under fictitious or real Characters of dead Men, universally allowed to be guilty of those Crimes; or under Allegories, Parallels, Fables and Dreams, ought to be accounted Libels',' then no writer was safe (no. 117, Sept. 28, 1728). Indeed, if we look beneath the surface of the literary debate between the partisans of Walpole and the Opposition over the relative merits of general vs. particular satire, we discover a more significant attempt to defend the legitimacy of satiric indeterminacy in all its forms and to protect whole precincts of literary discourse against the invasions of the law.


In The Importance of the Guardian Considered (1713), Swift provides a short inventory of the "several Ways" that satirists could abuse their victims without incurring the danger of the law.

First, we are careful never to print a Mans Name out at length ... So that although every Body alive knows whom I mean, the Plaintiff can have no Redress in any Court of Justice. Secondly, by putting Cases; Thirdly by Insinuations; Fourthly, by celebrating the Actions of others, who acted directly contrary to the Persons we would reflect on: Fifthly, by Nicknames, either commonly known or stamp'd for the purpose, which every Body can tell how to apply. (15)

As Andrew Bricker has recently shown, much of this argument is nonsense; omitting vowels from names, for example, provided no legal protection whatsoever. "Indeed satirists who indirectly named their victims were provided at best with slight protection before 1713, and none thereafter." (16) Even so, numerous satirists in the early decades of the eighteenth century proceeded as if such practices actually protected them in some legal fashion. Such sustained indirection certainly protracted the legal process, and forced prosecutors to assume the role of literary critics in the attempt to stipulate the ways in which gutted names, idiosyncratic typography, nicknames, insinuations, satiric allegory, irony, and parallel history actually constituted "certain signs" of libelous intent.

Defense attorneys invariably argued that the charge of libel only applied to the defamation of individuals who had been specifically named. Indeed, not until 1713 in the case of Queen v. Hurt was libel successfully prosecuted for anything less explicit than full mention of the victim's name, even when the presumed victim was the monarch herself. (17) As Swift suggests, writers proceeded on the presumption (however mistaken) that they could evade prosecution by the strategic use of familiar catchphrases, blanks, nicknames, and asterisks so that even though "everybody alive" knew who was meant, "the plaintiff" could have "no redress to any court of justice." (18) Behind this presumption lay the legal doctrine of Mitior Sensus, inherited from slander trials, designed to clarify whether particular words explicitly accused another party of an actionable crime. In instrumental terms this meant that "if there were any conceivable way to interpret spoken words so as to produce a non-defamatory meaning, they would be so interpreted." (19) Not surprisingly, clever defense attorneys would resort to any number of quibbling constructions, exploiting the inherent ambiguity in words themselves to argue that because their clients had not actually named the plaintiff there was no cause for action. As R. H. Helmholz argues, to say that a man "had the use" of a woman's body might imply adultery or fornication, whereas "under the mitior sensus construction," lawyers might claim "that no action should lie because a physician might have use of a woman's body in order to cure her of a disease." (20) This is but one example of how legal and literary languages tended to merge, as the arguments of Renaissance defense attorneys came to resemble the euphuistic quibbling of Shakespearean clowns. Helmholz points out that courts tended to "ignore the most outlandish examples" of what lawyers called "innocent constructions" and judges rejected arguments when "the doctrine required too much of a stretch." (21)

This changes in 1713 with the libel trial of William Hurt who had argued that his words "reflected on no one" since only a few letters were included, thus leaving the rest to the readers imagination. The court responded that "short Words, or initial Letters, with Dashes, or without" were all to be taken "ipso facto, for a Libel." (22) According to Justice Parker, who presided in the trial of Hurt,

A Defamatory Writing expressing only one or two Letters of a Name, in such a Manner, that from what goes before and follows after, it must needs be understood to signify such a particular Person, in the plain, obvious, and natural Construction of the Whole, and would be perfect Nonsense if strained to any other Meaning, is as properly a Libel, as if it had expressed the whole Name at large. (23)

Parker expanded his ruling in ways that would influence subsequent attempts to prosecute satirists like The Craftsman: "It brings the utmost Contempt upon the Law, to suffer its justice to be eluded by such trifling Evasions," he argued; it was "a ridiculous Absurdity to say, That a writing which is understood by ... the meanest Capacity, cannot possibly be understood by a Judge and Jury." (24)

According to Parker, "the rule now was that words shall be taken in the sense that the hearers understood them, and not in mitiori sensu as formerly."' (25) While the practice of omitting letters in names had no legal status, the practice continued well into the eighteenth century. In 1732, in an action for libel taken against the printer of a pamphlet ostensibly defaming Robert Walpole, we find the attorneys haggling over the omitted letters in the following lines: "'Tis these great men who give our Wealth away. / Borrow in P--n--s, but in V--s they pay." In response to the contention that P--n--s could only mean "pensions," the defense argued that the word might indicate "Pins or Puns, even." This interpretation was impossible, argued the Attorney General, since both pins and puns were "nonsense," were a "Syllable too short" to scan properly, and were not "consistent with the other Lines so they could be read with a natural and continued Reference to each other." Such efforts at interpretive cleverness, compounded by defense counsels admission that such uncertainties "might perhaps have been an Error of the Poet," points toward a heightened level of literary self-consciousness on the parts of both defense and prosecution, the product perhaps of the changed emphasis in libel prosecutions in the eighteenth century. (26)

It was an open secret that all "general satires" proceeded by way of "Suggestion and Insinuation." The London Journal was certain that the "historical Papers" in The Craftsman "were wrote down with no other Intent, than to Libel the King and Queen, the Government and the Ministry ... for they are found carefully distinguish'd by Italicks" (no. 580, Sept. 12, 1730). Ihe Craftsman was quite open, even playful, about its exploitation of "Italick Characters" which led the Ministry to insist "that some dark Meaning must be couch'd under them." (27) Caleb D'Anvers laughs that if the Ministry meets "with any Word distinguish'd in Capitals, They think the Case beyond all Doubt, and Immediately pronounce us guilty of a Capital Offense" (no. 220, Sept 19, 1730). The Craftsman sneered that men in power quailed at "the well disciplin'd Militia of the Alphabet; when the Letters are drawn out and formed in proper Lines of Battle under their commanding Officers the Capitals." These and a "small Band of veteran Italicks have very often sorely galled the Enemy" (no. 228, Nov. 14, 1730). As this exchange suggests, while the doctrine of mitior sensus might have been abolished by Chief Justice Parker in cases of individual libel, jurists (and their political spokesmen of the press) now struggled with the more complex challenge of prosecuting satirists for libels on public figures, a process that required new methods of ascribing certain identities to satiric victims as well as critical maneuvers capable of ascribing determinate meanings to ambiguous or ironically encoded discourse.

Similar questions regarding a defendant's "trifling evasions" lie at the heart of Dr. Sacheverell's seemingly endless trial before the House of Lords (1710) on charges that two of his sermons were "malicious, scandalous and seditious libels." In his defense Sacheverell admitted that "he made the suggestion charged upon him, in the same words that are used in the Article," but insisted that the Commons had "mistaken his meaning." But, responded the prosecution, "it is clear and plain, that the words have no such limited or restrained sense, and that the meaning he would now put upon them is a mere shift and evasion." (28) Sergeant Parker, one of Sacheverell's accusers, complained bitterly of the difficulty of unraveling indirect rhetoric which everyone understood intuitively, but whose meaning was not otherwise demonstrable. It is "an extraordinary Step," he argued, that as long as one reproached the government only "by Way of Suggestion and Insinuation" there was "no Crime in it." That is, "Sedition and Exposing the Government is lawful," only "Don't do it directly and avowedly, for that would be dangerous; but do it by Suggestions that Every Body will Understand, and which will have their full Effect, and alls safe; for those who come to judge you are not to understand you, tho' Every Body else does." (29) In other words, while Sacheverell's words were probably libelous, having the effect of particular defamation which was understood, although not stipulated, such a conclusion could only be achieved by some form of forced interpretation which drew upon meanings found in the understanding of readers rather than in the text itself.


What was needed was a law specifically designed to deal with attacks on government officials in their official capacity. As Philip Hamburger points out, the distinction between the libel of officials or "magistrates" and the defamation of private individuals had already begun to assume greater urgency in the seventeenth century. According to Sir Edward Coke, libels against magistrates were worse than libels against individuals, for they concerned "not only the breach of the peace, but also the scandal of Government; for what greater scandal of Government can there be than to have corrupt or wicked magistrates" (H 694). Unfortunately libel was still regarded as a form of defamation, and "therefore prohibited criticism of governors rather than the government" (H 700). Libel law had traditionally applied only to "private" or personal defamations. '"Public' defamations touching the institution of government could be punished as false reports, as Scandalum Magnatum',' but the "statutes of Scandalum Magnatum extended only to news publications and failed to protect government officials such as privy councilors, who were not deemed to be magnates." With the lapse of the Licensing Act in 1695, which eliminated the primary means to prevent publication of writings felt to be dangerous to Church or State, prosecutions for "blasphemous" and "seditious" libel began to appear in more significant numbers. The government was most concerned about satires that attacked officers of state, like Robert Walpole, using the same battery of evasions that satirists had exploited in assaults on private individuals.

For satirists, of course, it was important to maintain the fiction that attacks on government were not directed at particular governors. In the trial of John Tutchin (1704), counsel for the defense repeated the argument with which writers had defended "general satire," claiming that The Observators were innocent papers, and not libels, since the attorney general had failed to show "what person (either public or private) these Observators have aspersed." A libel that "points at nobody in particular, is like a shot at random, that seldom does any mischief." To which the attorney general responded that it was the "highest kind" of libel to "reflect on public officers in general." Besides, he argues, "every one knows a libel is a libel, though particular persons are not named." (30) As the eighteenth century wore on, this notion that "particular persons" need not be named in an action for libel would occasionally assume strange trappings, particularly in prosecutions for blasphemous libel, like the trial of Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason, Part II in 1797. Here the notion of particular persons was extended so far that Paines prosecution for denying that the Bible was the divinely inspired word of God seemed to suggest that God himself was the particular victim of the libel. (31)

If it did nothing else, the extension of the protections against libel to general categories of public servants, seemingly required a recalibration of the satirical techniques like the gutting of names, which had previously seemed to work against individuals. This focus on the forms of literary evasion was rendered more immediate and more crucial by changes in libel law requiring that the actual defamatory words be included in the text of the information. This particular innovation was the work of Chief Justice Holt, whose opinion in the libel case King v. Bear (1699) prohibited informations that described "only the effects of the defamatory language." Therefore the defendant's actual words or the sense and substance thereof "ought to appear upon Record," he said, "for of that the Court is to Determine whether they be Scandalous or not" (H 737). This was apparently a problem in Defoe's trial for seditious libel, since "the reason for the prosecution of the Shortest Way was never explicitly stated." While he had originally planned to justify the Shortest Way by proving from extracts of High Church sermons and pamphlets that he had said nothing that his prosecutors had not said already, he was persuaded that such a minute explication of the specific language of the Shortest Way would only enrage the court. Therefore Defoe's counsel was spared the line-by-line exegesis that would mark later trials for seditious libel. (32) What amounted to a juridical scrutiny of the ambiguous meaning of individual words or literary devices, meant that for those determined to attack men in power, a battery of more subtle rhetorical weapons was now required.

This issue was of particular importance for The Craftsman, whose printer, Richard Francklin, had been arrested eight times between 1727 and 1731, tried twice and convicted once on charges of seditious libel. The Craftsman concedes that "The Practice of Libelling is a Thing of such pernicious Consequence that there have been Laws made to punish it in all civilized Societies." The "Misfortune," however, is that neither the nature nor the forms of libel are "ascertained" by the law, "but are left to the Judgment and Discretion of the Courts of Justice; from whence it comes to pass, that in bad Reigns, many real Patriots have been severely punished under the Character of Infamous Libellers" (no. 2, Dec. 9, 1726).

The Craftsman insisted that it had no other design than to expose "Vice in general ... without alluding to particular Persons" (no. 31, March 24, 1727). (33) Indeed, the attacks from Walpoles journalists were "built on the old beaten Fallacy, that these Papers are written against some particular British Ministers, nowin Power',' whereas they are actually directed "against Vice and Corruption, and bad Ministers in general." Writing as Caleb D'Anvers, the fictional author of The Craftsman, Nicholas Amhurst insists that as long as he confines himself to "general Expressions',' or wraps up his "Invectives against Vice in Dreams, Fables, Parallels, and Allegories',' then, by definition, he remains "within the proper Bounds of a Satirist as prescribed by Criticks, Moralists, and Divines in all Ages" and should therefore be exempt from prosecution (no. 88, March 9, 1727-28).

Such boundaries may well have been established by critics, moralists, and divines, but they had no more provenance in the law than did the belief that gutting names to obscure particular identities would somehow provide protection from prosecution. As Andrew Bricker has observed, there was "natural interpretive interference" between strictly black-letter law, the "production of legal meaning and its reception by non-legal actors." There were, as he says, "grey zones between socio-literary and legal history," moments of uncertainty in which the working out of the "law as lived," revealed the "intersections between perceptions of law, no matter their accuracy, and the aesthetic and social arenas in which such views played out." (34) The whole discussion of the "libelous" character of The Craftsman occupies one of these grey zones, revealing the ways in which traditional interpretations of the mitior sensus doctrine were transformed, even inverted, under the pressures of political prosecution. Where this discredited doctrine was applied to private individuals, "a quibbling counselor and a hardheaded judge could twist almost any statement into an innocuous piece of wind." (35) But now in trials for "seditious libel" where public representatives were to be treated as private individuals, a quibbling attorney general and a hard-headed judge, drawing upon "forced constructions" of hypothetical "innuendoes" in the text, could bring a verdict of guilty no matter what the literal sense of the words might be.

The Craftsman claimed that the courts had now taken it upon themselves to "wrest" its words to a "bad Meaning," to put its writings "upon the Rack" and to torture them "into Constructions, contrary to their obvious import" (no. 68, Oct. 21, 1727). According to Caleb D'Anvers, the Walpole administration now sought to prosecute the journal based on "strained constructions" of "remote allegories, ironical Expressions, and the most distant Innuendo's"(no. 2, Dec. 9, 1726). This attempt to prosecute irony, innuendo, and historical parallel had turned the courts into "a sort of verbal Inquisitors, who endeavour to oblige all Writers, under Pains and Penalties, to be of one Mind'.' And "if any Man is so obstinate as to dispute this Authority, his Words are to be tortured 'till they are found guilty" (no. 228, Nov. 14, 1730). This focus on forced "Constructions" and the "torturing" of words suggests that satirists and the courts were now involved in a struggle over how certain literary devices were to be interpreted.

In the attempt to protect public officials, the definition of libel would gradually broaden throughout the eighteenth century such that books or pamphlets that seemingly libeled the government became the objects of "ex-officio informations issued from the office of the Attorney General." (36) According to Alexander Pope, the standards of interpretation had changed under the Whig ministry of Robert Walpole:

The Satires of Dr. Donne I versify'd at the Desire of the Earl of Oxford while he was Lord Treasurer, and of the Duke of Shrewsbury who had been Secretary of State; neither of whom look'd upon a Satire on Vicious Courts as any Reflection on those they servd in. And indeed there is not in the world a greater Error, than that which Fools are apt to fall into, and Knaves with good reason to incourage, the mistaking a Satyrist for a Libeller. (37)

The Craftsman was equally determined to draw a clear distinction between "Libelling," which everyone condemned, and "just Satire," a difference that Walpole and his minions of the London Journal sought to confound (no. 117, Sept. 28, 1728). Rejecting the equivalence between satire and libel, The Craftsman insists that libel designs "to calumniate the Persons and misrepresent the Actions of Men, either in a publick or private Station, for vile, wicked and unjust Purposes." Therefore, whatever is written without any design to "calumniate" individual persons is "not a Libel." As D'Anvers points out, however, in the current political climate, men "whose Characters are open to Censure, call every thing, of a satirical Nature, a Libel" (no. 117, Sept. 28, 1728). And, of course, these men were more than willing to call upon the courts to suppress such satires.

The Craftsman certainly condemns libel as it had traditionally been understood. In the case of private persons, "the Party injured may reasonably expect Justice." When it comes to men in authority, however, different standards should be applied, since "great Men" can screen themselves "by Cabals, Alliances, Corruption, or the Favour of an indulgent Prince." It is very difficult to bring them to account, therefore, "even when they are guilty of the most notorious Oppressions" (no. 31, March 24, 1727). Given the fact that the courts were now inclined to treat general satires on the ministry as if they were libels on particular ministers, and given their power to suppress criticism, new strategies of satirical indirection seemed to be required. No one should have been surprised at this result. The Third Earl of Shaftesbury had prophesied that if men were "forbid to speak their minds seriously on certain subjects," they would "do it ironically." They would "redouble their disguise, involve themselves in mysteriousness and talk so as hardly to be understood, or at least not plainly interpreted by those who are disposed to do them mischief." (38)

Writing during the reign of Queen Anne, Shaftesbury refers directly to attempts to prosecute works of religious heterodoxy. Certainly every deist writer from Charles Blount to John Toland argued that they had been driven to some form of rhetorical disguise in order to avoid prosecution for blasphemous libel, even though such prosecutions were seldom successful and often served to increase sales. There was a growing sense, however, that Pope was somehow correct, that the government itself was involved in a war on satirical rhetoric in all its varieties. In his Discourse Concerning Ridicule and Irony in Writing (1729), written at the moment when both Thomas Woolston and the Craftsman had been prosecuted for blasphemous and seditious libel, Anthony Collins laughed at the possibility that anyone could somehow pass a law against "Buffoonery and Banter, Ridicule or Sarcastick Irony." Even if you can draw up such a law, Collins argues, you will find it "very difficult to settle the Point of Decency in Writing, in respect to all the various kinds of Irony and Ridicule." You may find it even more difficult to interest lawmakers in the project. "For I am persuaded that if our Lawmakers were, out of a rational Principle, disposed to give Liberty by Law to a serious Opposition to publickly receiv'd Doctrines, they would not think it of much importance to make a Law about a Method of Irony." (39) In effect, Collins suggests, prosecutions for libel were but censorship by other means. The Craftsman certainly partakes of a similar paranoia, conceding that it would "be more honourable, as well as more useful, to write without Disguise, provided it were equally safe'.' But since the old defenses of general satire had apparently been thrown down, it seemed "highly unreasonable" to expect anyone to write without reserve on these subjects "at a Time, when even supposed Ironies, imaginary Parallels, and forced Innuendos are, by some Persons, thought not to be exempt from the Penalties of the Law"(no. 31, March 24, 1727).


D'Anvers points to two specific techniques of satiric indirection that caused the most trouble in the trials for libel: forced innuendos and imaginary parallels. Over the course of the seventeenth century, prosecutors had developed a technique designed to clarify verbal ambiguity by the exegesis of the "innuendoes" in the text under indictment. Where satirists were concerned, this was a watershed development, for the courts seemed deliberately to have conflated a literary gesture with legal stricture. In a sense directly opposite to the one it would eventually absorb, the term innuendo (stipulated in parenthesis) initially served in legal documents to stipulate what a particular noun or pronoun referred to. In the transcript of the trial of Paines The Age of Reason (1797), for example, Paines reference to "such a woman as Mary" is specifically glossed using an innuendo parenthesis "(meaning the blessed Virgin Mary)." (40) In other words, the innuendo parenthesis was intended to clarify a reference without attempting to "interpret" it. This practice continued throughout the eighteenth century. Nevertheless, interpretation of some sort was often unavoidable, and innuendoes inevitably came to be used to stipulate persons whose identities had been obscured by blanks or asterisks, as well as identifying those figures alluded to by analogy. As Alan Roper points out, an innuendo was often necessary where the language of the defendant was "apparently innocent and inoffensive, but where, nevertheless, by virtue of its connection with known collateral circumstances, it conveys a latent and injurious imputation." It was the "proper office of the innuendo to render the allusion clear, by specifically pointing out the meaning." (41) Nevertheless, as W. Bohun points out in Declarations and Pleadings in the Most Usual Actions (1733), an innuendo can only "mark out a Thing or Person more certainly than it was before described." It "cannot make that certain which had no certainty before; nor can it alter the Matter by enlarging or restraining the Sense of the Words." (42) For satirists, like the authors of The Craftsman, the fact that the courts seemingly used innuendo to "enlarge" or "restrain" the meaning of words would become an ongoing cause of complaint.

The transformation of the function of innuendo can be seen in the trial of Algernon Sidney, executed in 1683, for his participation in the Rye House Plot against Charles II. According to John Tutchin's account, there was not a single word in Sidneys papers which mentioned King Charles by name; '"twas all supply'd by a fine knack, call'd an Innuendo." Thus when Sidney "writes Tarquin, or Pepin, they say, he meant King Charles; and so, scandalously of him, as well as wickedly of the Gentleman, make a Monster and Ravisher of their King, and then take away another's Life for doing it." (43) Were these claims true, then "the crown had made a highly improper use of innuendo as then understood in law," by converting "a general into a particular, a king of England into the present king of England ... and thus to associate legal proof with the writing and reading of historical allegory." (44) As Tutchin suggests, the term "innuendo" was now used to describe any phrase that might contain a double meaning potentially insulting to members of the government who might therefore demand a legal interpretation. This constituted a change, since the rules of pleading held that an innuendo of itself could not be used to identify its referent, an understanding that seemed to offer a defense for satirists who had variously disguised the identities of their victims. (45)

Not surprisingly, there was considerable resistance against turning the officers of the court into textual explicators. As the author of the Letter Concerning Libels, points out, "almost any thing that a man writes may, by the help of that useful and ingenious key to construction, an innuendo, be explained to scandalize Government, and of course be a libel." (46) This is how innuendo would be used in the subsequent trials of The Craftsman. In the second Craftsman trial (1731), Lord Chief Justice Raymond argued expressly that innuendoes no longer functioned simply to clarify identities previously specified in the information, but that the court had the prerogative to ascribe whatever "constructions" it pleased. "For when people's names are not set down at length, but pointed at by circumlocution, or pieces of words, or by initial letters, &c. the law always allows innuendos in informations which explain and tell what the defendant meant by them." (47) Indeed, argues the author of State Law, "a Libel in Hieroglyphicks, is as much a Libel, and as highly punishable, as an open Invective." For "if there be only a thin Veil, or aukward Disguise thrown over it, thro' which those who can see and observe may perceive the lurking Satyr within, a Court of Law will examine it narrowly, and judge of it according to the Intention of the Maker," an intention signaled by the rhetorical forms chosen by the author. (48)

The conviction of Richard Francklin, printer of The Craftsman, on the charge of seditious libel turned on the meaning of a brief passage from "A Letter from the Hague," (no. 235, Jan. 2, 1731), indicating that "a Rumour ... begins to gain Credit here, that a Misunderstanding will soon discover itself between the allies of Seville; and that certain Ministers having at length found out that too close an Union with France, and a War upon the Foot of the Treaty of Seville are quite against the Grain of the People." According to the prosecution, this passage suggested that the Walpole administration was intending to change its alliances in Europe and it therefore constituted a libel on the government. The defense agreed that the central question was what was meant by the words "certain ministers"? Indeed the letter had "left the meaning very much in the dark, and to a conjecture only; for it may refer to one set of ministers as well as another." The defense added that the law made it clear that with "relation to scandal or slander," the "person of whom the slander is used or spoke, ought to be certain, and ought not to be left to people's imagination or conjecture, and the next thing is, that the slander shall be evident and plain from the words themselves, and not supported by any innuendo." (49) The words were there in the information. It was simply a question of whose interpretation was the more persuasive.

In an apparent inversion of the earlier mitior sensus doctrine, prosecutors now argued for the widest interpretive latitude while lawyers for the defense routinely insisted that the words in the passages under indictment ought to be understood in their most literal and natural sense, as if the equivocations in the text were of no consequence to its meaning. The Craftsman repeated the legal precedent, established by Chief Justice Holt in 1706, that "when one Construction shall be innocent, and another Construction of the same Words criminal, the favourable Interpretation shall always be taken" (no. 228, Nov 14, 1730). Even the British Journal, a consistent antagonist of The Craftsman, insisted that when words used in their "true and proper sense, and understood in their literal and natural meaning, import nothing that is criminal, then to strain their genuine signification to make them intend sedition ... is such a stretch of discretionary power, as must subvert all the principles of free government, and overturn every species of liberty." It is true, he continues, that "without such a power some men may escape censure who deserve censure, but with it no man can be safe." (50) It is hard to imagine, argues The Craftsman, how one can somehow transform the inherent indeterminacy of language into a stable basis for prosecution. Indeed the "Doctrine of Innuendos" is so odd that in order to guarantee that the very words he is writing will "not be explained into a Libel," it is important to stipulate that "I mean nothing but what the natural and plain Sense of so many Syllables and Words, in the literal and common Acceptation of them, must import to every unprejudiced Understanding." If this rule is not observed, no writer can be safe, "since the Wit of Man has not yet been able to invent Words that can possibly carry but one Interpretation" (no. 228, Nov. 14, 1730).

This begs the question as to whether the opponents of the government had purposely larded The Craftsman with witty suggestions of the ministry's incompetence, or whether Sacheverell had actually implied that William III was a usurper. For if a person's words "in their first and most obvious Signification, bear an inoffensive Meaning, how can any conscientious Man take upon Him to say that he had any other Meaning; or resort to a less natural Construction, in order to find him guilty?" (no. 142, March 22, 1728-29). In effect, the government had deliberately employed an interpretive strategy designed to transform general satire into particular reflections. As a result, The Craftsman could only conclude that it was the victim of the "Gentlemen of the long Robe," guided, perhaps by the "Commentators" hired by the ministry to discover a libelous "Meaning" in its words. In short, the "sole Business" of these "modern political Alchymists" was to "extract Poison from the most innocent Sentences by virtue of this Alembick of Innuendos" (no. 228, Nov. 14, 1730).

Until the passage of Fox's Libel Law in 1792, it was the jury's responsibility merely to determine the "facts" of publication (whether a particular author or printer had actually produced the work in question), and whether ambiguous descriptions (innuendoes) actually referred to the persons mentioned. Questions of "law"--that is, whether the passages contained in the information were actually seditious, defamatory, or malicious--were left to the judge. (51) In the 1731 trial of Richard Francklin, Chief Justice Raymond instructed the jury that they needed to consider whether Francklin was guilty of publishing this particular Craftsman and whether the "expressions in that letter refer to his present majesty and his principal officers and ministers of state, and are applicable to them or not?" The Chief Justice insisted that whether "these defamatory expressions amount to a libel or not" was no question for the jury, "but to the office of the Court; because it is a matter of law, and not of fact; and of which the Court are the only proper judges." (52) The fact that Chief Justice Raymond referred to the words in question as "defamatory" suggests that he had already determined them to be libelous. His instructions outlined a source of abiding friction, as juries were often tempted to adjudicate matters of law as well as matters of fact. Chief Justice Raymond's attempt to restrict the jury's prerogative, may have been a response to the outcome of the first Craftsman trial in 1729 in which Francklin was acquitted on charges of libel, largely because the jury (packed with Tories) refused to accept the construction placed upon the innuendoes by the prosecution. As William Pulteney summarized the case, "Twelve honest men have decided the cause, / And were judges of fact, tho' not judges of laws." (53) No one was surprised, therefore, that when Francklin was tried in 1731, this time with a Whig Jury, that they would follow the judge's instructions, interpret the innuendoes differently, and quickly find Francklin guilty.


Francklin's 1731 libel trial for the publication of the "Hague Letter" (no. 235, Jan. 2, 1731) was the culmination of a long campaign against the Craftsman. Between January 1727 and January 1731 Secretary of State Thomas PelhamHolles, Duke of Newcastle, had authorized eight warrants for the arrest of the printer Richard Francklin. (54) Many of these cases involved attempts to prosecute The Craftsmans publication of a series of essays, written by Lord Bolingbroke (under the pseudonym Humphrey Oldcastle), entitled Remarks on the History of England. These clever historical vignettes clearly implied a parallel between such corrupt ministers as Sejanus, Wolsey, and Buckingham and Robert Walpole himself. (55) Richard Francklin had been tried the first time (Nov. 1729) for Craftsman No. 140, a mock-proposal in which D'Anvers pointed out that while such characters as Richard III, Macbeth, or Bajazet had long been represented on the stage, "without being interpreted into libellous Parallels," times had changed. Therefore, the author would "have it established" that no minister "should be ever suffered to appear on the Stage." With tongue planted firmly in his cheek, the author expresses satisfaction that Jonson's Sejanus had not been acted for many years and he hopes that Shakespeare's Henry the Eighth, with its account of the fall of Wolsey "may not be exhibited any more; or, at least, that many Passages in it may be castrated or modernized, according to my present Proposal" (no. 140, March 8, 1728 / 29).

Henry VIII and Wolsey were but two of the tyrants from English history drafted as stand-ins for Walpole and his ministers. The mere mention of Sejanus would call to mind Ben Jonson's sustained parallel between the tyrannical servant of Tiberius and the Duke of Buckingham. Indeed from the mid-seventeenth century on, it would have been virtually impossible to claim that any account of Sejanus was innocent of some covert political significance. There was nothing new in this procedure, since one purpose of the study of ancient history was "to search for patterns of conduct among historical figures," on the presumption that "the most useful code of behavior would be illustrated by some outstanding figure of the past in an era historically parallel to the present." (56) Such historical parallels were never entirely innocent, however. Dryden points out that the Lex laesae Majestatis of Augustus with its threat of prosecution influenced Juvenal to develop "a strategy of indirection, to circumvent the law," (57) and helps explain Juvenal's use of satirical parallel. "Wheresoever Juvenal mentions Nero, he means Domitian, whom he dares not attack in his own Person, but Scourges him by Proxy." (58)

As Annabel Patterson has shown, the prosecution of parallel history in England could be traced to Star Chamber's punishment of John Chamberlain for his letter to Dudley Careton about the performance of Sir John Hayward's Life of Henry IV. Star Chamber insisted that Hayward's decision to "retell the story of Richards deposition by Henry Bolingbroke at a time when Elizabeth's authority was being challenged by the Earl of Essex was inevitably to suggest an analogy" between the two monarchs. (59) According to defenders of The Craftsman, the Remarks on the History of England were straightforward essays "laid down in such a plain and ingenuous Manner, that one would imagine they could give no Offence to any one" since they are "Matters of Fact extracted from the best Historians, of Things transacted some Ages ago." Given such an intention, "how invidious is it in any Man to wrest an Author's meaning, and draw Parallels where none were design'd." (60) Such an argument was disingenuous, since the only reason for alluding to Sejanus or Wolsey was to bring Robert Walpole to mind, and in the manner of Juvenal, to scourge him "by proxy."

The Craftsman complains that just as "Innuendos (as they are call'd) have been often made use of, in Crown Prosecutions to fix a criminal Meaning upon Words and Expressions, which are either dubious, or naturally import an innocent Meaning," so too it has become dangerous for the purposes of "general Instruction," to draw the "Character of Sejanus, Wolsey, or any other wicked Minister of Antiquity," since by so doing the writer "runs the hazard of having it call'd a Parallel and apply'd, by an Innuendo, to some particular Minister of the present Age"(no. 142, March 22, 1728 / 29). The Craftsman may seem to dismiss the practice of "satirizing the Persons of the present Age," by applying "Passages of Roman story to our Times," a method so "trite" that "the Author need never be at the trouble to make the Application. Every Child in the Street knows well enough upon whom to fix it" (no. 7, Dec. 26, 1726). But there were enormous advantages to a rhetorical mode that "every child in the street" knew how to interpret but which the courts found difficult to prove libelous. (61)

Patterson argues that provocation to identify contemporary analogy was promoted by "some kind of signal in the text itself." (62) The use of italics, capitals, or blanks constituted one such invitation to apply an analogy. Ornate disclaimers were another. So, for The Craftsman it becomes a necessary fiction to insist that its parallel histories are factual accounts, reproduced solely for the edification of the English public. It claims that it had always been the practice, "under the most corrupt Administrations, to quote Examples and draw Parallels out of History ... in former Ages; nor can This be look'd upon as disingenuous or a Libel on the present Ministers of any Kingdom, any more than a Comment on the Ten Commandments can be called a Libel on every notorious Sinner in the Parish" (no. 31, March 24, 1727). According to The Craftsman, the very process by which the Ministry or the Courts decoded parallel histories invariably falsified and distorted significations, which were otherwise clear, even self-evident. And, the argument continued, since Walpoles minions could not "falsify Facts," they were forced "to pervert and wrest our Words to bad Meanings" The result of this "Method of Construction and Application" is that it becomes impossible to "apply any historical Passage to a Point in Dispute, without incurring the Imputation of intending a factious, seditious, or treasonable Parallel" (no. 220, Sept. 19, 1730). Even praise, if it seemed insincere, was not immune from prosecution. According to Hawkins' Pleas of the Crown, a writer who recommended "the characters of several great men for his imitation," but who praised them for "such qualities only which their enemies charge them with the want of" (for example praising Walpole as "Great Man" or George II as a great warrior), was as much a libel as if the writer had "directly and expressly" upbraided the parties "with the want of these qualities." (63)

The Craftsman exploits a series of techniques that, like semitransparent veils, simultaneously name and mask its targets, arguing all the while that it is merely reciting "historical fact" with no allusions "to particular Persons." If, however, two cases "happen to be so much alike," that observers note similarities between past times and the present, "or if any great Men will apply bad Characters to themselves," The Craftsman is not responsible for such applications (no. 31, March 24, 1727). In short, if Lord Hervey finds parallels where none were intended by the author, that interpretation can only derive from his own recognition of their truth and the consciousness of his own "secret Guilt." (64) Indeed, The Craftsman claims that since its narrative is straightforward and innocent, it is the guilty misprision of the Ministry which leads them to see images of George II in descriptions of Richard II. They are the ones who "have really drawn an infamous Parallel between his present Majesty and one of the worst Princes that ever sat on the English Throne" (no. 220, Sept. 19, 1730).

This strategy of reader entrapment finds its way into The Craftsman trial (1731) where Mr. Fazakerly, counsel for the defense, suggests that even good "princes may sometimes have the misfortune of bad ministers," just as "private persons have the misfortune of bad servants." But, he argues with feigned insouciance, "I believe that nobody can imagine that his majesty hath any such ministers." (65) If no such ministers exist, then how can they be reflected upon in hypothetical innuendoes presumably discovered in a short passage from the "Hague Letter"? The only way that the prosecution can find allusions to bad ministers in The Craftsman is if they put them there themselves by applying "forced constructions" to the reading of an otherwise innocent text.

In effect, parallel history forced the particular victims of The Craftsmans satire to name themselves. Lord Hervey had insisted that The Craftsmans exploitation of ironic historical parallels actually constituted a new and legally punishable literary form called "guarded Treasons," (66) but even he came to concede the point made by The Craftsmans defenders, that guarded treasons were actually treasons guarded by the law, "that is, Treason which the law hath not declared to be Treason." (67) As Alexander Pettit observes, here Hervey has "virtually accepted," this revised definition, and now agrees "angrily, about the legality of the Craftsmans method." (68)


The ability to encode political criticism in ambiguous parallels provided a number of strategic advantages to satirical pamphleteers. Far from apologizing for employing "trite" parallels, Vie Craftsman revels in the cleverness with which it simultaneously names and disguises its victims. Encountering such brazen and pious misdirection is a bit like gazing on Magrittes picture of a pipe placed above a motto reading "Ceci nest pas une pipe," a phrase that both denies and confirms what we are seeing directly. Indeed the authors of The Craftsman are so proud of the ironic method they have perfected, that they devote an entire issue (no. 85, Feb. 17, 1727-28) to a celebration of the satirical method itself. Mimicking the arguments of Lord Hervey and other critics of The Craftsman, Caleb D'Anvers creates an epitome of how the hostile interpretation of innuendo might be applied to The Beggar's Opera, which, according to "Phil-Harmonicus," the fictional author of the essay, was "the most venomous allegorical Libel against the Government that hath appeared for Years past." He dismisses the assertion that the play was a general satire on moral corruption. What defenders of The Beggars Opera forget, he argues, is that "there are such Things as Innuendos, a never failing Method of explaining Libels'.' The principal character (a highwayman) "sufficiently discovers the mischievous Design of it; since by this Character every Body will understand One, who makes it his Business arbitrarily to levy and collect Money on the People for his own Use'.' Even though Walpole is never named, contemporary audiences certainly recognized all the code words for Walpole and understood Gays satiric intentions. (69)

What follows is an inventory of innuendo, a parody of the ways in which innuendo was actually used in trials for libel. The author complains that comparison between statesman and thief in the opening song --"And the Statesman, because he's so great, / Thinks his Trade as honest as mine"--makes it seem as if the "Employment of a Statesman is, by innuendo ... as bad or worse than that of Jonathan Wild, represented under the Character of Peachum." Phil-Harmonicus asks whether the lines "If you mention Vice or Bribe, / 'Tis so pat to all the Tribe, / Each cries--That was levell'd at me" do not constitute a "plain Innuendo that every Courtier is corrupted either with Vice or Bribe or with Both." The oxymoronic characterization of Gay's lines as "plain Innuendo" symbolizes the confrontation between the satirist, insistent that he offered only "general" reflections in a language that was straightforward and plain and the claims of the government that such language was plain only because everyone could penetrate the deliberate ambiguity of the innuendoes.

This self-described defense of the Walpole administration is finally worse than the initial assault. In the process, The Craftsman draws exaggerated attention to the whole arsenal of literary devices at the satirists disposal, including innuendo, italics, and capitalization, each treated as if they revealed some hieroglyphic significance. As the final paragraphs make clear, the entire essay is a parody of government journalists (like Lord Hervey) who complained that such satires called out for prosecution. While he does not wish to see "the Liberty of the Stage intirely abolished," yet Phil-Harmonicus thinks "such licentious Invectives on the most polite and fashionable Vices require some immediate Restraint; for if they should continue to be allowed, the Theatre will become the Censor of the Age." There is no small irony in the fact the government seemingly took these suggestions to heart, preventing Gay from producing Polly, the successor to The Beggar's Opera. They went one step farther with the passage of the Theatrical Licensing Act (1737) which prohibited production of any play without the approval of the Lord Chamberlain, in effect, restoring licensing.

At least where the stage was concerned the government had solved the problem of how to deal with satirical language seen to be critical of the government. Where political journalism was concerned, however, the struggle to determine which forms of satire, which kinds of deliberately ambiguous reference were susceptible to prosecution would continue. Although the Court of Star Chamber had been abolished in 1641, its influence could still be detected in the deliberations of the common law courts. Star Chamber had established that "ironical Words in Writing, are adjudged libelous; open and sarcastical Reproaches, are allowed, on all Hands to be so. Nothing then remains which may by any Possibility evade the Law, but Writing in Allegory, or ... Descriptions and Circumlocutions". (70) Of course, this is precisely what The Craftsman had chosen to do. The London Journal (no. 477, Sept. 21, 1728) complains that "with some Wit and greater Malice," The Craftsman has "been libeling the Government and Ministry," wrapping himself in fable and allegory. He has "ransacked ancient and modern History for Parallels, and then produced 'em without any other Resemblance than that they were Ministers; and, like all other Men in high Trust and Power, suspected."

Indeed, as Alan Roper points out, the word "parallel" joined the words "innuendo" and "application" in "signaling a contest over whether authors or readers create meanings, thereby introducing the ambiguity it once sought to banish." This whole discussion reveals the ease with which "topical reflection in literature slides into satire, satire into libel, libel into treason." (71) Defenders of the ministry, if not the government itself, argued that all forms of ironic indirection were potentially libelous and ought to be punished under civil statute. At least in the short term this argument carried the day. By midcentury it seemed to be "agreed, that not only Scandal expressed in an open and direct manner, but also such as is expressed in Irony amounts to a Libel." (72)

To be sure, none of the indeterminacies and evasions exploited by eighteenth-century satirists provided an actual legal defense. And yet, in practical terms, such innuendoes, allegories, and circumlocutions may have provided protection after all. While the "Hague Letter" was successfully prosecuted for its innuendoes which seemed to reveal the government's secret negotiations, the government had more difficulty in demonstrating that the historical parallels contained in the Remarks on English History were actually libelous. The jury acquitted Richard Francklin in 1729. He was arrested again on Sept. 3, 1730, incarcerated for two weeks and then released on bail. In October the government apparently decided not to prosecute The Craftsman because of its satiric exploitation of historical parallel. As Alexander Pettit observes, both Lord Hervey and the London Journal were concerned with The Craftsman's "alleged manipulation of laws" that were "intrinsically benign" but that had been "rendered inadequate by the increasing rhetorical subtlety of the opposition." (73) Even so, the government itself turned away from its preoccupation with historical parallels, seemingly validating the assumption that "indirection and denial were the opposition polemicist's best tools." The conviction of the "Hague Letter" indicated that the government could be "a formidable opponent when the opposition sought to illuminate state secrets" but at the same time the "opposition had earned the right to practice with impunity a strain of rhetoric that may or may not have been libelous but that could not be proven to be so." (74) As one contemporary observer noted, The Craftsmans matter of proceeding had two advantages. First it kept the author "out of the hands of the Messenger," responsible for delivering indictments. And it "threw "a most useful Veil over his Dulness: In short, whilst he wraps himself up in Allegories, he attacks the Ministry with the same Security that old Homer's Heroes do one another--thro' a Cloud." (75)

In the final analysis, the effort to penetrate satirical circumlocution, allegory, and historical parallel may have been more trouble than it was worth. In 1751, Attorney General Ryder wrote to dissuade the Duke of Newcastle from continuing his prosecution of an issue of the London Evening Post.

There is more doubt whether the paper is such a libel for which it is advisable to prosecute him, and tho' I am in my own judgment very clear, that, the meaning ... is seditious and libelous and therefore highly criminal, yet it is conveyed in so obscure a manner, that, it will be difficult to explain the many allusions and innuendos as to expect a jury will find libelous.

As James Oldham suggests of this passage, perhaps the limited number of prosecutions for libel in the later eighteenth century is "simply a reflection of prosecutorial discretion," (76) born, in part, of the difficulty involved in demonstrating the particular meanings encoded in "general" satire.

Le Moyne College


(1) The First Satire of the Second Book of Horace Imitated (1733), in Alexander Pope, Imitations of Horace, ed. John Butt (Yale U. Press, 1961), 11. 150-56.

(2) The Trial of Henry Carr, at the Guild-Hall of London, for a Libel, July 2, 1680, 32 Car. II. (61).

(3) Daniel Defoe, A Brief Explanation of a Late Pamphlet, Entituled, The Shortest Way with the Dissenters, in a True Collection of the Writings of the Author of the True-Born Englishman (London, 1703), 436.

(4) A Letter Concerning Libels, Warrants, Seizure of Papers and Security for the Peace, 3rd ed. (sec. 1, chap. 73) (London, 1765), 10. See also, William Hawkins, A Treatise of the Pleas of the Crown, 2 vols., sixth ed. (London 1777), 1:352-56.

(5) Discourse Concerning the Original and Progress of Satire, in The Works of John Dryden, Vol. IV. Poems 1693-1696 (U. of California Press, 1974), 59.

(6) Joseph Addison, Spectator 451, in The Spectator, ed. Donald F. Bond, 5 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965), 4:88.

(7) Dryden, Discourse Concerning the Original and Progress of Satire, 67.

(8) Edward P. Nathan, "The Bench and the Pulpit: Conflicting Elements in the Augustan Apology for Satire," ELH 52.2 (1985): 382.

(9) The Correspondence of Jonathan Swift: Volumelll, 1724-1731, ed. Harold Williams (Oxford U. Press, 1963), 180-81, 182-83.

(10) David Bywaters, "Gulliver's Travels and the Mode of Political Parallel During Walpole's Administration," ELH 54.3 (1987): 727.

(11) Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1941), xxxiv.

(12) Nathan, "The Bench and the Pulpit," 381.

(13) James Oldham, English Common Law in the Age of Mansfield (U. of North Carolina Press, 2004), 231.

(14) Hawkins, Pleas of the Crown (sec. 4), 1:353.

(15) Jonathan Swift, The Importance of the Guardian Considered, in English Political Writings 1711-1714, ed. Bertrand A. Goldgar and Ian Gadd (Cambridge U. Press, 2008), 229.

(16) Andrew Benjamin Bricker, "Libel and Satire: The Problem with Naming," ELH 81 (2014): 892.

(17) Gregory G. Colomb, Designs on Truth: The Poetics of the Augustan Mock-Epic (Pennsylvania State U. Press, 1992), 64. See also C.R. Kropf, "Satire and Libel in the Eighteenth Century," Eighteenth-Century Studies 8 (1974): 153-68.

(18) Swift, The Importance of the Guardian Considered, 14-15.

(19) R. H. Helmholz, "The Mitior Sensus Doctrine: My Search for Its Origins," The Green Bag 2nd sen, 7.2 (2004):133.

(20) Helmholz, "The Mitior Sensus Doctrine," 133.

(21) Helmholz, "The Mitior Sensus Doctrine," 135.

(22) W. Mascall, A Proposal for Restraining the Great Licentiousness of the Press, quoted in MacFarlane, "Pamphlets and the Pamphlet Duty of 1712," Library, 2nd sen no. 3, (1900) 298, 303.

(23) Quoted in Bricker, "Libel and Satire," 895-96.

(24) I. W. Hawkins, quoted in Philip Hamburger, "The Development of the Law of Seditious Libel and the Control of the Press", Stanford Law Review 37 (1985): 749. All references to Hamburger are marked H and are cited by page number in the text.

(25) Quoted in Bricker, "Libel and Satire," 894.

(26) William Raynor, 7he Tryal of William Rayner, for printing and publishing a libel, intitled Robin's Reign, or Sevens the Main (London, 1732).

(27) See also John, Baron Hervey, Observations on the Writings of the Craftsman (London, 1730), 12.

(28) The Trial of Henry Sacheverell, D.D. upon an Impeachment before the House of Lords, for High Crimes and Misdemeanours: 9 Anne, A.D. 1710, in A Complete Collection of State Trials, compiled by T. B. Howell, 33 vols. (London: 1812), 15:103.

(29) Howell, ed., State Trials, XV: 183-84.

(30) The Trial of John Tutchin, at the Guildhall of London, for a Libel, entitled, 'The Observator:' 3 Anne, A. D. 1704, in A Complete Collection of State Trials, ed. T. B. Howell, 33 vols. (London, 1812), 14:1124-128.

(31) See Roger D. Lund, "The Bible in the Dock: Thomas Erskine, Thomas Paine, and the Trial of The Age of Reason" in Melvyn New and Gerard Reedy, S.J., eds. Theology and Literature in the Age of Johnson (U. of Delaware Press, 2012), 293-311.

(32) See J. A. Downie, "Defoes Shortest Way with the Dissenters: Irony, Intention and Reader-Response," Prose Studies 9 (1986): 121, and "A Great Whig Journalist," Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine vol. 106 (Oct. 1869): 470-74.

(33) In The Craftsman's Vindication of his Two Honourable Patrons (Dublin, 1731), 5, Henry St. John, Viscount Bolingbroke, argues that his Letters on the History of England contain only "general and inoffensive Reflections on the Nature of Liberty and of Faction, and on the Necessity of keeping the Spirit of Liberty alive."

(34) Bricker, "Libel and Satire," 897.

(35) Ibid., 893.

(36) See C. R. Kropf, "Libel and Satire in the Eighteenth Century," 156.

(37) Advertisement to The First Satire of the Second Book of Horace Imitated (1733), in Butt, ed. The Poems of Alexander Pope, 613.

(38) Anthony Ashley Cooper, Third Earl of Shaftesbury, "Sensus communis, an essay on the freedom of wit and humour in a letter to a friend," Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times, ed. Lawrence E. Klein (Cambridge U. Press, 1999), 34.

(39) Anthony Collins, Discourse Concerning Ridicule and Irony in Writing (London, 1729), 26.

(40) The Proceedings against Thomas Williams for publishing Paines "Age of Reason;" tried by a Special Jury in the Court of King's-Bench at Westminster, before the Right Honourable Lloyd Lord Kenyon on the 24th day of June: 37 George III. A.D. 1797, in State Trials, 26:659.

(41) Alan Roper, "Innuendo in the Restoration," Journal of English and Germanic Philology 100.1 (2001): 38.

(42) W. Bohun, Declarations and Pleadings in the Most Usual Actions (London, 1731), 2.

(43) Roper, "Innuendo," 30-31.

(44) Ibid., 30.

(45) See Kropf, "Libel and Satire," 159.

(46) A Letter Concerning Libels, Warrants, the Seizing of Papers and Sureties for the Peace or Behaviour, 3rd ed. (1765), 10.

(47) The Trial of Mr. Richard Francklin, for printing and publishing "A Letter from the Hague," in The Country-Journal, or Craftsman, of Saturday, the 2nd of January, 1731, at the Sittings of the Court of King's-Bench, Westminser, on Friday, December the 3rd, before the Right Hon. Lord Chief Justice Raymond: 5 George II. A.D. 1731, in Howell, State Trials, 17:674.

(48) State Law; or the Doctrine of Libels Discussed and Examined, 2nd ed. (London: 1730), 74.

(49) Howell, State Trials, 17:656-657.

(50) British Journal, No. 6, Oct. 27, 1722.

(51) On Fox's Libel Act (1792), see Fredrick Seaton Siebert, Freedom of the Press in England 1476-1776 (U. of Illinois Press, 1965), 391, and William Holdsworth, A History of the English Law, 12 vols. (London, 1938), 17:345.

(52) State Trials, XVII: 671-72.

(53) Laurence Hanson, Government and the Press 1695-1763 (Oxford U. Press, 1936), 19.

(54) Alexander Pettit, Illusory Consensus: Bolingbroke and the Polemical Response to Walpole, 1730-1737 (U. of Delaware Press, 1997), 60. Chap. 2 provides an excellent overview of Bolingbroke's "Analogical Historiography."

(55) On Sejanus and analogous historiography in the Jacobean period, see Malcolm Smuts, Court-Centered Politics and the Uses of Roman Historians, c. 1590-1630, in Culture and Politics in Early Stuart England, ed. Kevin Sharpe and Peter Lake (Stanford U. Press, 1993).

(56) James William Johnson, The Formation of English Neo-Classical Thought (Princeton U. Press, 1967), 91.

(57) Nathan, "The Bench and the Pulpit," 383.

(58) Dryden, Discourse Concerning the Original and Progress of Satire, 69.

(59) Annabel Patterson, Censorship and Interpretation: The Conditions of Writing and Reading in Early Modern England (U. of Wisconsin Press, 1984), 55.

(60) [anon] The Doctrine of Innuendo's Discuss'd, or the Liberty of the Press Maintain'd (London, 1731), 6.

(61) On the "triteness" of these comparisons, see Bywaters, "Gulliver's Travels," 719.

(62) Patterson, Censorship and Interpretation, 56.

(63) Hawkins, Pleas of the Crown (Sec 4.) 1:353.

(64) Amhurst, The Doctrine of Innuendos Discuss'd, 7-8.

(65) Howell, State Trials, 17:652.

(66) Observations on the Writings of the Craftsman (London, 1730), 7; in Farther Observations on the Writings of the Craftsman (London, 1730), Hervey further elaborates the meaning of "Guarded Treason" (10).

(67) John, Lord Hervey, Farther Observations, 12-13.

(68) Pettit, Illusory Consensus, 74-75.

(69) Indeed as Bertrand Goldgar points out, Craftsman no. 85 was separately printed as a "Compleat Key" to The Beggars Opera. In Walpole and the Wits: The Relation of Politics to Literature, 1722-1742 (U. of Nebraska Press, 1976), 70.

(70) State Law; or the Doctrine of Libels Discussed and Examined, 2nd ed. (London: 1730), 58.

(71) Roper, "Innuendo," 23, 34.

(72) [anon] A Digest of the Law Concerning Libels (London, 1765), 6.

(73) Pettit, Illusory Consensus, 74.

(74) Pettit, Illusory Consensus, 83-84.

(75) An Essay Upon the Taste and Writings of the Present Times ... Occasion'd by a late Volume of Miscellanies by A. Pope, Esq; and Dr. Swift (London, 1728), 42.

(76) Oldham, English Common Law in the Age of Mansfield, 231-32.
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Date:Mar 22, 2016
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