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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VIII. The Age of Dryden.

XIII. Legal Literature

§ 21. Authenticity of the Book

Unfortunately, the original manuscript of Table-Talk is lost, so that some passages of the printed texts are of composite origin or actually uncertain; but the authenticity of the whole may be regarded as established, notwithstanding the cavils of Wilkins, the editor of Selden’s Works (1726). The period during which Milward stated that he had collected his materials from the lips of his patron extended over twenty years—clearly the last two decades of Selden’s life, for, in the section Tithes, Selden speaks of himself as having written his History of Tythes (published in 1618) “about forty years ago.” Milward neither says nor implies that his manuscript was in any way revised or approved by Selden. There is not any need, it may be added, for calling in the evidence of style in order to determine the date of the utterances recorded in Table-Talk. Aubrey, no doubt, refers to Selden’s writings when stating that he quite left off the obscurity which he affected in his younger years; and Clarendon, whose character of Selden is one of the earliest, as it is one of the most generous, tributes of friendship enshrined in the Life of the great historian, while nothing that his friend’s style, in all his writings, seemed “harsh and sometimes obscure,” was careful to add that “in his conversation he was the most clear discourser, and had the best faculty of making hard things easy, and of presenting them to the understanding, of any man that hath been known.” The essential qualities, and the supreme merit, of the style of Table-Talk could not have been more admirably summarised, though Clarendon’s intimacy with Selden must have dated from about seven years before that (1642) which saw it end with the great lawyer’s definitive resolution to cast in his lot with the parliament rather than with the king.