Home  »  Volume XI: English THE PERIOD OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION  »  § 3. Lapse of the Licensing Laws

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XI. The Period of the French Revolution.

XIV. Book Production and Distribution, 1625–1800

§ 3. Lapse of the Licensing Laws

L’Estrange entered upon his duties with zest, and, under his administration, the office of licenser was a real censorship. The books which he himself licensed were conscientiously dealt with from his point of view, and he had no hesitation in deleting or altering passages which did not accord with his political creed. Under his power of search, he made midnight raids on printing houses, and at least one printer, John Twyn, suffered the extreme penalty of the law for printing seditious matter. Notwithstanding this activity, a large proportion of the books during this period were issued without imprimatur, apparently with impunity; and many publications of a questionable colour bear merely the date of publication without any indication of their source. The act, after having been in abeyance for some time, was renewed on the accession of James II; but at the revolution, l’Estrange was deprived of his office, and, with the expiry of the act in 1694, the attempt of the state to control the output of the press was finally abandoned.