Page:EB1911 - Volume 22.djvu/548

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.
532
PRYNNE


to the core, with a tenacious memory, a strength of will bordering upon obstinacy, and a want of sympathy with human nature. His irst book, The Perpetuity of a Regenerate M an's Estate (1627), defended one of the main Calvinistic positions, and The U loveliness of Love-locks and H ealth's Sickness (1628) attacked prevailing fashions without any sense of proportion, treating follies on the same footing a.s scandalous vices. In 1629 Prynne came forward as the assailant of Arminianism in doctrine and of ceremonial ism in practice, and thus drew down upon himself the anger of Laud. H istrio-mostix, published in 1633, was a violent attack upon stage plays- in general, in which the author pointed out that kings and emperors who had favoured the drama had been carried off by violent deaths, which assertion might easily be interpreted as a warning to the king, and applied a disgraceful epithet to actresses, which, as Henrietta Maria was taking part in the rehearsal of a ballet, was supposed to apply to the queen. After a year's imprisonment in the Tower Prynne was sentenced by the star chamber on the 17th of February 1634 to be imprisoned for life, and also to be fined {5000, expelled from Lincoln's Inn, rendered incapable of returning to his profession, degraded from his degree in the university of Oxford, and set in the pillory, where he was to lose both his ears. The latter portion of the sentence was carried out on the 7th of May, and the rest of his punishment inflicted except the exaction of the fine. There is no reason to suppose that his punishment was unpopular. In 1637 he was once more in the star chamber, together with Bastwick and Burton. In A Divine Tragedy lately acted he had attacked the Declaration of Sports, and in News from Ipswich he had assailed Wren and the bishops generally. On the 30th of June a fresh sentence, that had been delivered on the 14th, was executed. The stumps of Prynne's ears were shorn off in the pillory, and he was branded on the cheeks with the letters S.L., meaning “ seditious libeller, " which Prynne, however, interpreted as “ stigmata laudis.” He was removed to Carnarvon Castle, and thence to Mont Orgueil Castle in Jersey, where he occupied himself in writing against p0pCI'y.

Immediately upon the meeting of the Long Parliament in 1640 Prynne was liberated. On the 28th of November he entered London in triumph, and on the 2nd of March 1641, reparation was voted by the Commons, at the expense of his persecutors. Prynne now attacked the bishops and the Roman Catholics and defended the taking up of arms by the parliament. The words “Touch not- mine anointed, ” he declared in the Vindication of Psalm cv. ver. I 5 (1642), only commanded kings not to oppress their subjects. In 1643 he took an active part in the proceedings against Nathaniel Fiennes for the surrender of Bristol, and showed a vindictive energy in the prosecution of Archbishop Laud. He manipulated the evidence against him, and having been entrusted with the search of Laud's papers, he published a garbled edition of the archbishop's private “ Diary, ” entitled A Breviate of the Life of Archbishop Laud. He also published Hidden Works of Darkness brought to Light in order to prejudice the archbishop's case, and after his execution, Canterbury's Doom . . . an unfinished account of the trial commissioned by the House of Commons. Prynne supported a national church controlled by the state, and issued a series of tracts against in dependency, including in his attacks Henry Burton his former fellow sufferer in the pillory, John Lilburne' and John Goodwin [e.g. Independence Examined (1644); 'Brief Animadversions rm Mr John Goodwin's Theomachia (1644), &c.]. He denounced Milton's Divorce at Pleasure, was answered in the Colasterion, and contemptuously referred to in the sonnet “ On the Forcers of Conscience.” He also opposed violently the Presbyterian system, and denied the right of any Church to excommunicate except by leave of the state [e.g. Four Short Questions (1645); A Vindication of Four Serious Questions (164 5)]. He was throughout an enemy of individual freedom in religion.

Prynne took the side of the parliament against the army in 1647, supported the cause of the eleven impeached members, and visited the university of Oxford as one of the parliamentary commissioners. On the 7th of November 1648 Prynne was returned as member for Newport in Cornwall. He at once took part against those who called for the execution of Charles, and on the 6th of December delivered a speech of enormous length in favour of conciliating the king. The result was his inclusion in “ Pride's Purge ” on the morning of the 6th, when, having resisted to military violence, he was imprisoned. After recovering his liberty Prynne retired to Swainswick. On the 7th of June 1649 he was assessed to the monthly contribution laid on the country by parliament. He not only refused to pay, but published A Legal I/indication of the Liberties of England, arguing that no tax could be raised without the consent of the two houses. In the same year he began a long account of ancient parliaments, intended to reflect on the one in existence, and in June 16 50 he was imprisoned in Dunster Castle, afterwards at Taunton, and in June 1651 at Pendennis Castle. He was at last offered his discharge on giving a bond of £1000 to do nothing to the prejudice of the commonwealth. This he refused, and an unconditional order for his release was given on the 18th of February 1653. After his release' Prynne further expressed his feelings in defence of -advowsons and patrons, an attack on the Quakers (1655), and in a pamphlet against the admission of the ]ews to England (A Short Dernurrer to the J ews) issued in 1656. On the occasion of the offer of the crown to Cromwell he issued King Richard the Third Revived (1657), and on the creation of the new House of Lords A Plea for the Lords (1658).

On the restoration of the Rump Parliament by the army of the 7th of May 1659 fourteen of the secluded members, with Prynne among them, claimed admittance. The claim was refused, but on the 9th, through the inadvertence of the doorkeepers, Prynne, Annesly and Hungerford succeeded in taking their seats. When they were observed the house purposely adjourned for dinner. In the afternoon the doors were found guarded; the secluded members were not permitted to pass, and a vote was at once taken that they should not again be allowed to enter the house. Wrathful at the failure of his protest and at the continuance of the republican government, Prynne attacked his adversaries fiercely in print. In England's Confusion, published on the 30th of May 1659, in the True and Full Narrative, and in The Brief Necessary I/indication, he gave long accounts of the attempt to enter the house and of his ejection, while in the Curtaine Drawne he held up the claims of the Rump to derision. In Shujiing, Cutting and Dealing, 26th of May, he rejoiced at the quarrels which he saw arising, for “if you all complain I hope I shall Win at last.” Concordia discors pointed out the absurdity of the constant tendency to multiply oaths, while “ remonstrances, ” “ narratives, ” “ queries, ” “ prescriptions,” “vindications,” “declarations” and “statements” were scattered broadcast. Upon the cry of the “ good old cause” he is especially sarcastic and severe in The True Good Old Cause Rightly Stated and other pamphlets. Loyalty Banished explains itself. His activity and fearlessness in attacking those in power during this eventful year were remarkable, and an ironical petition was circulated in Westminster Hall and the-London streets complaining of his indefatigable scribbling. On the 27th of December Prynne made another fruitless attempt to take his seat. In obedience to the popular voice, however, on the 21st of February 1660, the ejected members of 1648, led in triumph by Prynne, wearing a basket-hilt sword, re-entered the house. He supported the Restoration in this parliament, and in the Convention Parliament, which met on the 2 5th of April 1660, and in which he sat for Bath, he urged severe measures against the regicides, and the exclusion of several individuals from the Act of Indemnity. He was foremost in support of the claims of the Presbyterians and against the bishops; advocated the indiscriminate infliction of penalties, and demanded that the officials of the commonwealth should be compelled to refund their salaries. He was nominated a commissioner for disbanding the army, and was appointed keeper of the records in the Tower, a post in which he performed useful services.

Prynne was again returned as member for Bath on the 8th of