Preface to the second volume

Sponsor

Centre for Metropolitan History

Publication

Author

Alfred P. Beaven

Year published

1908

Pages

5-7

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'Preface to the second volume', The Aldermen of the City of London: Temp. Henry III - 1912 (1908), pp. V-VII. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=67232 Date accessed: 24 November 2014.


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Preface to Volume II.

In issuing the concluding volume of this work, the completion of which has been unavoidably delayed, I would emphasize one sentence in the preface to the former volume, to which I desire to draw attention and which I now repeat in substance: Anyone who may propose to make use of this work for purposes of reference or research is requested to be careful to supplement and correct the text where necessary by the aid of the Addenda and Corrigenda. (See vol. I., pp. 225–234, 409–422: vol II., pp. 217–235.)

I have already acknowledged my indebtedness to the many gentlemen who have given me valuable information and co-operation, to whom I must add the present Clerks of the Drapers' and Haberdashers' Companies respectively, Mr. E. H. Pooley and Mr. J. Eagleton, who have very kindly, when applied to, afforded similar aid to that which I received from their predecessors.

Dr. Reginald Sharpe, Records Clerk at Guildhall, and Mr. Bernard Kettle, the City Librarian, have continued their generous help in making notes and looking up references for me in response to requests which, I fear, have been preferred with unconscionable frequency and have often entailed heavier demands on their time and attention than the mere fact of being engaged in work for the Corporation of London, which they represent in their several departments, justified me in making.

Without the consciousness that I could never—'well, hardly ever'—wear out the patience and disturb the equanimity which are marked characteristics of the longsuffering and learned Editor of the Husting Wills and Calendars of Letter Books A to L, to whose labours every future student of the civic history of London will necessarily be indebted in a pre-eminent degree, I could neither have undertaken nor continued to carry on the researches of which these volumes are the outcome.

Mr. Kettle, as Librarian, has displayed, if it be possible, even more readiness to facilitate my labours by sharing them, than when he was the lieutenant successively of his two predecessors, to whom I tendered my grateful acknowledgments in the preceding volume. His interest in the progress of the work and his eagerness to render it as comprehensive and as accurate as possible could hardly have been exceeded, had he been himself the author.

In now offering this inadequate expression of my sense of the Librarian's unfailing courtesy and unstinted help, I must not forget to associate with him his colleagues in the department, Mr. H. C. Welch and Mr. J. L. Douthwaite, the latter of whom, in particular, has given me much valuable personal attention on occasions when the Librarian has been absent on holiday or pre-occupied with Committee work or other business.

My researches have also been much facilitated from time to time by the officials at the Public Record Office, the British Museum and the Principal Probate Registry, and I feel bound to record my special indebtedness to the late Mr. G. K. Fortescue, Keeper of the Printed Books and to Mr. I. H. Jeayes, Assistant Keeper of MSS. at the British Museum for their assistance on many occasions; also my thanks are due to the Rev. Claud Jenkins, Librarian at Lambeth Palace, Rev. W. P. Besley, Librarian of St. Paul's Cathedral, and to the Rev. Canon Pearce.

In the Historical Introduction, which I reserved for this volume instead of its more naturally appropriate position, I have endeavoured to put together various notes and comments on points of interest, which the general subject of the work suggested. I am conscious that they may justly incur the criticism of being in some measure disjointed and 'scrappy,' and they are very far indeed from being exhaustive. But to summarise the history of the Aldermen of London in all its aspects would require a separate treatise. I am conscious of many defects in the execution of the work which I, perhaps, too rashly undertook: competent critics may well detect others, for parental eyes are not the quickest to discover the blemishes in the offspring. I am conscious, too, how little claim so strict a censor of the writings of others can put forward for a lenient judgment of his own defects. I can only plead in extenuation of any errors that I have overlooked that I have taken some pains to detect them, and have bestowed more care on the verification of my facts and dates than is apparent on the part of writers of greater pretensions and in works of more serious importance than mine can claim to be. Wherever I have discovered errors too late for correction in the original text I have supplied emendations at the pages indicated above. My thanks are due to Mr. Kemp (of the firm of Messrs. Eden Fisher & Co., Ltd.), who has superintended the printing of these volumes, for his valuable co-operation in the work of correction and for the patience and careful consideration with which he has dealt with, I fear, some very troublesome and irritating 'copy.'

This work would, perhaps, to other eyes as well as to my own, have appeared more complete had it contained lists of Mayors, Lord Mayors and Sheriffs of the City. But inasmuch as for ordinary practical purposes these are obtainable from many (in the main) trustworthy sources, I have thought it hardly worth while to make this addition, unless on such a scale as would admit of including details, such as a record of occasions on which persons elected to those offices,—which in the case of the Sheriffs are very numerous,—did not consent to serve, the numbers polled at contested elections, the names of Aldermen returned by the Livery at the Annual Mayoral elections but not chosen by the Court, and other interesting addenda which have never been printed in a collected form. For these the space at my disposal would have been inadequate. I hope, however, in the near future to include these matters, together with extensively annotated lists of the holders of other civic offices and positions, both existent and obsolete, for which my collections are now practically complete, in a third but quite independent volume.

I have in various places in the course of these volumes called attention to errors in the works of writers who have preceded me. I have done so in no captious spirit, but purely from the point of view of one who regards accuracy of fact and statement as the first requisite of a writer on historical and biographical subjects, especially in standard books of reference. That I have not been actuated by any motives of a personal character should be apparent from the fact that I have written in commendatory terms of some portions of the work of authors in whom I have found much to criticise adversely, and that I have not hesitated to indicate (e.g.) some indubitable lapses of the pen or of memory, as well as occasional inferences in which I am unable to concur with him, occurring in the works of our greatest living authority on the subjects of which they treat, whom, though 'Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri,' I regard as my 'guide, philosopher and friend' throughout my studies of London civic history. The higher the authority of any writer, whatever be his subject, the greater the necessity for correcting his errors, which others are sure to copy—as I have shown by a striking example on page liv. of this volume.

It is only right that I should add that, although this work is printed for and is the property of the Corporation of London, I have had an entirely free hand in its composition, and while I am, of course, responsible alike for the accuracy or inaccuracy of its statements of fact and date, I am also solely responsible for any comments and obiter dicta with which I have endeavoured here and there to lighten what are necessarily, as is the case with all works of this class, somewhat dull pages. It may be that the views I hold on various matters of historical, political or social interest may not be in accordance with those of some of my readers, and the expression of them may be out of harmony with their reasoned opinions or inherited prejudices. I can, however, affirm with confidence that in neither text nor comment have I consciously misstated or distorted any historical fact, and my opinions, whatever be their value, on matters relating to English history and kindred subjects are at least the results of more than half a century's continuous and careful study, involving a not very limited rauge of reading.

I am only surprised that the special subject of this book has not been dealt with before, except in a fragmentary manner and on a limited scale. If the result of my labours in its compilation is to afford some little assistance to any historical researchers in the future, I shall be amply rewarded. It may be that the presence of the material herein supplied may stimulate some present or future Aldermen to follow with regard to their own Wards the excellent example which Sir John Baddeley has set in the case of his municipal 'first love.' That is a 'consummation devoutly to be wished.'

Leamington, December 20th, 1912.