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Sir Roger L'Estrange
Sir Roger L'Estrange by John Michael Wright.jpg
Portrait of L'Estrange by John Michael Wright, c. 1680.
Member of Parliament
for Winchester
In office
Personal details
Born(1616-12-17)17 December 1616
Died11 December 1704(1704-12-11) (aged 87)
Political partyTory
RelationsHamon le Strange (father) Hamon L'Estrange (brother)
Alma materSidney Sussex College, Cambridge
  • Author
  • Pamphleteer
  • Translator
Newspaper publisher
Military service
AllegianceEnglish Royalist
For the similarly-named 13th-century nobleman, see Roger Lestrange.

Sir Roger L'Estrange (17 December 1616 – 11 December 1704[1]) was an English pamphleteer, author and staunch defender of Royalist claims. L'Estrange was involved in political controversy throughout his life. Perhaps his best known polemical pamphlet was An Account of the Growth of Knavery, which ruthlessly attacked the parliamentary opposition, placing them as "dissenting fanatics" and truly beyond the pale.

Early life

Roger L'Estrange was born in Hunstanton, Norfolk, the youngest son of Alice L'Estrange and Sir Hamon L'Estrange. His mother ran the estate and Sir Hamon served as Sheriff and Deputy Lieutenant of Norfolk, and was allied to the Dukes of Norfolk, serving as a Member of Parliament in a seat under their control.[2]

In 1639, both father and son fought in the Bishops' Wars against the Scots. They later fought the Royalist side in the English Civil War. In 1643, the two led a failed conspiracy whose purpose was place the town of Lynn under control of the king. Roger L'Estrange's subsequent activities as a Royalist conspirator lead to him spending time in prison, under sentence of death. He later played a leading role in the 1648 Royalist uprising in Kent. This was defeated by parliamentarian troops and he fled to the Continent, finding refuge in Holland.[2]

In 1653, he returned to England, with a special pardon by Oliver Cromwell and lived quietly, maintaining a low profile, until Cromwell died in 1658. By 1659, he was already making his presence as a Royalist known. He printed several pamphlets supporting a return of Charles II and attacked various Commonwealth writers, including John Milton in a pamphlet titled No Blinde Guides.

Restoration years

As a reward for his propaganda, L'Estrange was granted a warrant to seize seditious books or pamphlets in 1662 and in recognition of his Considerations and Proposals in Order to the Regulation of the Press he was appointed Surveyor of the Imprimery[3] (Printing Press) the following year.[4] Thereafter, also appointed Licenser of the Press, he retained both positions until the lapse of the Licensing of the Press Act in 1679.[5] The latter was not, however, a continuous appointment. At one time, L'Estrange was deprived of his post as Licenser by Joseph Williamson; but when anti-Royalist pamphleteering began to turn the city against the king, L'Estrange was recalled to this position.[6]

As Licenser and Surveyor, L'Estrange was charged with the prevention of the publication of dissenting writings, and authorised to search the premises of printers and booksellers on the merest suspicion of dissension.[5] L'Estrange excelled at this, hunting down hidden presses and enlisting peace officers and soldiers to suppress their activities. He soon came to be known as the "Bloodhound of the Press."[7] His careful monitoring and control of nonconformist ideas and opinions succeeded not only in checking seditious publications,[6] but also in limiting political controversy and reducing debate.[8]

There were, however, notable excesses. Under L'Estrange, the antennae of state censorship prickled at the very mention of the monarch and he famously objected to the following lines from Milton's Paradise Lost, Book I:

As when the Sun new ris'n
Looks through the Horizontal misty Air
Shorn of his Beams, or from behind the Moon
In dim Eclips disastrous twilight sheds
On half the Nations, and with fear of change
Perplexes Monarchs.[9]

In 1668, William Lilly, the astrologer and occultist, had commented on the connection between comets and the death of princes in a draft to his 1670 almanac: comets indicated, wrote Lilly, "some dreadful matter at hand," and were "a prediction of the fall of kings and tyrants." The latter comment was removed from the draft by L’Estrange.[10]

In 1663, L'Estrange had ventured into newspaper publishing with The Public Intelligencer and The News, but the unpopularity brought him by his position, coupled with dissatisfaction with his product and intrigues to wrest away his monopoly, eventually led to the loss of his favoured position. In the later years of the reign, he was once again involved in writing for the Court. The Whigs were actively engaged in the publishing of tracts critical of Charles and his ministers; L'Estrange countered by comparing the divisiveness of the Whigs with the Parliamentarians on the eve of the Civil War. He also sought to calm the popular hysteria arising from the Popish Plot in pamphlets questioning the truthfulness of Titus Oates' allegations. At this period too, he helped Thomas Britton found his concert series, playing the viol at the first event in 1678. [1]

Toward the end of 1680, he was forced to flee the country by the political opposition but on his return the next year he started another paper called The Observator, a single sheet printed in double columns on both sides. It was written in the form of a dialogue between a Whig and a Tory (later Trimmer and Observator), with the bias on the side of the latter. During the six years of its existence, L'Estrange wrote with a consistent fierceness, meeting his enemies with personal attacks characterised by sharp wit. One of his main targets was Titus Oates, whose increasingly extreme allegations eventually brought about his conviction for perjury in 1685.[1]

Family life

L'Estrange married Anne, daughter of Sir Thomas Dolman of Shaw, Berkshire. After her death in April 1694, he wrote to his grand-nephew: "Play and gaming company have been the ruin of her wretched self, her husband, and her family, and she dies with a broken heart...but...after all, never any creature lost a dearer wife.'[11] Only two of their children survived into adulthood: Roger (who survived his father by just three months) and Margery, an 'addle-headed and stubborn' child (her cousin, Nicholas L'Estrange, writing of "Her ignorant, rude and ill-behviour both to her father and to myself ..." in 1700[12]). In February 1702/3 her father wrote to a friend, Sir Christopher Calthorpe, concerning the departure of Margery from the church of England to the church of Rome: "It wounds the very heart of me, for I do solemnly protest in the presence of Almighty God that I knew nothing of it. As I was born and brought up in the communion of the church of England, so I have been true to it ever since, with a firm resolution with God's assistance to continue in the same to my life's end."[13]

Later life

In 1685, L'Estrange was knighted by King James II and became a member of parliament for Winchester from 1685 to 1689.[14] However, though a fierce Tory and High Anglican, he opposed the religious toleration of Catholics, which put him at odds with the policy of the new king. After the revolution in favour of William III, he lost all his offices and was arrested several times on suspicion of involvement in plots against him. [1]

L'Estrange now turned to writing again, and published translations of Seneca the Younger's Morals and Cicero's Offices, besides his master-work of this period, Fables of Aesop and Other Eminent Mythologists (1692).[15] This notably included nearly all of the Hecatomythium of Laurentius Abstemius, among several other fabulists. The style is racily idiomatic and each fable is accompanied by a short moral and a longer reflection, which set the format for fable collections for the next century.[1]

In 1702, he completed his acclaimed English translation of The works of Flavius Josephus. Additionally he wrote a 'Key' to Hudibras, a 17th-century satire by Samuel Butler on the English Civil War, which was included in several 18th century editions of the work.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Lee 1893.
  2. ^ a b Harold Love (28 April 2013). Professor Anthony W Johnson; Professor Roger D Sell (eds.). Writing and Religion in England, 1558-1689: Studies in Community-Making and Cultural Memory. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 411–. ISBN cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output .citation q{quotes:"\"""\"""'""'"}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-free a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .id-lock-registration a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .id-lock-subscription a,.mw-parser-output .citation .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-ws-icon a{background:url("//")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-maint{display:none;color:#33aa33;margin-left:0.3em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
  3. ^ Surveyor of the Imprimery
  4. ^  Cousin, John William (1910), "Estrange, Sir Roger", A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature, London: J. M. Dent & Sons – via Wikisource
  5. ^ a b Anne Dunan-Page and Beth Lynch (eds), Roger L'Estrange and the Making of Restoration Culture (Aldershot, Ashgate, 2008), ISBN 9780754658009, p.1
  6. ^ a b Abbott & p. 44.
  7. ^ Abbott & p. 35.
  8. ^ Joad Raymond, 'The Literature of Controversy', in A Companion to Milton, ed. Thomas N. Corns (Blackwell, 2003), p. 209
  9. ^ Sharon Achinstein, Milton and the Revolutionary Reader, (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1994), p. 173
  10. ^ Ken Simpson, ‘The Apocalypse in Paradise Lost’, in Milton and the Ends of Time, ed. Juliet Cummins (UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 215
  11. ^ Hist. MSS Comm. 11th Report pt. vii. p.112.
  12. ^ Norfolk Record Office, le Strange Papers
  13. ^ Sloane MS 4222, p. 14
  14. ^ Constituencies beginning with "W" – Leigh Rayment's Peerage Page
  15. ^ Available on Google Books


External links

Parliament of England
Preceded by
James Annesley and
Sir John Cloberry
Member of Parliament for Winchester
With: Charles Hanses
Succeeded by
Lord William Powlett and
Francis Morley

1893 text

Roger L’Estrange, a voluminous writer of pamphlets and periodical papers, and translator of classics, &c. Born 1616. He was Licenser of the Press to Charles II. and James II.; and M.P. for Winchester in James II.’s parliament. L’Estrange was knighted in the reign of James II., and died 1704. In 1663 L’Estrange set up a paper called “The Public Intelligencer,” which came out on August 31st, and continued to be published twice a week till January 19th, 1665, when it was superseded by the scheme of publishing the “London Gazette,” the first number of which appeared on February 4th following.

This text comes from a footnote on a diary entry in the 1893 edition edited by Henry B. Wheatley.

6 Annotations

TerryF  •  Link

Roger L'Estrange (1616–1704) was an English pamphleteer and author, and staunch defender of royalist claims. In 1644 he led a conspiracy in support of King Charles I and was sentenced to death as a spy, although after four years' imprisonment in Newgate Prison he was able to escape to the Continent, finding refuge in Holland. In 1653 he was pardoned by Oliver Cromwell.
In 1663 he began his career as a journalist, publishing a paper under the title The Public Intelligencer and taking over as chief licenser and surveyor of the press from John Birkenhead. L'Estrange was involved in political controversy throughout his life. In 1685, He was knighted by King James II. A fierce Tory and opponent of religious toleration, L'Estrange was arrested several times for involvement in plots against William and Mary.
In addition to his work as a political pamphleteer and his journalistic writing, he was also a translator of the Greek and Latin classics, including a translation of the fables of Aesop. .'Estrange

Bill  •  Link

Roger L'Estrange, who was at the head of the writers by profession, in this reign, was author of a great number of political pamphlets and periodical papers. That which made the greatest noise was his "Observator," in which, he went as great lengths to vindicate the measures of the court, as were ever gone by any mercenary journalist. This paper was swelled to three volumes in folio. He translated Cicero's "Offices," Seneca's "Morals, "Erasmus's "Colloquies," and Quevedo's "Visions." His "Esop's Fables" was more a new work than a translation. The most valuable of his books is his translation of Josephus, which, though in a better style than most of his writings, has been very justly censured. He was one of the great corrupters of our language, by excluding vowels and other letters not commonly pronounced, and introducing pert and affected phrases. He was licenser of the press to Charles and James II. Ob. 11 Dec. 1704, Æt. 88.
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1775.

Bill  •  Link

Roger L'Estrange, author of numerous pamphlets and periodical papers. He was ... Licenser of the Press to Charles II. and his successor, and M.P. for Winchester in James II.'s Parliament. Ob. 1704, aged 88.
---Diary and correspondence of Samuel Pepys, the diary deciphered by J. Smith. 1854.

Bill  •  Link

L'ESTRANGE, SIR ROGER (1616-1704), tory journalist and pamphleteer; probably studied at Cambridge; formed a plan to recapture Lynn; seized by the parliament and imprisoned, 1644-8; projected a royalist rising in Kent; had to flee to Holland; employed while abroad by Hyde in service of Charles II; returned to England, 1653; published broadsides attacking Lambert and the leaders of the army, 1659; wrote pamphlets in favour of monarchy, 1660, and to show that the presbyterians were responsible for the wars and the king's death, 1661-2; advocated a more stringent censorship of the press, 1663; appointed surveyor of printing presses and a licenser of the press, 1663; issued the 'Intelligencer' and ‘The News,' 1663-6; encouraged, perhaps projected, 'The City Mercury, or Advertisements concerning trade,' 1675; published pamphlets to meet Shaftesbury's attack on Charles II and his government, 1679; adversely criticised the evidence for a supposed popish plot, 1680; J.P. for Middlesex, 1680; had to flee the country owing to the hostility of the promoters of the alleged popish plot; returned to England, 1681; attacked dissenters and whigs in his periodical 'The Observator,' 1681-7; M.P., Winchester, 1685; knighted, 1685; deprived of his office of surveyor and licenser of the press at the revolution and imprisoned in 1688,1691, and 1695-6. Besides his pamphlets and periodicals, he issued, among other things, ‘The Fables of AEsop and other eminent Mythologists, with Moral Reflections,' 1692 (the most extensive collection of fables in existence), and 'The Works of Flavius Josephus compared with the Original Greek,' 1702, also translating 'Quevedo's Visions,' 1667.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.


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