The Private Correspondence of Jane Lady Cornwallis Bacon, 1613-1644
The letters of Jane Lady Cornwallis Bacon offer the story of a loving mother and devoted friend. Cumulatively, they provide an unfolding, sometimes self-dramatizing narrative, one which details the expansive life of a privileged woman and her family throughout the turbulent years of the early to mid-seventeenth century. The correspondents vary from close relations and friends, such as Lucy, Countess of Bedford, to distant cousins and to associates at the London court and in Europe. The letters enable us to share in the pleasures and disappointments that form a natural part of daily life, and we find, along with insights into social customs and attitudes to death, references to important personalities and the major political events of the time. The readiness of families such as this to write directly, rather than to dictate through secretaries, makes the literary outcome more personal and intimate, more expressive of inner feelings and shared sensibility. In consequence, the letters carry their own truth across the ages.
The correspondence was first transcribed and edited by Richard, third Lord Braybrooke, of Audley End, Essex. In 1842 he brought out a private edition limited to fifty copies, with just two hundred letters from over six hundred manuscript items found among family archives in the 1820s. This second edition, with a new comprehensive introduction, augments the original through the addition of forty-eight unpublished letters, and with hitherto unpublished poems in an appendix. It includes a proper balance of family and friends, with a representative sample from all correspondents and with women writers given a stronger presence. Apart from certain archaisms to preserve some flavor of contemporary style, these letters are modernized throughout. Biographical details are provided for the many people mentioned, and there is a full bibliography.
Complemented by extensive notes and sixteen illustrations, The Private Correspondence of Jane Lady Cornwallis Bacon, 1613-1644 constitutes a unique collection. It brings to life the interests and concerns of a family living in England before the Civil War, and gives insight into the complex yet recognizable relationships of an extended kinship network. These letters are made available to a wider readership for the first time, and thereby form a major contribution to our knowledge of Jacobean and Stuart family life.
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