Lot 383
Sold for £15,600 (US$ 26,205) inc. premium
Lot Details
"Copies of Letters From and To The Earl of Rochester", comprising transcripts of letters by Rochester to his wife Elizabeth (34), his mother Anne (1), his son Charles (2), Henry Savile (2), Lord Litchfield (1), and from his deathbed to Dr Burnet (1); and letters to Rochester from his wife Elizabeth (3), John Dryden (1), Henry Savile (13), the Duke of Buckingham (7, plus one misascribed as addressed to Rochester but in fact to Arlington), Lord Buckhurst (1), Lord Treasurer Clifford (1), Sir Robert Howard (2), John Muddyman (1), Henry Bulkeley (1), and Lord Falkland (1); additional letters including a long letter by Robert Boyle to John Mallet, November 1651, Henry Savile to Mr Thynn and Secretary Coventry, Lord Arran to the Bishop Sprat of Rochester describing Buckingham's death, the Earl of Middleton describing his change of religion, "the Duke of Shrewsbury on his Marrying an Italian Lady &ca", Elizabeth Lady Compton to her husband, and a long letter by Robert Boyle to John Malet of November 1651 (published for the first time in 2001 from the original in Harl.7003 by Hunter, Clericuzio and Principe, in The Correspondence of Robert Boyle); plus an account of Rochester's last days and penitence related by Dr Radcliffe by William Thomas (1676-c.1765, Secretary to Robert Harley), nearly 140 pages, three leaves lacking (pp.25-6, 43-4, 47-8), marbled boards, paper label on upper cover, remains of blue silk ties, partially disbound, some dust-staining etc., folio, [c.1724]



    These are transcripts of the Rochester letters now among the Harleian Papers in the British Library, MS. Harl.7003. The originals were sent by Edward Harley to his librarian Humfrey Wanley on 27 August 1724, when the latter recorded in his diary: "My Lord sent-in a parcel of Original Letters, written by Wilmot Earl of Rochester, Mr Henry Savil, the Duke of Buckingham, & other remarkable persons; being all given by the Reverend Mr Harbyn [George Harbin or Harbyn, non juror and chaplain librarian to Thomas Thynne, first Viscount Weymouth (d.1714) and possibly also to the second Viscount]" (The Diary of Humfrey Wanley, edited by C.E. Wright and Ruth Wright, 1966, p.311); and each of the originals has been docketed by Wanley with this date. However it seems that Edward Harley came into possession of the letters before his father's death, on 21 May 1724, since a memorandum loose at the end of our volume notes: "Whether that part of Harry Saviles Letter to the Earl of Rochester of the 15th of August 1676, which is torn off, may not be supplyed as followes, is humbly Submitted to My Lord Harley"; in other words, Edward is being referred to by his courtesy title which he held before acceding to his father's title as Earl of Oxford. (Continued overleaf.)

    Edward Harley clearly went through the originals, and these transcripts, in person, for there is a note in his hand on the transcript of Arran's letter to the Bishop of Rochester: "the seal Black wax the impression the Armes of Hamilton under a Dukes coronet/ He was after Duke Hamilton". Furthermore, the originals in Harl.7003 have been supplied with title-pages and two lists of contents (ff.187r&v, 266, 295r&v) written in the same secretarial hand as is responsible for transcribing the main part of our volume; Harl. 7003 also contains some transcripts by our scribe, one being annotated by Edward Harley in similar manner.

    All but one of the letters by or to Rochester survive in Harl. 7003, and have been printed by Jeremy Treglown, The Letters of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, 1985. There is however one significant exception, an extremely poignant letter to Rochester from his wife which has remained unpublished (nor is it among the additional material listed by Peter Beal, Index of English Literary Manuscripts). Treglown prints only two other letters by the Countess to Rochester (pp.128-9 and 167). In our letter she tells her errant husband that she does not expect to see him in the country and that indeed it would not make much difference even if she were to live within five miles of London: "for I believe from my heart it is not the inconvenience of a Winter Journy that hinders you from giving me oftner the happyness of your Company, but meerly the disagreableness of mine". Both the contents list of Harl.7003 and the one in our volume list the presence of three letters by the Countess; two of which (including the hitherto lost letter) are marked as "Original wanting", although the binding of Harl.7003 no longer follows the sequence as set out by its contents list.
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