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Forty years ago, Mr. Hallam, referring to an imperfect edition of the Paston Letters,' by Mr. Fenn, remarked that they alone supplied 'a precious link in the chain of the moral history of England.' These letters come to us as a track of continuous light,' in a century notoriously barren of literary effort, and help to develop not only the domestic, but the political history of England from A.D. 1422 to 1509. We are indebted to Mr. James Gairdner for as complete and clear an account of the Paston Correspondence as it is at present possible to obtain. This edition, completed in 1875, contains 400 additional letters, besides many interesting documents which are published for the first time. The following letter describes the capture and murder of the Duke of Suffolk, the most able of Henry the Sixth's counsellors.
William Lomner to John Paston.
May 5, 1450.
Ryght worchipfull Sir, I recomaunde me to yow, and am right sory of that I shalle sey, and have soo wesshe this litel bille with sorwfulle terys, that on ethes ye shalle reede it.
As on Monday nexte after May day there come tydyngs to London that on Thorsday before the Duke of Suffolk come unto the costes of Kent full nere Dover with his ij shepes and a litel spynner; the qweche spynner he sente with certyn letters to certyn of his trustid men unto Caleys warde, to knowe howe he shuld be resceyvyd; and with him mette a shippe callyd Nicolas of the Towre, with other shippis waytyng on hym, and by hem that were in the spynner, the maister of the Nicolas hadde knowlich of the Dukes comyng. And whanne he espyed the Dukes shepis he sente forthe his bote to wete what they were, and the Duke hymselfe spakke to hem, and seyd he was be the Kyngs comaundement sent to Caleys ward, &c.
And soo he,
And they seyd he most speke with here master. with ij or iij of his men, wente forth with hem yn here bote to the Nicolas; and whanne he come, the master badde him 'Welcom, Traitor,' as men sey; and forther the maister desyryd to wete yf the shepmen wolde holde with the duke, and they sent word they wold not yn noo wyse; and soo he was yn the Nicolas tyl Saturday next folwyng.
Soom sey he wrotte moche thenke to be delyverd to the Kynge, but that is not verily knowe. He hadde his confessor with hym. And some sey he was arreyned yn in the sheppe on here maner upon the appechements and fonde gylty.
Also he asked the name of the sheppe, and whanne he knewe it, he remembred Stacy that seid, if he myght eschape the daunger of the Towr he should be saffe; and thanne his herte faylyd him, for he thowghte he was desseyvyd, and yn in the syght of all his men he was drawyn ought of the grete shippe yn to the bote; and ther was an exe, and a stoke, and oon of the lewdeste of the shippe badde him ley down his hedde, and he should be fair ferd wyth, and dye on a swerd; and toke a rusty swerd, and smotte of his hedde withyn halfe a doseyn strokes, and toke away his gown of russet, and dobelette of velved mayled, and leyde his body on the sonds of Dover; and some sey his hedde was set oon a pole by it, and hes men sette on the londe be grette circumstaunce and preye. And the shreve of Kent doth weche the body, and sent his under shreve to the juges to wete what to doo, and also to the Kynge whatte shalbe doo. Forther I wotte nott, but this fer is that yf the proces be erroneous, lete his concell reverse it.
Sir Thomas Keriel is taken prisoner and alle the legge harneyse, and aboute iij. m1· (3000) Englishe men slayn.'
Mathew Gooth with xve (1500) fledde, and sayvd hym selfe and hem; and Peris Brusy was cheffe capteyn, and hadde xml (10,000) Frenshe men and more. I prey you lete my mastras your moder knowe these tydingis, and God have you all in his kepyn. I prey you this bille may recomaunde me to my mastrases your moder and wyfe.
Wretyn yn gret hast at London the v. day of May.
Reference to a battle fought near Caen during the French war. Our troops sent to the aid of the Duke of Somerset in Normandy were defeated.
Henry VI., after a period of mental derangement, recognises his infant son, Edward, Prince of Wales.
Edmund Clere to John Paston.
January 9, 1455.
Right welbeloved cosyn,-I recomaund me to you, latyng you wite such tidings as we have.
Blessed be God, the King is wel amended, and hath ben syn Cristemesday, and on Seint Jones day comaunded his awmener to ride to Caunterbury with his offryng, and comaunded the secretarie to offre at Seint Edwards.
And on the Moneday after noon the Queen came to him, and brought my Lord Prynce with her. And then he askid what the Princes name was, and the Queen told him Edward; and then he hild up his hands and thankid God therof. And he seid he never knew til that tyme, nor wist not what was seid to him, nor wist not where he had be, whils he hath be seke til now. And he askid who was godfaders, and the Queen told him, and he was well apaid.
And she told him that the Cardinal1 was dede, and he seid he knew never thereof til that tyme; and he seid oon of the wisist Lords in his land was dede.
And my Lord of Wynchestr and my Lord of Seint Jones were with him on the morrow after Tweltheday, and he speke to hem as well as ever he did; and when thei come out thei wept for joye. And he seith he is in charitee with all the world, and so he wold all the Lords were. And now he seith matyns of Our Lady and evesong, and herith his Masse devoutly; and Richard shall tell yow more tidings by mouth.
I pray yow recomaund me to my Lady Morley and to Maister Prior, and to my Lady Felbrigge and to my Lady Hevenyngham, and to my cosyn your moder, and to my cosyn your wife. Wreten at Grenewich on Thursday after Twelftheday
Be your cosyn.
1 John Kemp, Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury and Chancellor, who died nine months before the date of this letter.
If the style of correspondence of the Public-School boy of the fifteenth century was more finished than it is to-day, the subject-matter seems much the same: viz., money, clothes, and
William Paston, junior, to his brother, John Paston.
[Written from Eton College.]
Nov. 7, 1478.
Ryght reverent and worchepful brodyr,-I recomaunde me on to you, desyrynge to here of yowre welfare and prosperite; letynge yow wete that I have resevyd of Alwedyr a lettyr, and a nobyll in gowlde therin. Ferthermor my creansyr1 Mayster Thomas, hertely recomandyd hym to yow, and he praythe yow to sende hym sum mony for my comons; for he seythe ye be xxtis. [twenty-two shillings] in hys dette, for a monthe was to pay for when he had mony laste.
Also I beseche yow to sende me a hose clothe, one for the halydays of sum colore, and anothyr for the workyng days, how corse so ever it be it makyth no matyr; and a stomechere, and ij schyrtes, and a peyer of sclyppers. And if it lyke yow that I may come with Alwedyr be watyr, and sporte me with yow in London a day or ij thys terme tyme, than ye may let all thys be tyl the tyme that I come, and than I wol telle yow when I schall be redy to come from Eton, by the grace of God, Whom have yow in Hys kepyng.
Wretyn the Saturday next aftyr All Halown Day with the hand of your brodyr,
The Viscount Lovell here referred to was one of the adherents of Richard III., who was attainted on the accession of Henry VII. An unsuccessful conspirator on his own account, he fought on the side of the impostor Lambert Simnel, at the battle of Stoke A.D. 1487, and is said to have been drowned in the river Trent while beating a retreat from the royalist troops.
Margaret, Countess of Oxford, to John Paston.
To my right trusti and welbiloved John Paston,
May 19, 1486.
Right trusti and welbiloved,-I recomaund me urto you. And for as moche as I am credebly enfourmed that Fraunceis, late Lorde Lovell, is now of late resorted into the Yle of Ely, to the entente by alle lykelyhod, to finde the waies and meanes to gete him shipping and passage in your costes or ellis to resorte ageyn to seintuary, if he can or maie; I therfor hertily desire praie yow, and neverthelesse, in the Kinges name streitly chargie you that ye in all goodly haste endevore your self that such wetche or other meanes be used and hadde in the poorts, and creks, and othre places wher ye thinke necessary by your discrecion, to the letting of his seid purpose; and that ye also use all the waies ye can or maie by your wisdom to the taking of the same Lorde Lovell. And what pleasur ye maie do to the Kingis Grace in this matier, I am sure, is not to you unknowen. And God kepe you. Wretyn at Lavenham, the xix day of May.
This very curious letter is printed in the Camden Society's
Margaret, Queen of Henry VI., to Dame Jane Carew.
BY THE QUEEN.
Right dere and welbeloved, we grete you well; and, for as moch as oure trusty and welbeloved Squier, Thomas Burneby,
Daughter of Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury and sister of Richard, Earl of Warwick.