J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2018

“Likewise This Day Published”

As I reported yesterday, in February 1769 the printer Ezekiel Russell advertised the publication of Pvt. William Clarke’s play The Miser in the Boston Gazette and Boston Post-Boy.

On 6 March Russell had the Edes and Gill shop expand that ad to promote another pamphlet as well. I was amused by the juxtaposition of the two titles. The second part of the expanded notice read:
LIKEWISE THIS DAY PUBLISHED,
(Price Eight Pence,)
And Sold at the above Place,
ANOTHER High Road to Hell,—An ESSAY on the pernicious Nature and destructive Effects of the modern Entertainments from the PULPIT.—Occasioned by a Pamphlet, entitled, The Stage the High Road to Hell, &c.——Said to be wrote by the learned Mr. PIKE, one of the Author of the Twenty Six Cases of Conscience, and an eminient Sandemanian Speaker in LONDON. 

The Russell print shop was thus simultaneously marketing both a theatrical comedy and a pamphlet built on a denunciation of the theater as the quickest path to damnation.

You might think that Boston’s orthodox Congregationalists would have been in accord with English authors denouncing plays and “modern Entertainments from the PULPIT” since they also disliked theater and high-church Anglicanism. They certainly wouldn’t have favored Henry Flitcroft’s response to the first pamphlet, titled Theatrical Entertainments Consistent with Society, Morality, and Religion.

But the Russell shop presented The Stage the High Road to Hell as the work of the Rev. Samuel Pike, a convert to Sandemanianism. (I don’t see any bibliographers echoing that credit, so I don’t know how reliable it is.) Likewise, Another High Road to Hell is thought to have been written by another Sandemanian: John Chater, one of the first edition’s publisher who was also a former minister.

The Sandemanian sect was a recent arrival in New England. They weren’t yet seen as allies of the royal government, but the descendants of early Puritan settlers were nonetheless suspicious of their ideas. Another High Road to Hell is thus another example of the Russell print shop printing something unusual—and they advertised it in the radical Whigs’ favored newspaper.

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