Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Tutchin, John

794992Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 57 — Tutchin, John1899George Atherton Aitken

TUTCHIN, JOHN (1661?–1707), whig pamphleteer, was born about 1661, probably in Hampshire or the Isle of Wight (cf. Observator, iii. No. 87). He himself says (ib. 17 to 20 May, 8 to 12 July 1704) that he was born a freeman of the city of London, and that his father, grandfather, and several of his uncles were nonconformist ministers. No doubt he was nearly related to the Rev. Robert Tutchin of Newport, Isle of Wight, who, like his three sons, was ejected in 1662 (Palmer, The Nonconformist's Memorial, 1802, i. 349, ii. 262, 275–6). Tutchin seems to have been at school at Stepney, and is said by a detractor to have been expelled for stealing (The Devil turned Limner, 1704).

In 1685 Tutchin published ‘Poems on several Occasions, with a Pastoral [The Unfortunate Shepherd], to which is added a Discourse of Life.’ In the summer of the same year he took part in the Duke of Monmouth's rising, and was tried before Judge Jeffreys at the ‘Bloody Assizes’ held at Dorchester in the autumn. Tutchin and others had raised men at Lymington, and Jeffreys sentenced him to imprisonment for seven years, and yearly to be whipped through all the market towns in Dorset; to pay a fine of a hundred marks, and to find security for good behaviour during life. ‘You are a rebel,’ said Jeffreys, ‘and all your family have been rebels since Adam. They tell me that you are a poet. I'll cap verses with you.’ Eventually Jeffreys was bribed to recommend a pardon. Afterwards, when Jeffreys was in the Tower, Tutchin visited him; Jeffreys pleaded that he had acted only in accordance with his instructions, and Tutchin, who had gone to revile, came away somewhat mollified at the spectacle of the fallen tyrant (Macaulay, History, chaps. v. xiv.).

After the accession of William III, Tutchin published ‘An Heroick Poem upon the late Expedition of his Majesty to rescue England from Popery, Tyranny, and Arbitrary Government,’ 1689, and ‘The British Muse: or Tyranny exposed. A Satire; occasioned by all the fulsome and lying Poems and Elegies that have been written on the Death of the late King James’ (1701). He also printed ‘A Congratulatory Poem to the Rev. John Tillotson upon his Promotion to the Archiepiscopal See of Canterbury,’ 1691; ‘The Earthquake of Jamaica, described in a Pindarick Poem,’ 1692; and ‘A Pindarick Ode in praise of Folly and Knavery,’ 1696. About 1692 a clerkship was found for him in the victualling office, with a salary of about 40l. and fees. In 1695, however, he accused the commissioners of cheating the king of vast sums of money. He did not establish his case, and was dismissed (Mr. William Fuller's Letter to Mr. John Tutchin, 1703; The whole Life of Mr. William Fuller, 1703, p. 70). Tutchin is sometimes called ‘captain,’ and he appears to have been in the army in Ireland at some time during King William's reign (The Examination, Tryal, and Condemnation of Rebellion Ob[servato]r, 1703, p. 15).

On 1 Aug. 1700 there appeared ‘The Foreigners: a Poem,’ which Defoe called ‘a vile abhorred pamphlet in very ill verse,’ attacking the king and the Dutch nation. It is remembered as having provoked Defoe's answer, ‘The True-born Englishman.’ Tutchin was arrested by ‘August 10 … his poem containing reflections upon several great men’ (Luttrell, Brief Relation of State Affairs, iv. 676; Mr. W. Fuller's Letter to Mr. J. Tutchin). Fuller, who attributes all his own crimes to Tutchin's influence, says that it was Tutchin who induced him to publish the ‘Original Letters of King James’ in 1700 (Whole Life of Mr. W. Fuller). Fuller says that Tutchin was the author of ‘The Mouse grown a Rat’ (January 1702), in which parliament was attacked for censuring Fuller (Letter to Tutchin).

On 1 April 1702 Tutchin issued the first number of a periodical, ‘The Observator,’ in a single folio sheet, in imitation of the paper issued by Sir Roger L'Estrange [q. v.] in 1681. He was paid sometimes half a guinea and sometimes twenty shillings for each number (Howell, State Trials, xiv. 1106, 1123). After eight weekly numbers this paper appeared twice a week, and the first three volumes, each of a hundred numbers, were afterwards issued with title-pages and prefaces. Tutchin soon adopted the form of a dialogue between the ‘Observator’ and a countryman, and in this manner attacked the tories, with frequent onslaughts upon the immorality of the day, and players and playhouses in particular. In August 1702 he printed ‘A Vindication of the Observator in answer to a scandalous Libel lately printed, called the Observator observed.’ A tory reply to Tutchin's paper, ‘The Rehearsal,’ by Charles Leslie [q. v.], was commenced on 5 Aug. 1704, the first number being called ‘The Observator,’ and the fifth ‘The Rehearsal of Observator.’ Tutchin's periodical was continued after his death for the benefit of his widow, and lingered on until 1712, when it was killed by the stamp tax.

‘A Dialogue between a Dissenter and the Observator concerning the “Shortest Way with the Dissenters,”’ published by Tutchin early in 1703, was chiefly in defence of Defoe, to whose honesty he testifies (Wilson, Life and Times of Daniel Defoe, ii. 82). In July 1703 he was prosecuted by the attorney-general. Tutchin says that the indictment was for writing against the papists, and that the grand jury ignored the bill (Observator, vol. ii. Nos. 27, 28).

An attack on the administration of the navy led to a resolution of the House of Commons (15 Dec. 1703) that Tutchin should attend a committee to answer what might be objected against him, and that a bill should be brought in to restrain the licentiousness of the press (Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 370). On 3 Jan. 1704 the house ordered Tutchin's arrest. He lay concealed in the country, but in May he surrendered and gave 1,000l. bail, and on the 29th he appeared in court and renewed the bail (Observator, vol. iii. No. 18; Luttrell, v. 425, 429).

The trial took place on 4 Nov. 1704 at the Guildhall. Tutchin pleaded not guilty, but the jury, after a quarter of an hour's retirement, found him guilty. The sentence was to be as the judges of the court of queen's bench thought fit (Tryal and Examination of Mr. John Tutchin for writing a certain Libel, called the Observator, fol.). Technical pleas against the conviction were raised by Tutchin's counsel, and on 28 Nov., after several adjournments, the verdict was set aside, and ‘it was never afterwards thought fit to try him again’ (Howell, State Trials, xiv. 1095–1199; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 483, 487, 489, 490, 492). Next month Tutchin attended before a committee of the House of Lords appointed to discover how the French fleet had been furnished with naval stores and provisions from England, and gave evidence (ib. v. 494–5). In April 1705 he appeared in the court of queen's bench upon his recognisances, and again in June, when he was discharged (ib. v. 544, 561).

During 1705 Tutchin was often attacked in conjunction with Defoe. He wrote a ballad satirising the members who voted for the Tack, and was answered in ‘The Tackers vindicated … with a word to Mr. John Tutchin about his scandalous ballad, that goes to the tune of “One Hundred and thirty-four.”’ Tutchin was also attacked in a lampoon aimed at Defoe, ‘Daniel the Prophet no Conjuror,’ 1705. Afterwards Tutchin wrote against Defoe's ‘Consolidator’ (Wilson, Life and Times of Defoe, ii. 302–4, 344); but as they were working for the same ends, Defoe was anxious to avoid a conflict, and says he often invoked Tutchin to peace (ib. ii. 416). ‘England's Happiness considered, in some Expedients. By John Tutchin, gent.,’ appeared in 1705. Defoe challenged Tutchin to a contest in translating languages (Review, ii. 149, 150). In August Tutchin was in the west, on purpose, Hearne says (Collections, ed. Doble, i. 40), to rake up scandal against staunch members of the church of England, ‘which being hinted to the judges in one place (as they were on their circuit), he was forced to fly immediately.’ Early in 1706 Sharpe, curate of Stepney, published ‘An Appeal of the Clergy of the Church of England to my Lords the Bishops. … With some Reflections upon the Presbyterian Eloquence of John Tutchin and Daniel Defoe. … To which is annexed as a postscript, The case of the Curate of Stepney fairly and truly stated, and cleared from the vile Aspersions of John Tutchin.’ Here Sharpe speaks of Tutchin's ‘Stepney academical learning.’

Tutchin died on 23 Sept. 1707 in the queen's bench prison at the Mint, according to Hearne (Collections, ii. 53); according to others his death was the result of the personal vengeance of some of his enemies (Noble, Continuation of Granger, 1806, ii. 312). Pope's well-known lines (Dunciad, ii. 146) couple him with Defoe:

    Earless on high, stood unabashed Defoe,
    And Tutchin, flagrant from the scourge below.

Tutchin was much given to exposing scandals and to boasting of his own virtue and public spirit, and it is clear, from his relations with Defoe, that he quarrelled with political allies as well as with opponents. Dunton, however, spoke enthusiastically of the ‘loyal and ingenious Tutchin,’ ‘a gentleman of invincible courage and bravery,’ ‘a loyal, witty, honest, brave man’ (Life and Errors, pp. 356, 426–8, 727; cf. Lee's Life of Defoe, p. 146). Edward Ward [q. v.] prefixed to his ‘Secret History of the Calves' Head Club’ a dedication to Tutchin ‘Observator and censor morum general.’ There is an engraving of Tutchin by Vandergucht, and another in Caulfield's ‘Portraits,’ i. 154, and his head appears in two contemporary caricatures, ‘The Funeral of the Low Church’ and ‘Faction Display'd’ (Cat. of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum, ii. 285, 311).

On 30 Sept. 1686 John Tutchin of St. Mildred's, Bread Street, gent., aged 25, and Mrs. Elizabeth Hicks of Newington Green, aged 22, were licensed to marry at St. John's Coleman Street. She was the daughter of the presbyterian minister, John Hickes or Hicks [q. v.], and was sufficiently educated to keep a girls' school after Tutchin's death, first at Newington Green, and afterwards, in 1710, near the Nag's Head, Highgate, ‘with good accommodation for lodgers’ (cf. Flying Post, 12 to 14 Feb. 1712).

Besides the pieces mentioned above, Tutchin is said to be the author of ‘The Merciful Assize,’ Taunton, 1701; ‘The Review of the Rehearsal’ (Hearne, Collections, i. 35); ‘The Tribe of Levi,’ 1691; and ‘The Apostates, or the noble Cause of Liberty deserted,’ 1702 (Whole Life of Mr. W. Fuller). He also issued proposals for printing ‘A View of the present State of the Clothing Trade in England,’ but apparently the necessary subscriptions were not received.

[The principal sources from which information about Tutchin can be gleaned have been cited in the text. See also Mr. Humphreys's paper on the Monmouth Rebellion in the Proc. of the Somersetshire Archæological and Nat. Hist. Soc. for 1892; and H. B. Irving's Life of Jeffreys, 1898, pp. 292–5.]

G. A. A.