Although more often associated with the visual arts, Gerbier always turned to the written word as a natural form of expression, and throughout his life published regularly. His output included everything from a single page of verse addressed to Prins Maurits, to substantial books on building and military architecture, together with a number of pamphlets of intermediate length.
His earliest works were essentially literary in form – the Eer Ende Claght-dicht being the most obvious example. Verse seems to have come easily to him: he wrote it in Dutch, French and English at various times, but published relatively little of it. Once employed by Buckingham, and later Charles I, Gerbier found prose the necessary medium of expression, and his diplomatic and other Court correspondence was extensive, but again generally not for publication. Yet there are episodes in his life of which we would know next to nothing, if it were not for the considerable body of work that Gerbier had printed in England, France and The Netherlands.
In England, during the early 1640s, with the population shuffling uncertainly into line behind either King or Parliament, Gerbier – like so many others – had his first experience of using the printed page to define his position. Everywhere a foreigner, he found himself suspected of Roman Catholic sympathies. Bethnal Green residents plotted an attack on his home; his pew was vandalised in Stepney Church, and Gerbier rejected the accusation in print, denouncing his ill-informed neighbours and their ‘Wicked and Inhumane Plot’. Within a year, he and his family had left England for France, where Gerbier promoted his plan to establish Monts de Piété in a series of pamphlets, aimed at those whose support he was soliciting. In France too, he felt obliged to defend his position in the ‘Manifeste du Chevalier Balthazar Gerbier’, the first of a number of publications in which he sought to defend his principles and reputation from the accusations of others.
Throughout the 1640s and 1650s, self-justification alternated with more overtly propagandist writing. This is not to say that Gerbier was primarily a political propagandist, writing on behalf of – or even at the behest of – one or other of the factions in pursuit of popular support. This is a subject that requires a more detailed examination: certainly he published proposals for increasing the revenue of the Commonwealth, and sought to justify himself to Cromwell, but he never seems to have become a ‘Mercurius Gerberius’, and the bulk of his writing in these years was in support of two of his main projects: the establishment of the Academy, and the expedition to South America. Both were undertaken in the hope that they would provide him with an income, and it was the failure of each of them that obliged Gerbier to fall back on offering a range of other proposals to the authorities, both before and after the Restoration.
In the years following the return of Charles II, Architecture was the area of expertise on which Gerbier drew as a means of financial support. His theoretical and practical works on building document his later years, and accompany his work at Hamstead Marshall. With his last known work, the ‘Subsidium Peregrinantibus’, Gerbier looked back to his travels as an enthusiastic young man, and wrote a book intended to assist another young man, the Duke of Monmouth, on the Grand Tour.
The majority of the works listed in the table below carry the name of Balthazar Gerbier as author, and as far as possible I have tried to include variants of each work, such as the advertisements he had printed to promote the Academy. However, not every publication associated with him bears his name, and the dispute as to whether he was the writer of ‘The None-such Charles his Character’ has never been resolved. Although many anecdotes in that book suggest Gerbier as their origin, the prose is not quite in his style, and the possibility remains that Hugh Peters was involved in putting together this vitriolic denunciation of early Stuart rule. Further evidence for a literary connection between Peters and Gerbier can be found in a pamphlet dating from November 1651, entitled ‘The next way to France: or A Short Dialogue Between Two zealous well-wishers for the advancement of The Kingdom of Christ; viz. H.P and B.G.’ I suspect this is a joint effort in some degree, between Gerbier and Peters. It contains references to political events, and court intrigues, of the kind Gerbier often recounts in his writings. The title, and some of the language put into the mouth of ‘B.G.’ is in Gerbier’s style, and the purpose of the pamphlet is to encourage English, Protestant authorities to ally themselves with their French co-religionists. Yet for anyone seeking to defend Gerbier against the charge that he was responsible for ‘The None-such Charles’, it is unsettling to find this apparent collaboration with Hugh Peters, just a few months after the publication of the book so vehemently disowned by Gerbier.
Another anonymous pamphlet that I am inclined to attribute to Gerbier is ‘La Conference de deux Milords s’en retournant en Angleterre contre les meschant Ministres et Favoris’, published in Paris by Michel Blageart in 1649. Although this does not appear under the same imprint as Gerbier’s other Parisian pamphlets, it is patently in Gerbier’s style, and contains elements of the much longer ‘Les Effects Pernicieux’ printed in the Hague in 1653. Like ‘The Next Way to France’, and some of Gerbier’s other works, it takes the form of a dialogue – in this case a discussion between ‘Entier‘ and ‘Cordial‘. These characters assert that Charles I’s difficulties originated not in his own faults, but in the poor advice that he received from his ministers.
The catalogue extends previous listings of Gerbier’s printed written works, but is not to be considered exhaustive. There may well be other writings as yet unattributed to him, and others that have simply been lost, such as the two ‘Manifests‘ known to James Crossley, but now untraceable. News of any further works, or variants of those already listed, would be very welcome. Meanwhile I hope that the following table will provide a Catalogue in a convenient form for anyone undertaking further investigations. Please click below to see it in pdf. form.
Catalogue of Gerbier’s Printed Works Updated March 2018