Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Oates, Titus

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1422832Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 41 — Oates, Titus1895Thomas Seccombe (1866-1923)

OATES, TITUS (1649–1705), perjurer, the son of Samuel Oates (1610–1683), rector of Marsham in Norfolk, was born at Oakham in 1649. His father, the descendant of a family of Norwich ribbon-weavers, left the established church, and gained some notoriety as a ‘dipper’ or anabaptist in East Anglia in 1646. In 1649 he appears to have been chaplain to Colonel Pride's regiment, but he was expelled from that post by Monck in 1654 for stirring up sedition in the army. In 1666 he received a living in the church, that of All Saints, Hastings, but he was expelled for improper practices in 1674. He is stated by Wood to have died on 6 Feb. 1683 (Life and Times, iii. 36; cf. Addit. MS. 5860, f. 288). According to Oates's own testimony when appealing for the payment of the arrears of his pension in 1697, his aged mother, whose name is unknown, was living in that year. He also seems to have had a brother named Samuel (Trial of Thomas Knox and John Lane, 1679).

Titus was entered at Merchant Taylors' School in June 1665, but was expelled in the course of his first year, and it was from Sedlescombe school, near Hastings, that he passed, in 1667, as a poor scholar, to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Early in 1669 he had to migrate to St. John's College, where his father, now a zealous Anglican, having baptised him, sought an Arminian tutor for him. His choice fell upon Dr. Thomas Watson [q. v.], who left this note concerning his pupil (now preserved in the Baker MSS. at St. John's): ‘He was a great dunce, ran into debt; and, being sent away for want of money, never took a degree’ (Mayor, St. John's College Register; cf. Wilson, Memorabilia Cantabrigiana, 1803, p. 69). Nevertheless, after some failures, Oates contrived to ‘slip into orders’ in the established church, being instituted to the vicarage of Bobbing in Kent on 7 March 1673, on the presentation of George Moore (Reg. Sheldon. Archiep. Cantuar. f. 534). In 1674 he left Bobbing, with a license for non-residence, and went as a curate to his father at All Saints, Hastings. There, within a few months of his arrival, he was a party to a very disgraceful charge, trumped up by himself and his father, against a certain William Parker, a local schoolmaster. The indictment was quashed, Oates was arrested in an action for 1,000l. damages, and thrown into prison, while his father was ejected from his living (Wood, Life and Times, Oxf. Hist. Soc. ii. 417). Titus was removed to Dover prison, and it was probably in connection with this case that, in 1675, a crown-office writ was issued to the corporation of Dover to remove to the king's bench an indictment of perjury preferred by Francis Norwood against Oates (see Sussex Archæological Trans. xiv. 80). Before the case came on Oates managed to escape from Dover gaol, and he hid in London for a few weeks, at the end of which period he obtained a berth as chaplain on board a king's ship, and appears to have made the voyage to Tangier. Within a few months, however, he was expelled the navy. Criminal though he was, he next found means of obtaining the post of chaplain to the protestants in the Duke of Norfolk's household. At Arundel he came into contact with a number of papists, and it is probable that there he first conceived the plan of worming himself into secret counsels which he might betray for his personal profit to the government. Circumstances favoured such a design. In the winter of 1676, being once more in London and in a destitute condition, Oates encountered Israel Tonge [q. v.], rector of St. Mary Staining, and formerly vicar of Pluckley in Kent. Oates had probably made his acquaintance during his brief residence in the neighbouring parish of Bobbing. Tonge was now devoting all his energies to the production of diatribes against the jesuits, whom he suspected of plotting an English version of the massacre of St. Bartholomew. In return for food and shelter Oates readily joined him in his literary labours, and for a short period lodged in the Barbican, where Tonge was then living in Sir Richard Barker's house (State Trials, vii. 1321), ‘the more conveniently to discourse with the doctor about their common purpose.’ In 1677, under Tonge's directions, Oates began ‘The Cabinet of Jesuits Secrets opened,’ a somewhat colourless account of the supposed methods adopted by the order for obtaining legacies, said to be translated from the Italian; it was issued, ‘completed by a person of quality,’ in 1679. But the acquisition of such an ally as Oates enabled Tonge to greatly enlarge the sphere of his activities. Convinced that a jesuit plot was in progress, Tonge's object was to ‘make the people jealous of popery.’ That once effected, he convinced Oates that their fortunes would be made. The books produced little effect; a more potent stimulus to public opinion was needed. Oates proved an instrument absolutely devoid of scruples. He set himself laboriously to learn the secrets of the jesuits, haunted the Pheasant coffee-house in Holborn and other favourite resorts of the catholics, with whom he lost no opportunity of ingratiating himself. In April 1677 he formally professed reconciliation with the church of Rome. He picked up acquaintance with Whitbread, Pickering, and others of the fathers at Somerset House, where Charles's queen-consort had her private chapel, and eagerly sought admission among the jesuits. Consequently he embraced with much satisfaction an offer of admission to a college of the society abroad. He embarked in the Downs in the spring of 1677, and entered the Jesuit Colegio de los Ingleses at Valladolid on 7 June in that year. In about five months, however, his scandalous behaviour procured his summary and ignominious expulsion. In memory of his sojourn in Spain, Oates subsequently styled himself D.D. of Salamanca; but this assumption had no foundation in fact, and was justly ridiculed by Dryden, Tom Brown, Sir Roger L'Estrange, and others. Oates also stated at a later date that he had been sent to Madrid as jesuit emissary, to treat with the general of the order, Paulus de Oliva, concerning the conspiracy against England; but in 1679 the muleteer who conducted Oates to and from Valladolid was found, and his testimony conclusively proved that Oates could not have visited either Salamanca or Madrid (Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. App. ii. 98; cf. Bagford Ballads, ii. 667). He returned to Tonge with very little information; his patron deemed it indispensable that he should increase it; so on 10 Dec. 1677 he obtained admission as a ‘younger student’ (though he was now twenty-eight) to the English seminary at St. Omer. He kept a footing there until 23 June 1678, when an inevitable expulsion precipitated his disclosures (Florus Anglo-Bavaricus, Liège, 1685). He returned to Tonge, who was then lodging in the house of one Lambert, a bell-founder in Vauxhall, and the pair managed to involve in their schemes one Christopher Kirkby, a Lancashire gentleman, whose interest in chemistry had introduced him to the notice of Charles II.

The fictitious details of the ‘popish plot’ were fabricated during the six weeks that followed Oates's return. With a view to starting it upon its career, Kirkby was instructed by his companions to apprise the king of a pretended secret design upon his life, as Charles was walking with his spaniels in St. James's Park on 12 Aug. 1678. Kirkby was backed up by a paper giving details, which was prepared by Oates, and was submitted to Danby by Tonge (Eachard). Oates himself did not appear in the matter until 6 Sept. 1678, when, in company with Tonge, he visited Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey [q. v.], a well-known justice of the peace, and deposed to the truth of a long written narrative, giving particulars of a comprehensive plot against the life of Charles II, and the substitution of a Roman catholic ministry for that in existence, with the Duke of York as king. The original narrative consisted of forty-three articles or clauses; but, by assiduous labour in the course of the next three weeks, Oates managed to raise this number to eighty-one. He knew just enough about the personnel of the jesuits in London to fit the chief actors in his plot with names, but the majority of the details were palpably invented, and the narrative teemed with absurdities. The drift of his so-called revelation was to the effect that the jesuits had been appointed by Pope Innocent XI (a pontiff whose policy was in reality rather directed against the jesuits and all extremists within the church) to supreme power in England. The ‘Black Bastard,’ as they called the king, was a condemned heretic, and was to be put to death. Père la Chaise had lodged 10,000l. in London for any one who would do the deed, and this sum was augmented by 10,000l. promised by the jesuits in Spain, and 6,000l. by the prior of the Benedictines at the Savoy. Three schemes were represented as actually on foot. Sir George Wakeman, the queen's physician, had been paid 8,000l. down, in earnest of 15,000l., to poison the king. Four Irish ruffians had been hired by Dr. Fogarty to stab the king at Windsor; and, thirdly, two jesuits, named Grove and Pickering, were to be paid 1,500l. to shoot the king with silver bullets. The assassination of the king was to be followed by that of his councillors, by a French invasion of Ireland, and a general massacre of protestants, after which the Duke of York was to be offered the crown and a jesuit government established (Oakes, True Narrative of the Horrid Plot). This had all been settled, according to Oates, at a ‘general consult’ held by the jesuits on 24 April 1678, at the White Horse tavern in Fleet Street; and he stated that he had received a patent from the general of the order to be of the ‘consult.’ It was true that the usual triennial congregation of the society of Jesus was held in London on that day, but it was not held at the White Horse tavern; and it was quite impossible that Oates, not being a member of the order, could have been admitted to it (Reresby, Memoirs, 1875, p. 325; Concerning the Congregation of Jesuits … which Mr. Oates calls a Consult, 1679, 4to; cf. Clarke, Life of James II, 1816).

The result of his inflammatory disclosures, however, fully justified Oates's calculations. On 28 Sept. he was summoned before the privy council, and repeated his story to them, with many embellishments and with extraordinary volubility and assurance. His story leaked out into the town, and its extravagance commended it to the bigoted credulity of the mob. At the council-board the only sceptic was the king, who detected the informer in several glaring misstatements (ib. 1816, i. 520). To the majority, any inconsistencies in Oates's tale seemed more than counterbalanced by the mass of circumstantial, and often quite irrelevant, detail which he had woven with no little ingenuity into his narrative. He had doubtless while living among the Roman catholics picked up many little facts which they and their friends would have preferred to conceal. Thus Symon Patrick relates how, in the early days of the plot, a certain Father Dupuis was brought before Oates, who looked earnestly upon him and said: ‘This is Father du Puis, who was to write the king's life after they killed him. Now Dupuis had a good Latin pen, and when they searched him they found an almanac in his pocket which set down every day that year what pranks the king had played—that such a night he was drunk, how he had this or that woman, and what discourse he had against religion’ (Account of Patrick's Life, 1839, p. 96). The possession of a few such facts, combined with his inventive audacity, rendered Oates for a brief period almost omnipotent in the capital. The night following his examination by the council he spent in going about London making arrests, followed by pursuivants bearing torches. A number of the persons whom he denounced, including Wakeman, Grove, Pickering, and Fogarthy, were promptly committed to Newgate. Oates was next assigned lodgings in Whitehall, with a guard for his better security, and a monthly salary of 40l.

In October 1678 Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey [q. v.] was found dead under mysterious circumstances, and the catholics were popularly credited with having murdered him by way of revenging themselves on him for taking Oates's depositions. It is possible that Oates was himself responsible for Godfrey's assassination. At any rate, the incident completely assured Oates's success. A panic followed, and the proscription of the priests and other Roman catholics against whom Oates had testified was loudly demanded by the public. ‘People's passions,’ wrote Roger North, ‘would not allow them to attend to any reason or deliberation on the matter’ (Examen, 1740, p. 177; Stephens, Cat. of Satiric Prints and Drawings, i. 632 sq.).

In the meantime, on 21 Oct., the House of Commons had assembled and called Oates before them. On 31 Oct. the commons resolved, nemine contradicente, ‘that upon the evidence that hath already appeared, this House is of opinion that there is and hath been a damnable and hellish plot contriv'd and carried on by Popish recusants for assassinating and murdering the king, for subverting the government and rooting out and destroying the Protestant religion.’ With this vote the House of Lords concurred. A general fast day was appointed for 13 Nov. The popish recusants were ordered out of London, and a proclamation was subsequently issued offering a reward of 20l. to any one who should discover and apprehend a Romish priest or jesuit (Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. App. i. 17). Naturally, among the lower classes (see Calamy, Life, 1829, i. 83), everything that Oates affirmed, as Evelyn remarked, was now ‘taken for gospel.’ Before October was out warrants were sealed for the apprehension of twenty-six additional persons, including the catholic Lords Powis, Stafford, Petre, Bellasis, and Arundel. Early in November a scoundrel named William Bedloe [q. v.] came forward to corroborate Oates's depositions. The first prisoner to be tried was Edward Coleman [q. v.], who had been one of the earliest to be arrested as a prime mover of the plot, and he was indicted at the king's bench on 27 Nov. for compassing the death of the king. Oates was the chief witness. The jury convicted Coleman, and he was executed on 3 Dec. A proclamation issued on the day of the trial promising pardon to the evidence and a reward of 200l. for further disclosures evoked a crop of tortuous and mendacious testimony against the catholics; but no serious rival to Oates and Bedloe was forthcoming. That Oates was perjuring himself was more transparent at the next trial, that of Ireland, Grove, and Pickering, on 17 Dec. 1678. He swore that he had seen Ireland at the White Horse on 24 April, and in Fleet Street again in August, when he had heard him discussing, with the other prisoners, the assassination not only of the king, but of the Duke of Buckingham and the Earl of Shaftesbury. It was proved by abundant evidence that on the first of these dates Oates himself was at St. Omer, and that on the second Ireland was in Staffordshire. Scroggs, in summing up, treated the jury to a violent harangue against papists, and the three men were executed on 3 Feb. 1679.

In February 1679 Oates's position was so well established that he confidently submitted to the commons a bill of 678l. 12s. 6d. for expenses incurred in bringing the truth to light, and the amount was paid over and above his weekly salary. Among these fictitious expenses he had the effrontery to include the item 50l. for a manuscript of the Alexandrian version of the Septuagint which he said he gave to the jesuits at St. Omer (L'Estrange, Brief History, p. 130; cf. Lingard, Hist. of England, vol. ix. App.) Oates still further raised himself in the estimation of the house by some damaging statements concerning Danby, and another resolution was passed expressing their confidence in the plot and its discoverer. In April 1679 was published, by order of the House of Lords, his ‘True Narrative of the Horrid Plot and Conspiracy of the Popish Party against the Life of his Sacred Majesty, the Government, and the Protestant Religion, with a list of such Noblemen, Gentlemen, and others, as were the Conspirators; and the Head Officers, both civil and military, that were to effect it,’ London, fol. It occupies sixty-eight pages, but Oates calls it his short narrative or ‘minutes’ of the plot pending his ‘journal,’ in which the whole hellish mystery was to be laid open. He complains of unauthorised issues of the narrative, and, indeed, since he furnished the model by his depositions before Godfrey, as many as twenty different narratives of the plot had found their way into circulation. In June his old evidence was repeated against Whitbread, Harcourt, Fenwick, Gawen, and Turner, and the respectable Roman catholic lawyer, Richard Langhorne [q. v.], all of whom were executed. On 18 July followed the important trial of Sir George Wakeman; his condemnation would have involved that of the queen, whom Oates had the audacity to accuse before the council of being privy to the design to kill the king. But here Oates had overshot the mark (see Bagford Ballads, ii. 692). Although he was supported by Bedloe, Jennison, and Dugdale, he lost his presence of mind under a searching interrogatory to which the prisoner submitted him, and asked leave to retire on the score of feeling unwell. Scroggs, in summing up, disparaged the evidence, and Wakeman was declared not guilty. The acquittal was a severe blow to Oates and to the prosperity of his plot. Immediately afterwards Titus edited two scurrilous little books, ‘The Pope's Warehouse; or the Merchandise of the Whore of Rome,’ London, 1679, 4to, ‘published for the common good,’ and dedicated to the Earl of Shaftesbury; and ‘The Witch of Endor; or the Witchcrafts of the Roman Jezebel, in which you have an account of the Exorcisms or Conjurations of the Papists, as they be set forth in their Agends, Benedictionals, Manuals, Missals, Journals, Portasses. … Proposed and offered to the consideration of all sober Protestants,’ London, 1679, fol. In October 1679 he paid a visit to Oxford, where he was fêted by the townspeople and entertained by Lord Lovelace [see Lovelace, John, third Baron Lovelace], though the vice-chancellor had the strength of mind to refuse him the degree of D.D. He returned to London before the end of the month, accused a number of the officers of the court by name to the king, and witnessed with satisfaction (25 Nov.) the conviction of two of his discarded servants, Knox and Lane, for attempting to defame his character. In January 1680, in conjunction with Bedloe, he sought to avenge himself on Scroggs for Wakeman's acquittal by exhibiting against him before the king and council thirteen articles respecting his public and private life (Hatton, Correspondence, Camd. Soc. i. 220). Scroggs defended himself in person, and completely turned the tables upon his opponents.

The drooping credit of the plot was somewhat revived by Dangerfield's pretended disclosure of the meal-tub plot and by Bedloe's dying affirmation of the truth of the plot and the complicity of the Duke of York. Nevertheless, Lord Castlemaine, who was brought to trial in June 1680, was acquitted. Oates would doubtless have sought in vain for further victims had not the new parliament, which met on 21 Oct. 1680, been from the first ‘filled and heated with fears and apprehensions of Popery Plots and Conspiracies.’ A proclamation was promptly issued to encourage the ‘fuller discovery of the horrid and execrable Popish Plot.’ Informers multiplied anew, and Oates's popularity was increased by the currency given to several pretended plots against his life. A Portuguese Jew, Francisco de Feria, swore that a proposal to murder Oates, Bedloe, and Shaftesbury had been made to him by the Portuguese ambassador, Gaspar de Abreu de Frittas. About the same time Simpson, son of Israel Tonge, was committed to Newgate for endeavouring to defame Oates, a crime to which he said he had been incited by Sir Roger L'Estrange (Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. App. ii. pp. 246–9). On 30 Nov. Oates bore false witness against Lord Stafford at his trial; and the death in the following month of Israel Tonge, who had for some time past been increasingly jealous and suspicious of his old pupil, removed a possible danger from his path. At a dinner given by Alderman Wilcox in the city in the summer of 1680 much scandal had been caused by Oates and Tonge openly disputing their respective claims to the proprietorship of the plot, and their whig friends had some difficulty in explaining away the revelations that resulted.

Oates had now arrived at the highest point of his fortunes. He made constant and seldom unsuccessful demands upon the privy purse (see Ackerman, Secret Service Money, Camden Soc., passim). ‘He walked about with his guards,’ says Roger North (Examen), ‘assigned for fear of the Papists murdering him. … He put on an episcopal garb (except the lawn sleeves), silk gown and cassock, great hat, satin hatband and rose, long scarf, and was called or blasphemously called himself the saviour of the nation. Whoever he pointed at was taken up and committed; so many people got out of his way as from a blast, and glad they could prove their last two years' conversation.’ Parliament made the Duke of Monmouth responsible for the safety of his person, the lord chamberlain for his lodging, the lord treasurer for his diet and necessaries. ‘Three servants were at his beck and call, and every morning two or three gentlemen waited upon him to dress him, and contended for the honour of holding the basin for him to wash’ (Sitwell, The First Whig, p. 44). The Archbishop of Canterbury, from whom he received ‘several kindnesses’ at Lambeth, recommended him for promotion in the church, and Shaftesbury encouraged him to expect, if not to demand, a bishopric. Sir John Reresby relates how, dining with himself and the Bishop of Ely in December 1680, Oates reflected upon the Duke of York and upon the queen-dowager in such an outrageous manner as to disgust the most extreme partisan present. Yet no one dared to contradict him for fear of being made party to the plot, and when Reresby himself at length ventured to intervene, Oates left the room in some heat, to the dismay of several present (Memoirs, p. 196).

From the commencement of 1681, however, the perjurer's luck changed. In February 1681 a priest named Atwood whom he had denounced was reprieved after conviction by the king. The condemnation and death of Fitzharris and of Archbishop Plunket in the summer of this year proved a last effort on the part of those whose interest it was to sustain the vitality of the plot. The credulity of the better part of the nation was exhausted, but not before Oates had directly or indirectly contrived the judicial murder of some thirty-five men.

In August 1681 he charged with libel a former scholar and usher of Merchant Taylors', Isaac Backhouse, master of Wolverhampton grammar school, on the ground that Backhouse had called after him in St. James's Park, ‘There goes Oates, that perjured rogue,’ but the action was allowed to fall to the ground (Clode, Titus Oates and Merchant Taylors'). In January 1682 some ridiculous charges which he brought against Adam Elliott [q. v.] were not only disproved, but Oates was cast in 20l. damages in an action for defamation of character with which Elliott retaliated. In April of the same year his pension was reduced to 2l. a week, and in August his enemies were strong enough to forbid him to come to court and to withdraw his pension altogether (Hatton Correspondence, ii. 7). He took refuge in the city, amid the taunts of the court pamphleteers, in the van of whom was Sir Roger L'Estrange. In his ‘Hue and Cry after Dr. O.’ L'Estrange described Titus as drinking the tears of widows and orphans, and in the same year Oates was ridiculed on the stage as ‘Dr. Panchy, an ignorant railing fellow,’ in Crowne's ‘City Politiques.’ It was significant of the disrepute into which he felt himself to be falling that in June 1682 he did not venture to give evidence against Kearney (one of the ‘four Irish ruffians’ who were to have beaten the king to death). On 28 Feb. 1684 he had the assurance to petition the king and Sir Leoline Jenkins against ‘the scandalous pamphlets of Sir Roger L'Estrange,’ and demanded pecuniary reparation. Ten weeks later, on 10 May, Oates was suddenly arrested at the Amsterdam coffee-house, in an action of scandalum magnatum, for calling the Duke of York a traitor. About the same time two of his men, Dalby and Nicholson, were convicted at nisi prius for seditious words against Charles II, and both stood in the pillory. Oates himself, after a brief trial before Jeffreys, was cast in damages to the amount of 100,000l., and in default was thrown into the King's Bench prison, where he was loaded with heavy irons.

James II succeeded to his brother in February, and on 8 May 1685 Oates was put upon his trial for perjury. There were two indictments: first, that Oates had falsely sworn to a consult of jesuits held at the White Horse tavern on 24 April 1678, at which the king's death was decided upon; secondly, that he had falsely sworn that William Ireland was in London between 8 and 12 Aug. in the same year. Oates defended himself with considerable ability, but things naturally went against him now that the evidence of Roman catholics was regarded with attention. Jeffreys, now lord chief justice, summed up with great weight of eloquence against his favourite witness of former days. ‘He has deserved much more punishment,’ he concluded, ‘than the laws of this land can inflict.’ The prisoner was found guilty upon both indictments, and nine days later Jeffreys deputed Sir Francis Wythens [q. v.] to pronounce sentence. Oates was to pay a heavy fine, to be stripped of his canonical habits, to stand in the pillory annually at certain specified places and times, to be whipped upon Wednesday, 20 May, from Aldgate to Newgate, and upon Friday, 22 May, from Newgate to Tyburn, and to be committed close prisoner for the rest of his life (Cobbett, State Trials, x. 290; cf. Bramston, Autobiography, p. 194). The flogging was duly inflicted with ‘a whip of six thongs’ by Ketch and his assistants. That Oates should have been enabled to outlive it seemed a miracle to his still numerous sympathisers (cf. Abraham de la Pryme, Diary, Surtees Soc. p. 9). Edmund Calamy witnessed the second flogging, which the king, in spite of much entreaty, had refused to remit, when the victim's back, miserably swelled with the first whipping, looked as if he had been flayed (Life, i. 120; Ellis, Correspondence, i. 340). After his scourgings his troubles were by no means at an end. ‘Because,’ he wrote with ironical bitterness in his ‘Account of the late King James’ (1696), ‘through the great mercy of Almighty God supporting me, and the extraordinary Care and Skill of a judicious chyrurgeon, I outlived your cruelty … you sent some of your Cut-throat Crew whilst I was weak in my Bed to pull off those Plasters applied to cure my Back, and in your most gracious name they threatened with all Courtesie and Humanity to destroy me.’ The name, address, and charges of the ‘judicious chyrurgeon’ are given at the end of the book, and iterated reference is made to him in Oates's later writings. He was doubtless paid for the advertisement.

In 1688 it was plausibly rumoured that Oates was dead. Notices, however, appear from time to time in the newspapers, to the effect that he stood in the pillory at the Royal Exchange and elsewhere in accordance with the terms of his sentence. In August 1688 he begot a bastard son of a bedmaker in the King's Bench prison (Wood, Life and Times), and issued another coarse pamphlet on ‘popish pranks,’ entitled ‘Sound Advice to Roman Catholics, especially the Residue of poor seduced and deluded Papists in England who obstinately shut both eyes and ears against the clearest Light of the Gospel of Christ.’

Oates's hopes revived as the protestant current gathered strength under the auspices of the Prince of Orange. Sarotti, the Venetian ambassador, wrote to the signory that when Oates stood on the pillory the people would not permit any to inflict the least hurt upon him. Soon after the landing of William of Orange he emerged from prison, and was received by the new king early in 1689. On 31 March he petitioned the House of Lords for redress and a reversal of his sentence, and, after some deliberation, the judges pronounced his sentence to have been erroneous, cruel, and illegal (Hist. MSS. Comm. 12th Rep. App. vi. 75–84). But while this decision was pending Oates had unadvisedly sent in a petition for a reversal of sentence to the commons, an act which provoked the upper house into committing him to the Marshalsea for breach of privilege. The commons regarded this in the light of an outrage, and the two houses were on the verge of a serious quarrel when the prorogation of 20 Aug. 1689 set Oates at liberty. Shortly afterwards the king, at the request of the lower house, granted the perjurer a pension of 5l. a week.

His testimony remaining invalid in a court of law, Oates had to reconcile himself henceforth to a private career; but from the eager patronage that he extended in 1691 to William Fuller [q. v.] the impostor, who boarded for a time with Oates and his friend, John Tutchin, in Axe Yard, Westminster, it is evident that he was still interested in the fabrication of plots. Oates lent Fuller money on the security of a Jacobite plot, which the latter was prepared to divulge; but this fair prospect was ruined, in Oates's estimation, by Fuller's cowardly scruples (The whole Life of William Fuller, 1703, p. 623). An advantageous marriage became his next object, and on 18 Aug. 1693 Oates was married to a widow named Margaret Wells, a Muggletonian, with a jointure of 2,000l. (Luttrell, Brief Historical Relation, iii. 165). The event provoked some lively pasquinades, one by Thomas Brown being the cause of the satirist's commitment to prison by order of the council (ib. iii. 173; Brown, The Salamanca Wedding). His wife's money proved inadequate to the needs of Oates, who had contracted extravagant tastes and habitually lived beyond his income. In 1693, moreover, his annuity had been suspended at the instance of Queen Mary, who was greatly incensed at the atrocious libels upon the character of her father to which Oates had given currency. Upon Mary's death, however, Oates's powers of coarse invective were fully displayed in his elaborate ‘Εἰκὼν Βασιλική; or the Picture of the late King James drawn to the Life. In which it is made manifest that the whole Course of his Life hath to this day been a continued Conspiracy against the Protestant Religion, Laws, and Liberties of the Three Kingdoms. In a Letter to Himself. And humbly dedicated to the King's Most Excellent Majesty, William the Third, our Deliverer and Restorer;’ part i. (three editions), 1696, 4to; part ii., 1697; part iii., 1697; part iv., 1697. The pecuniary reward for his labour was probably small. Early in 1697 he wrote a piteous appeal to the king for the payment of his debts and the restitution of his pension, mentioning that he had no clothes worthy to appear before his majesty in person. ‘The doctor,’ as he was still styled by advanced whigs, retained a certain influence, and on 15 July 1698 the treasury granted him 500l. to pay his debts, and 300l. per annum, to date from Lady day 1698, during his own and his wife's lifetime, out of the post-office revenues (Cal. of Treasury Papers, 1697–1702, p. 116). Deliverance from pecuniary embarrassments enabled Oates to obtain, what he had long coveted, admission into the sect of baptists; his craving for publicity doubtless obtained satisfaction in the pulpit of the Wapping chapel, where he frequently officiated. He was, however, foiled in a discreditable intrigue for wringing a legacy from a wealthy devotee, and in 1701 he was expelled from the sect as ‘a disorderly person and a hypocrite’ (Crosby, Hist. of the Baptists, 1738, iii. 166, 182). He returned to his old lodging in Axe Yard, and resumed his favourite occupation of attending the sittings of the courts in Westminster Hall. In July 1702 he involuntarily attended the quarter sessions, and narrowly escaped imprisonment for assaulting the eccentric Eleanor James [q. v.], who had questioned his right to appear, as was his practice, in canonical garb (An Account of the Proceedings against Dr. Titus Oates at the Quarter Sessions held in Westminster Hall on 2 July 1702). He died in Axe Yard on 12 July 1705 (Luttrell, v. 572). Roger North says of Oates, with substantial justice: ‘He was a man of an ill cut, very short neck, and his visage and features were most particular. His mouth was the centre of his face, and a compass there would sweep his nose, forehead, and chin within the perimeter. … In a word, he was a most consummate cheat, blasphemer, vicious, perjured, impudent, and saucy, foul-mouth'd wretch, and, were it not for the Truth of History and the great Emotions in the Public he was the cause of, not fit to be remembered.’

Oates's idiosyncrasies might be fairly deduced from the character of his associates—men such as Aaron Smith (his legal adviser), Goodenough, Rumsey, Colledge, Rumbold, Nelthrop, West, Bedloe, Tutchin, and Fuller. These men he entertained in his chambers at Whitehall, and sought to eclipse in abuse of the royal family at their common headquarters, the Green Ribbon Club, which, from 1679 onwards, held its meetings at the King's Head in Chancery-lane End (Smith, Intrigues of the Popish Plot; cf. Sitwell, The First Whig, p. 49). Among all these scoundrels Oates was distinguished for the effrontery of his demeanour no less than by the superior villany of his private life. He was an adept in all the arts of arrogance and bluster, but though voluble of speech, he spoke with a strange, broad accent and a nasal drawl. His fondness for foul language was such that in the presence of superiors he is said to have missed no opportunity of narrating the blasphemies of others (North, Examen; Calamy, Life, i. 120).

Lord-keeper North once heard Oates preach at St. Dunstan's, and much admired his theatrical behaviour in the pulpit. A certain dramatic talent, combined with the unrivalled assurance of his manner, had probably more to do with the success of his fabrication than any real cleverness on his part. He certainly exhibited some astuteness in the early stages of the plot; but, as his inventions grew more complicated, his memory was not good enough to save him from self-contradiction. Such a career was only possible at a time when party feeling raged in politics and religion with the virulence of a disease. The indiscretion of the Duke of York, the bigotry of the mob, the violence of Shaftesbury and his partisans, and the pusillanimity of Charles, all co-operated with the incautious display of activity made by the papists in England to sustain the imposture of which Oates was the mouthpiece.

Of the numerous portraits of Oates the best is that drawn and engraved ad vivum by R. White, with the inscription ‘Titus Oates. Anagramma Testis ovat,’ which was probably executed in 1679. (The fine example in the British Museum print-room is reproduced in ‘Twelve Bad Men,’ ed. Seccombe, p. 95.). A very similar portrait is that engraved by R. Tompson after Thomas Hawker. In 1685 portraits of him in the pillory, or as ‘Oats well thresh't,’ became the fashion, and there are several Dutch prints of him, in one of which he is represented in the pillory, surrounded by the heads of seven of his victims, while underneath is a representation of his flogging, with inscriptions in Dutch and in French. In the ‘Archivist’ for June 1894 is a facsimile of a typical letter written by Oates.

[For the early period of Oates's life, Isaac Milles's Life, Mayor's St. John's Coll. Register, Wood's Life and Times, the Florus Anglo-Bavaricus (a Roman catholic account of the plot in Latin published at Liège), the House of Lords MSS., now being published by the Historical MSS. Commission, and certain collectanea in the sixth series of Notes and Queries, and in the Gent. Mag. for 1849 have proved of special value. For the central portion of his life the State Trials are supplemented by Roger North's Examen and Lives of the Norths, and by the histories of Burnet, Eachard, Rapin, Ralph, Hallam, Lingard, and Macaulay, and the same period is illustrated by the Narratives of the Plot by Oates and others; by the numerous pamphlets catalogued under Oates, Popish Plot, and L'Estrange, Roger, in the British Museum (especially L'Estrange's Brief History of the Times, 1687, and William Smith's Intrigues of the Popish Plot laid Open, 1685); by the Roxburghe and Bagford Ballads, ed. Ebsworth; and by Stephens's valuable Cat. of Prints and Drawings (satirical) in the British Museum. Mr. Willis Bund's Selection from the State Trials recently published contains a number of excellent comments upon the character of Oates's evidence. Oates's career also forms the subject of a short article in Blackwood's Mag. for February 1889, and of a longer essay by the present writer in Lives of Twelve Bad Men, ed. Seccombe, 1894, with bibliography. The writer is indebted to Sir George Sitwell, bart, M.P., for some valuable notes on Oates's career, forming part of the materials for his ‘The First Whig’ (Scarborough, 1894). See also Luttrell's Brief Historical Relation of State Affairs, freq.; Western Martyrology, 1705; Tuke's Memoires of Godfrey, 1682; H. Care's Hist. of the Plot; Hist. of King Killers, 1719; Evelyn's Diary; Reresby's Memoirs, ed. Cartwright; Rochester, Familiar Letters, 1714, 150; Aubrey's Lives; Hatton Correspondence, Camden Soc.; Sidney's Diary, ed. Blencowe, 1843; Thomas Brown's Collected Works, 1720; Crowne's Works, 1873, vol. ii.; Calamy's Account, 1829; Dryden's Works; Crosby's Hist. of the Baptists; Hearne's Collectanea, ed. Doble; Challoner's Memoirs of Missionary Priests; Foley's Records of Soc. of Jesus; Lemon's Cat. of Broadsides; Pinkerton and Grüber's Medallic Hist. of England; Smith's British Mezzotinto Portraits; Stoughton's Hist. of Religion in England; Pike's Hist. of Crime; Campbell's Lord Chancellors; Thornbury and Walford's Old and New London; Wheatley and Cunningham's London Past and Present; and the following articles: Bedloe, William; Coleman, Edward; Dangerfield, Thomas; Godfrey, Sir Edmund Berry; Ireland, William; L'Estrange, Sir Roger; Prance, Miles; Tonge. Israel.]

T. S.

Dictionary of National Biography, Errata (1904), p.208
N.B.— f.e. stands for from end and l.l. for last line

Page Col. Line
300 i 13 Oates, Titus: for Buckingham read Gates
301 i 35 for Withins read Wybhens [q. v.]
303 ii 5 after Cartwright; insert Lord Kenyon's MSS. pp. 105-8; Rochester's Familiar Letters, 1714, p. 150;