MacLean, Gerald, editor. The Return of the King : An Anthology of English Poems Commemorating the Restoration of Charles II / edited by Gerald MacLean
Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library

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   The Restoration of Charles II in 1660 marked a period in world history by reintroducing monarchy to a nation that was determining global events through its artistic, scientific, and intellectual achievements as much as by its growing imperial ambitions. It also brought to an end the first great anti-monarchist revolution in modern European history. On no previous occasion had the commercial press been both so necessary and so directly instrumental in bringing a new government into being.1 This anthology seeks to bring together for the first time all the English language poems that appeared during 1660 anticipating Charles's return up to, but excluding, his coronation in April 1661, in order to map the cultural links between poetry and political life by demonstrating the range and scope of what was evidently an immense ideological need for a poetic legitimation of the new regime.2

   Why did the English Revoution fail? While it would clearly be overstating the case to suggest that poetry in any direct way brought about the end of the English Revolution, or that it caused the reintroduction of monarchy, nevertheless the events of these crucial months would doubtless have taken different form had there been no commercial press producing and distributing the numerous poetic celebrations gathered here which, with few exceptions, aim to persuade their readers to agree with the poet that Charles's return was both good and needful. There was evidently a powerful perception that these things needed saying, in print, and in poetic form; a need that cannot simply be explained as the need of individual poets to publicize a display of their personal loyalty.3

   When they were first published over three hundred years ago, the poems collected here helped to re-define the meanings of royalty to a people who had been without a monarch for nearly two decades, but also to the new king who was brought in to reign. What did it mean to be Charles Stuart, king of England, Scotland, and Ireland in 1660? What did the people expect of the man who came to rule over them? What were the burning issues of the day that only the arrival of a king could promise to solve? The most general aim of this edition is to indicate ways that poetry provided an authoritative public medium by which the sometimes private interests, hopes, and expectations of those helping to engineer and celebrate Charles's return could find expression. Except to poke fun at other poets or to demonize members of the Rump, these poems are never directly critical or satirical in contrast to the traditional view that Restoration poetry was satirical. Many of these poems, however, are highly didactic and openly advise the king to adopt any number of domestic and international policies in order to boost trade, settle disputes, establish peace and prosperity. What these poems reflect is the incredible diversity of problems that Charles was expected to solve, and of the equally diverse and often contradictory sets of opinions about how he was to go about the enormous task expected of him. Often poets advised the king of the dangers still to be faced from those opposing his return. Calls for the king to seek out and enact revenge upon the regicides and all other "traitors" still loyal to the good old cause were often more blood-thirsty than Charles's eventual policies, but serve as a crucial counterpoint to the constantly reiterated reports of spontaneous and unanimous celebration and praise. Even royalist panegyrists could not always maintain the illusion that Charles's return was as universally desired as was so often being proclaimed in various forms of printed text. Once these poems become available and understood not just as examples of poems from the oeuvres of particular poets -- Cowley, Waller, Davenant, or Dryden, for instance -- but as a public discourse that operates beyond the private talents and interests of the specific poet, then their historical importance and cultural agency can come into clearer focus. In this sense, of constituting a poetic discourse, these works establish a horizon of expectations within which Charles was called upon to perform the role of king, and by which that performance might be judged.4

   Although they were written over three hundred years ago, these poems still help to define for us the very meaning and place of royalty in English culture. When Charles II arrived in England, the people who found that they had suddenly become his subjects had lived through the experience of regicide and revolutionary military governments. Among the documents that flooded from the presses in 1660, poems celebrating the king's return were not alone in encouraging readers to think about the many and likely benefits that would follow from bringing the king back. In the light of such expectations, the tasks confronting the new king, despite all the carefully orchestrated welcome, might well have seemed truly daunting. He found himself expected to rule a people grown accustomed to an unprecedented degree of public debate, a people who demanded regular news about, and influence over, political events. Unlike his father, Charles confronted the job of performing the role of king before an audience composed of a people grown accustomed to questioning and exercising authority themselves.5 How, and in what ways, might poets be said to have contributed to the failure of the English Revolution while at the same time establishing expectations by which the new king would be judged?


[1] See my "Literature, Culture, and Society in Restoration England," in Culture and Society in the Stuart Restoration: Literature, Drama, History, pp. 3-27; and Time's Witness, epilogue.

[2]See my "An Edition of Poems on the Restoration," Restoration 11 (1987): 117-21, and "What is a Restoration Poem? Editing a Discourse, Not an Author," TEXT 3 (1987), pp. 319-346.

[3] See my "Literature and Politics in Revolutionary England, 1640-1660," Review 16 (1994): 177-95.

[4] See my "The King on Trial: Judicial Poetics and the Restoration Settlement," The Michigan Academician 17 (1985): 375-88.

[5] See my "Literacy, Class, and Gender in Restoration England," TEXT 7 (1995), pp. 307-335.


   Currently, there is no detailed study of the literary response to the Restoration based upon a comprehensive examination of the poetic works published in the months surrounding Charles II's return. This anthology aims to provide a resource for future literary-historical research as well as a contribution to the rapidly expanding study of print culture in the early modern period. This anthology has been designed to help social and literary historians better understand how poetry mediated civil unrest by providing the terms in which political struggle could be resituated as art.

   The Return of the King provides accurate, old-spelling texts of the English poems addressed to the king on his return that were published between January 1660 and the coronation in April the following year. Many are being made available here, outside specialist library holdings, for the first time in over 300 years. Many are unique and have been entirely ignored by previous scholarship; several were, until recently, unlisted in standard bibliographies. Making these poems available, this edition contributes to our understanding of literary-historical relations at an important and still controversial moment in British and world history.

   This project began in the late 1970s while I was conducting research into the vernacular backgrounds to Dryden's political poetry. Preliminary work on Astraea Redux quickly alerted me to the large number of Restoration panegyrics that had been ignored by the existing scholarly editions of Dryden's poem.6 Not only James Kinsley but also the editors of the California Dryden had limited their scope to poems by other well-known poets; the latter, for instance, restricting themselves to the other poems held in the collection at the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library at UCLA. When first planned, this project was intended to produce a printed volume, similar in scope to London in Flames, London in Glory, R. A. Aubin's historical edition of poems on the great fire and rebuilding, that would contain all poems on the Restoration written or published during 1660. However, once I began cataloguing the enormous number of texts involved, this plan quickly proved impracticable. Since the rationale for the project centered on the public character of the poetic discourse, I happily abandoned plans to find, edit, and include poems that exist only in manuscript form, and all foreign language poems -- though this regretably meant omitting copious Greek and Latin verses including those produced by the dons at Oxford and Cambridge. Even so, the number of poems remained clearly well beyond the scope of a single volume, so I decided to limit the range even further by omitting poems addressed to General Monck or members of the royal family other than the king, and by cutting out verse satires on the defeated Rump.7

    By thus restricting the project to poems printed in English that directly address the king in the period before his coronation, I hoped to produce an edition that would still be publishable in a single book while holding true to the conceptual rationale that had prompted the project in the first place.

   After a little more than two decades of searching, transcribing, collating, and checking, the texts of the poems to be included were finally assembled and came to a little more than 300,000 words, without annotation. As such, this project could not be contained by a single, printed volume. By the late 1990s, the costs in time, labor, and money of publishing accurate, old-spelling editions of historical texts that even major research collections might not be able to afford, have become even more prohibitive than they have ever been. Or so I have been told.

   In many of its features, this electronic edition betrays its own history of having been conceived of in printed form. One obvious limitation resulting from that history is that the headnotes and annotations have been prepared cumultatively so that the commentary on any given poem presumes upon information supplied in the general headnote to the group in which it appears, which in turn relies on prior annotations and headnotes. Were I starting out now, with electronic publication in mind, I would have proceeded quite differently in ways that are easy to imagine. Apart from setting out to learn a great deal more than I currently know about the possibilities of computer editing and use of hypertext applications -- I have worked throughout exclusively in MS-DOS using Notabene -- I would proceed much in the manner of the great antiquarian editor of the late nineteenth century, Joseph Woodfall Ebsworth, whose nine volumes of Roxburghe Ballads, issued between 1871 and 1897, represent -- among other things -- the last time an editor has set out to collect, edit, and annotate poems because they were ballads on the Restoration and not because the work in question forms part of an author's oeuvre. That is to say, I would have followed his lead and issued texts as they became available and once they were edited, not holding off from issuing edited poems until the entire project was complete.


[6]See my "Poetry as History: The Argumentative Design of Dryden's Astraea Redux," Restoration (1980): 54-64.

[7]See my "What's Class Got To Do With It?," in Margins of the Text, ed. D. C. Greetham (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997), pp. 25-42.


   The poems included fall into three generic categories: broadsides and ballads, poems printed in separately published books and pamphlets, and embedded poems such as dedications and verses included with other texts.

   Ballads include verses printed on single sheets, normally illustrated with woodcuts, black-letter and other ornamental print-fonts, and usually employing a "popular" lyrical form and idiom traditionally associated with radical, or at least popular, political views. For those in Restoration England who couldn't read, ballads were typically read aloud and pinned up in public places. Their ornamental lettering and woodcut illustrations served to make these broadsides an attractive souvenir for those not fully or formally "literate." Since ballads could be looked at by all, listened to by many, read by most city-dwellers, and collected by some -- like Samuel Pepys -- they constitute an important part of the commercial apparatus of public opinion-making. A group of six broadside ballads on the Restoration, subsequently referred to as the "trunk ballads," were found pasted inside a trunk to form a lining and are currently preserved in the British Library. Since all of them are unique copies, we may presume that there were many more such inexpensive commemorative publications that have not survived.

   While the ballads are frequently anonymous, the more formal verse panegyrics represent an important movement towards the exclusive discourse of an élite and are very often aimed at drawing attention to the person, and skills, of the poet. Certainly the Latin, Greek and other non-English language poems addressed to Charles made certain that only an elect few, largely men, could read what they had to say. The Universities published celebratory volumes in 1 containing verses in Latin and Greek. The Cambridge collection additionally contained verses in Anglo-Saxon, Hebrew, Arabic, and Syrian. The Oxford volume included verses in English, as did the collection of verses by scholars of Woodstock School.

   Most generally, the vernacular panegyric strain was varied and strong enough to dominate the scene, and it is in these formal verses that we find the emergence of that "Augustan" tradition of vernacular neo-classicism that literary historians have most often seen as the period's most significant contribution to English poetry. One thing that the revolutionary decades had certainly achieved was the pre-eminence of the English language as the public medium of printed discourse. In addition to the well-known poems by Dryden, Cowley, Waller, and Davenant, this edition will make generally available important but previously ignored poems by (among others) the antiquarians Elias Ashmole, Thomas Fuller, and James Howell, the career diplomat and Ottomanist Thomas Higgons, rural vicars such as John Couch, Giles Fleming, and Alexander Huish, young London lawyers such as Giles Duncombe, Thomas Flatman, and Samuel Woodford. There is a fascinating poem by Ralph Astell, the uncle and tutor to the celebrated "first feminist" Mary Astell, but most Royalist women declined to have their poems printed. Only one woman poet, Rachel Jevon, printed a poem in 1660, though we know that several other women poets, including Katherine Phillips, wrote poems on the occasion that were either left in manuscript or only printed considerably after the event.

   All printed poems in each category that directly address the king on his return have been included. The poems have been arranged into chronological and narrative sections that help indicate the place of each poem within the developing literary discourse of returning monarchy during these months. Brought together here because of their common concern with formulating social, cultural, and literary terms for the new monarchy, many of these poems rely on historical narrative and tell a very similar story peopled by a range of historical figures, and often recording similar moments from the king's exile and miraculous return in extensive and sometimes conflicting narrative detail. In order to reduce the number of annotations, headnotes to each section include a brief summary of those events which are most often recorded by the poems in that group but not repeated in annotations to the text of the poem. Poems that cannot be dated with any certainty have been included within the chronological group they most resemble, based on the moment in that story at which the poem seems to insinuate itself (see Dating, below).

   Arranging the poems into a chronological and narrative sequence in this way provides a reliable map to the development of themes, topics, and tropes during the course of the year. At the same time, readers interested in tracing the relative use of biblical or Virgilian references, for example, will be able to do so for a wider range of poetic works than was previously available. Other interests are also served by this arrangement. Readers beginning with a poem from July, for instance, will be able to turn to the general headnote to that section in order to find out in detail what was happening that month. References in poems to commonly mentioned historical figures and events will receive minimal explanatory footnotes, while more obscure and topical references will be glossed.

   In addition to the headnotes to the chronological sections, entries for each poem will include a brief headnote containing bibliographical details, biographical information on poets, and other contextual information. Eventually I hope to include a short-title check-list of related, but excluded, poems -- such as those written to praise members of the royal family other than Charles, the numerous poems addressed to General Monck, and the poems written in foreign languages. The layout of information is aimed to assist readers seeking to trace the various relations between poet, publisher, and politician.


   In keeping with the historical rationale for editing these verses in terms of their discursive agency, I have arranged them, as accurately as possible, into a calendar by which the events of the king's return can be seen to be unfolding throughout the year. In sorting the poems into groups that serve as narrative chapters, I have followed the following procedures in order to ensure that, while the groups are in some cases being imposed out of editorial requirements, they nevertheless arise in direct response to evidence provided by, or in, the poems.

   Dated Poems: First, the poems were sorted into two general groups; those bearing a printed or manuscript date and those which didn't. Poems with printed or manuscript dates were then arranged into a simple chronological list according to those dates, and a monthly calendar drawn up. Even at this stage there were difficulties, since printed dates in titles or colophons are at best only claims that the poem was written on or published for the occasion: the work at hand might well have been written and printed in anticipation of the day, or composed retrospectively. A ballad on 29 May, the day Charles entered London, may have been produced for sale on the day, or may show clear evidence that the poet is reporting on events after they had actually occurred. Dates added in manuscript, mostly found in the collections of George Thomason and Anthony Wood, provide evidence of another sort that is no less problematic. Such dates can tell us that a particular poem had entered circulation and, in the absence of other evidence, this can be most useful but does not provide a reliable guide to either publication or composition. Nevertheless, these dates supply the bulk of evidence for arranging the poems chronologically and are recorded parenthetically in the Calendar; a fuller record of evidence is reported in the Checklist, which specifies copies bearing manuscript dates.

   Undated Poems: I then set about the poems for which printed or manuscript dates were not to be found, first of all sorting out those for which some other evidence was available. Where possible, I set these titles into the monthly calendar or, where two or more undated poems were evidently linked in some manner -- such as theme, printer, or provenance -- but not by evidence concerning a month or season, I assembled them in undated groups. The kinds of evidence at issue here were sometimes more detailed and so more reliable than a manuscript notation by Thomason or Wood. Henry Oxenden's letters, for instance, provide a fascinating and detailed acount of the composition, revision, costs of private publication, and difficulties engaging a printer, that were experienced by one rather desperate poet who was anxious to prove his loyalty and hold on to his family estates. Sometimes advertisements for poems appear in newsbooks; sometimes I have followed the instincts of a previous editor. All these datings are recorded inside square brackets.

   At this stage, before I attempted to address the problems of poems for which I could find no evidence for dating, the simple monthly calendar was proving less useful than before. For obvious reasons, poems tended to cluster around certain key dates and consequently required greater specificity than months could allow: May clearly needed breaking up while months later in the year were often empty. What principles other than dating might usefully be employed, either to replace or to supplement the initial monthly calendar? With this question in mind, I set about looking among the undatable poems for any kinds of internal evidence that might help date such poems or suggest into what other sorts of groups such poems should go. At first I became much taken with the idea of beginning with all the ballads written to the tune "when the king enjoys his own again," and to end with the "trunk" ballads. But since there were numerous poems in each of these groups that could be dated by some means, setting up such a new general principle of organization might introduce new problems and incongruities. If I were to group all ballads to the same tunes, why not all works from the same printer? If I were to group together works that constituted a collection because they were found lining a trunk, why not group together poems from other forms of contemporary collection, notably those of Thomason and Wood? In that case, what about the collections assembled during the nineteenth century, such as the Crawford and Euing collections of broadsides? A further problem here, of course, is that copies of the same poem often appear in different collections; how should such items appear in this one?

   In the event, I have stuck to a general chronological arrangement as far as possible, introducing thematic groups only when it makes better sense to do so than not to. Since the text of Martin Parker's original ballad, "When the king enjoys his own again," is itself a minor bibliographic nightmare, without any reliable evidence concerning the various versions printed for the Restoration, I have begun with a group of undatable variants of Parker's ballad, while other ballads to the same tune for which evidence of dating can be found are distributed accordingly. Three other thematic groupings encouraged themselves into which I have included poems even when there is evidence for dating: poems exclusively concerned with recounting Charles's escape from the Battle of Worcester back in 1651; a group of poems written from the perspective of Scotland;8 and a small selection of verses written on the trials of the regicides.


[8] See my review of Murray G. H. Pittock's Poetry and Jacobite Politics in Eighteenth-Century Britain and Ireland, in Modern Philology, 94:4 (May 1997): 534-38.