April-December 1844

The Collected Letters, Volume 18


TC TO LADY ASHBURTON ; 29 December 1844; DOI: 10.1215/lt-18441229-TC-LAAL-01; CL 18: 302-305


Chelsea, 29 decr, 1844—

Dear Lady Ashburton,

I have to return you many thanks for your kind present of Game. The brace of Hares, the beautiful pair of Pheasants—they have fallen into the hands of their enemies, they will never see the light of the Sun in Grange Woods any more!— When you are writing to Longleat, and have a Cover that is light-loaded, you can introduce this accompanying sheet for Lady Bath. I searched out the matter for my own sake; and have written a Copy of it for yours.

We are beyond measure busy here;—sunk in Colds &c withal. My Wife has been prisoner these four weeks, ever since the Frost began; I too, at length, imprudently gave way.

Mr Baring called here yesterday, but unluckily found nothing; I mean to go to Stanhope Street today, and try whether I can find anything.

With many kind regards to Lord Ashburton many kind remembrances to the heterodox Miss Baring and her Sister1

I remain always / Most truly yours

T. Carlyle


Sir James Thynne Knt, of Longleat, sat in the Long Parliament for Wilts. In D'Ewes's Ms Journal of that Parliament, fol. 637 a (now among the Harley Mss in the British Museum), stands this entry:

‘Tuesday, 1 june 1641.— Upon Mr Cromwell's motion it was ordered that ‘Sir James Thinne should be here on Friday next, to shew cause concerning his Brother.’

On searching the matter farther, I find that this Sir James had two younger Brothers; one a full Brother, Thomas, who succeeded him in the Estates, whose son (also Thomas) made important improvements, avenues &c, in the grounds at Longleat, and is the same Thomas Thynne who was assassinated in his Carriage on London Streets in 1682. The other younger Brother of Sir James was Henry Frederic Thynne, a half-brother (by a different mother): he, the old Dryasdust Peerages inform me, had Queen Anne of Denmark, James the First's Queen, for godmother; ‘the christening was 1 March 1613–4,’ and she gave him the name Frederick because it was her Father the King of Denmark's. It is of this Henry Frederick that the present Family descend. It is of him that the above Entry in D'Ewes's Journal treats; he is the ‘Brother,’ whom, on Oliver Cromwell's motion, Sir James Thynne the Hon. Member is ordered to come and ‘shew cause concerning.’ ‘On Friday next’; that was the order;—but there came nothing of it ‘on friday next’; nothing definite comes till the 20th of july next, when in D'Ewes's Ms—again (folio 7920.) there is this Notice, sufficiently explanatory of the affair:

‘Tuesday, 20 july, 1641. The case was in debate between Sir James Thynne, eldest son of Sir Thomas Thynne deceased, and Sir H. F. Thynne younger (youngest) son of the said Sir Thomas. There had been a suit between them in the Court of Wards, for two years past, concerning certain lands in the possession of the Younger Brother. The elder Brother being to find his office (I have no notion what this means; but it is repeatedly mentioned, ‘find his office,’ and is clearly some law-operation analogous to taking seisin &c), had often moved for the Younger to bring in the Writings for those Lands; and had gotten near upon twenty several Orders to that effect: and the younger Brother had as many orders to hold the possession. (A complicated Lawsuit!)

‘Since this Parliament began, there was one Order made (in the Court of Wards, namely) that the said writings should be brought in by the Younger, and that the possession of the Lands should still continue in him. Now Sir James Thynne, being a Member of this House, had taken advantage of the first part of the same (said) Order; and had copied out divers of the Writings which were brought into the same (said) Court (of Wards, to wit). But as to the second part of the same Order, whereby his Brother's possessions were to be continued to him, that he would avoid, by alledging his privilege in this House (He cannot be arrested, compelled by constables &c; he pleads this in the Court of Wards). By which doing, many of the House (Oliver Cromwell, for one) conceived he did unjustly: and the question was Whether the Privilege of the House should extend to this particular or not? It was argued long; and when we were ripe for the question, it was moved by three or four, That the affair might be referred to a Committee to set it right and report.’ ‘Myself and others moved to put the question super totam materiam [above all other matters]; for “referring” such questions was only to bring on a new discussion at the Report. I said: “Were it my case, I should say to the Gentlemen below (and then I looked at Sir James Thynne who sat a little beneath me on the same form), I would not use the privilege.” But Sir James Thynne, having made divers friends in the House'—was inclined to have his Committee, and on a division of the House, got it (see Commons Journals II.217); Cromwell is one of the Committee, Whitlocke, Hyde (Clarendon), Culpepper &c are others.2

This is the record by D'Ewes concerning ‘the affair of Sir James Thynne,’ which meets one now and then in those old regions of inquiry. As the County was just about breaking out into much graver ‘affairs,’ and ‘law-suits’ not to be settled except by sharp steel,—as the Court of Wards itself was abolished; and as both Sir James and Sir Henry Frederick went off, next year, to join King Charles,—I conclude that their law-suit fell asleep, and was never settled at all. Both of them had to ‘compound for their estates’ as vanquished Delinquents when the civil war was over,—Sir Henry Frederick, especially, did not get the business ended for ten years afterwards, and, I think, was in a kind of trouble all along till the Restoration. What ‘laws’ it was that these two Brothers were in suit about,—this, and the whole particulars of their Estates generally, and of the Delinquent Percentages and Penalties they had to pay on them in settling with the Commonwealth, are all still to be found (rather in orderly condition, I believe) in Her Majesty's State-Paper Office,—were it worth anybody's while to inquire. What the litigated ‘lands’ were is of the less moment, as they all came together again into the Family, and are now peaceably possessed, I suppose, by the same. Sir James had no male descendants; he entailed his properties upon the children of his Brother Thomas; failing which line, upon those of his Brother Henry Frederick,—who, as it proves, has a lineal successor in the present Marquess of Bath.

This old glimpse of the Thynne Family and its affairs was of a certain small significance to me, because Oliver Cromwell in the summer of 1641 entertained in his mind a wish to see justice done in respect of it. If in any other point of view, it can have any small or smallest significance to other parties interested, it is much at their service.


London, 29 decr, 1844—