Did you know that in the 1600’s, people published some harsh stuff! One may think of today’s tabloids and magazines having scathing, hurtful gossip about people, but it turns out, people in the past were no different! An amusing situation arose between two authors, John Taylor and Henry Walker. John Taylor was a person who ferried people across the Thames river in England. He got interested in publishing literature of his own while ferrying over actors and authors. He wrote satirical pamphlets for attention. Henry Walker was an “ironmonger”, a person who worked with iron. He also was an unofficial preacher of sorts. Taylor wrote a pamphlet criticizing Walker, called A Swarme of Sectaries, saying that he was a “Tub preacher”, that is he didn’t have the real credentials to preach and that his sermons were rubbish. Walker replied with a pamphlet called An Answer to a Foolish Pamphlet Entitled A Swarme of Sectaries attacking Taylor’s religious credentials and his literary prowess. In an equally humorous title, Taylor fired back in A reply as true as steel to a railing, ridiculous lying libel. Walker them published Taylor’s Physicke Has Purged The Devil! Taylor’s pamphlet included woodcuts of Walker coming out of the Devil and Walker had a woodcut of the devil on top of Taylor and Taylor drinking the devil’s waste! The pamphlet war between them died out after Walker was beaten by Taylor’s literary skills.
Scholars like to study their intense exchange because it was done at a time when England was divided during their civil war between the Round Heads that wanted more of a parliament rule and were puritan, and the Cavaliers, who were loyal to the king and Catholic. Taylor and Walker seemed to be on either side and scholars believe that the wider tensions at the time were reflected in the pamphlet exchange between them. There is evidence to believe that both authors were hurt by each other’s attacks, which got extremely personal. Surprisingly, people could launch such vehement attacks on each other since the press wasn’t as controlled at the time to what could and couldn’t be said, unless it was seditious. The other intriguing thing is the literary spat between the two. They didn’t just go after each other, but used literary verse to do so. They may have been insulting each other for all to read, but they did it in style! Overall, the whole exchange is very amusing to read!
“Such is the language of a beastly railor, the devil’s privy house most fit for Taylor!”
Walker in his Tub preaching!
Read a deeper analysis of the pamphlet wars here: