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1 immortal soul, and let thine angel conduct it to the throne of thine 'everlasting happiness. Lord preserve and keep my sovereign liege,
* Charles the second, king of the land of my nativity, andprotect that r poornation, now in a tottering condition, from the yoke'and burthen
*of popish tyranny, that the gospel may flourish in the dominions
* thereof. Lord strengthen me in this hour of tribulation, that I * may chearfully pass through the dark passage, which leads to thy 'never fading light. Amen.
HISTORICAL MEMOIRS OF THE LIFE AND ACTIONS
ROGER THE FIDLER; ALIAS, THE OBSERVATOR*. London, printed for W. Hammond, 1683. Quarto, containing twelve pages.
. ERE's a clutter with Observators three or four times a week I and an everlasting din about whigs and trimmers, and the devil and all of business! Prithee, Nobbs, let thee and I set up an Obser- vator; 'tis a pretty trade, and, next to that of an informer, one of the most thriving in these dull times. There's an old fellow in Holborn gets, they say, forty shillings a paper certain pension, besides by-jobs of two or three hundred guineas at a lump; and yet frets, and foams, and raves, because he is no better rewarded. Nobbs. When all the swarming intelligencers were silenced, and Thompson muzzled, and Care run away, and Curtis and Jane, way, poor snails! had pulled in their horns, and were crept into their original shells, I was in hopes the nation should no more have been pestered with this make-bait trumpery. But, since the incor. rigible squire scribbles on as eagerly as ever, I see no reason why we may not put in for a snack; for a pamphlet is a pamphlet, whether it be writ by Roger the fuller, or Ralph the corn-cutter.
Ralph. But I bar all discourse of religion or government, and relictions on particular persons.
• Alias Sir Roger V Estrange.
Nobbs. Prithee hast thou got a new invention to make butter •without cream? Or the apothecaries trick, to give us Oxycrocium, and not a dram of saffron in it? alas man \ it is the very essence of an Observator to be full of mysteries of state, and its privilege to fall foul on any body. How many hundreds have been libelled that way? nay, persons of highest honour and office have scarce escaped him of late. Suppose I have a mind to a good warm place of credit and profit (and for such dainties old men may long, as well as young women) what have I to do, but print an Observator, upbraid the government with my services and disappointments, acquaint the world what preferments I would be at, and put my superiors roundly in mind of it; as much as to say, 'Sirs! you are ungrateful, and neither understand your own interest, nor my merits.' Then suppose I receive a rub from some persons of quality that do not think me worthy; straight I at them with another Observator, and expose them as trimmers and betrayers of the government; and so revenge myself, that no-body for the future shall dare oppose my pretensions.
Ralph. A clever course! but, methinks, somewhat saucy; and he that practises it, deserves no other advancement, but to the pillory, or whipping-post. However, since there is an old proverb, —' That one may better steal a steed, than another peep over the hedge;' I know not whether every Observator may be allowed the like prerogative; therefore still I say, I will not meddle with edgetools.
Nobbs. What then, shall we talk of nothing at all?Ralph. No, but of something next to nothing, that is, the Observator himself. I go sometimes to Sam's, where people cry him up as the Atlas of the church, the Argus of the state, the very buckle and thong of loyalty; and you see how he vapours of his forty years service to the crown; therefore I would gladly be Informed what mighty exploits he performed during the old rebellion, what commands he had, how many thousand pounds he expended, what scars of honour he received.
Nobbs. You must note, The gentleman was a younger brother (the scandal of a worthy family, who have long been ashamed of him) and so far from being able to contribute to the royal cause, that, during his youth, Phil. Porter's plough was his best maintenance; and it is observed, that he lived more splendidly under the Usurper, than ever before, or since. Whence some have thought, that the same wind, which hurried old Noll to old Nick, might also puff away this gallant's coach and horses; for, though he kept such an equipage before, they were never afterwards visible,
Ralph. This is nothing to his personal gallantry; perhaps he rescued the standard at Edge-hill: stormed towns, as mountebanks draw teeth, with a touch; or routed whole armies of the rebels, like Almanzor.
Nobbs. No, no; valour is none of his talent; he has more wit, than to hazard his precious person with any gun, but Joan's; wisely considering, that, if a man happen to be spitted through the lungs, or have his brains dulled with a lump of lead, it would go near to spoil his writing of Observators for ever; and then, what would become of the government? He marches, indeed, equipped with a sword, but it is only for ornament, for he has not so much courage as a guinney-pig; a boy of fourteen may at any time disarm him with a bean-stalk. Did you never hear how captain C. of Richmond Ob.. servatored him? Or how the life-guard-man wrought a miracle, and, for a moment, made him honest?Ralph. Of the first I have had some inkling. He had libelled some of the captain's relations, who thereupon gave him the disci, pline of the battoon, and made him dance without his fiddle, which he received as became a philosopher; and it is the best argument he has to prove him a christian, because Preces et Lachrt/ma> were all his defence.—But, for the adventure of the life-guard-man, I am in the dark.
Nobbs. The business was thus;. About the year 1677, one
Cole, having a sheet against popery, called, A Rod for Rome (or some such-like title) bearing hard upon the Jesuits, sent it up for a pass-port. Mr. Observer refused it, as he generally did things of that nature, yet could give no reason; for he was not so ungenteel, as to boast the kindnesses he did the Romans. Thus it lay by till after the discovery of the plot, when the old man sent it again by Mrs. Purslow, a printer, who, having made forty jaunts in vain, at last sent her maid for his positive answer; but, she not being so much in his favour, as the lass once in Duck-lane, to whom he never denied any thing, he returned it, swearing most bloodily, that he would not allow it. As the wench came forth, whom should she meet with, but a gentleman of the guard, her acquaintance; who, understanding what she had been about, read the copy, goes back with her, and, as soon as he came into the room, displaying the
paper by one corner, as an ensign of war, begins: 'D—me, do
you deny such an honest thing against the Papists?' ha! The Observator was just ready to Atkinise his breeches; and with a thousand French cringes and grimaces, cries:—' Good sir! noble sir! as I am a gentleman, I never refused it; only the maid importuned me, when I was busy;'—and presently bescrawled the paper with his licentious fist. The wench was fumbling for the half-crown, but her friend plucked her away abruptly; and our Observator was glad he was so well rid of him, though with the loss of his fee. Ralph. But still, where are the instances of his atchievements for Charles the Martyr? He boasts, in many of his pamphlets, how near he was to the honour of the gallows: What was he to be hanged, like Mum-chance, for doing nothing?
Nobbs. No, but for doing nothing to the purpose. Did you never see a little hocus, by sleight of hand, popping a piece several times, first out of one pocket, and then out of another, persuade folks he was damnable full of money, when one poor sice was all his stock; just so the Iliads of our Observator's loyalty, whenexa. tnined, dwindle into one single, sorry, ilUmanaged intrigue at Lynn j v>hich was nakedly thus;
About November 44, the town of Lynn being in the rebels hands, the gentleman you wot on, pretending abundance of interest there, when indeed he had none at all, procured a commission from his majesty to reduce it, graciously promising him the government of the town, if he could effect it, and payment of all rewards, he should promise, not exceeding five thousand pounds, &c. The hair-brained undertaker could think of no other way to reduce it, but by sending for one captain Leamon of Lynn (one that had taken the covenant, and a known zealot for the rebels cause) to a papist's house two or three miles off, and very discreetly blunders out the business; shews him his commission; promises him one-thousand pounds, and other preferments, if he would betray the town, adding, that the king did value the surprising of that town at half his crown. A very likely tale! Leamon, perceiving what a weak tool he had to deal with, seems to comply; but the same night acquaints the governor, Colonel Walton, and, according to promise, meets our skulking town-taker next day, but carried with him a corporal in a seaman's habit; to whom he also very frankly shewed his commission. In the mean time, Lieutenant Stubbing, and five soldiers habited like seamen, came from Lynn to the house, and then the disguised corporal seizes our gallant undertaker, who tamely surrenders both his person and commission ;and so, being brought to London, it being proved at a court martial at Guildhall, and by himself confessed, that he came into the parliament's quarters, not in an hostile manner, as a soldier, but without drum, trumpet, or pass, as a spy, and had tampered with their officers to betray the garison, he was, for the same, sentenced to be hanged, December 28, 44, and, passing from the court through the croud, uttered these heroick words:—' I desire all people would take warning by 'me, that there may be no more blood shed in this kind.' However, by appealing to the lords, he shuffled off present execution, and, having lain some time in Newgate, obtained his liberty; but upon what valuable considerations must remain a riddle, unless his afterfamiliarity with Cromwell, and the unaccountable port, that he after. wards lived in, during those times, help to explain it.
Ralph. The total of the account, then, stands thus:—1. That the gentleman abused the good king with a false story: it seems, he thought it as easy a matter to surprise a town, as to over-run the printer's wife; but was shamefully defeated in both. 2. He managed the affair like a rash coxcomb, and was out-witted by a dull heavy roundhead. 3. Had it succeeded, though acknowledged justifiable (such practices being often used in wars, much more in the case of rebels, where the seeming treachery is but duty) yet there is little of glory to be derived from such a pitiful tampering employ; only, it seems, he was not judged capable of any more brave and honourable, and therefore must make the most of this. 4; When he was in danger of the noose, he repented even of this his loyal undertaking, and sneaked most pitifully, and at last got off suspiciously..*— So much for his old services j now let us hear of his exploits since the restoration,
Nobbt.—No sooner was that blissful change, but our Observator first endeavoured to set the old cavaliers at variance, and wrote against that faithful servant to the crown, the learned and loyal Mr. James Howel, and, as far as he durst, snarled at the court and chief ministers, for not preferring himself, forsooth, as well as others. And, to be taken notice of, in defiance to the act of indemnity, and of his majesty's most excellent declaration touching ecclesiastick affairs (a sovereign balm that was like to heal all our wounds, and mortify for ever the designs of Rome) he began to rip up old sores, and blow the coals of division among Protestants, under pretence of exposing the Presbyterians. Yet still the devil of self-interest jogged his elbow: for the man is known, who, being newly come from Lambeth, and having received only thanks and benedictions instead of money, swore—' damme 1 let the b s henceforwards write for themselves.' After this, despairing of higher place, he aims at the supervisal of the press (for which his scribbling humour had some, what adapted him) then gives the government perpetual (false) a. larms on that side; but, having once gained the point, soon learned the faculty to wink, as often as his spectacles were inchanted with the dust of Peru. How that affair was managed, let the booksellers guineas near Mercers-chapel, the books seized, afterwards privately sold from Cambray-house, to be published, &c. be instances; but especially the known story of the printer's wife (beforementioned) in Bartholomew Close, to whom he prostituted the interest of church and state, offering to connive at her husband's printing treason, sedition, heresy, schism, or any thing, if she would but gratify his brutish lust. Ralph. But still he was tight to the church of England. Nobbs. Of his zeal therein, there are these undeniable testi. monies.
1. His having been forty times at mass by his own confession in print.
2. His not receiving the sacrament, or so much as coming to his parish church for twelve long years and upwards.
3. His approving books destructive of all Christianity, as one intituled, Anima Mundi, burnt afterwards, with his hand to it, by order, if I mistake not, of the Reverend Bishop of London. Another called—a Treatise of Human Reason, that deserved the same fate, as making every man's private fancy judge of religion, the grand scandal which Papists have these hundred years falsly cast on Protestantism.
4. By connivance at popish pamphlets all the time of his dictator, ship; not one having been during those many years honestly prosecuted by him, though it is computed above one-hundred thousand of them were in that space dispersed, to poison his majesty's Protestant subjects. Nay, on the contrary, as often as that active loyal gentleman, Mr. M. of the company of Stationers, or any other of the masters or wardens, or Mr. Stephens, messenger of the press, had discovered any of the Papists pamphlet-magazines, this Obser.