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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: October 2019

Epilogue: Rogue Pamphlets after 1670

Summary

In the period between 1590 and 1670, rogue pamphlets were consistently published. Part of the reason for their recurrent appearance was the pamphlet format, which made them ideal vehicles for the presentation of information and appeals to public opinion. Rogue pamphlets argued that their texts were useful because they uncovered the tricks of criminals working in London or presented the ‘truth’ about the life and death of famous criminals. Claims of facticity coexisted with the employment of laughter as a way to criticise contemporary society. Rogue pamphlets satirised the grasping nature of the city, something they had in common with a variety of other writings – prose, poems, and plays – about early modern London.

This tendency to present ordinary society as worse than criminals casts doubt on the assumption – made often by scholars studying rogue pamphlets – that rogue pamphlets presented a criminal underworld. Rogue pamphlets often presented a narrative of distrust, of how London was a city that could swallow up anyone foolish enough to venture into its streets without the necessary wisdom to avoid its crooks. However, the dangers inherent in the city were not just its criminals, but its citizens and other denizens as well, and rogue pamphlets present this contradiction in stark terms. Nor did these just equate crime with other forms of urban deceit: they also portrayed criminals as friends or at least drinking buddies, as we have seen in Chapters 2 and 3. This claim was also made by deponents in trial cases, suggesting either a cross-fertilisation of the two kinds of crime stories, or a common way of talking about crime. Good fellowship, in particular, runs through three of this book's chapters: in Chapter 4 we saw how some rogue pamphlets used the idiom of good fellowship to present a favourable picture of the Royalist-as-criminal. This may suggest that the rogue was considered the quintessential good fellow. This bring us back to Nicholas Breton's epigram at the start of this book, which presented a rogue as a companion, often – but not necessarily – a false one.

Discoveries of urban criminals did not disappear after 1670. We can see in later texts similar representations of city vice as in the earlier ones. The pamphlet Youths Safety: Or, Advice to the Younger Sort, of Either Sex (1698) is one such example.