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EDWARD VILLIERS, Ist EARL OF JERSEY from the Portrait by HYACINTHE RYGAULT now at Middleton Park

(By kind permission of the Earl of Jersey)

A STUDY OF HIS PUBLIC CAREER

AND CORRESPONDENCE

BY

L. G. WICKHAM LEGG

FELLOW AND TUTOR OF NEW COLLEGE

OXFORD

CAMBRIDGE
AT THE UNIVERSITY PRESS

PREFACE

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HIS sketch of Matthew Prior's public life has been

put together under many difficulties. It owes its existence to a suggestion put forward by Professor Firth, to whom I take this opportunity of tendering my thanks for much advice and encouragement. Arrangements had been made for its publication in a slightly larger form in 1915, but the outbreak of war brought all work

upon

it to a close, and it is now only possible to put to it a few finishing touches. After so great an interval it is not easy to pick up threads dropped six years ago, and the book must therefore go forth as it stands.

As a writer of light verse, Prior stands second to none in the Augustan age of English literature, but it is only recently that attention has been drawn to him as a writer of prose of unusual excellence. The discoveries made by Mr Waller at Longleat, and the scattered fragments of his voluminous correspondence which have been printed in the Historical MSS. Commission reports and in private collections have brought this aspect of Prior into greater prominence, and the printed material has been fully used by Mr Bickley in his excellent Life of Matthew Prior. But in addition to printed sources, there are masses of letters, of varying value, both in the Record Office and in private hands and from these it is possible to reconstruct in detail and to value the work done by Prior in the diplomatic service. It is true that his influence on public affairs may not have been great, and it is probable that his enemies exaggerated it, but his papers enable us to judge some of the matters of hottest dispute in the party politics of the first quarter of the eighteenth century, and to judge the responsibility of the accused in the charges brought by the Whigs against the Tory ministry of Harley and St John. Little therefore will be found

in this book by way of criticism of Prior's poetical work. At the same time, in order that the reader may appreciate the poet's skill in prose, it has been thought right to allow Prior's correspondence to speak for itself as far as possible.

The Secretary of the Syndics of the University Press has laid the devotees of Prior under a heavy load of obligation in recent years, and the Syndics might well have been expected to take the view that at their Press, he should have no successor in work relating to Prior. It is therefore no merely formal expression of thanks that I now make to them for their kindness in accepting this work for publication. I have also to thank the officers of the State Archives at The Hague for facilities given to me when working among their records, and more especially to the authorities of the Archives of the French Foreign Office where, with a courtesy worthy of the traditions of French diplomacy, I was allowed to consult the papers dealing with “Mat's Peace" and the attempted Stuart restoration. I have also to express my thanks to the Marquess of Bath, K.G., for allowing me to print the extracts from one of his MSS, which will be found in Appendix C.

Last, but by no means least, I have to thank the Earl of Jersey for the readiness with which he renewed the permission given me by the Earl his father to use and print extracts from the papers now at Middleton Park, as well as for the privilege of reproducing Rygault's portrait of the first Earl, which has only recently been rediscovered. And I should also like to acknowledge the encouragement I have received from the kindly interest taken in the book by the Dowager Countess of Jersey.

L. G. W. L,

OXFORD

March 1921

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