One day in the summer of 1705, a woman in a black velvet mask knocked on the door of a printer’s shop off London’s Fetter Lane. She brought with her a manuscript entitled The Memorial of the Church of England, Humbly Offer’d to the Consideration of all True Lovers of our Church and Constitution, and she wanted the printer, a Welshman named David Edwards, to provide her with 250 copies. The masked woman wouldn’t tell Edwards her name or the name of the author, but she assured him that people in high places would look after him if there were any trouble over it. With some misgivings, Edwards agreed to take on the job, though he made sure to keep his own name off the title page, a precaution that was common among printers when dealing with dodgy material.
And The Memorial was very dodgy indeed. Its anonymous author condemned dissenters and Catholics, which was fine. But he or she went further, warning of ‘a heretick fever lurking in the very bowels’ of the Anglican Church and blaming Robert Harley, one of Queen Anne’s secretaries of state, Lord High