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Part 1: Newsletters, c1564-1667, and Related Papers, c1607-1794, from the Public Record Office

Notes on Editorial Contributions

from Dr Ian Atherton, Consultant Editor, Department of History, University of Keele

Dr Ian Atherton, Department of History, University of Keele, kindly brought this material to our attention and has acted as a consuktat editor for this project.

He sent us the Appendix from his thesis which is included under Bibliographic Details with his kind permission. This gives details on the Newsletters and those responsile for writing these manuscripts. We gratefully acknowledge his help and support.

By way of an introduction to his Appendix, Dr Ian Atherton wrote as follows:


The papers of the first Viscount Scudamore are especially rich in newsletters, most of which date from the 1620s and 1630s, that time of great surge in the volume of news circulating in England. Some of these are the result of Scudamore’s hunger for news, others were received as part of his official duties as ambassador in Paris(1). They are particularly helpful in filling the gap between the close of John Chamberlain’s much used correspondence with Carleton, and the commencement of domestic English newspapers in the 1640s. Nonetheless, difficulties and problems in using them still abound: difficulties caused by the dispersal of the papers in the nineteenth century(2). Further difficulties are caused by the lack of an adequate listing of the papers. The only schedule of those Scudamore papers in the P.R.O. was produced to help the court of Chancery decide the fate of the Scudamore estate(3). It gives full descriptions of estate papers but newsletters are only very summarily mentioned; I hope that this appendix may fill some of these gaps.

The surviving letters are certainly not the sum total of all that Scudamore received. Pory requested that Scudamore do as ‘other mine honorable patrones use to do’ and ‘comitte all the letters I have or shall write to you, to the safest secretary in the world, the fire’(4). We are fortunate that Scudamore sometimes ignored this wise advice, carefully storing away so much of the correspondence he received. Nonetheless, it would be rash to assume that the viscount had no correspondents other than those listed below. None of Williamson’s newsletters to Viscount Scudamore have survived, and we only know that he subscribed from Williamson’s own papers.(5) Equally, the viscount’s accounts contain references to regular intelligences received from across France and beyond while he was ambassador, but very few of these have survived.(6) Their political sensitivity ensured their destruction, either as soon as they had been read, or when Scudamore left Paris at the end of his embassy. Other newsletters were, no doubt, circulated around friends and neighbours and never returned, just as Scudamore’s papers now contain newsletters loaned by his friends and associates to whom they were first addressed.(7)

It seems fair, therefore, to compile this short guide to the remaining newsletters from the collection of the first Viscount Scudamore.(8) Each correspondent is noted with the surviving letters, a short description of the type of news written and the chronological span, together with a few biographical details that could be easily culled. The definition of a newsletter is problematic. Should any letter with a line of two of news be included? The letters below vary greatly: there are series of weekly letters from professional writers such as Pory and Rossingham; some letters came from friends and relatives who regularly sent news, as Herbert did; others are single letters which contain some news along with more personal information. What I have tried to do is note all the newsletters received by the first viscount, along with any other letters he received which included substantial bits of news of national or international importance. I make no claim to have solved the problems of definition, nor do I claim to be consistent. Nonetheless, a wide definition of a newsletter gives a better indication of the written sources of news available to Scudamore. (9)


1. Cust, ‘News’, p.69; F.J. Levy, ‘How information spread’, p.23. Scudamore’s instructions as ambassador ordered him to receive intelligence and to correspond with Charles’s ambassadors and agents in other countries: B.L., Add. MS 11044, fols. 58r-9r. As part of his duties he also had to send weekly advices to the secretaries; these now make up a large part of P.R.O., SP78/98-107 and SP101/10-12, with copies in B.L., Add. MSS 35097, 45142.

2. While letters from one writer have often been put together the sorting has been very rough and ready. One from Charles Parry (P.R.O., C115/M35/8421) has been mistakenly placed amidst those from John Pory by someone unable to distinguish between the two names, while Rossingham’s letters have become separated, divided between two bundles in the P.R.O. and one volume in the British Library.

3. The schedule is P.R.O., IND1/23396.

4. Pory to Scudamore, 17 December 1631, P.R.O., C115/M35/8388. See Sharpe, Personal rule, pp.682-3, for the argument that such advice was merely meant to add spice to the letter; nonetheless, the privy council did seize private papers on several occasions in the 1630s; ibid, pp.655-8.

5. Scudamore to Williamson, 7 July 1666, 10 July and 13 November 1668, and Williamson’s list of his correspondents, 1667, P.R.O., SP29/161/137, fols. 238-9, SP29/242/193, fols. 287-8, SP29/249/78, fols. 118-19, SP29/231, fols. 83v-4r. The viscount’s son James also received Williamson’s newsletter, 25 June 1666, P.R.O., SP29/259/111, fol. 184

6. H.C.L., 647.1, ‘Scudamore MSS: Accounts 1635-37[8]’, fols. 16r, 57, 59-61, especially for letters of intelligence from Mons. E.P., Mons. Crew and Father Barnard alias Barrett.

7. See the letters from John Broughton to George More and from Thomas Chambers to Dr Davison passed on to Scudamore, P.R.O., C115/N9/8846-7, M24/7757, N5/8634-42.

8. Among the Scudamore papers are also a few newsletters received by other members of the family such as Sir John Scudamore (ob. 1623), Sir John Scudamore of Ballingham, 2nd Bt, and the second viscount; these are not mentioned here, but many can be found in B.L., Add. MS 11042 and P.R.O., C115/F1/2596, C115/M15-18, C115/N2/8505, 8516-17, 8519.

9. See Cust, ‘News’, p.62, for some thoughts on the definition and types of newsletter. I have not, for instance, included the well-known letters to Scudamore from Laud, (P.R.O., C115/M24/7758-63, 7765-76), which very occasionally include a line or two of news. The categories below are rather arbitrary. Several figures could be classified under two or more headings: Herbert was a life-long friend of Scudamore and, as master of the revels, a government official. In no way are these categories intended to represent a comprehensive classification of the newsletters; there are merely a convenient way of dividing the writers. Dates are given old style, except for letters from abroad and for the period of Scudamore’s embassy, which are in old and new style; in every case, however, the year is taken as beginning on 1 January.

These manuscript Newsletters also feature prominently in Ambition and failure in Stuart England: The career of John, first Viscount Scudamore by Ian Atherton (Manchester University Press, 1999) – please see pages 153-156 in particular.




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