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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Preface: Hoping For the King

   The sixteen poems included in this section were printed during, or describe events from the perspective of, the period between December 1659 and the end of April 1660. They demonstrate how both poetic genres and political opinions were hesitant and uncertain during these months when royalists lived in hopeful anticipation of a return to monarchy. Experimentation in a wide variety of poetic genres contributed to the sense of general uncertainty about possible futures even as General Monk -- "the most important single agent in bringing about the Restoration"104 -- led his army south to London. These poems offer numerous revisions of recent past events, while also attempting to document the immediate present as closely as they can in order to interpret, advise, and set the terms for what they hope will come about. 105

   Milton scholars will be familiar with these weeks as the period when The Readie and Easie Way was being written and revised, in a desperate attempt to prevent a return to monarchy. Austin Woolrych's "Historical Introduction" to the revised seventh volume of The Complete Prose Works of John Milton (1980) provides an indispensible and detailed guide to the political and social activities of these weeks. In what follows, I will presume that readers will refer to Woolrych's account for a more fully detailed account of persons and events; here I seek only to offer a broad outline focussing on matters of interest to royalist poets.

   While General Monk was bringing his army south to London and negotiating with both Parliamentary and city interests, poets writing in support of restoring the king commonly set conditions, often quite specific ones, to that recall. Although Charles would not be formally acclaimed until Tuesday 8 May, during the previous two months, royalist poets expressed confidence that he would be recalled, and felt empowered to begin enumerating the advantages his return would, or should, bring to a broad range of social, economic, and political interests.

   Poems have been included in this group when there is evidence, usually marginal dates from George Thomason and Anthony Wood, for dating their availability, or if the work addresses events specific to this period but does not claim that the king's return has been formally proclaimed. This group has been further restricted to poems that advocate the king's return by directly addressing the figure of the king himself. Left out, then, are the large number of topical anti-Rump satires that Lucy Hutchinson remarked upon in her description of the king's return:

And indeed it was a wonder in that day to see the mutability of some, and the hypocrisy of others, and the servile flattery of all. Monck, like his better genius, conducted him, and was adored like one that had brought all the glory and felicity of mankind home with this prince.
The officers of the army had made themselves as fine as the courtiers, and everyone hoped in this change to change their condition, and disowned all things they had before adored. And every ballad singer sung up and down the streets ribald rhymes made in reproach of the late commonwealth and of all those worthies that therein endeavoured the people's freedom and happiness.106

    Lucy Hutchinson was by no means alone in her responses during the spring of 1660, and her sensitive account of what Christopher Hill calls "the experience of defeat," should come to mind whenever we are reading the often quoted words of Pepys and Evelyn.

   Also left out are all the verses, in a wide variety of genres, that were addressed to General Monk. Although I have included two broadsides that are properly anti-Rump satires (see A Psalme and The Case is Altered), I have not attempted to catalogue all such works; though doing so would enable us to examine how they represent the possibility of a return to monarchy. Recent studies by David Norbrook, Laura Knoppers, Nigel Smith and others have started to extend our understanding of these important works by examining specific titles, but a fully historicized and archivally informed study of anti-Rump satire is very much needed.107

   So too, Monk's importance as the subject of verse propaganda is sufficiently massive a topic to deserve independent study. I have included, as an appendix to this preface, a preliminary checklist of works containing poems to Monk: it does not claim to be comprehensive. The most deserving of close analysis are the verses addressed to him during the entertainments and masques held in his honor by the various London Guilds, many of which were subsequently published. How might the evidence of these omitted works change the picture of poetic activity that emerges from these sixteen pro-monarchy pieces? Do the satires on the Rump invariably recommend a return to monarchy? How influential were the various masques and "Entertainments" organized for Monk after his arrival in London? Leaving these works out remains a practical matter of limiting the scope of this edition to the work of a single life-time, but the consequences are worth briefly exploring.

   By including only poems addressing the king as a desired monarch, my concern has not been to suggest that poets constituted or imagined themselves an early consensus; on the contrary I am concerned rather with charting how the specific differences in form and attitude show a discourse being constructed from disparate ideological programmes. As these sixteen poems demonstrate, poets advocating the king's return in these months before his formal recall by Parliament frequently disagreed among themselves about what such a return should mean and how to write about it. Although the trade Guilds comissioned poets to address and advise Monk, and stationers comissioned ballads that encouraged pro-Restoration sentiments, such activities hardly constitute evidence that the press was being enrolled on behalf of an organized pro-Restoration campaign of verse propaganda during these early months. On the contrary, the common use of anonymous or false colophons and imprints on royalist publications -- such as "printed for Charles Prince, in the year, 1660" -- suggests there were still perceived dangers. Harold Weber in Paper Bullets has powerfully demonstrated how Charles and his governments used and controlled the press for their own purposes, but as Brian Weiser has noted, such efforts at control were neither uniform in operation nor consistent throughout Charles's reign.108 Certainly, during the early months of 1660, there is little evidence of a centralized royalist effort to control the published representations of the king. Moreover, poems representing the king were far fewer in number than the verse attacks on the Rump and the poems addressed to Monk which I have omitted, reminding us that the king was not yet fully the center of poetic attention.

[104] Harold Love, ed., The Penguin Book of Restoration Verse (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1968), p. 96.

[105] On the conditional nature of the Restoration in popular writing throughout the year, see Carolyn Edie, ""Right Rejoicing" and ""News from Abroad."

[106] Lucy Hutchinson, Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson (London: Dent, 1995), p. 278.

[107] See Norbrook, Writing and the English Republic: Poetry, Rhetoric and Politics, 1627-1660 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), Knoppers, Constructing Cromwell, and Smith, Literature and Revolution.

[108] Brian Weiser, "Owning the King's Story: The Escape from Worcester," The Seventeenth Century 14:1 (Spring 1999): 43-62.