The Battles of the Pamphlets

from 1726

Almost all productive (ie self-supporting) self-expression in the form of painting, including much modern painting, is intimately entangled with patronage, propaganda and vested interest --- unlike writing, which can be produced (if not published) for nothing, in a debtor's prison if need be (cf Baston, whose graphic works seem to have ceased while he was incarcerated). Pre-reformation European art was patronised, ie financed, exclusively by the Roman Catholic Church, royalty, and aristocracy. It endorsed and affirmed the existence of these hierarchical institutions. Hogarth comments particularly on church patronage. The Reformation introduced changes in the exercise of patronage, but the need for the artist to make a living remained a conditioning factor in his output. Art inevitably reflects the politics of the times in which it is produced. Appreciation of this circumstance, in evaluating the oeuvre of Peter Monamy, has necessarily led to an increasing fascination with the political and ideological battles fought out in print in the London of the 1730s. This decade was a critical period of social change in England, which had a significant effect on Monamy's work. The outline below of this ten year War of the Pamphlets can be thought of as the backdrop to Monamy's life and work. Residing in Westminster, almost within the walls of Westminster Hall, he was in the thick of it, and must have been apprised of developments from day to every day.

After having supported Robert Walpole during his visit to the Tower, 1712, William Pulteney (1684-1764) fell out with him, terminally, in 1725. In 1726, Pulteney, with Bolingbroke (1678-1751), started The Craftsman, which made sustained attacks on Walpole from then on until it ceased publication in 1736. Fronting The Craftsman was Nicholas Amhurst, a spark sent down from Oxford, as he engagingly explains in Terræ-Filius, or, The Secret History of the University of Oxford, 1726. Walpole was continually presented as tyrannical and corrupt, and a pacifist appeaser of Spain. On the first occasion which offered itself, that of Pulteney's rupture with Walpole in 1726, Bolingbroke set about organizing an Opposition; and in 1727 began a series of letters to The Craftsman, attacking the Walpoles, signed "an Occasional Writer".

The pamphlets presented below represent only a fraction of the total output, but they give a flavour of what contemporaries called "the fury of party". Hervey was probably the single most industrious pamphleteer in the Walpole camp. The Craftsman, of course, appeared with relentless regularity. Its circulation is said at one point to have exceeded 10,000 copies a week. In 1737 it was reprinted in an edition which reached 14 volumes.

In the left corner:

Henry St John [Bolingbroke]
Eustace Budgell
Caleb d'Anvers [Amhurst]
William Pulteney [Bath]

A mixed bag of disappointed, if highly talented and articulate, outsiders and eccentrics, who found a common cause in rallying the opposition against the status quo. They have been described as "preaching to the converted"; but must nevertheless be credited with having in many ways shaped the future of the Western world, in conflict with the powers that ruled England in the 1730s.

In the right corner:

Horatio Walpole
William Yonge
John Hervey

John Hervey (1696-1743) was the principal establishment jouster, entering the lists, as he says, left, in 1730. Yonge, and Robert's brother Horatio, also contributed.


1731: The attack, right, on Bolingbroke and Pulteney went through eight editions. Although generally attributed to Hervey, the text has also been credited to William Arnall, a prolific pamphleteer in Walpole's hire. There are references to Canada and the British fisheries in Newfoundland.

Pulteney and Hervey fought a duel, of comic nature, on 25 Jan, 1731. H was slightly nicked, and P was cut on his hand. Their seconds intervened.

1731:. Robert Walpole, here, left, in the guise of Bad King John, is presented with the Great Charter of the "People", in the frontispice to a 1731 edition of the collected writings of The Craftsman.

To the right: 1730: Eustace Budgell, with the help of Mercury, sends his letter to Cleomenes, King of Sparta.

A celebration issue, filled with descriptions of bonfires lit in triumph all over England, at news of the defeat of the Excise Bill.
"Country" here implies the coalition of Tories and disaffected Whigs: contrasted with the "Court" politics of the Walpole faction.
The distinction is not between country bumpkins and city slickers,
but between Patriots and Courtiers.

1732 - 1733: Horatio Walpole, Robert Walpole's brother, is credied with the pamphlet to the right.


1734: In spite of the defeat of the Excise Bill, the years 1734-36 have been cited as the nadir for the Opposition to Walpole. Walpole was returned to power in 1735, though with a reduced majority.


Image from 1739: Left: the frontispiece to A Dissertation upon Parties; In Several Letters to Caleb D'Anvers, Esq; Dedicated to The Right Honourable Sir Robert Walpole. The first edition appeared in 1735. The authors of these 19 letters are veiled. About 250 pages of argument are poured out, and the volume ("The Fifth Edition, carefully revised and corrected", 1739) is well-produced and well-indexed. The letters, of course, do not emanate from Walpole's side of the debate.

1738: William Pulteney (1684-1764), whatever his character as a politician, had the mentality of a statistician and accountant, and was the author of sophisticated studies in national economics. Karl Marx, although ignorant of his identity, cited his work as that of a "predecessor of Adam Smith". (See P. D. Groenewegen, introduction to Some Thoughts on the Interest of Money 1738.)

Having achieved his personal objective, the overthrow of Robert Walpole, Pulteney was created Earl of Bath in 1742. The NPG note on him remarks that "he lacked steadfastness of purpose and balanced judgement. His avarice was legendary". His pursuit of Walpole was steady enough: if he didn't follow through, and take his victim's place, he may have wanted to avoid a similar fate.

1739 - 1742:

See here for the paper war across the pond.

Pulteney was born the same year as Vernon, and attended Westminster School. The two men would therefore have been exact contemporaries, and have known each other since boyhood. In effect, Pulteney loaded the cannon, Vernon aimed and fired it.

porto bello map sources
porto bello picture tiles
battle pages
vernon v walpole
the craftsman's joy in 1733
craftsman snippets

monamy website index


© Charles Harrison Wallace 2007
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