In 1679 a small book with the resonant title Order and Disorder; or, the world made and undone was published in London. The title was intended to touch a nerve. The Restoration crisis had never gone away; memories of the disorder of the Civil War and Interregnum were still green. Peers and Commons were united in their struggle to exclude a Catholic heir to the throne, while the travelling roadshow organised by Shaftesbury and Buckingham around the King's bastard son, James, Duke of Monmouth, was playing to rapturous crowds. Activists among the country gentry, incensed by the long prorogation of Parliament in 1675, and by then convinced that Charles II would never accept Parliament as a partner in government, had for some years busied themselves with restating and updating the Old Cause, most daringly in the anonymous pamphlet entitled The Growth of Popery and Arbitrary Government in England (1677), which was the last work of Andrew Marvell. Other republican writers were being dusted off and refurbished, to be published more or less surreptitiously. Paradise Lost, published without acclaim in 1667, was reprinted in 1674, and again in 1678. According to Dr Johnson, 'It forced its way without assistance; its admirers did not dare to publish their opinion . . . till the Revolution [of 1688] put an end to the secresy of love, and Paradise Lost broke into open view.'
LRB 21 June 2001 | PDF Download