Introduction to Tutchin

INTRODUCTION  to "Selected poems, 1685-1700, by John Tutchin" by Spiro Peterson, published by the Augustan Reprint Society, 1964
When John Tutchin died on September 23, 1707, he had already
created the image of himself which Alexander Pope has transmitted to
posterity. There, in Book II of The Dunciad (1728), the Whig journalist
appears as one of two figures in a "shaggy Tap'stry":
Earless on high, stood un-abash'd Defoe,
And Tutchin flagrant from the scourge, below.
Pope, in his variorum notes on the passage, identified Tutchin as the
"author of some vile verses, and of a weekly paper call'd the Observator,"
and revived the fiction of his sentence "to be whipp'd thro' several
towns in the west of England, upon which he petition'd King James
II. to be hanged." The "invective" against James II's memory, which
Pope mentions, has now been identified in the Twickenham Edition as
The British Muse: or Tyranny Expos'd (1701).[1]  By 1728, this was all
the reputation that remained for Mr. John Tutchin, Gentleman--irascible
journalist, pamphleteer, and writer of verses.
The truth of the matter is that Pope was no more accurate about
Tutchin's being whipped than about Defoe's losing his ears. From the
sparse reliable information concerning Tutchin's early years, one consistent
pattern emerges: he tended to depict himself as a hero and a
martyr. Born in 1661 "a Freeman" of London, he was brought up in a
family of scholarly nonconformist ministers probably on the Isle of
Wight[2].  Even though an enemy claimed that he had been expelled from
a school at Stepney for stealing (DNB), he received some education
and travelled on the continent. In defending his skill with languages
against Defoe, he once told how at his school, boys translated and
capped verses, and how he travelled "from Leivarden in Friezland[** ,?]
thro' Holland and the Spanish Flanders."[3] Throughout his life, he
proundly[** should be proudly] designated himself a gentleman: during his trial for libel in
late June of 1704, he even escaped punishment by setting forth that he
was a gentleman, and not a laborer as the indictment read.
In later life, he romanticized himself when young as the hero who
fought in the Duke of Monmouth's rebellion, received the brutal "whipping
sentence" from Lord Chief-Justice Jeffreys during "the bloody
assezes" of 1685, petitioned James II for "the Favour of being hang'd"
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to avoid the sentence, and finally freed himself by paying so burdensome
a bribe that he was reduced to poverty. All these claims were
first made in "The Case, Trial, and Sentence of Mr. John Tutchin,
and Several Others, in Dorchester, in the County of Dorset," which
Tutchin added to the fifth edition of The Western Martyrology; or,
the Bloody Assizes, published in 1705. As J. G. Muddiman demonstrated
in 1929, most of these claims are outright fabrications. Tutchin
was never indicted for high treason, he could never have been
challenged by Jeffreys to cap verses, and he invented the petition
to be hanged.[4] In The Observator(July 25-29, 1702), he honestly admitted
that he was never tried in Devonshire, but claimed he did buy
his liberty of James II; and in a later issue (Aug. 4-7, 1703) he challenged
an enemy: "if he Pleases to give the World an Account, When,
Where, and for What I was Whip'd thro' a Market-Town, he will inform
Mankind of more than I or any Body else knows ..." John Dunton believed
in the whipping sentence; and Defoe, the story of the petition
to be hanged. Throughout Tutchin's stormy career, his enemies made
political capital of the flogging that never took place. He was probably
twenty-*our years old when, using the alias "Thomas Pitts," he
was tried at Dorchester for "Spreading false news and fined five marks
and sentenced to be whipped"--but he came down with smallpox and
so was not whipped.[5]  Lord Macaulay, who is incorrect on the facts
taken from The Western Martyrology, certainly exaggerated in stating
that Tutchin's temper was "exasperated to madness by what he had
undergone."[6]  That the Monmouth adventure and its aftermath mark a
turning point in the young man's life, however, cannot doubted.
Tutchin may have fought with William III's army in Ireland as an
officer.[7]  After the Glorious Revolution and the establishment of
William and Mary on the throne, Tutchin devoted himself to a succession
of liberal causes. On the one hand, he persisted in identifying
himself with the former commonwealth, the Monmouth cause, the Revolution,
the reform movement especially in the theater, and Whig
liberty. He became noted for tactless exposes of high-level misconduct
in his pamphlets and in The Observator(Apr. 1, 1702-Sept. 23,
1707). His detractors frequently paired him with Defoe as a monster
or a villain. Again and again, he made himself obnoxious to important
personages such as the Earl of Albemarle or the Duke of Marlborough.
On the other hand, his hatred for tyranny propelled him frequently
into such extremes as his disgraceful complicity in William Fuller's
impostures. In the years 1700-1704, he was generally reputed to be
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"Secretary to the abominal Society of King-Killers"--the secret Calves-Head
Club made up of dissenters who met on January 30th, the
anniversary of the death of Charles I, to sing prophane anthems.[9]
Dunton generously summed up the widely varied causes of "the
loyal and ingenious Tutchin (alias Master Observator); the bold Asserter
of English Liberties; the scourge of the High-flyers; the Seaman's
Advocate; the Detector of the Victualling-office; the scorn and
terror of Fools and Knaves; the Nation's Argus, and the Queen's
faithful Subject."[10]  Even his death in Queen's Bench Prison, on
September 23, 1707, was romanticized into another instance of martyrdom.
"...he liv'd and dy'd," announced the Country-man of The
Observator, "for the Service of his Country."  Tutchin's followers
dramatized his death as the result of a politically-inspired thrashing
which "six ruffians" administered to him, in revenge for slanderous
remarks made in The Observator against Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas
Dilkes.[11]  The "Pulchrum Est Pro Patria Mori" portrait, reprinted here
as the frontispiece, was circulated to attest to Tutchin's political
martyrdom. However, as the autopsy-report demonstrates and as Muddiman
rightly concludes, "Tutchin really died from a specific disease
and not from the thrashing undergone seven months before his death."[12]
The young man of twenty four who went off to join Monmouth's
forces had already published, in 1685, Poems on Several Occasions
With a Pastoral: To Which is Added, A Discourse of Life. In the preface,
writing like a fashionable man-about-town, Tutchin describes the
lyrics, translations, and satires of this volume as "trifles" which he
had let circulate and had now secured "by promising to Print them."
The book shows the variety in poetic kinds that one would expect in
a young writer who had been drinking deeply of Lord Rochester, Waller,
Cowley, the Earl of Roscommon, Oldham, and Dryden. Juvenalian
satires reminiscent of Oldham are neatly balanced by memorial verses
to Oldham and Rochester, late metaphysical lyrics ("And why in red
dost thou appear"), classical dialogues ("Cleopatra to Anthony"),
translations of Horace, and the well-turned "autobiographical" couplets
of "A Letter to A Friend." In its variety and themes, Poems
on Several Occasions resembles Oldham's Works, which was published
twice in 1684. Tutchin's "The Tory Catch," like Oldham's "A Dithyrambick.
A Drunkard's Speech in a Mask," has a speaker who ironically
brags of the social misconduct which the author satirizes. "A
Letter to a Friend" is a skillfully exaggerated account of the attractions
and dangers in rhyming. Although perhaps, autobiographical in
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part, the poem also imitates the long-standing tradition derived from
Horace's first Epistle of Book I, and revived most recently in Oldham's
ham's "A Letter from the Country to a Friend in Town."[13]  Both "The
Tory Catch" and "A Letter to a Friend" are reprinted here from Poems
on Several Occasions.
Tutchin's first book shows two impulses: the awkwardly lyrical
and the directly satiric. He feels compelled, in the Preface, to defend
his choice of less serious subjects. His light poems do not,
"in the least, detract from Virtue; since I have Read the Poems of
Beza, Heinsius, our own Donne, & c." He promises to turn to "some
Graver Subject." There are other equally significant comments in a
Preface that reveals a great deal about changing literary taste. In
"To the Memory of Mr. John Oldham," Tutchin curiously avoids the
main subject of Dryden's finer elegy, namely, Oldham's achievement
in rough satire. His praise is that "Crashaw and Cowley both did live
in thee." However, in his "Satyr Against Vice" and "Satyr Against
Whoring," Tutchin has already learned the art of declaiming, from
the poet who has been called "the English Juvenal," John Oldham.
In the years between 1685 and 1707, Tutchin's separate poems
were mainly occasional and satirical. Panegyric for William III
dominates such an early piece as An Heroic Poem upon the Late
Expedition of His Majesty (1689), and hatred for the Stuarts possesses
a later poem like The British Muse: or Tyranny Expos'd (1701). In
Civitas Militaris (1690) Tutchin engages in city politics. The elegy
on the death of Queen Mary irritated Defoe enough to have "T----n"
placed among the "Pindarick Legions" in The Pacificator (1700).
Two poems, however,--The Earth-quake of Jamaica (1692) and Whitehall
in Flames (1698)--differ from the others in that they are Cowleyan
"Pindaricks" moralizing on disasters. The Earth-quake of
Jamaica is reprinted here to illustrate Tutchin's descriptive talent.
He starts with an actual event, the Jamaican disaster of June 7, 1692;
and then, as the epigraph on the title page suggests, he presents a
variation on Horace's rejection of "senseless Epicureanism," in
Ode 34 of Book I. The Earth-quake of Jamaica may have been worked
over longer than was customary. It was published shortly before
December 10, the manuscript date on Narcissus Luttrell's copy now
in the Houghton Library. Some six months earlier, in the late morning
of June 7, the earthquake had erupted in Port Royal, the "boom" port
on the south side of the island. In three schocks lasting less than
three minutes, the famed capital of the buccaneers had fallen. News
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of the disaster did not reach London until August 9. The earthquake
then became one of the most widely discussed events. The London
Gazette ran stories on it, scientists like Sir Hans Sloane published
eye-witness accounts in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal
Society, the moralists declared God's wrath had come upon the wickedest
place in Christendom, and "the actors of the drolls" in Southwark
Fair even mockingly re-enacted the event until the Lord Mayor
put a stop to the performances.[14]
If contemporary accounts of the Port Royal earthquake are compared
with The Earth-quake of Jamaica, the reader becomes impressed
by Tutchin's way of adapting the well-known details to a moral comment
on life. His scenes are indeed graphic, but they do not have the
immediacy of such eye-witness accounts as the following, preserved
by Luttrell:
I cannot sufficiently represent the terrible circumstances
that attended it; the earth swelled with a
dismal humming noise, the houses fell, the earth
opened in many places, the graves gave up some of
their dead, the tomb stones ratled together; at last
the earth sunk below the water, and the sea overwhelmed
great numbers of people, whose shreiks
and groanes made a lamentable eccho: the earth
opened both behind and before me within 2 foot of
my feet, and that place on which I stood trembled
exceedingly; the water immediately boyled up upon
the opening of the earth, but it pleased God to preserve
Tutchin's aim is to compare vulnerable nature with vulnerable man:
"Can humane Race / Stand on their / Legs when Nature Reels?" He
sees in the disaster a challenge for English sinners to repent: the
"Hurricane of Fate" wails on "murder'd Cornish." He had not yet
forgotten the Monmouth adventure. For he alludes here to the act of
Parliament passed in 1689 reversing the attainder of Henry Cornish,
the alderman who had been brutally executed in 1685 for high treason
through participating in the Rye House Plot and attaching himself to
the Duke of Monmouth. For Tutchin, politics were always relevant.
Tutchin's true forte is not the descriptive poem, but satire. Poems
published in the years 1696 to 1705--from A Pindarick Ode to The
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Tackers--exploit the satirical impulse that had been latent in Poems
on Several Occasions. Increasingly he turns to general denunciation
and thinly disguised lampoon. Of the two main Augustan traditions
in satire--the "fine raillery" that Dryden perfected and the rough satire
that reached back to Donne, Cleveland, and Oldham--Tutchin belongs
to the latter. Defoe found him to be "so woundy touchy, and so willing
to quarrel," and noted that "Want of Temper was his capital
Error." [16] The specific circumstance that produced A Pindarick Ode,
in the Praise of Folly and Knavery (1696), reprinted here, is generally
said to be his dismissal from the victualling office because he
failed to establish his case that the commissioners mismanaged public
funds. Such corruption in the administration would soon transform
a deep admiration for William III into the disenchantment of The Foreigners
(1700). That Tutchin was uneasy in his effort to write satire
in the mode of Dryden is suggested by his abandonment of irony after
the first part of A Pindarick Ode. In his introductory verses, Benjamin
Bridgwater accurately observes that Erasmus' Ironia no longer
This hard'ned Age do's rougher Means require,
We must be Cupp'd and Cauteriz'd with Fire.
Echoing Dryden's Mac Flecknoe, Tutchin invites Dullness and "Immortal
Nonsence" to inspire his ironic praise of the folly and knavery
that now ride roughshod over such traditional values as learning,
love, wit, and patriotism. A few of the lines have the moving quality
of Augustan satire at its best:
Did e'er the old or new Philosophy,
Make a Man splendid live, or wealthy die?
The irony of A Pindarick Ode does not adequately mask the denunciation.
In Stanza X, it is even replaced by the antiquated Hero's
diatribe against "our modern Knavish Arts"--never to return to the
rest of the poem. Doubtless, the indictment of the "nefarious Brood
at Home" that grows rich in wartime was the heart of the satire.
Defoe hinted at this motive in the satirical vignette of Tutchin as
Shamwhig, which appeared in the first edition of The True-Born
Englishman (1700):
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As Proud as Poor, his Masters he'll defy;
And writes a Piteous *Satyr upon Honesty.
Some think the Poem had been pretty good,
If he the Subject had but understood.
He got Five hundred Pence by this, and more,
As sure as he had ne're a Groat before.[17]
Tutchin's satire would be henceforth the rough variety. In The
Foreigners he would also resort to fierce lampoons of William III's
court favorites.
In the rash of satires that followed The Foreigners and The True-Born
Englishman, the anonymous author of The Fable of the Cuckoo
(1701) pointed to the common tradition shared by both poems. For he
attacked Defoe's "hatchet muse" as having been inspired by such
"Modern Sharpers of the Town" as Tutchin and "Old [ha]m the Bell-weather
of Tory Faction," who first horned Defoe's satire, "And ever
since perverted all good Nature." Advertised in The Flying Post for
July 31-Aug. 1, 1700, The Foreigners was published shortly thereafter
by the ardent Whig Anne Baldwin. The "vile abhor'd Pamphlet, in
very ill Verse, written by one Mr. Tutchin, and call'd The Foreigners"--Defoe
recalled years later in An Appeal to Honour and justice
(1715)--filled him "with a kind of Rage." Tutchin's irascible temper
had again taken hold. Scurrilously, he assailed foreigners in high
office, especially William III's Dutch favorites, for their monopolizing
preferments and usurping command, under such transparent aliases as
"Bentir" for William Bentinck, first Earl of Portland, and "Keppech"
for Arnold Joost van Keppel, first Earl of Albemarle. The manner was
Dryden's in Absalom and Achitophel; the venom was Tutchin's own.
Official reaction to The Foreigners came quickly. The untrustworthy
William Fuller spread the gossip that Tutchin fled from his Majesty's
messengers, and found refuge "in a blind Ale-house, at the Windmill,
by Mr. Bowyers, at Camberwel." On August 10th, he was taken "into
custody of a messenger"; and at the grand inquest for the city of
London, held on August 28th, there was presented "a Poem called
The Foreigners."[18] A mystery envelops the rest of the legal proceedings.
There may even be some truth in the allegation that the party
would long since have "ruffled" Tutchin, except that he pleased them
with his "railing at King William's Friends sometimes."[19] The
Foreigners also aroused such ephemeral rejoinders as The Reverse:
or, the Tables Turn'd and The Nations: An Answer to the Foreigners.
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both published in 1700. Finally, in January of 1701, there was published
a satire of more lasting worth, Defoe's The True-Born Englishman.
Side by side, in Poems on Affairs of State (1703), were reprinted
The Foreigners and The True-Born Englishman among verses
"Written by the Greatest Wits of this Age."[20] Altogether, the two
satirists had three poems apiece in the volume. One of Tutchin's
poems, "The Tribe of Levi" (1691), was anonymously reprinted; the
other two, The Foreigners and The British Muse, were identified as
"by Mr. T--n." These were the achievements of Tutchin's "hatchet
The poems are reprinted from copies in libraries of the U.S. and
Great Britain. I am obligated to The Houghton Library for Poems on
Several Occasions and The Earth-quake of Jamaica, to Yale University
Library for The Foreigners, and to the British Museum for A
Pindarick Ode, in the Praise of Folly and Knavery. For permission
to reproduce the "Pulchrum Est Pro Patria Mori" portrait of John
Tutchin as the frontispiece, I wish to express my thanks to the
Trustees of the British Museum.
Spiro Peterson
Miami University
Oxford, Ohio
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1. The Dunciad, ed. James Sutherland (The Twickenham Edition,
Methuen & Co., Ltd., 1943), pp. 115-18.
2. Tutchin's birth-year is variously given. The Van der Gucht
engraving and the authentic Elegy of Tutchin's death state that
he died "Aged 44"; but the mock Elegy, falsely claiming to be
"Written by the Author of the Review," gives his age to be 47.
In The Observator (Oct. 20-23, 1703), Tutchin implied that he
was "Born some years after the Restoration of King Charles the
2d." His certificate of marriage to Elizabeth Hicks on Sept. 30,
1686 places his age then at twenty-five, and supports the birth-year
1661, as given in the DNB. See also The Observator, May
17-20, 1704; July 8-12, 1704; and July 24-28, 1703. One of
Tutchin's enemies charged that he was born in the north of England
(An Account of the Birth, Education, Life and Conversation of ...
the Observator, 1705); and another, that his father was "a Scot,
canting Presbyterian Sot" (The Picture of the Observator, 1704).
3. The Observator, June 2-6, 1705. Tutchin stated, in The Case,
Trial, and Sentence, that Judge Jeffreys had "a true Account" of
his activities in Holland. See J. G. Muddiman, ed., The Bloody
Assizes (Toronto, [1929]), p. 137.
4. Muddiman, pp. 136-37. The Case, Trial, and Sentence is reprinted
as a true record in T. B. Howell's A Complete Collection of
State Trials (London, 1812), XIV, 1195-200, but as a highly questionable
document in Muddiman, pp. 137-46.
5. Muddiman, p. 219.
6. The History of England, ed. C. H. Firth (London, 1914), II, 639.
Insofar as the DNB article on Tutchin relies on Macaulay, it is
7.  Shortly after Tutchin's death, the Country-man of The Observator
lauded his beloved master as "an Officer in the Army," and addressed
him "Captain Tutchin," as did the mock Elegy and the
friendly Dunton.
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8. Narcissus Luttrell, A Brief Historical Relation of State Affairs
(Oxford, 1857), V, 257; Manuscripts of the Marquis of Bath
(H.M.C., London, 1904), I, 105-06.
9. The authorship of the Calves-Head anthems is assigned to
Tutchin in The Reverse: or, the Tables Turn'd (1700), p. 7,
and to both Tutchin and Benjamin Bridgwater in The Examination,
Tryal, and Condemnation of Rebellion Observator (1703),
p. 17. See also Howard William Troyer, Ned Ward of Grubstreet
(Harvard University Press, 1946), pp. 110, 117.
10. The Life and Errors of John Dunton (London, 1818), I, 356.
11. See The Observator, Jan. 4-8, 1707, and "Postscript"; Jan. 12-15,
1707; and Sept. 20-24, 1707.
12. Pp. 12-13. See also The Observator, Sept. 27-Oct. 1, 1707, and
William Bragg Ewald, Rogues, Royalty, and Reporters(Boston,
[1954], p. 14.
13. For the two Oldham pieces, see Poems of John Oldham, introd.
Bonamy Dobrée (Southern Illinois University Press, [c. I960])
pp. 50-54, 72-79.
14. The Diary of John Evelyn, ed. E. S. de Beer, 6 vols. (Oxford,
1955), V, 115; Luttrell, II, 565; W. Adolphe Roberts, Jamaica:
the Portrait of an Island (New York, [c. 1955]), pp. 44-45;
and Mary Manning Carley, Jamaica: the Old and the New
(London, [c. 1963]), pp. 34-36, 157-58.
15. Luttrell's entry for Aug. 13, 1692 (II, 539).
16. Review, IV (Sept. 7, 1706) and IV (Nov. 20, 1707).
17. Defoe's gloss on "Piteous Satyr" is "Satyr in Praise of Folly
and Knavery." (The True-Born Englishman, 1700, p. 37.)
Since he regards this as the title of the "Satyr upon Honesty,"
Defoe may be confusing A Pindarick Ode with Tutchin's next
satire, A Search after Honesty (1697).
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18. Mr. William Fuller's Letter to Mr. John Tutchin (1703), p. 7;
Luttrell, V, 676, 683; The Proceedings of the King's Commission
of the Peace, and Oyer and Terminer and Goal Delivery of Newgate
... the 28th, 29th, 30th and 31st Days of August 1700.
19. "A Dialogue between a Dissenter and the Observator," in A
Collection of the Writings of the Author of the True-Born Englishman
(1703), p. 227.
20. II, I-6, 7-46.