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(ction. HISTORICAL MANUSCRIPTS COMMISSION.
Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty.
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The first volume of the Calendar of Harley letters and papers concluded with the year 1700, immediately after the death of Sir Edward Harley, and a month or two before the first election of his son Robert to the Speakership of the House of Commons. A few of the earlier pages in this volume contain abstracts or copies of other letters written in 1700, which were not forthcoming at the time when the first volume was completed at press, but the main portion of the manuscript material here printed ranges in date between 1701 and the end of May 1711, just after Robert Harley's elevation to the peerage as Earl of Oxford and Mortimer and his appointment to the supreme office of lord Treasurer.
The letters, private and confidential for the most part, addressed to Robert Harley and to members of his family by persons of greater or less eminence during that interesting and eventful period of our history, cannot fail to attract attention; but it will be no surprise to those readers of historical and bio. graphical tastes, to whom the annals of Queen Anne's reign are specially familiar, to find that the main events and the characters of the leading statesmen as conceived by them will need few modifications on account of the new contemporary evidence printed for the first time in the following pages. The attraction of such correspondence, passing during such a well-known period, is rather to be looked for in the minor details of events and in the glimpses we get from it of many interesting persons not necessarily in the front rank of eminence.
On one point, however, of some historical and of great literary and biographical importance, this volume may claim to be somewhat of the nature of a revelation by recording the very intimate relations, for public purposes, which existed for many years between Harley and De Foe. That the latter had some kind of employment as a Government agent about the time of the negotiations for the Union with Scotland has been stated by the majority of his numerous biographers, and one or two stray E 82470.
letters of his which have got into print have tended to prove the statement, but the details they have been able to furnish of such agency are practically nil, and of the help and advice given by De Foe to Harley during almost the whole of this statesman's official career nothing has been hitherto known. Considering the amount of research given to the elucidation of events of De Foe's life in recent times, when original contemporary manuscripts have been much more accessible, it is a marvel that the secret has been so well kept.
De Foe's first introduction to Harley appears to have been brought about by William Paterson's means. Under date of April 1703 (p. 61), about the time of De Foe's release from prison, there is a letter from him to Paterson expressive of his unfeigned sense of having offended the Queen, and of his hearty desire to serve her in any capacity, even in the army for a year or two at his own charge. The concluding part of this letter points to Paterson's having hìnted to him in conversation that some person high in the royal favour was inclined to help him to employment. That Harley was meant seems clear from the letter being endorsed by him as received from Paterson, though not until May 28 following. The next reference to the matter is in a letter from Godolphin, at Bath, where he was in attendance on the Queen, on September 26, 1703 (p. 68), in which he informs Harley, "I have found it proper to read soine paragraphs of “ your letter to the Queen. What you propose abcut De Foe “ may be done when you will and how you will.” On November 4 (p. 75) Godolphin again writes, “I have taken care “ in the matter of De Foe"; and succeeding this letter on the same page will be found one from De Foe himself, dated November 9, to Harley, expressing thanks for the bounty conferred on him and his desire “to make some such sort of “ return for it as no nian ever made.” Following this (p. 76) is a letter from De Foe written to a friend of his own, or an emissary from Harley, to whom, probably, the preceding letter was entrusted for delivery. We meet with no more letters between Harley and De Foc until May 1704 (p. 83), though some must have been lost or destroyed, as there are references in the extant letters to previous communications and interviews between them earlier in that year. The dates of the May letters ure just preceding that of the appointment of Harley to one of the Secretaryships of State. Two other undated letters, evidently written about the same time, to be found on pp. 87-89, give details of De Foe's life and misfortunes, and urge his desire to accept some service proposed to him by Harley, if the pressure put upon him by his creditors and his enemies can in some way be relieved. In the middle of the following month, a letter (p. 93) reaches Harley from an informer to the effect that if it be desired to arrest “ Dan Foe,” as the supposed author of a libel then in circulation, he is to be found at a certain address in Canterbury. From other correspondence (pp. 98 and 106) and interviews passing between them in July, it would appear that De Foe's views on public affairs were being freely expressed to Harley, and that his Review, the political part of it at any rate, had to some extent the Secretary's approval.
In September 1704, we find De Foe fairly started on his first Government mission, which was apparently to travel about the country inquiring into the opinions and feelings of the inhabitants, or rather the voters, in the principal boroughs; to spread “ principles of temper, moderation, and peace,” and to persuade all people that the Government was resolved to proceed by those rules. The first of his letters on this topic here printed (pp. 136–38) is dated from Bury St. Edmunds, on September 28, but there is a reference in it to one written from Cambridge on September 16, not now in the collection, and it also mentions a visit he had paid to Norwich. Nothing more can be ascertained from this correspondence about the mission to the Eastern counties. On November 2 following, probably when back in town again, is a long letter (pp. 146–149), chiefly filled with the “ridiculous stuff" he hears about the “ Triumvirate,” namely, Marlborough, Godolphin, and Harley, and the way they are managing State affairs. There is, however, a short undated paper in De Foe's handwriting (p. 153) describing the state of parties in Hertfordshire, which was no doubt drawn up in the autumn of the same year. That Godolphin was acquainted from time to time with De Foe's views and proceedings is evident from two or three casual references in the Lord Treasurer's undated letters, which have been assigned to the year 1704 (pp. 155, 156).
We hear nothing more of De Foe until the middle of the following year, a few weeks after the general election in May