Oxford History of the Prison

Punishments of Authors and Books,
page 3 of 6

And you shall forfeit to the King’s Majesty the sum of £20, and shall remain in gaol till you find securities for your good behaviour and appearance at the next assizes, there to renounce your doctrine and to make such public submission as may be enjoined you.”

Keach stood twice with head and hands set in the pillory, and his book was burnt, and his fine was paid; but never was he subdued, and never did he make recantation.”

Pope wrote a well-known, oft-quoted, yet false line:

“Earless on high stood unabashed De Foe.”

The great Daniel De Foe did stand on high on a pillory, but he was not earless. He was by birth and belief a Dissenter, and he wrote a severe satire against the Church party, entitled The Shortest Way with the Dissenters, which so ironically, and with such apparent soberness, reduced the argument of the intolerant to an absurdity, that for a short time it deceived zealous church-folk, who welcomed and praised it, but who turned on him with redoubled hatred when they finally perceived the satire. It was termed a scandalous and seditious pamphlet, and fifty pounds reward was offered for him. He was arrested, tried, pilloried in three places, and imprisoned for a year; but the Queen paid his fine for his release from prison, and his pillory was hung with garlands of flowers, and his health was drunk, and scraps of his vigorous doggerel from his Hymn to the Pillory passed from lip to lip.

          “Men that are men in thee can feel no pain
          And all thy insignificants disdain
          Contempt that false new word for shame
          Is, without crime, an empty name.

          The first intent of laws
          Was to correct the effect and check the cause
          And all the ends of punishment
          Were only future mischiefs to prevent.

          But justice is inverted when
          Those engines of the law
          Instead of pinching vicious men
          Keep honest ones in awe.”

Williams, the bookseller, set in the pillory in the year 1765 for republishing the North Briton was also treated with marks of consideration and kindness. He held a sprig of laurel in his hand as he stood, and a purse of two hundred guineas for his benefit was collected in the crowd.


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