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Literary Forgeries

THE preceding article has reminded me of a subject by no means incurious to the lovers of literature. A large volume might be composed on literary impostors; their modes of deception, however, were frequently repetitions; particularly those at the restoration of letters, when there prevailed a mania for burying spurious antiquities, that they might afterwards be brought to light to confound their contemporaries. They even perplex us at the present day. More sinister forgeries have been performed by Scotchmen, of whom Archibald Bower, Lauder, and Macpherson, are well known.

Even harmless impostures by some unexpected accident have driven an unwary inquirer out of the course. George Steevens must again make his appearance for a memorable trick played on the antiquary Gough. This was his famous tombstone on which was engraved the drinking-horn of Hardyknute to indicate his last fatal carouse; for this royal Dane died drunk! To prevent any doubt, the name, in Saxon characters, was sufficiently legible. Steeped in pickle to hasten a precocious antiquity, it was then consigned to the corner of a broker’s shop, where the antiquarian eye of Gough often pored on the venerable odds and ends; it perfectly succeeded on the injudicious “Director of the Antiquarian Society.” He purchased the relic for a trifle, and immediately set down to a dissertation of a due size for the Archæologia! Gough never forgave himself nor Steevens, for this flagrant act of ineptitude. On every occasion in the Gentleman’s Magazine when compelled to notice this illustrious imposition, he always struck out his own name, and muffled himself up under his titular office of “The Director!” Gough never knew that this “modern antique” was only a piece of retaliation. In reviewing Masters’s Life of Baker he found two heads, one scratched down from painted glass by George Steevens, who would have passed it off for a portrait of one of our kings. Gough, on the watch to have a fling at George Steevens, attacked his graphic performance, and reprobated a portrait which had nothing human in it! Steevens vowed, that wretched as Gough deemed his pencil to be, it should make “the Director” ashamed of his own eyes, and he fairly taken in by something scratched much worse. Such was the origin of this fragment of a chimney-slab, which I have seen, and with a better judge wondered at the injudicious antiquary, who could have been duped by the slight and ill-formed scratches, and even with a false spelling of the name, which Steevens succeeded in passing off as a genuine Saxon inscription; but he had counted on his man!1 The trick is not so original as it seems. One De Grassis had engraved on marble the epitaph of a mule, which he buried in his vineyard: sometime after, having ordered a new plantation on the spot, the diggers could not fail of disinterring what lay ready for them. The inscription imported that one Publius Grassus had raised this monument to his mule! De Grassis gave it out as an odd coincidence of names, and a prophecy about his own mule! It was a simple joke! The marble was thrown by, and no more thought of. Several years after it rose into celebrity, for with the erudite it then passed for an ancient inscription, and the antiquary Porcacchi inserted the epitaph in his work on “Burials.” Thus De Grassis and his mule, equally respectable, would have come down to posterity, had not the story by some means got wind! An incident of this nature is recorded in Portuguese history, contrived with the intention to keep up the national spirit, and diffuse hopes of the new enterprise of Vasco de Gama, who had just sailed on a voyage of discovery to the Indies. Three stones were discovered near Cintra, bearing, in ancient characters, a Latin inscription; a sibylline oracle addressed prophetically “To the inhabitants of the West!” stating that when these three stones shall be found, the Ganges, the Indus, and the Tagus should exchange their commodities! This was the pious fraud of a Portuguese poet, with the approval of the king. When the stones had lain a sufficient time in the damp earth, so as to become apparently antique, our poet invited a numerous party to a dinner at his country house; in the midst of the entertainment a peasant rushed in, announcing the sudden discovery of this treasure! The inscription was placed among the royal collections as a sacred curiosity! The prophecy was accomplished, and the oracle was long considered genuine!

In such cases no mischief resulted; the annals of mankind were not confused by spurious dynasties and fabulous chronologies; but when literary forgeries are published by those whose character hardly admits of a suspicion that they are themselves the impostors, the difficulty of assigning a motive only increases that of forming a decision; to adopt or to reject them may be equally dangerous!

In this class we must place ANNIUS OF VITERBO, who published a pretended collection of historians of the remotest antiquity, some of whose names had descended to us in the works of ancient writers, while the originals had been lost. Afterwards he subjoined commentaries to confirm their authority, by passages from known authors. These at first were eagerly accepted by the learned; the blunders of the presumed editor, one of which mistook the right name of the historian he forged, were gradually detected, till at length the imposture was apparent! The pretended originals were more remarkable for their number than their volume; for the whole collection does not exceed 171 pages, which lessened the difficulty of the forgery; while the commentaries, which were afterwards published, must have been manufactured at the same time as the text. In favour of ANNIUS, the high rank he occupied at the Roman court, his irreproachable conduct, and his declaration that he had recovered some of these fragments at Mantua, and that others had come from Armenia, induced many to credit these pseudo-historians. A literary war soon kindled; Niceron has discriminated between four parties engaged in this conflict. One party decried the whole of the collection as gross forgeries; another obstinately supported their authenticity; a third decided that they were forgeries before Annius possessed them, who was only credulous; while a fourth party considered them as partly authentic, and ascribed their blunders to the interpolations of the editor, to increase their importance. Such as they were, they scattered confusion over the whole face of history. The false Berosius opens his history before the deluge, when, according to him, the Chaldeans through preceding ages had faithfully preserved their historical evidences! Annius hints, in his commentary, at the archives and public libraries of the Babylonians: the days of Noah comparatively seemed modern history with this dreaming editor. Some of the fanciful writers of Italy were duped: Sansovino, to delight the Florentine nobility, accommodated them with a new title of antiquity in their ancestor Noah, Imperatore e monarcha delle genti, visse e morì in quelle parti. The Spaniards complained that in forging these fabulous origins of different nations, a new series of kings from the ark of Noah had been introduced by some of their rhodomontade historians to pollute the sources of their history. Bodin’s valuable works are considerably injured by Annius’s supposititious discoveries. One historian died of grief, for having raised his elaborate speculations on these fabulous originals; and their credit was at length so much reduced, that Pignoria and Maffei both announced to their readers that they had not referred in their works to the pretended writers of Annius! Yet, to the present hour, these presumed forgeries are not always given up. The problem remains unsolved—and the silence of the respectable Annius, in regard to the forgery, as well as what he affirmed when alive, leave us in doubt whether he really intended to laugh at the world by these fairy tales of the giants of antiquity. Sanchoniathon, as preserved by Eusebius, may be classed among these ancient writings, or forgeries, and has been equally rejected and defended.

Another literary forgery, supposed to have been grafted on those of Annius, involved the INGHIRAMI family. It was by digging in their grounds that they discovered a number of Etruscan antiquities, consisting of inscriptions, and also fragments of a chronicle, pretended to have been composed sixty years before the vulgar æra. The characters on the marbles were the ancient Etruscan, and the historical work tended to confirm the pretended discoveries of Annius. They were collected and enshrined in a magnificent folio by Curtius Inghirami, who, a few years after, published a quarto volume exceeding one thousand pages to support their authenticity. Notwithstanding the erudition of the forger, these monuments of antiquity betrayed their modern condiment. There were uncial letters which no one knew; but these were said to be undiscovered ancient Etruscan characters; it was more difficult to defend the small italic letters, for they were not used in the age assigned to them; besides that there were dots on the letter i, a custom not practised till the eleventh century. The style was copied from the Latin of the Psalms and the Breviary; but Inghirami discovered that there had been an intercourse between the Etruscans and the Hebrews, and that David had imitated the writings of Noah and his descendants! Of Noah the chronicle details speeches and anecdotes!

The Romans, who have preserved so much of the Etruscans, had not, however, noticed a single fact recorded in these Etruscan antiquities. INGHIRAMI replied, that the manuscript was the work of the secretary of the college of the Etrurian augurs, who alone was permitted to draw his materials from the archives, and who, it would seem, was the only scribe who has favoured posterity with so much secret history. It was urged in favour of the authenticity of these Etruscan monuments, that INGHIRAMI was so young an antiquary at the time of the discovery, that he could not even explain them; and that, when fresh researches were made on the spot, other similar monuments were also disinterred, where evidently they had long lain; the whole affair, however contrived, was confined to the Inghirami family. One of them, half a century before, had been the librarian of the Vatican, and to him is ascribed the honour of the forgeries which he buried where he was sure they would be found. This, however, is a mere conjecture! Inghirami, who published and defended their authenticity, was not concerned in their fabrication; the design was probably merely to raise the antiquity of Volaterra, the family estate of the Inghirami; and for this purpose one of its learned branches had bequeathed his posterity a collection of spurious historical monuments, which tended to overturn all received ideas on the first ages of history.2

It was probably such impostures, and those of the false decretals of ISIDORE, which were forged for the maintenance of the papal supremacy, and for eight hundred years formed the fundamental basis of the canon law, the discipline of the church, and even the faith of Christianity, which led to the monstrous Pyrrhonism of Father HARDOUIN, who, with immense erudition, had persuaded himself that, excepting the Bible and Homer, Herodotus, Plautus, Pliny the elder, with fragments of Cicero, Virgil, and Horace, all the remains of classical literature were forgeries of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries! In two dissertations he imagined that he had proved that the Æneid was not written by Virgil, nor the Odes of Horace by that poet. HARDOUIN was one of those wrongheaded men, who once having fallen into a delusion, whatever afterwards occurs only tends to strengthen it. He died in his own faith! He seems not to have been aware, that by ascribing such prodigal inventions as Plutarch, Thucydides, Livy, Tacitus, and other historians, to the men he did, he was raising up an unparalleled age of learning and genius when monks could only write meagre chronicles, while learning and genius themselves lay in an enchanted slumber with a suspension of all their vital powers.

There are numerous instances of the forgeries of smaller documents. The Prayer-Book of Columbus, presented to him by the Pope, which the great discoverer of a new world bequeathed to the Genoese republic, has a codicil in his own writing, as one of the leaves testifies, but as volumes composed against its authenticity deny. The famous description in Petrarch’s Virgil, so often quoted, of his first recontre with Laura in the church of St. Clair on a Good Friday, 6 April, 1327, it has been recently attempted to be shown is a forgery. By calculation, it appears that the 6 April, 1327, fell on a Monday! The Good Friday seems to have been a blunder of the manufacturer of the note. He was entrapped by reading the second sonnet, as it appears in the printed editions!

Era il giorno ch' al sol si scolorano
Per la
pietà del suo fattore i rai.
“It was on the day when the rays of the sun were obscured by compassion for his Maker.”

The forger imagined this description alluded to Good Friday and the eclipse at the Crucifixion. But how stands the passage in the MS. in the imperial library of Vienna, which Abbé Costaing has found?

Era il giorno ch’ al sol di color raro
la pietà da suo fattore, ai rai
Quand Io fu preso; e non mi guardai
Che ben vostri occhi dentro mi legaro.
“It was on the day that I was captivated, devotion for its Maker appeared in the rays of a brilliant sun, and I did not well consider that it was your eyes that enchained me!”

The first meeting, according to the Abbé Costaing, was not in a church, but in a meadow—as appears by the 91st sonnet. The Laura of Sade was not the Laura of Petrarch; but Laura de Baux, unmarried, and who died young, residing in the vicinity of Vauciuse. Petrarch had often viewed her from his own window, and often enjoyed her society amidst her family.3 If the Abbé Costaing’s discovery be confirmed, the good name of Petrarch is freed from the idle romantic passion for a married woman. It would be curious if the famous story of the first meeting with Laura in the church of St. Clair originated in the blunder of the forger’s misconception of a passage which was incorrectly printed, as appears by existing manuscripts!

Literary forgeries have been introduced into bibliography; dates have been altered; fictitious titles affixed; and books have been reprinted, either to leave out, or to interpolate whole passages! I forbear entering minutely into this part of the history of literary forgery, for this article has already grown voluminous. When we discover, however, that one of the most magnificent of amateurs, and one of the most critical of bibliographers, were concerned in a forgery of this nature, it may be useful to spread an alarm among collectors. The Duke de la Vallière, and the Abbé de St. Leger, once concerted together to supply the eager purchaser of literary rarities with a copy of De Tribus Impostoribus, a book, by the date, pretended to have been printed in 1598, though, probably, a modern forgery of 1698. The title of such a work had long existed by rumour, but never was a copy seen by man! Works printed with this title have all been proved to be modern fabrications. A copy, however, of the introuvable original was sold at the Duke de la Vallière’s sale! The history of this volume is curious. The duke and the abbé having manufactured a text, had it printed in the old Gothic character, under the title De Tribus Impostoribus. They proposed to put the great bibliopolist, De Bure, in good humour, whose agency would sanction the imposture. They were afterwards to dole out copies at twenty-five louis each, which would have been a reasonable price for a book which no one ever saw! They invited De Bure to dinner, flattered and cajoled him, and, as they imagined, at a moment they had wound him up to their pitch, they exhibited their manufacture; the keen-eyed glance of the renowned cataloguer of the “Bibliographie Instructive” instantly shot like lightning over it, and like lightning, destroyed the whole edition. He not only discovered the forgery, but reprobated it! He refused his sanction; and the forging duke and abbé, in confusion, suppressed the livre introuvable; but they owed a grudge to the honest bibliographer and attempted to write down the work whence the De Bures derive their fame.

Among the extraordinary literary impostors of our age, if we except LAUDER, who, detected by the Ithuriel pen of Bishop Douglas, lived to make his public recantation of his audacious forgeries, and CHATTERTON, who has buried his inexplicable story in his own grave; a tale, which seems hut half told; we must place a man well known in the literary world under the assumed name of GEORGE PSALMANAAZAAR. He composed his autobiography as the penance of contrition, not to be published till he was no more, when all human motives have ceased which might cause his veracity to be suspected. The life is tedious; but I have curiously traced the progress of the mind in an ingenious imposture, which is worth preservation. The present literary forgery consisted of personating a converted islander of Formosa; a place then little known, but by the reports of the Jesuits, and constructing a language and a history of a new people, and a new religion, entirely of his own invention! This man was evidently a native of the south of France; educated in some provincial college of the Jesuits, where he had heard much of their discoveries of Japan; he had looked over their maps, and listened to their comments. He forgot the manner in which the Japanese wrote; but supposed, like orientalists, they wrote from the right to the left, which he found difficult to manage. He set about excogitating an alphabet; but actually forgot to give names to his letters, which afterwards baffled him before literary men.

He fell into gross blunders; having inadvertently affirmed that the Formosans sacrificed eighteen thousand male infants annually, he persisted in not lessening the number. It was proved to be an impossibility in so small an island, without occasioning a depopulation. He had made it a principle in this imposture never to vary when he had once said a thing. All this was projected in haste, fearful of detection by those about him.

He was himself surprised at his facility of invention, and the progress of his forgery. He had formed an alphabet, a considerable portion of a new language, a grammar, a new division of the year into twenty months, and a new religion! He had accustomed himself to write his language; but being an inexpert writer with the unusual way of writing backwards, he found this so difficult, that he was compelled to change the complicated forms of some of his letters. He now finally quitted his home, assuming the character of a Formosan convert, who had been educated by the Jesuits. He was then in his fifteenth or sixteenth year. To support his new character, he practised some religious mummeries; he was seen worshipping the rising and setting sun. He made a prayer-book, with rude drawings of the sun, moon, and stars, to which he added some gibberish prose and verse, written in his invented character, muttering or chanting it, as the humour took him. His using himself to feed on raw flesh seemed to assist his deception more than the sun and moon.

In a garrison at Sluys he found a Scotch regiment in the Dutch pay; the commander had the curiosity to invite our Formosan to confer with Innes, the chaplain to his regiment. This Innes was probably the chief cause of the imposture being carried to the extent it afterwards reached. Jones was a clergyman, but a disgrace to his cloth. As soon as he fixed his eye on our Formosan, he hit on a project; it was nothing less than to make Psalmanaazaar the ladder of his own ambition, and the stepping-place for him to climb up to a good living! Innes was a worthless character; as afterwards appeared, when by an audacious imposition Innes practised on the Bishop of London, he avowed himself to be the author of an anonymous work, entitled “A modest Enquiry after Moral Virtue;” for this he obtained a good living in Essex: the real author, a poor Scotch clergyman, obliged him afterwards to disclaim the work in print, and to pay him the profit of the edition which Innes had made! He lost his character, and retired to the solitude of his living; if not penitent, at least mortified.

Such a character was exactly adapted to become the foster-father of imposture. Innes courted the Formosan, and easily won on the adventurer, who had in vain hitherto sought for a patron. Meanwhile no time was lost by Innes to inform the unsuspicious and generous Bishop of London of the prize he possessed—to convert the Formosan was his ostensible pretext; to procure preferment his concealed motive. It is curious enough to observe, that the ardour of conversion died away in Innes, and the most marked neglect of his convert prevailed, while the answer of the bishop was protracted or doubtful. He had at first proposed to our Formosan impostor to procure his discharge, and convey him to England: this was eagerly consented to by our pliant adventurer. A few Dutch schellings, and fair words, kept him in good humour; but no letter coming from the bishop, there were fewer words, and not a stiver! This threw a new light over the character of Innes to the inexperienced youth. Psalmanaazaar sagaciously now turned all his attention to some Dutch ministers; Innes grew jealous lest they should pluck the bird which he had already in his net. He resolved to baptize the impostor—which only the more convinced Psalmanaazaar that Innes was one himself; for before this time Innes had practised a stratagem on him, which had clearly shown what sort of a man his Formosan was.

The stratagem was this: he made him translate a passage in Cicero, of some length, into his pretended language, and give it him in writing: this was easily done, by Psalmanaazaar’s facility of inventing characters. After Innes had made him construe it, he desired to have another version of it on another paper. The proposal, and the arch manner of making it, threw our impostor into the most visible confusion. He had had but a short time to invent the first paper, less to recollect it; so that in the second transcript not above half the words were to be found which existed in the first. Innes assumed a solemn air, and Psalmanaazaar was on the point of throwing himself on his mercy, but Innes did not wish to unmask the impostor; he was rather desirous of fitting the mask closer to his face. Psalmanaazaar, in this hard trial, had given evidence of uncommon facility, combined with a singular memory. Innes cleared his brow, smiled with a friendly look, and only hinted in a distant manner, that he ought to he careful to be better provided for the future! An advice which Psalmanaazaar afterwards bore in mind, and at length produced the forgery of an entire new language; and which, he remarkably observes, “by what I have tried since I came into England, I cannot say but I could have compassed it with less difficulty than can be conceived had I applied closely to it.” When a version of the catechism was made into the pretended Formosan language, which was submitted to the judgment of the first scholars, it appeared to them grammatical, and was pronounced to be a real language, from the circumstance that it resembled no other! and they could not conceive that a stripling could be the inventor of a language. If the reader is curious to examine this extraordinary imposture, I refer him to that literary curiosity, “An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa, with Accounts of the Religion, Customs, and Manners of the Inhabitants, by George Psalmanaazaar, a Native of the said Isle,” 1704; with numerous plates, wretched inventions! of their dress! religious ceremonies! their tabernacle and altars to the sun, the moon, and the ten stars! their architecture! the viceroy’s castle! a temple! a city house! a countryman’s house! and the Formosan alphabet! In his conferences before the Royal Society with a Jesuit just returned from China, the Jesuit had certain strong suspicions that our hero was an impostor! The good father remained obstinate in his own conviction, but could not satisfactorily communicate it to others; and Psalmanaazaar, after politely asking pardon for the expression, complains of the Jesuit that “HE lied most impudently,” mentitur impudentissime! Dr. Mead absurdly insisted Psalmanaazaar was a Dutchman or a German; some thought him a Jesuit in disguise, a tool of the nonjurors; the Catholics thought him bribed by the Protestants to expose their church; the Presbyterians that he was paid to explode their doctrine, and cry up episcopacy! This fabulous history of Formosa seems to have been projected by his artful prompter Innes, who put Varenius into Psalmanaazaar’s hands to assist him; trumpeted forth in the domestic and foreign papers an account of this converted Formosan; maddened the booksellers to hurry the author, who was scarcely allowed two months to produce this extraordinary volume; and as the former accounts the public possessed of this island were full of monstrous absurdities and contradictions, these assisted the present imposture. Our forger resolved to describe new and surprising things as they had done, but rather studied to clash with them, probably that he might have an opportunity to pretend to correct them. The first edition was immediately sold; the world was more divided than ever in opinion: in a second edition he prefixed a vindication!—the unhappy forger got about twenty guineas for an imposture, whose delusion spread far and wide! Some years afterwards Psalmanaazaar was engaged in a minor imposture; one man had persuaded him to father a white composition called the Formosan japan! which was to be sold at a high price! It was curious for its whiteness, but it had its faults. The project failed; and Psalmanaazaar considered the miscarriage of the white Formosan japan as a providential warning to repent of all his impostures of Formosa!

1 The stone may be found in the British Museum. HARÐCNVT is the reading on the Harthacnut stone; but the true orthography of the name is HARÐACNVT.

2 The volume of these pretended Antiquities is entitled Etruscarum Antiquitatem fragmenta. fo. Franc. 1637. That which Inghirami published to defend their authenticity is in Italian, Discorso sopra l’opposizioni fatte all’ Antichita Toscane, 4to. Firenze, 1645.

3 I draw this information from a little new year’s gift which my learned friend, the Rev. S. Weston, presented to his friends in 1822, entitled, “A Visit to Vaucluse.” He derives his account from, apparently, a curious publication of L’Abbé Costaing de Pusigner d’Avignon, which I have not, hitherto, been able to procure.

Editor’s Notes

 § The first of the footnotes above was extended in later editions of the Curiosities:

It was reported to have been discovered in Kennington-lane, where the palace of the monarch was said to have been located, and the inscription carefully made in Anglo-Saxon characters, was to the effect that “Here Hardcnut drank a wine-horn dry, stared about him, and died.”
Sylvanus Urban, my once excellent and old friend, seems a trifle uncourteous on this grave occasion.—He tells us, however, that “The history of this wanton trick, with a fac-simile of Schnebbelie’s drawing, may be seen in his volume lx. P. 217.” He says that this wicked contrivance of George Steevens was to entrap this famous draughtsman! Does Sylvanus then deny that “the Director” was not also “entrapped?” and that he always struck out his own name in the proof-sheets of the Magazine, substituting his official designation, by which the whole society itself seemed seemed to screen “the Director!”

The third of the footnotes was also enlarged:

…but which it is absolutely necessary to examine, before we can decide on the very curious but unsatisfactory accounts we have hitherto possessed of the Laura of Petrarch.

There were, moreover, four new footnotes added concerning the text above. First, upon the sentence concluding ‘and dissertations of a due size were preparing for the Archæologia:’

I have since learned that this famous invention was originally a flim-flam of a Mr. Thomas White, a noted collector and dealer in antiquities. But it was Steevens who placed it in the broker’s shop, where he was certain of catching the antiquary. When the late Mr. Pegge, a profound brother, was preparing to write a dissertation on it, the first inventor of the flam stepped forward to save any further tragical termination; the wicked wit had already succeeded too well.

Second, regarding Annius of Viterbo:

He was a Dominican monk, his real name being Giovanni Nanni, which he Latinised in conformity with the custom of his era. He was born 1432, and died 1502. His great work, Antiquitatem Rariorum, professes to contain the works of Manetho, Berosus, and other authors of equal antiquity.

Third, further to the sentence ending ‘these monuments of antiquity betrayed their modern condiment:’

A forgery of similar character has been recently effected in the débris of the Chapelle St. Eloi (Département de L’Eure, France), where many inscriptions connected with the early history of France were exhumed, which a deputation of antiquaries, convened to examine their authenticity, have since pronounced to be forgeries!

And, fourth, concerning George Psalmanazar:

For some further notices of Psalmanazar and his literary labours, we may refer the reader to vol. I. p. 137, note.
An additional paragraph, with three more footnotes pertaining to it, was also appended to later versions of this article:
Among these literary forgeries may be classed several ingenious ones fabricated for a political purpose. We had certainly numerous ones during our civil wars in the reign of Charles the First. This is not the place to continue the controversy respecting the mysterious Eikon Basiliké, which has been ranked among them, from the ambiguous claim of Gauden*. A recent writer who would probably incline not to leave the monarch, were he living, not only his head but the little fame he might obtain by the “Verses” said to be written by him at Carisbrook Castle, would deprive him also of these. Henderson’s death-bed recantation is also reckoned among them; and we have a large collection of “Letters of Sir Henry Martin to his Lady of Delight,” which were the satirical effusions of a wit of that day, but by their price they have obtained, are probably considered as genuine ones, and exhibit an amusing picture of his loose rambling life.† Sir John Birkenhead, a great humourist and wit, had a busy pen in these spurious letters and speeches.‡
* The question has been discussed with great critical acumen by Dr. Wordsworth.
† Since this was published I have discovered that Harry Martin’s Letters are not forgeries, but I cannot immediately recover my authority.
‡ One of the most amusing of these tricks was perpetrated on William Prynne, the well-known puritanical hater of the stage, by some witty cavalier. Prynne’s great work, “Histriomastix, the Player’s scourge; or, Actor’s Tragedy,” an immense quarto, of 1100 pages, was a complete condemnation of all theatrical amusements; but in 1649 appeared a tract of four leaves, entitled “Mr. William Prynne, his Defence of Stage Playes; or, a Retraction of a former Book of his called Histriomastix.” It must have astonished many readers in his own day, and would have passed for his work in more modern times, but for the accidental preservation of a single copy of a handbill Prynne published disclaiming the whole thing. His style is most amusingly imitated throughout, and his great love for quoting authorities in his margin. He is made to complain that “this wicked and tyrannical army did lately in a most inhumane, cruell, rough, and barbarous manner, take away the poor players from their houses, being met there to discharge the duty of their callings: as if this army were fully bent, and most traitorously and maliciously set, to put down and depresse all the King’s friends, not only in the parliament, but in the very theatres; they have no care of covenant or any thing else.” And he is further made to declare, in spite of “what the malicious, clamorous and obstreperous people” may object, that he once wrote against stage-plays—that it was “when I had not so clear a light as now I have.” We can fancy the amusement this pamphlet must have been to many readers during the great Civil War.