Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > Historical and Political Writings > Letters of Henrietta Maria and of Oliver Cromwell
  Thurloe’s State Papers Sir Dudley Digges; The Compleat Ambassador  

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The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

VIII. Historical and Political Writings.

§ 3. Letters of Henrietta Maria and of Oliver Cromwell.


The letters of queen Henrietta Maria, including her correspondence with the king, have been collated by Mrs. Everett Green from both the English and the French archives. Though, in the case of the daughter of Henri IV, everything turned to failure as, with him, most things ended in success, and, though, with the best of intentions, her efforts largely contributed to aggravate the misfortunes of her consort, she was a true daughter of the one, as she was, in another sense, the true wife of the other, king. Her letters have a style of their own, which, in the earlier among them, is accentuated by her pretty broken English. As the toils close round the king and she is perpetually urging him to burst through them, the letters to her “dear heart” gain in intensity what they lose in charm. The correspondence, which ought to have come to a close with her joyful message to her son on his restoration—“if you are torn to pieces in England with ‘kindness,’ I have my share of it also in France”—drags to a weary end, full of the miseries of money troubles and veiled personal mysteries which seem still not to have been quite set at rest.   5
  A few words may seem in place here on the letters, and the speeches, of Oliver Cromwell, which are alike familiar to modern readers in Carlyle’s subjective presentment. As Mrs. Lomas, the latest editor of these remains, puts the matter, Cromwell was an accurate writer; and this makes it both possible and desirable to restore the actual text of his letters. But the case is quite different with the speeches; here, we have only what Cromwell is reported to have said, sometimes taken down in shorthand only, and often under disadvantages of time and place.   6
  On the other hand, the frankness with which his thoughts are laid bare as his sense of responsibility to the Divine source of authority causes him to ignore all other considerations prevails more and more completely as the speeches progress; while such is not the case with the letters. On the contrary, some of the early letters, from the point of view of sincerity, are more “convincing” than a diplomatic communication to Mazarin or a mandate to Cambridge university. Yet, as a whole, Cromwell’s letters, which, when necessity obliged, were matter-of-fact and businesslike, are full of those touches of intimacy and those suggestions of individual conviction which give to a letter its true charm and its real force. Cromwell, if one may so put it, was a born letter-writer. Fairfax seems to have left to him the task of drawing up despatches to Speaker Lenthall describing victorious actions; and Carlyle and Gardiner agree that it was Cromwell himself who composed the fateful manifesto of the army to the city of London. Few more powerfully written state papers exist than the declaration of the lord lieutenant of Ireland (in reply to the Roman Catholic council of Kilkenny, 1650), though its account of earlier Irish history may be regarded as more than doubtful.  4  Nothing, in its way, could be more dignified than his message accepting the Oxford vice-chancellorship,  5  or, again, more broad-minded than his advice to his son Richard to recreate himself with “Sir Walter Raughley’s History.”  6  Among Cromwell’s speeches, it is a difficult task to select the most noteworthy. But it may not be amiss to direct attention to two of them, as typical of his treatment of some of the problems with which, in the course of his career, he found himself face to face. In the great speech to the Barebones parliament,  7  he raises a whole edifice of theory as to the eloquence of words and that of deeds; and the speech challenging the confidence of his own first parliament is an unmistakably able pronouncement, especially in reference to his own position.  8  Probably the most trustworthy text of any of his speeches is that of the speech against the Levellers, revised by himself as delivered in January, 1655.  9    7
  The value of ambassadorial despatches as materials of history was recognised at an early date. According to Bacon,  10  they are ad historiam pretiosissima supellex; and, in Sir George Carew’s introduction to his Relation of the State of France, addressed to James I on Carew’s return from his embassy to Henri IV,  11  the original letters and papers of leading actors in the management of affairs are described as “the only true and unerring sources of history.” But, though Sarpi (father Paul), the illustrious historian of the council of Trent (1619), by his use of materials of this nature, had already set an example which, before long, was to be followed by English historical writers, it had not occurred to the statesmen and diplomatists of the reigns of Elizabeth and James I to publish, or allow to be published, their “works” of this description; and, had it occurred to them, they would probably soon have been made to change their minds.   8
  It may be disputed whether the golden age of English diplomacy should be placed in the years in which the great queen was warily staving off, though she knew it to be inevitable, the critical struggle with Spain, or in the reign of her successor, confident, almost to the last, of his ability to gain by negotiation the European authority which he was unprepared to assert by the alternative method of blood and iron. But it is certain that few publications of diplomatic history have exercised a greater effect than one which was given to the world in 1654, when a new epoch was opening in English foreign policy and the protector’s military state, after asserting itself as the dominant great power of Europe, seemed about to become the head of a protestant alliance holding the balance in both hemispheres.  12    9

Note 4. Vol. II, pp. 5 ff. (Mrs. Lomas’s edition). [ back ]
Note 5. Vol. II, p. 180. [ back ]
Note 6. Vol. II, p. 54. [ back ]
Note 7. Vol. II, pp. 272 ff. [ back ]
Note 8. Vol. II, pp. 339 ff. [ back ]
Note 9. Vol. II, p. 405. [ back ]
Note 10De Augmentis (1623). [ back ]
Note 11. Printed in Birch’s Negotiations. [ back ]
Note 12. Cf. Stählin, K., Sir Francis Walsingham und seine Zeit (Heidelberg, 1908), vol. I, ad fin. [ back ]

CONTENTS · VOLUME CONTENTS · INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  Thurloe’s State Papers Sir Dudley Digges; The Compleat Ambassador  
 
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