Home  »  Volume IX: English FROM STEELE AND ADDISON TO POPE AND SWIFT  »  § 18. Letters to Sir Joseph Williamson

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume IX. From Steele and Addison to Pope and Swift.

VII. Historical and Political Writers

§ 18. Letters to Sir Joseph Williamson

The chief collections of state papers and letters belonging by their date of composition to the period treated in Burnet’s History of My Own Time were not published till the latter half of the eighteenth century had far advanced, or till an even later date; and will therefore be more conveniently mentioned in a subsequent volume. The above description cannot be applied to the Letters addressed from London to Sir Joseph Williamson, while Plenipotentiary at the Congress of Cologne in the years 1673 and 1674; but, as somewhat nondescript in kind, and as actually dating from an earlier age, they may be mentioned here rather than in a later chapter. While the official despatches of Sir Leoline Jenkins and of Williamson, the representatives of England at the congress under the nominal headship of Sunderland (who remained at Paris), are to be read elsewhere, the gossiping letters written to the junior plenipotentiary by his friends and dependants in the secretary of state’s office (of whose names the majority appeared in Marvell’s Black List of Government Pensioners, printed in Holland in 1677) form a valuable and very amusing addition to the familiar letters of the age. “There is not a place in the world so fruitfull in liing storyes as London,” thus writes one of the correspondents of Williamson; and they all did their best to suit the varied tastes of the great man, who besides being a prominent statesman and making a great marriage, became president of the Royal Society and was a collector of heraldic manuscripts. He lived till 1701, having been a trusted diplomatic agent of William III after serving Charles II as secretary of state.