A Collection of the State Papers of John Thurloe, Volume 1, 1638-1653. Originally published by Fletcher Gyles, London, 1742.
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The importance of state–papers, as the most solid and useful foundation of history, is a topic so universally allowed, that it is unnecessary to enter into a particular discussion of it here. The editor therefore will proceed immediately to an account of the present collection, which relates to a period of the English affairs, remarkable above all others for the variety as well as singularity of the events.
The principal part of this collection consists of a series of papers, discovered in the reign of king William, in a false ceiling in the garrets belonging to secretary Thurloe's chambers, No. XIII. near the chapel in Lincoln's–Inn, by a clergyman, who had borrowed those chambers, during the long vacation, of his friend Mr. Thomlinson the owner of them. This clergyman soon after disposed of the papers to the right honourable John lord Somers, then lord high chancellor of England, who caused them to be bound up in sixty seven volumes in folio. These afterwards descended to sir Joseph Jekyll, master of the rolls; upon whose decease they were purchased by the late Mr. Fletcher Gyles, bookseller. They contain a very great variety of authentic memorials of the English history from the death of king Charles I. to the restoration of his son king Charles II. with some few papers between the year 1638, and the commencement of that period: viz.
III. Letters from the English embassadors, envoys, residents and consuls in Portugal, Spain, France, Flanders, Holland, the Hansetowns, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Russia, Swisserland, Italy, Turkey, &c.
IV. Letters from the commissioners of the great seal, treasury, admiralty, and navy; the judges, attorney and sollicitor general, governors of garrisons, and other officers, civil and military, in England.
Soon after the public had been acquainted with the design of printing these papers, a considerable number of others very valuable was communicated by several hands, to whom every reader, as well as the editor, is greatly obliged; and among these were,
1. Part of the original collection of Thurloe, which probably came into the possession of lord Somers, after the binding up of the lxvii volumes abovementioned, and therefore were not inserted in them, as they ought to have been, since they relate to almost every one of those volumes. They contain near four hundred important papers; and were communicated by the right honourable Philip lord Hardwicke, lord high chancellor of Great Britain.
2. Above two hundred and forty letters, written to H. Cromwell by Thurloe, Fleetwood, lord Falconberg, col. Lockhart, embassador in France, Dr. Thomas Clarges, brother–in–law to general Monck, lady Mary Cromwell, lady Elizabeth Cleypole, Mr. Cleypole, sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, &c. in the possession of the right honourable the earl of Shelburne.
5. Letters of Thurloe, major general Massey, Mr. John Berwick, afterwards dean of St. Paul's, to king Charles II. and lord chancellor Hyde, with many other curious papers, in the possession of Joseph Radcliffe, of the Inner–Temple, esq;
7. Extracts of letters written by mons. de Montreuil, the French resident in England and Scotland, between the years 1645 and 1648, and by mons. de Bordeaux, the French embassador in England, to mons. de Brienne, secretary of state in France, in 1652, and the two following years, transcribed from the originals in the library of St. Germain at Paris, by Nicholas Mann, esq; master of the Charter–House.
8. Besides these several other useful papers were communicated, which are likewise particularly acknowledged in the margin of each, in order to authenticate them; for which reason references to the pages of the several manuscript volumes are added to those published from them.
These additions to the original collection have inlarged the work much beyond what was at first intended or imagined. But as the suppression of any part of them would have occasioned an obscurity in the rest, by interrupting the thread of affairs; and as the reader would undoubtedly be pleased to have all the lights, foreign and domestic, private and public, exhibited to him, upon which the persons in the administration in that remarkable period of time formed their measures, and by that means to find himself in near the same situation with them; the editor was unwilling to omit any papers, but such as seemed to him absolutely immaterial or redundant. And indeed he can with the utmost sincerity declare, that he has not retrenched, altered, or added a single word through the whole collection; an assertion, which may easily be verified by having recourse to the originals themselves. And here he thinks himself oblig'd to make his sincere acknowledgments to Brian Fairfax and Edward Burton Esquires, and Mr. John Ward of Gresham–college, for their advice and assistance in the choice and disposition of the materials, before they were committed to the press; and to the rev. Dr. Edward Willes, dean of Lincoln, for his pains in decyphering several letters, of which the keys were wanting.
In the first volume of the MSS. is a complete collection of the original papers of the treaty at Uxbridge, in which Mr. Thurloe was one of the secretaries to the parliament–commissioners. But as the greatest part of these have been already publish'd in the Works of king Charles I. and sir William Dugdale's Short view of the late troubles in England; it was thought proper to print those only, which were omitted there. Several papers have likewise been inserted in the xxth volume of the Fœdera, publish'd by Mr. Sanderson, from the first twelve volumes of Thurloe's manuscripts. But the reader will be convinc'd of the necessity of reprinting them in this collection, when he is assur'd, that the whole are most incorrectly transcrib'd, the dates often mistaken, and the names of persons and places generally disguis'd in such a manner, as to be quite unintelligible. Of this the three following letters will serve as a specimen, the originals of which are written in so distinct and clear an hand, that they afford no excuse for the gross mistakes of the editor, no less than ninety in the quantity of about a page and an half, in a large character.
The editor of the present collection is very far from flattering himself, that he is exempt from mistakes; but he hopes, they are not numerous, nor important; and begs leave to represent, in extenuation of such as may occur, the great disorder in the arrangement of the papers, which make up the several manuscript volumes; the extreme difficulty of reading many of the originals; the want of dates in some, and the perplexity in those of others, arising from the difference of the legal computation of the year in England from that of other nations, and of the old and new styles; and, above all, the hast, with which the impatience of the public requir'd so vast a work to be dispatch'd at the press.