The Wandering Whore

Messengers of the Press in 1662

After the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy in the kingdoms of England  Scotland and Ireland in 1660 the government instituted a policy of rigid censorship.

The Press Act of 16621 decreed that Printing presses were not to be set up without notice to the Stationers' Company. A Surveyor of the Press was officially appointed in 1663.2 To support him in the control of anti-royalist expression, he was aided by informers— Messengers of the Press.

A king's messenger had power by warrant of the king or a secretary of state to enter and search for unlicensed presses and printing.3 Severe penalties by fine and imprisonment were denounced against offenders.

Although the main focus was prevention of the publication of dissenting writings, publications judged obscene could be seized and printers fined as well.

Messengers had the power to:

"search all houses and shops where he shall know or suspect any books or papers to be printed, bound or stitched, especially printing houses, booksellers' shops and ware houses and bookbinders' houses and shops, to examine whether what is printing, binding or stitching there be licensed and to demand at sight license and to seize upon any unlicensed books with the offenders and bring them before the Secretary or a justice to be proceeded against according to law and in case he find any unlicensed books which he shall suspect to contain matters contrary to the doctrines or discipline of the Church of England or against the state or government to seize such books and bring them before the Archbishop of Canterbury and Bishop of London or one of them or before a Secretary of State."4

Included were books judged to be obscene or libertine such as The Wandering Whore5 and other books of this nature.6 Priss Fotheringham, the sex-worker on whom The Wandering Whore was modelled, is memorialized at the corner of Whitecross Street and Old Street in East London.7

1

An Act of the Parliament of England (14 Car. II. c. 33)Full-title: "An Act for preventing the frequent Abuses in printing seditious treasonable and unlicensed Books and Pamphlets and for regulating of Printing and Printing Presses."

2

Dunan-Page, Anne and Beth Lynch (eds), Roger L'Estrange and the Making of Restoration Culture (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2008), 

3

Rostenberg, Leona. “Robert Stephens, Messenger of the Press: An Episode in 17th-Century Censorship.” The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America 49, no. 2 (1955): 131–52.

4

Ibid.

5

THEODIDACTUS, Eugenius, and John GARFIELD. The Ladies Champion, Confounding the Author of the Wandering Whore, by Eugenius Theodidactus ... Scribler of That Imfamous [Sic] Piece of Non-Sense, Advice to a Daughter, against Advice to a Son. 1660.

6

Foxen, David (1963). “Libertine Literature in England, 1660-1745, The Book Collector 12 no. 1: 21- 35 (spring).