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The whole narrative will be coloured by the conviction of the writer that these suspicions were either well or ill founded. Yet hitherto there has been no possibility of penetrating, except by casual glimpses, behind the veil of Charles's privacy. What evidence has been forthcoming was too scattered and incoherent to convince those who were not half-convinced already. Though even now much remains dark, considerable light has been thrown upon the secrets of Charles's policy by the copies, now in the Record Office, of the correspondence of Rossetti, the Papal Agent at the Court of Henrietta Maria, with Cardinal Barberini. The originals are preserved in the Barberini Palace, where the agents of the Record Office were permitted, by the courtesy of the librarian, Don Sante Pieralisi, to make the copies of them which have stood me in such good stead. I do not know any literary service for which I have had reason to be more profoundly grateful than that which was performed by these gentlemen by directions from the authorities at the Record Office, and of which I and my readers have been the first to reap the benefit.
Scarcely less is the gratitude which I feel to the late Mr. RAWDON BROWN, through whose kindness a great part of the Venetian despatches relating to this period were copied and sent to the Record Office. Those thus forwarded by him are referred to in these volumes as Venetian Transcripts. The few with which I became acquainted through my own exertions are quoted as Venetian MSS.
Of less importance only than these authorities are the French despatches in the National Library at Paris or in the Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Dutch despatches and the letters of Salvetti, the agent of the Grand Duke of Tuscany, copies of which are to be found in the British Museum. References to other MSS. in that collection will be found in their proper place. The recently acquired Nicholas Papers have
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already been of considerable service, and will probably be even more useful at a later period. It will be understood that where the name of a printed tract is followed by the letter E. and a number, the reference is to the press-mark of the Thomason tracts in the Museum. A number without the preceding letter. is a reference to the press-mark of other tracts in the same library.
Outside the walls of our two national repositories, I have, with considerable advantage, had access, through the kind permission of the Library Committee at Guildhall, to the records of the Common Council of the City of London. Something too has been gained from the Register House and the Advocates' Library at Edinburgh. In the latter is to be found a full account of the proceedings of the Scottish Commissioners in London during the first months of 1641, which seems to have escaped the notice of Scottish antiquarians. Of a very different character are the Verney MSS. preserved at Claydon. After the close of 1639, when Mr. BRUCE's selection, published by the Camden Society, ends, the correspondence of the Verney family deals less directly with public affairs, and there are therefore fewer extracts quoted from them in the latter part of these volumes than in the former. But it would be a great mistake to measure the historical value of this correspondence by the number of references to it in these pages. After reading such a 'mass of letters from men and women of very different characters and in various positions in society, the mind of an historian becomes saturated with the thoughts and ideas of the time, in a way which is most helpful to him, though he may not be making even a mental reference to the writers of the letters themselves, or to the subjects which interest them. No words of mine could adequately express my feeling of the kindness with which I have been received at Claydon by Sir HARRY and LADY VERNEY, and of the liberality with which they regard their possession of
these inestimable treasures as a trust committed to them for the benefit of all who know how to make use of them.
In one quarter only have I found any difficulty in procuring access to MSS. of importance. I regret that Lord FITZWILLIAM has not considered it to be consistent with his duty to allow me to see the Strafford correspondence preserved at Wentworth Woodhouse. On the other hand, the extracts from two unpublished Strafford letters preserved at Melbourne, which will be found at the opening of chapter lxxxix., will probably be regarded, by others as well as by myself, as being full of interest; and I have been glad to be able to assign without doubt (p.199) the authorship of the petition of the twelve peers to Pym and St. John, and to state (p. 273), in opposition to my former opinion, who were the personages with whom Henrietta Maria held secret interviews in February 1641.
It would not be becoming to enter into a criticism of modern writers, as the points at issue could only be made intelligible at far greater length than I have here at my disposal; but as it has been necessary in the interests of truth to speak clearly on the extreme carelessness of some of Mr. FORSTER's work, I should not like to be considered to be without sense of the high services rendered by him to students of this period of history, especially in quickening an intelligent interest in the events of the seventeenth century. Nor will it, I trust, be presumptuous in me to record my admiration of the thoroughness and accuracy of the work of Mr. SANDFORD and Professor Masson. I have thought it due to their high reputation to point out in every case the few inaccuracies in matters of fact which I have detected, excepting where the fault lay in their not having before them evidence which has been at my disposal. I have little doubt that if my work were subjected to as careful revision it would yield a far greater crop of errors.
Unfortunately after May 1641 is reached, I have no longer
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the benefit of Mr. HAMILTON's calendar of the Domestic State Papers. Happily for me he had achieved the greater part of his work before I outstripped him in my lighter labours. After the opening of the Long Parliament the State Papers decrease in volume and interest.
I cannot conclude without especially thanking Mr. REGINALD PALGRAVE, whose great knowledge of the documents relating to the history of the time has enabled him to supply me with most valuable corrections and suggestions.