London: Printed for Thomas Parkhurst, and Thomas Cockerill, 1679. 4to. [xii], 68 pp. FIRST EDITION. Complete, though it appears that this book might have been part of a group of works as there is contemporary manuscript pagination starting with “61” at the top of the title page. Modern calf-backed marbled boards, spine in compartment with gilt decoration; interior very clean, overall an excellent wide-margined copy. Item #17431
First edition. Oates (1649-1705) was the renegade Anglican priest who fabricated the Popish Plot of 1678. Oates’s allegations that Roman Catholics were plotting to seize power caused a reign of terror in London and strengthened the anti-Catholic Whig Party.
The son of a Baptist preacher, Oates was ordained into the Church of England despite being expelled from school. After his escape from imprisonment for perjury, Oates became chaplain to the Protestants in the household of the Roman Catholic Henry Howard, 6th Duke of Norfolk. A new acquaintance, the fanatical anti-Jesuit Israel Tonge, urged him to profit by betraying Catholics to the government. Oates, therefore, pretended to become Catholic in order to gather information about them and their activities. He spent some time at seminaries in Spain and France, though was expelled, and returned to London in 1678 where he and Tonge invented an account of a vast Jesuit conspiracy to assassinate King Charles II and place his Roman Catholic brother James, Duke of York, on the throne. They publicized the tale through a prominent justice of the peace, Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey, and their revelations seemed even more plausible after Godfrey was found murdered in October 1678. The manuscript they wrote eventually became this book. Of particular interest is the list of conspirators and the oath sworn by Otes of the truth of all particulars printed.
In the wave of terror that swept London, Oates was hailed as the saviour of his country, though Charles himself examined Oates and found his story unconvincing. His testimony was responsible for the execution of some 35 persons, but, as the frenzy subsided, inconsistencies were discovered in his story. In June 1684 the Duke of York was awarded damages of £100,000 in a libel suit against Oates. After the Duke of York came to the throne as King James II in 1685, Oates was convicted of perjury, pilloried, flogged, and imprisoned. But when James was deposed in 1688, Oates was released and granted a pension. He became a Baptist in 1693 but was expelled from that church eight years later. He died in obscurity.