A briefe discouerie of Doctor Allens seditious drifts, contriued in a pamphlet written by him, concerning the yeelding vp of the towne of Deuenter, (in Ouerrissel) vnto the king of Spain, by Sir William Stanley.

London, printed by I. Wolfe for Francis Coldock, dwelling in Paules-churchyarde at the signe of the green Dragon, 1588.


FIRST EDITION. 4to. pp. [vi], 128. [lacking A1 blank but for arms on verso]. Roman letter, some Italic. Woodcut ornament on title, floriated woodcut initials, contemporary autograph of P. Warburton at foot of title, ink note by Mendham tipped-in on front endpaper, some pencil notes in his hand on pastedown. Light age yellowing. A very good copy, crisp and clean, in 18th century quarter vellum over boards, slightly soiled.

An important work; it was entered into the books of the Stationer’s Company on July 1, 1588; the Armada was sighted off The Lizard on July 19. Cardinal Allen had encouraged Philip II to undertake the invasion. This work is a rebuttal of Cardinal Allen’s letter supporting the surrender, by Sir William Stanley of Deventer to the Spanish in 1587 (ESTC S112764). Allen had called for the assassination of Elizabeth I, favouring King James, son of the Queen of Scots, for the throne. This work is a forceful rejection. “In a pamphlet entitled A briefe discouerie of Doctor Allens seditious drifts, written by one G.D., we get a good idea of how the events of the 1580’s helped cement a rhetoric of Englishness among the wider public.

G.D.’s particular target was William Allen, the spiritual leader of exiled English Catholics and Cardinal from 1587. He had exerted much pressure in the 1570’s and 1580’s for the re-Catholication of England, and this enterprise had involved strategising for a French or Spanish invasion, and the replacement of Elizabeth with a Catholic Monarch. By the 1580’s, the matter was in the Hands of Philip II, and Allen acted as something of an intermediary figure between Pope Sixtus V and Spain. These activities made him persona non grata in many circles and in this pamphlet, G.D. tries to undo the harm he had done in a published letter of 1587 which had spoken out against English support of the Calvinist Dutch rebels.

Like Campion some time before, Allen had to be constructed as the anti-type of the true Englishman, actively seeking to subvert his patrimony. It was easily done. He was at once compared to Sinon, the subtle Greek, the character behind the false gift of the Trojan horse. Also in evidence is the language of enchantment as if Allen and his ilk use nefarious magical arts to woo people away from what is the ‘naturall love of his country’. In response to this, G. D. makes the most of every opportunity to use the rhetoric of ‘we Englishmen’, and is much concerned that the whole country keeps ‘true within it selfe’, impregnable in the face of Romanist and Hispanic threats. Referring to the threat, he asks ‘shall wee be dismayed at it? that were not manlike. Shall Romish and Spanish forces appal us? That were dishonourable for English men’.

He also drums up the prospect of slavery, and this tactic has to be taken very seriously. Invasion would not just change a few structures in church and political life: it would demean the nature of all. The question he poses is a loaded one: ‘shall we be slaves in our own countrie?’. He goes on to state that freedom is bound up with the national story. Foreigners would fight merely for the sake of spoil but the English fight for ‘lives and liberties.’ A briefe Discoverie is, in effect, a rallying cry in print, and its manner of making its case, just as much as the case itself, is of interest in the consolidation of this discourse. He urges that ’let us sticke togither, fight togither, die togither, like men, like Englishmen, like true-harted Englishmen’. The battle for the ‘English heart’ had begun.” Hilary M. Larkin. ‘The Making of Englishmen: Debates on National Identity 1550-1650’. A very good copy of this rare work from the important library of Joseph Mendham.

ESTC 109186; STC 6166. Milward 411.


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