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Details & Cataloguing

English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations

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Serle, Ambrose
SERIES OF C.35 NEWSLETTERS, UNSIGNED, BUT IN SERLE'S HAND, TO AN UNNAMED LORD
reporting on American affairs, with extensive detail on the febrile political atmosphere in the colonies in the years before the War of Independence, such as non-importation schemes and their collapse, the smuggling of tea, the entangled commercial relationship between Britain and America, popular and legislative hostility to Britain, and the Boston Massacre ("...The attacks made by the Inhabitants upon the Soldiery do not seem to arise from accidental starts of passion, but from principle, sowered by disappointment and desperate through despair... The first blow is now unhappily struck: may some gentle Providence and wise Counsels ordain and direct it to be the last!...", 23 April 1770), repeatedly reporting on the hostility of various Indian tribes and also Spanish and French activities, c.96 pages, 4to, 1769-1770; [with:] a summary of the white, black and Indian populations in the American colonies and interior, 1774 (3 pages), "An abstract of the present state of South Carolina ... 1770" (3 pages), and "A List of the principal Sinecure Offices in North America and the West Indies" (3 pages); [also with:] 10 autograph letters signed, by Serle, to Clarendon, chiefly on American affairs, including criticisms of the evacuation of Philadelphia, c.29 pages, Maidenhead Thicket and elsewhere, 1779-1785
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Provenance

This is one of 22 lots that have been removed from Holywell House, Hampshire, the home of the Villiers family, Earls of Clarendon. They chiefly relate to the life and careers of two contemporaries: Henry Hyde, Viscount Cornbury (1710-53), and Thomas Villiers (1709-86), created successively Baron Hyde of Hindon (1756) and Earl of Clarendon (1776).

Cornbury was the last heir to the Earldom of Clarendon that had been created for the statesman and historian Edward Hyde (1609-1674). Cornbury had Jacobite sympathies but was MP for the University of Oxford – with which his family had powerful connections – from 1732 until 1751. He became disillusioned with politics in the later 1740s and spent his final years in France. Cornbury counted Pope and Swift amongst his friends, and was himself the author of pamphlets and at least two plays (see lots 6 and 7). He died, unmarried, in Paris in 1753. Most of Cornbury’s property was inherited by his niece, Charlotte (née Capel). Thomas Villiers, second son of the Earl of Jersey, was her husband. Villiers had spent the 1730s and ‘40s as a diplomat mostly in the German-speaking world (none of his diplomatic papers are included in this offering) and, following his retirement from the diplomatic service, he entered government in the 1760s. As Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (1771-82 and 1783-86), Clarendon was in Cabinet during the American War of Independence (see lots 14-19).

Catalogue Note

"...the dissensions and opposition of America to British Legislation and Taxation have for so many years engaged the public and ministerial attention..."

These newsletters were presumably written for Lord Hyde (later Earl of Clarendon), who was in the Cabinet as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Although unsigned, they were the work of the Ambrose Serle (1742-1812), as can be seen by comparison with the later letters by Serle to Clarendon also included in this lot. In 1769-70 Serle was a colonial official based in London so these letters are primarily anonymised summaries of despatches and secret intelligence.

English Literature, History, Children’s Books and Illustrations

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London