MacLean, Gerald, editor. The Return of the King : An Anthology of English Poems Commemorating the Restoration of Charles II / edited by Gerald MacLean
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Monk Marches on London

   Diarists of the time confirm that these first months of 1660 were a time of hesitation and uncertainty. In December 1659, when Pepys began his Diary in anticipation of great events, it would not have seemed very likely, even to him, that the king would be back in power by May. Pepys recalls personal and family events, money troubles and illnesses, but keeps a keen eye on current events. For Bulstrode Whitelocke, negotiating with the Stuart exiles seemed a reasonable option before Christmas; for him, loyalty to the old regime proved impossible to maintain once the regicides, Thomas Scot and John Lambert, struggled to keep the Rump in power. Skirmishes and bloodshed as early as 5 December resulted from demonstrations on behalf of recalling the excluded members.

   Freeing Parliament from the Rump was on many people's minds; but not all were necessarily hoping for the return of a Stuart king. The General Counsel of the officers signed against kingship on the 13th. By the 20th of December, Whitelocke wished "himselfe out of these dayly hazards, butt knew not how to gett free of them, the distractions were strangely high & daily increasing," and later records personal and political anxieties over what Monk and the army would demand once they arrived in London. Many began fearing that the king would be recalled; on 2 January a bill was approved by all members of Parliament against the title of Charles to the throne.

   With the collapse of the Rump on 16 January, Whitelocke saw the tide turning and went into hiding. He noted increasing evidence that Monk was playing an ambiguous game from news that was being brought to him by his wife who, from then on, served as his public intelligencer.

   Meanwhile, in Essex, Ralph Josselin had been nervous of renewed civil disturbance since August 1659, but December was for him as for Pepys a month of family illnesses and reassuring reports that all seemed mercifully quiet in London. Reporting word of Monk's journey to London as early as 15 January, Josselin reserves judgment: "General Monck is coming up to London, wee shall see to what intent, god remember his in mercy and all shall bee well."

   Monk's journey south is the subject of the best known poetic account of events during the first months of 1660. Robert Wild's Iter Boreale may mostly be remembered for drawing Dryden's contempt in the Essay of Dramatic Poesy (1668). Wild, Eugenius pronounces, "is the very Wither of the City ... When his famous poem first came out in the year 1660, I have seen them reading it in the midst of 'Change time; nay so vehement they were at it, that they lost their bargain by the candles' ends."109 This scene of reading could not have occured until after 23 April when Wild's poem appeared, mere days before the Convention Parliament sat for the first time. Whether real or imagined, Dryden's recollection of a moment, eight years previously, when the appearance of Wild's Iter Boreale interfered with the more important business of making money, suggests a sustained interest in reading about Monk and his journey to London, at the head of the army that would pressure the Rump to restore the excluded members and dissolve itself, thus precipitating the call for Charles to return.

    By late April, Monk was already a national hero much celebrated in print. Since January, he had been the direct subject of more than twenty poems, while Charles was the direct subject of fewer than sixteen. On the second of January Monk crossed the Tweed and immediately began attracting a great deal of attention from poets and propagandists. In short order, the ruddy-faced Devonian squire became the subject of a mythology linking him with the legendary Christian knight, St George. Before Monk left Scotland, his name was linked with the patron saint of England, though by witty negation. "'Tis not Saint George we sing of here," declared The Noble English Worthies, a broadside that Anthony Wood collected in December. Monk's Westcountry origins were swiftly and regularly elaborated upon as the mythology of a new St George, the "glory of the West," took shape.110

   By Wednesday, 11 January he reached York and on this day "complete victory was his" (Hutton 1985: p. 84) since any danger of armed resistance from Lambert's supporters had crumbled away. On Saturday 14 January, Monk's fellow Devonians, the "gentlemen" of Exeter, took it upon themselves to be among the very first to declare themselves publicly in favor of restoring the excluded members111. Bulstrode Whitelocke recorded in his diary on 23 January that he had received word how a "tumult in Excester, the people declaring for a free Parlement, [had been] quieted" (Whitelocke, Diary, p. 563).

   During the last days of January, petitions for restoring the excluded members appeared from various parts of the country. Many were addressed to Monk personally. On 24 January, Canterbury and Northampton had joined Exeter petitioning for Parliamentary reform. On the 25th, Ralph Josselin cynically noted in his diary, "the nacion looking more to Charles Stuart [than to Cromwell's family] out of love to themselves not him." The republican and friend of Milton, Colonel Robert Overton, declared himself ready to defend Hull against Monk's army, if need be, until 12 March, when he obeyed the Council of State and handed the city over to Fairfax. 112

   Whitelocke, Josselin, and Overton were by no means alone in feeling ill-disposed to the way events seemed to be going as Monk and his army moved south on London. Not all writers wanted to see in Monk a new St George from the West. Before January was over, the mythology surrounding Monk took a new turn as he became involved in the published libels of the times. An obscene and scurrilous prose tract that George Thomason dated "20 Jan." and entitled To His Excellency General Monck. The Humble Petition of the Lady Lambert,113 imagines "Lady Lambert" offering herself to Monk, hoping to divert him from his course. Three days later, however, Thomason collected another tract, A Curtain-Conference, in which John and "Lady" Lambert are imagined in bed, planning for the inevitable return of monarchy. 114 Before Monk had even reached London, royalist satirists were already imagining the dissolution of the Rump to be inevitable, given unfolding events, and sought to defame and demoralize opponents of the movement toward monarchy. But verses addressed to Monk were seldom scandalous. On the last day of January, a broadside appeared advising Monk to bring in a king:

NOw George for England, that brave Warrior bold,
That would not be by Lambert's force controul'd;
But did endeavour for the good o'th'Nation,
We hope to work a blessed Reformation,
And settle Kingly Power in this Dominion,
And then thou shalt be great in the Opinion
Of all good people that do fear the Lord,
And then no doubt they will with thee accord,
And say, Long live brave George in Wealth and Peace,
Bless thee with Honors, Plenty and Increase.

   Once he arrived in London on 3 February, poets announced the arrival of England's new St George who would victoriously rout the dragonish Rump Parliament. Some advised him that he must bring in the king, others hoped he would. An acrostick from later this month shows how Monk's very name mysteriously offered him advice:

M    Mount thy Horse,
O    On thy Army bring,
N    Neuter stand till
K    Restores the KING.

   Historians have noticed how Monk's "studied neutrality" continued during his negotiations with political forces in the capital city.116 Throughout the year, poets continued to recollect various details of incidents that took place from the time of Monk's arrival, suggesting that many of them were themselves in London at the time, or turned to newsbooks to refresh their memories.

   On Wednesday, 8 February, two days after Monk first addressed the House of Commons, householders and freemen of the city of London petitioned the Lord Mayor not to permit any authority that could not rightly claim legislative authority. Their petition started a rumour that citizens were preparing to withold taxes, in response to which the Committee of Safety ordered the Secretary of State, Thomas Scott, to command Monk to use his troops to subdue the city. Almost immediately, the Common Council of the city voted a tax strike that would remain in effect until the excluded members were readmitted. The next morning, Thursday the 9th, Scott ordered Monk to display his power over the city by arresting those citizens named as ringleaders in the tax strike, by removing the chains used to secure city streets, and by removing the city gates. Monk equivocated. On the 9th, Monk reluctantly complied with part of the order, arresting nine of the eleven named ringleaders and removing the chains. But he demurred about taking down the gates until the 10th, and then only after receiving a repeat command to do so (see Davis 1955: 278-79; Hutton 1985: 91-93). The next day, however, Monk turned on the Rumpers and presented his own ultimatum demanding new elections. This was "the first good omen" according to John Evelyn. Others agreed. That night, 11 February, the citizens of London took back the streets in a night of bonfires and carnival that Ronald Hutton has called "possibly the greatest expression of popular rejoycing London has ever known" (Hutton 1985: 93).

   Details about these days of early February often surface in the works of poets writing after Charles had returned, and there is plenty of contemporary evidence that, for many who were caught up in these events, the tensions and excitement that began with Monk's arrival in London and ended with the bonfires of 11 February marked a moment after which the Restoration seemed a likely option, however much Monk might keep his intentions to himself. At the time, nothing was very certain. One supporter of the king who seems to have been printing his personal chronicle of these events even as they were taking place, a young law student named Giles Duncombe, captured the passionate uncertainty of eager royalists during early February in his Scutum Regale: The Royal Buckler; or, VOX LEGIS, A Lecture to Traytors: Who most wickedly murthered CHARLES the I, AND Contrary to all Law and Religion banished CHARLES THE II. 3d MONARCH of GREAT BRITAIN. Towards the end of his peroration against those who have brought down and kept out monarchy, Duncombe vividly describes the indignity felt by many Londoners when Monk destroyed the defences which had been erected against royal intrusion back in 1643:

Monck prov'd worse than Pharaoh himself, and instead of relieving of our distressed Jerusalem ... he heaped misery to misery, and executed such a grand piece of Tyranny that none in the world ... could invent. On Thursday the ninth day of February, 1659 ... he drew up all his souldiers into the City, with their matches lighted, in a warlike posture, doubled his guards, and tore down all the gates, and posts of the City; neither did his intoxicated malice stay upon the gates, but leapt upon the Aldermen, and other Citizens, whom he presently cast into prison, so that now he is become odious, and stinks in the nostrils of all the Citizens and People: and whereas he was the common hopes of all men, he is now the common hatred of all men, as a Traytor more detestable than Oliver himself; who, though he manacled the Citizens hands, yet never took away the doores of their City, whereby all manner of beasts, (as well the Wolves at Westminster, as other out-lying Foxes, and Birds of prey) may come in, and destroy them when they please. (pp. 373-74).

   Within three pages, however, Duncombe starts all over again with a new section -- "Englands Redemption" -- and finds himself recanting his earlier complaint rather than cancelling the earlier pages:

No sooner had I written these last words of the momentary prosperity of the wicked, but immediately the same hour, news was brought me, that General Monck and the City were agreed, and resolved to declare for a free Parliament, and decline the Rump ... I was strucken with amazement, joy made me tremble, and the goodnesse of the news would scarce permit me to believe it. (p. 377)117

   Duncombe's interrupted narrative makes Scutum Regale one of the most interesting ephemeral publications of the Restoration year. Advertized in the Parliamentary Intelligencer 22 for the week 21-28 May (p. 348), copies of Scutum Regale show evidence of considerable stop-press actitivity. The Virgilian motto "Iam redit Astræa, Redeunt Saturnia regna," used by Dryden in June, also appears as a motto to the frontispiece found in some copies of Scutum Regale, one of which comes from Charles II's own collection. The Epistle to the Reader, anagrammatically signed "Cimelgus Bonde," ends with a prayer for the arrival of "Charls the 2d our Augustus, and Cæsars Successor" (sig. A4v), suggesting that Duncombe may very well have been the earliest writer to name Charles as Augustus in print.

   Throughout February and March, verses addressing Monk and his heroic achievements battling the Rump continued to appear. On Tuesday 21 February, he brought in the excluded members,118 and poets were quick to celebrate the event in ballads such as Saint George, and the Dragon, Englands Triumph. Or The Rump Routed, which declares itself written "To the Tune of, Fill up the Parliament full," "G. Tichwhit"'s General Monks Welcome ... To the Tune of, When the King Enjoys his Own again, and Redemptio Ab Aquilone which ends:

Then George for England strike up thy Drum
And do thy devoir this Rump destroy,
That Noble King Charles the second may come,
And our streets may eccho with Vive le Roy.

   Similar works continued to appear during March (see Appendix). In this month William Davenant and John Denham published the first formal panegyrics addressed to the general on behalf of royalist interests. The Clothworkers and Drapers were the earliest of the London guilds to commission verse speeches addressing Monk to be performed at entertainments held in his honour. During April, the Skinners, Goldsmiths, Vintners, and Fishmongers all held entertainments for Monk involving performance pieces that were subsequently printed. On St George's day, 23 April, Wild's Iter Boreale appeared. Two weeks later, the Convention Parliament declared Charles king and by May, Monk had resigned his position as centre of interest to the poets. But not entirely. Monk continued to appear in poems directly addressed to the king and continued to attract poems in his honour well into the summer.

   Once it started to look extremely likely that Charles would be returned, poets began directing their attentions more directly to the man who was about to become king. Several ballads representing Charles appeared following the dissolution of the Rump on 16 March. Engraved portraits of Charles, with verses by John Ogilby, appeared early as late March, marking a distinct interest in the personal appearance of the future king. But during April, the presses remained relatively quiet on the subject of the king.

   This section ends with the formal verse "portrait" by Richard Flecknoe, although this undatable work almost certainly appeared later in the year.

[109] Cited by George de Forrest Lord, anthology of POAS, headnote to standard scholarly edition of Wild's poem. Did Dryden's attack on Wild have anything to do with the poem being published by Thomason, a friend of Milton? how was Dryden feeling about Milton at the time?

[110] See the broadside, The Glory of the West or, The Tenth Renowned Worthy, and most Heroick Champion of this Brittish Island. Being an unparallel'd Commemoration of General Monck's coming towards the City of London (London, printed for Charles Gustavus. O Wood 416(39), ms dated "January 1659"; L1 c.20.f.2(36), L2 82.L.8(25)) which seems to have appeared as early as January.

[111] See A Letter from Exeter, advertising the state of affairs there (Printed for Thomas Creake), LT 669.f.22(74).

[112] Whitelocke, Diary, p. 575; on Colonel Robert Overtson, see Spalding, ed., Contemporaries, p. 233, DNB.

[113] London, Printed for Henry James. Prose brs. LT 669.f.23(6), ms dated "20 Jan."

[114] A Curtain-Conference, Being a Discourse betwixt (the late Lord Lambert, now) John Lambert Esq; and his Lady, As they lay a Bed together one night at their House at Wimbleton. London, printed for W. L. the Common-Wealths Fortune Teller. Prose brs. LT 669.f.23(10), ms dated "23 Jan."

[115] Advice to Gen. Monck: By a Friend that wisheth his Happiness LT 669.f.23(19), ms dated "31 Jan 1660"; OW L.R.8(32), ms dated "Feb 1659."

[116] David Ogg, England in the Reign of Charles II, 2 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1934), 1:21.

[117] [Compare Pair of Prodigals on Monk's activities at this stage.]

[118] See Public Intelligencer 219 (20-27 February), p. 1119.