- Elinor James
Elinor James (
1644- July 17, 1719) was a British printer and controversialist who used her own printing press to address public concerns throughout her adult life. At seventeen, she married Thomas James, a printer in London, on October 27, 1662. She had four children, two of whom survived to adulthood, and, from the time of Thomas becoming a master printer until her death, she wrote, printed, and distributed over ninety broadsheets and pamphlets under her own prominently displayed name.
These sheets were nearly always given titles including her name as well, such as "Mrs. James's Advice." Her works addressed the kings, the houses of Lords and Commons, the Lords Mayor of London, the board of aldermen, and the clergy of the given year. She was particularly vociferous about the
Exclusion Crisisand the Glorious Revolution. She opposed William III, in particular, and, at the time, took a Jacobite stance. She was also strongly anti- Puritan.
1687, her "Mrs. James's Vindication of the Church of England" drew two responses. Both the satirical "An Address of Thanks, on Behalf of the Church of England, to Mrs. James" and the dismissive, verse "Elizabeth Rone's Short Answer to Elinor James's Long Preamble" took her simplicity and prolixity to task. John Drydenmentioned her dismissively in the preface to "The Hind and the Panther," as well. At the same time as her "Vindication," she was also loudly protesting Puritan preachers themselves, and she would appear personally and disrupt orations by Puritanministers. She responded to Dryden and the others with "Mrs. James's Defence of the Church of England, in a Short Answer to the Canting Address."
1689, her Jacobitism led to trouble. She wrote, printed, and distributed a broadsheet accusing William III of illegitimate rule. This led to her being arrested, tried, and fined for scandal. Mrs. James did not relent, however. In 1702, one satirist referred to her as the "London City Godmother" (McDowell 693). She wrote against Titus Oates, the Popish Plotfigure, accusing him of being no minister and accusing him of fraudulently wearing clerical dress. He responded by beating her with his cane. Oates was found guilty of assault and fined.
1710, she was the executor of her husband's will. She donated his 3,000 books to Sion College, along with portraits of both kings Charles. She died in 1719 and was buried in London.
*McDowell, Paula. "Elinor James" in Matthew, H.C.G. and Brian Harrison, eds. "The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography." vol. 29, 693-4. London: Oxford UP, 2004.
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