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LITTLE need be said by way of preface to the following collection of public and private documents. By permission of Lord Francis Egerton, President of the Camden Society, they have been transcribed from a great body of miscellaneous original manuscripts preserved at Bridgewater House, accumulated by his Lordship's ancestor, who, while Sir Thomas Egerton, was Keeper of the Great Seal to Queen Elizabeth, and who, having been created in the first instance Baron Ellesmere, and subsequently Viscount Brackley, filled the office of Lord Chancellor of England during considerably more than half the reign of James I. I cannot express too strongly my sense of obligation to Lord Francis Egerton for the unrestricted manner in which every muniment deposited in his family archives was placed at my disposal. “The Egerton Papers” go back to a period considerably anterior to the date when Lord Ellesmere (for he is best known by that title) occupied any public situation:
he was not appointed Solicitor-General until 1581, whereas some of the documents in the ensuing series are not far from a century older, and they are brought down, in tolerably unbroken succession, nearly to the date of the death of his Lordship in 1617. Personal and family matters, unless connected with some public event, have generally been rejected, and many of these will hereafter be included in a separate Life of Lord Ellesmere, for which, with the sanction of Lord Francis Egerton, I have been allowed to collect abundant materials. The documents, thus for the first time made public, will be found valuable for the political, historical, legal, literary and biographical information they contain. They correct some important errors, supply various deficient dates, explain several disputed points, and illustrate the conduct and character of the great men of a period in which great men were numerous. The brief introductions to the various manuscripts point out some of the materials they furnish for these purposes, and the reader will be easily able in many instances to carry further my object in this respect. I am not aware that any of the papers, with one or two exceptions, have been printed elsewhere; and even in the very few excepted cases, the large additions and important differences will not merely reconcile the reader to the repetition, but probably convince him of its fitness.
It has been thought that the insertion of fac-similes of the writing of a considerable number of the distinguished personages who figure in the course of the volume, principally as correspondents of Lord Ellesmere, would not be uninteresting. Although opportunities might have been taken for giving elsewhere specimens from the pen of Lord Ellesmere, it appeared to me that they would come more appropriately at the commencement of a work of which he may be said to be the chief subject. The following was his Lordship's handwriting not long after he became Solicitor-General, and, consequently, early in his political and professional career.
He continued to preserve the freedom and decision of character indicated by his handwriting throughout life, and even the latest of his autographs afford little or no evidence of infirmity. The following is the subscription
to one of his most recent letters to his son, Sir John Egerton, afterwards Earl of Bridgewater.
Lord Ellesmere was created Wiscount Brackley about four months prior to his death, and late in life he seems not to have preserved his papers with so much solicitude as at an earlier period. The whole assemblage of documents, from which the ensuing volume is only a comparatively small selection, will be found to support the character given of this great statesman and lawyer by Hacket in his Life of Archbishop Williams, in a happy quotation from Welleius Paterculus, Nihil in vità, nisi laudandum, aut fecit, aut dirit, aut sensit.
J. PAYNE COLLIER.