Cressy 2010

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Cressy, David. Dangerous Talk: Scandalous, Seditious, and Treasonable Speech in Pre-Modern England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
"Most of the modern scholarship on popular politics and the state focuses on published writings. Discussions of liberty, citizenship, and censorship deal primarily with written expression. Recent historical study has exposed the surreptitious circulation of manuscripts and libels, but still it concentrates on the written word. This project, by contrast, seeks to incorporate a more elusive body of utterance, including words that were never intended to be written down. Although actual spoken language was lost to the wind, the historical record yields redactions, quotations, and representations of (p. x ) what was purportedly said. Even allowing for scribal interventions and lapses of memory, we find fragments of forgotten conversations, reports of words spoken in carelessness, in anger, or in drink." (ix-x)

Sins of the Tongue

tongue as a source of sin, an "unruly member"

"A misogynist strain held that women's tongues, in particular, were dangerous instruments. ‘Woman, for the most part, hath the glibbest tongue,’ observed the preacher Thomas Adams. A woman's tongue was ‘bitterer than gall’, wrote one early Stuart writer. It was like ‘a poison, a serpent, fire, and thunder’, wrote another. No venomous snake ‘stings like a woman's tongue’, claimed a popular ballad in 1634." (3)

tongue had two veins, one going to the heart, one to the brain (3-4)

"A powerful strain of sanctions addressed the politics of language, linking the sins of blasphemy and sedition. Relentlessly (p. 7 ) deployed by preachers and propagandists, a battery of biblical verses de monized speech against the crown: ‘Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people,’ commanded Exodus (22: 28). ‘Curse not the king, no not in thy thought,’ enjoined Ecclesiastes (10: 20). It was a filthy sin to ‘despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities’, wrote the apostle Jude (1: 8). Other well-worn texts gave royal authority scriptural blessing: ‘By me kings reign, and princes decree justice’ (Proverbs 8: 15); ‘Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, what doest thou?’ (Ecclesiastes 8: 4); ‘Fear God. Honour the king’ (1 Peter 2: 17); ‘The powers that be are ordained of God’ (Romans 13: 1)." (6-7)
"eared in this tradition, Charles I demanded heightened reverent sub jection. Ruling by divine right, he saw himself as ‘God's instrument…the fountain of government…the light of the commonwealth…like the sun in the firmament’. Like his predecessors, his sacred majesty was supreme governor of the church, commander of the ship of state, head of the body politic, and the keystone of order and justice.72 Since kingly power came from the law of God, to disobey or disparage it was a sin. With church and state so tightly fused together, there was little distinction between blas phemy and sedition. ‘The most high and sacred order of kings is of divine right,’ so to criticize it was ‘treasonable against God as well as against the king’, said the church canons of 1640." (9)

Abusive Words

"A flood of actions for scandalum magnatum in the reign of Charles I led to crippling awards of damages against defendants. Anyone foolish enough to (p. 33 ) call a noble a ‘paltry lord’ or ‘base fellow’ risked an appearance before the courts. The law survived the revolution, and was exploited vindictively and for profit in the reign of Charles II." (32-3)
"Though most libels were in scriptis, in the form of a handwritten epigram, statement, or verse, a libel could also be sine scriptis, by means of a gesture, image, or symbol. ‘Speaking’ could sometimes be voiceless, through a variety of insulting theatrics. Libelling could also be done ‘by scandalous words, scoffs, jests, taunts, or songs’, without pen ever touching paper." (33)
"In June 1628 a famous handwritten challenge appeared on a post in Coleman Street, London: ‘Who rules the kingdom? The king. Who rules the king? The duke. Who rules the duke? The devil.’ The libellers warned that ‘if things be not shortly reformed, they will work a reformation themselves. At the sight whereof, they say his majesty was much dis-pleased.’99 After Buckingham's death, with the principal target for public libels departed, determined scribblers could direct their attention to the crown. ‘Oh king, or rather no king…thou hast lost the hearts of thy subjects,’ began a handwritten diatribe of 1629.100 Another libel ‘abusive of the state’ was hung on Cheapside Cross in 1635.101 Libels concerning the Scots were cast abroad in the king's privy lodgings and gardens in 1639.102 More cascades of derisory libels accompanied the crisis of the 1640s, as an underground scribal culture coexisted with the radically expanded press. Moving from individuals to public causes, libels satirized the Puritans, the bishops, the parliament, and the cavaliers." (36)

Speaking Treason

Elizabethan Voices

Words Against King James

"About the worst that anyone said of James I was that he was foreign, and that a Scot should not wear the crown of England. One or two people called the king a fool, perhaps echoing the remark attributed to Henry IV of France, that King James was ‘the wisest fool in Christendom’. A few suggested that the king was unreliable in religion. One or two imagined his death. But scandalous and treasonable remarks, of the kind that dogged the Tudors, seemed to quieten down or move to a lower register." (91)

The Demeaning of Charles I: Hugh Pyne's Dangerous Words

"Few kings were so prickly about their honour, or more insistent on the dignity of kingship, than Charles I. Few monarchs had so extravagant a sense of their supremacy, yet such an unsure command of the love and respect of their subjects. One would not know, from recent accounts of his reign, that King Charles endured a barrage of popular derision, quite apart from attacks on the Duke of Buckingham, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Queen Henrietta Maria. Long before the revolution, indeed from the very beginning of his reign, dozens of Charles I's subjects spoke of him in ways that the authorities deemed dangerous, dishonourable, scandalous, disgraceful, disloyal, uncivil, seditious, or treasonous. He was said to be foolish, childish, and not fit to be king, though few of these outbursts have been examined by historians." (115)

Dangerous Words, 1625-1642

"Between 1625 and 1642 the Privy Council heard repeated reports of subjects who disparaged their monarch, who impugned his character, or who even compassed his death. Despite the courtly conceit that King Charles was the best of all rulers, an undercurrent of contempt flowed through casual conversation. The king's alleged inadequacy was a recurrent motif in popular parlance, even if it was scrupulously excised from high politics." (132)
"This chapter shows the domain of political discourse in early Stuart England to have been wider, and sometimes nastier, than historians have often imagined. It shows the cherished arcana imperii, notionally the preserve of statesmen, to have been constantly eroding at the edges." (133)

Revolutionary Seditions

Charles II: The Veriest Rogue that Ever Reigned

The Last of the Stuarts

Dangerous Speech from Hanoverian to Modern England

Dangerous Talk in Dangerous Times