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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume III. Renascence and Reformation.

XVII. The Marprelate Controversy

§ 3. The story of the press

It is now time to turn to Martin himself, and consider the history of the secret printing press, which, like a masked gun, dropped shell after shell into the episcopal camp. The type that Waldegrave had rescued from the hands of the authorities was conveyed to the London house of a certain Mistress Crane, a well known puritan, where it remained, according to the evidence of her servant, for two or three months, that is, until June. It is somewhat difficult to follow Waldegrave’s movements after the raid in April, as the information we possess about the Marprelate press before November 1588 is very scanty and untrustworthy. The seizure of the copies of Diotrephes probably necessitated its reissue; and, as there are two distinct impressions extant, it is legitimate to suppose that the printer, for some of this time, was engaged upon this task. A close examination of the lettering and workmanship of the tract, together with hints let fall by those examined by the authorities in their investigation of the affair, support the belief that it was printed by Waldegrave on a press and with type belonging to Penry and secreted at Kingston-on-Thames, of which town Udall was then parish priest. Hardby, at the village of East Molesey, was Mistress Crane’s country-house, whither the rescued type was brought in June, and, at the same time, or in September, the black-letter in which the first four Marprelate tracts were to be printed. On 10 June, the pursuivants had been at Kingston-on-Thames, looking for Walde-grave; but, as they had failed to find him, he had probably moved to East Molesey by that date. Certainly, in July, he was hard at work there upon a fresh tract by Udall, entitled A Demonstration of Discipline. This pamphlet possesses none of the literary interest of Diotrephes, being little more than a bald summary of the puritan arguments against episcopacy. Its author, it may be noticed in passing, was, about this time, deprived of his living because of his outspoken sermons, and is, for that reason, perhaps, much more bitter here than in the earlier tract. Penry, also, either from East Molesey or Kingston, issued a second and third edition of his Exhortation and a reply to one Dr. Some, who had published an answer to the first edition. It soon, however, became evident that something besides arguments for church discipline and pleas for Wales was being hatched in this little nest of puritans in the Thames valley. The first Marprelate tract, commonly known as The Epistle, was printed by Waldegrave under Penry’s supervision at Mistress Crane’s house, and issued in October or at the beginning of the next month. It burst upon the world with surprising effect. Early in November, “Martin” was a name in everyone’s mouth. So great, indeed, was the stir that, on the 14th, we find Burghley, by royal command, writing an urgent letter to Whitgift, bidding him use all the means in his power to bring the authors to book. Penry had foreseen the coming storm, and the Thames valley had long been under the eye of the pursuivants. On 1 November, therefore, Waldegrave was already in Northamptonshire and his press on the road behind him.

It was natural that the press should gravitate into this district. Penry, on 8 September, had married a lady of Northampton and made his home there; and there was another and no less important reason for the direction taken. At a village, called Hasely, lying a little to the north-west of Warwick and, therefore, no very great distance from Northampton, dwelt a certain Job Throckmorton, who had, probably, much to do with the production of the tracts. The place to which the press and printer were removed was the house of Penry’s friend, Sir Richard Knightley, at Fawsley, twelve miles from Northampton on the Warwick side and, therefore, easily accessible both to Penry and Throckmorton. Notwithstanding the strictest secrecy observed by all, it was found impossible to remain long there. During the stay, only one tract, so far as we know, was printed—“the second Martin,” known as The Epitome. This, the longest but one of Martin’s productions, was printed, distributed and already in the archbishop’s hands, before 6 December: possibly, therefore, it had been partially printed before the move from Molesey. Its appearance led the authorities to redouble their efforts to discover the wandering press. On 29 January, 1589, a pursuivant made a raid on Penry’s house at Northampton, carrying off his papers; and, in February, a proclamation was issued against “sundry schismatical and seditious bookes, diffamatorie Libels and other fantastical writings” that, of late, had been “secretly published and dispersed.” Meanwhile, the press was again on its travels. At the end of 1588, or the beginning of 1589, it was carted to another house belonging to Sir Richard Knightley, situated at a little village near Daventry, called Norton. Here it remained idle for about a fortnight, when it was taken to Coventry and bestowed in the White Friars, a house belonging to John Hales, a relative of Sir Richard. From thence, two Marprelate tracts were issued, The Minerall Conclusions, at the end of February, and Hay any worke for Cooper, about the 20th of the following month, another of Penry’s Welsh pamphlets, known as A Supplication to the Parliament, appearing between these two dates. At this juncture, a worse evil befell the Martinists than the compulsory nomadism they had hitherto endured. The man behind the gun began to tire of his task. At the beginning of April, Waldegrave informed a friend of his intention to quit the Marprelate cause. He was encouraged in this determination, not merely by personal fears, but, also, by the dislike of Martin’s methods, openly expressed by the majority of puritan preachers. What happened to him immediately afterwards is not clear. We hear of him next at Rochelle, whither he probably found it safest to retire. He took away with him the black-letter in which the first four Marprelate tracts are printed, leaving it, perhaps, in London on his way through. Though no longer the Marprelate printer, he did not, therefore, sever all connection with Penry and Throckmorton. During the summer of 1589, he printed Th’ Appellation of John Penri, and, about the same time, an anonymous book M. Some laid open in his coulers, said to be by Throckmorton and, therefore, of value as evidence for the identity of Martin. It is generally believed that Waldegrave also printed a little tract on the lines of Udall’s Diotrephes, entitled A Dialogue wherein is plainly laide open the tyrannicall dealing of L. Bishopps against God’s children. It is not certain, however, whether this was issued like the two others from Rochelle, though, undoubtedly, it appeared in 1589.

Waldegrave’s desertion was a sad blow for Martin and silenced his guns for a while. An inferior printer, one John Hodgkins, “a salt-petre, man,” was engaged in May or early in June; but he probably took some time in obtaining the necessary assistants, for he did not begin to print until mid-summer or after. The press, or, perhaps we should say, one of the presses, had been removed from Coventry and was now concealed in the house of Mistress Wigston, at Wolston, a village some six miles to the south. Hodgkins’s first task was to print the Theses Martinianae or Martin Junior, part of which, it is curious to notice, he had picked up in the road, outside Throckmorton’s house, when returning with Penry from a visit there. He appears to have finished this about 22 July, and its sequel, The just censure and reproofe of Martin Junior, about a week later. He was then urged to take in hand another tract called More worke for the Cooper. Not liking Penry’s press, however, he decided to take this manuscript away and print it on a second press, previously sent by him to the neighbourhood of Manchester, which, possibly, was his home. Here, while actually printing the new tract, he and two assistants, Symmes and Tomlyn, were arrested near the end of August by the earl of Derby. The press, type and manuscript were seized, with all the printed sheets of More worke that had already been struck off, and Hodgkins and his men were carried to London and examined under torture. But this was not the coup de grâce. There was still the other press and Penry’s original type at Mistress Wigston’s. With the aid of these, the seventh and last Martin was produced, in the month of September, 1589, at Throckmorton’s house in Hasely, as is usually supposed, and issued under the title of The Protestation. An examination of the original reveals the fact that two different printers are responsible for it: one, the merest amateur, the other, an accomplished craftsman. The former, who only printed the first half sheet, we may conjecture to have been Penry, assisted, perhaps by Throckmorton; the latter, who finished the tract, we believe from the printer’s signatures to have been Waldegrave, who seems to have returned from Rochelle in the autumn of 1589 and to have delivered at Throckmorton’s house his printed copies of Th’ Appellation and M. Some laid open, before continuing his journey to Scotland, where, in 1590, he became royal printer to king James. Soon after The Protestation appeared, Penry, also, fled to Scotland, possibly travelling in Waldegrave’s company. Their departure was only just in time. Henry Sharpe, a bookbinder of Northampton, on 15 October, revealed to the lord chancellor the whole story of the Marprelate press, whereupon Sir Richard Knightley, Hales and the Wigstons were arrested. At the end of the year, Udall, who had left Kingston for Newcastle in December, 1588, was summoned to London and there cast into prison. Some two and a half years later, Penry returned to England and joined the separatists. Not long after, he was arrested, and, on 29 May, 1593, was hanged on a trumped up charge of treason, thus paying with his life for the part he had taken in the Marprelate controversy. His partner, Job Throckmorton, who, probably, was far more guilty than he, swore, at the trial, that “he was not Martin and knew not Martin”; and it was only in 1595, when the storm had blown over, that the real nature of his connection with the Marprelate press seems to have been realised.