Marginal Prynne, 1600-1669

Marginal Prynne, 1600-1669

Marginal Prynne, 1600-1669

Marginal Prynne, 1600-1669

Excerpt

William Prynne was the most prolific writer of the seventeenth century. He wrote more than two hundred pamphlets, many of inordinate length. His custom was to wear a long quilt cap, two or three inches over his eyes, protecting them from the light. A servant would bring him in a roll and a pot of ale every three hours to revive his spirits, and he would study and drink into the early hours. A contemporary thought that Prynne's writing was as necessary to him as meat and drink: 'a thing without which he cannot live'. Yet it was not inevitable that his writing should have concentrated on politics. He might simply have been the fussy dry-as-dust, pleased that a young scholar like Anthony Wood 'should have inclination towards venerable antiquity'. Or he might simply have been the conscientious local administrator, thanked by Bath Council for his 'readiness to promote the advantages of this Citty' as Recorder. But fear of a Popish Plot drove him into national politics.

It is interesting that a contemporary should describe him as having 'the Countenance of a Witch' and that another should speak of his 'long meager face . . . eares cropt close to his head, which is stuff with Plots'. Prynne was obsessed with fears of Jesuit plots. The Jesuits were everywhere and could 'metamorphose themselves into any shape'. A weary public servant . . .

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