"I KNOW I HAVE THE BODIE, BUT OF A WEAK AND FEEBLE WOMAN, BUT I HAVE THE HEART AND STOMACH OF A KING" (QUEEN ELIZABETH I): SCARCE FIRST EDITIONS OF PARTS I AND II OF A SEMINAL COLLECTION OF KEY CORRESPONDENCE FROM THE COURTS OF HENRY VIII, ELIZABETH I, JAMES I AND CHARLES I, FEATURING THE FIRST PUBLICATION OF ELIZABETH'S FAMED ARMADA SPEECH
(ELIZABETH I, HENRY VIII, JAMES I, CHARLES I, et al.). Cabala: Sive Scrinia Sacra. Mysteries of State & Government: in Letters of Illustrious Persons, and Great Agents; in the Reigns of Henry the Eighth, Queen Elizabeth, K: James, and the late King Charles. In Two Parts. London: G. Bedell and T. Collins, 1654. Two parts bound in one volume. Small quarto, period-style dark brown paneled calf, raised bands, all edges gilt. $3500.
First editions of both parts of this major collection of official correspondence from the courts of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I, featuring the first publication of Elizabeth's renowned Spanish Armada Speech (1588), a printing of Henry VIII's 1533 letter "Touching his Title of Supreme Head of the Church of England," and a letter from Ann Boleyn written from the Tower shortly before her execution, along with first or early printings of letters from James I, the Earl of Essex, Sir Walter Raleigh, the Archbishop of Canterbury, John Donne, Francis Bacon and other key figures in the often perilous tumult of court rivalries, religious furor and foreign intrigue.
This scarce volume contains first editions of Parts I (Cabala) and II (Scrinia Sacra… Supplement) of a major collection of more than 300 letters—official correspondence from the reigns of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, James I and Charles I—that includes many of the most "important state papers issuing from the English court" and provides fascinating insight into court rivalries, religious politics and foreign intrigue (Sir Walter Raleigh and his Colonie, 23n). Of particular interest is the first printing of Elizabeth's powerful Armada Speech, delivered by her at Tilbury (1588), present in a letter (circa 1624) from Doctor Leonel Sharp to the Duke of Buckingham (Cabala, pp. 257-262). As chaplain to the Queen's Lieutenant General, Sharp was present at Tilbury, and his transcription of the Queen's Armada Speech is of great import, for "nothing of it survives in her own handwriting. The speech was not published until 1654 [i.e. 1653, this edition], when a copy sent many years later by Sharp to the Duke of Buckingham was printed." Sharp's letter had been given by Buckingham to an anonymous collector; scholars have discovered only one other copy, which Sharp sent to the Queen. While debate remains on the Queen's sole or full authorship of the Armada Speech, most historians agree that Elizabeth "was speaking extempore, without notes… Sharp was the first person to commit her words to paper." As Sharp's transcription seems to have been "scribbled out as the Queen spoke," this first printing stands as a crucial record of "the inflections of Elizabeth's voice as she was delivering the words by which—thanks to Dr. Sharp—she will always be remembered" (Pryor, Elizabeth I: Her Life in Letters, 99).
Leading the Scrinia Sacra… Supplement is Henry VIII's letter "Touching his Title of Supreme Head of the Church of England," written in 1533, the year he was excommunicated by Pope Clement VII for divorcing Catherine of Aragon in order to marry Ann Boleyn. Henry's letter is followed by a 1536 letter to him from Boleyn [alt Bullen], written by her "from my dolefull [sic] prison in the Tower, this sixth of May," and pleading: "Try me, good King, but let me have a lawful trial, and let not my sworn enemies sit as my accusers and Judges." Two short weeks after her poignant letter, Ann Boleyn was executed—two and a half years after the birth of her daughter, Elizabeth, who was crowned queen in 1558.
This important volume's collection of letters is of vital interest to historians because "letters used in Renaissance historiography were, as Camden makes explicit, letters of state written by the participants in the events; they were not letters of news by reporters of those actions. The distinction is an important one. In the 17th century, the only published letter collections to present themselves as (adjuncts to) history without any narrative connective tissue were the letters of princes, statesmen, and important governmental administrators, single-author collections such as the letters of Francis Bacon and William Temple, and multiple-author collections of various statesmen such as Cabala, Mysteries of State (1653), whose preface submits that without letters 'all History must be lame and imperfect'" (Schneider, Culture of Epistolarity, 181). One of the few contemporary collections of that crucial age, this volume also features two letters from John Donne to George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham, who was a favorite of James I. The first of Donne's letters is dated September 13, 1621, shortly before Donne was installed as Dean of St. Paul's; the second, circa 1624, speaks of his presentation of a copy of Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (1624) to the Duke (314-15).
Also of key importance are letters from Elizabeth I, James I, and Charles I; the Earl of Essex, a favorite of Elizabeth I; Sir Francis Bacon, who served in the courts of Elizabeth I and James I; Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Robert Cecil and the Archbishop of Canterbury; Sir Dudley Carleton, whose name was linked to the Gunpowder Plot but went on to serve in the courts of James I and Charles I; and the Duke of Buckingham, a favorite of James I and mentor to the young Charles I. As articulated in the preface to the Cabala, in this collection "the great Ministers of State are presented naked… with more truth and sincerity then [sic] all the Annals can show." With separate title pages for Parts I and II, and with general title page, printed in red and black. Part I (Cabala) bound without publisher's advertisements at rear; Part II with pagination as issued of "160, 181-355" with page 255 misnumbered 355. ESTC R21971. Wing C184. See Wing C183, S2110. Owner ink stamp to upper margin of Part I title page.
Upper margin of general title repaired on verso, text mildly toned in places, occasional spotting and faint dampstaining. Period-style binding attractive and fine.