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THE LORD CHANCELLORS
KEEPERS OF THE GREAT SEAL
FROM THE EARLIEST TIMES TILL THE REIGN OF
IN SEVEN VOLUMES.
BLANCHARD AND LEA.
SECOND SERIES OF THE LIVES OF THE CHANCELLORS.
I Now lay before the Public the second part of my Biographical Work, extending from the Revolution of 1688 to the death of Lord Thurlow in 1806, and containing the Lives of two Lords Commissioners of the Great Seal, of one Lord Keeper, and of twelve Lord Chancellors. My anxiety upon this occasion is greatly increased by the very favourable reception experienced by me on my first appearance as an author. I am somewhat disheartened by the consideration that the Chancellors of the 18th century are much less important characters than a Becket, Wolsey, More, Bacon, Clarendon, Shaftesbury, and Jeffreys: but I am encouraged by reflecting that the interest taken in men and in events increases as they come nearer to our own "business and bosoms;"—and I have to announce that whereas, formerly, I could only make use of materials accessible to all, I am now put into possession of an immense mass of original documents, throwing a new light upon the history of the country and the manners of successive generations. No language could express the deep sense I entertain of the confidence and kindness shown me by individuals of all parties in the state who were the masters of these treasures.
In the first place, I must return thanks, though very inadequately, to Lord Viscount Dungannon, for the communication of several letters of his ancestor, Lord Commissioner Trevor, and the "Minute of Consultation" between that extraordinary person and the Princess Anne of Denmark, respecting her succession to the throne.—I have been able to rectify several mistakes respecting the early career of Lord Somers, by inquiries with Heads of Houses have most patiently and obligingly carried on for me at Oxford, and to add fresh lustre to the name of this great patriot by a number of his letters relating to the Union with Scotland, from the muniments of the Earl of Leven and Melville, to whose ancestor they were addressed.—To the Earl Cowper I am indebted not only for a copy of the Diary of Lord Chancellor Cowper, which had been printed for private circulation, but for the inspection and free use of a Memorial written by him on the state of parties for the information of George I., —of the Diary of the Countess Cowper, his second wife, Lady of the Bedchamber to the Princess Caroline, afterwards Queen of George II.,—and of a correspondence between him and his father and mother, and both his wives, extending over a period of above fifty years.—My Life of Lord Chancellor Harcourt is enriched by much valuable information, derived by me from the family of the present venerable Archbishop of York, who are sprung from him, and now bear his name—With Lord Chancellor Macclesfield's own representative no papers are preserved to assist in clearing up the obscure parts of his career; but for his Life, and still more for that of his immediate successor, Lord Chancellor King, I have derived invaluable assistance from the MSS. of the Earl of Lovelace, containing many letters from John Locke, the philosopher, Sir Robert Walpole, and other distinguished men who flourished in the end of the 17th, and the first part of the 18th, century.—The copious materials which existed for the Lives of Lord Chancellor Hardwicke and Lord Chancellor Charles Yorke have been improved by several interesting documents transmitted to me by their distinguished descendants.—I have been enabled to add many important particulars respecting the Lives of Lord Chancellor Northington, and Lord Chancellor Camden, from the very interesting MS. Journal of Augustus-Henry Duke of Grafton, Minister to George III., and a large collection of their letters, most handsomely submitted to me, without restriction, by the present Duke of Grafton and Lord John Fitzroy,—and from several original letters and a MS. Life of Lord Chancellor Camden, which I have
received in a manner equally gratifying from his grandson, the present Marquis Camden.—I have been permitted to peruse some curious letters from and to Lord Chancellor Bathurst, but not to make full use of them, because, although they are highly honourable to him, it is thought they might give pain to the descendants of some of his colleagues and contemporaries.—For the last Life in this Series, however, I have a large supply of new materials from the family and friends of Lord Chancellor Thurlow,—consisting of anecdotes of him, and literary compositions by him, from the time wrhen he first went to school till within a few days of his death.
With such helps it must be my fault if these volumes shall not be found a contribution of some value to English literature.
It will be seen that I have desisted from the practice of taking a retrospective view of "the State of the Law" at the end of each reign,—little now depending for such matters on the personal character of the Sovereign:—but I have continued most anxiously to mark all the important changes in the administration of justice, whether by legislative enactment or by forensic decision,—in the ambitious hope that my book may be studied as a history of our jurisprudence from the foundation of the monarchy to our own times.
I am sorry that, to complete my plan, a Supplemental Volume will be necessary for the Lives of Lord Loughborough, Lord Erskine, and Lord Eldon. In preparing this I have made some progress, and I hope, before the end of another year, to give it to the world.
Before I conclude, I must return my warmest thanks to those who have pointed out mistakes and omissions in my First Series, —most earnestly imploring a continuance of similar favors.