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Monday, June 22, 2009

The Ingenious Mr. Henry Care. London's First Spin Doctor. Lois G. Schwoerer. Tempus Publishing Ltd (2004)

Lois G. Schwoerer has written a gripping and insightful biography of one of the central characters in the violently sectarian politics of Restoration London. Mr Henry Care was a critical figure is the ferocious struggle, his writing was prolific , witty, brilliant, rude, savage and utterly sectarian. He gave voice to a near hysterical strain of anti-Catholic fear and loathing aimed at a new public audience, the marginally educated and the uneducated. He developed a huge new and very important audience and had considerable impact on shaping and driving public opinion. He was at the same time on the loosing side of the two major political upheavals that he was actively involved in. Lois G. Schwoerer has rescued Henry Care from the marginal position that being on the loosing side condemned him and she restores him to his proper place.
The fierce religious politics that the English Civil War unleashed were still vital and intense after King Charles II was restored to the throne. The overt violence of the Civil War was gone the violence of the rhetoric remained and became refined and amplified in a series of savage press and pamphlet wars. Henry Care was a very talented writer who founded a weekly serial that recounted the history of the Catholic Church that was squarely aimed at a mass audience. The avowed intent of "The Weekly Pacquet of News from Rome" was to demonstrate how the Catholic Church has strayed into corruption and vice and presented a clear and present danger to the loyal Protestant citizens of England. This soon became a wider attack of the Government and the Court of Charles II and his Catholic possible heir, James Duke of York, later King James II. The Exclusion Crisis became a massive and barely restrained civil war that was fought in print and the law courts. The power of the press was actively managed to shape public opinion and Henry Care played a vital role in the fight aginst the Goverment. Henry Care later was a central writer in support of the Catholic King James II, an apparent political turnabout that has contributed to his fall from historical interest as much as the fact that he was on the loosing side again did.
Lois G. Schwoerer has written a book that places Henry Care firmly into his historical context and shows the enormous range of his writing and how influential it really was. She assembles a considered and well supported argument for her views, she does not stray far from the evidence and has a very lively and engaging writing style. Mr Henry Care deserves to be rescued from the shadows, he lived an exciting life at a very exciting time, the book is teeming with notable characters whom the author bring to life with skill and care. A great read.

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