The Diary Network in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century England

Eras Journal – McKay, E: “The Diary Network in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century England”

The Diary Network in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century England
Elaine McKay
(Queens University, Belfast)

The early modern period saw the beginning and increasing popularity of the diary as a personal document in England. During the course of the period we can estimate the number of surviving diary manuscripts at around three hundred and sixty-three, most of which were catalogued by William Matthews in his work on British Diaries.[1] Approximately twenty diaries have survived from the sixteenth century which would appear to highlight a noticeable upturn in diary keeping during the period 1600-1700. The appearance and spread of diaries in the early modern period was the product of certain cultural factors and, as shall be suggested below, the influence of one individual upon another giving encouragement to keep a personal account of one’s life. It will be argued that in some cases the habit of keeping a diary tended to beget other diaries. One diarist may have shared the idea of his or her personal hobby with acquaintances who in turn inspired their friends to take up pen and record their own lives on a daily basis. The examples of this networking, or interconnection, are offered here because it may interest some historians to see that many of these primary sources were linked in various ways.

Two principal factors influenced the growth of diary writing in this period: firstly a gradual increase in literacy amongst the population during the course of the seventeenth century. According to David Cressy, from a literacy rate of twenty percent amongst men and five percent amongst women during the latter part of the sixteenth century, literacy grew by a further ten percent for men and five percent for women during the course of the seventeenth century. This rise was not spectacular but research carried out by historians such as Dagmar Friest, Leslie Shepard, Margaret Spufford and Joad Raymond has highlighted England’s burgeoning literary trade with thousands of chapbooks, ballads and, from the civil war years onwards, newsbooks. With more people equipped with the skills to write, with greater access to printed literature, and perhaps influenced by reading accounts of events and characters of the leading men of the times, keeping a personal account of one’s life may have become a popular pastime. Secondly, diary writing was stimulated by a growing ‘self-awareness’ amongst the population of England during the course of the seventeenth century. Scholars such as Roy Porter, amongst others, places diary writing amongst the factors pointing to a growing individualism in European societies from the Renaissance period. [2] Other factors include portraiture, biography and humanism. This individualism was most notable amongst those styled as ‘Puritans’. The onus placed upon individual thought and self-awareness was disseminated through the public psyche by the preaching of the Puritan ideology of individual responsibility for salvation. Historians such as William Haller have highlighted the importance placed upon keeping a diary as a spiritual record or account book of sins, good works and daily meditations. According to Haller ‘the diary …became the Puritan substitute for the confessional…the substance of many [diaries] and the fact of their having been kept are apparent in the mass of biographical writing which rapidly accumulated as the Puritan movement progressed.’[3] Another factor in the rising popularity of diary writing during the seventeenth century was the periods of conflict which English people experienced in their land during the course of the century. The civil war years of the 1640s, the subsequent Royalist rebellions during the 1650s and the Glorious Revolution brought war into the midst of England’s society. Those who participated as soldiers took part in events which deeply affected both their local communities and the nation as a whole. During those conflicts the numbers of diaries written increased noticeably. Overall seventy-two diaries were written by soldiers and sailors during times of conflict which makes their professions collectively the most prolific of diary writers.[4] As with Paul Delany’s theory that people feel the need to record their personal participation in great events, the soldier, unaware of what his fate might be, felt the urge to transfer his experiences onto paper. Such a record would also have served as a means to refresh his memory after the conflict was over or serve as a testament of his actions should he be killed. Ultimately, as James Fretwell wrote, the diary as well as the autobiography, enabled soldiers ‘by their writings…to enjoy a sort of immortality upon earth, by having their memories honoured by succeeding generations who never saw their faces in the flesh.’ [5]

This article suggests another reason for the growth of diary writing during the early modern period; that people influenced one another to keep diaries. The idea of writing this article is the result of trawling through the numerous diaries of the early modern period which have managed to survive the rigours of time, and noticing that many of the diarists shared connections. During the course of research into diary writing in early modern England it became apparent that a form of network existed between many of the diarists who wrote during the sixteenth, and principally the seventeenth centuries. This network, or community of diarists, existed on various levels. Quite often one diarist mentioned another diarist as a friend or correspondent. This diary network may be broadly split into two sections. Firstly there are instances where diarists knew one another, in some cases encouraging one another, or setting an example, in diary writing. Secondly, there were other diarists who did not meet or know one another personally, but mention other diarists in their diary, perhaps as an inspiration or as someone of importance.

Interest in diary writing for the modern reader may lie in the fact that the diary breaks history down to the level of the individual. From diaries historians are given an immeasurably valuable insight into life during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; the work, games, religion, relationships, sickness and general struggle of life. Margaret Willy advocates the use of diaries in historical research because, for ‘the re-creation of a past age the diarists are perhaps our richest source of detail: not only in the major historical events and personalities they depict, but in their social background of manners and morals, contemporary tastes and fashions in recreation and dress’.[6] Historians have made good use of diaries in their search for the words, deeds and tastes of the individuals who made up early modern society. Ralph Houlbrook in particular has advanced our knowledge of family life during this period by using diaries as evidence for contemporary views on marriage, child rearing and death within the family.[7]

From where did this literary genre spring, and why did it become more popular during the seventeenth-century? The exact origins of the diary are not clear. Peter Burke informs us that diaries have been found in Japan dating from the eleventh-century. Similar autobiographical works have been discovered in India dating from the sixteenth-century and China from the twelfth-century. [8] While it is highly unlikely that such sources had any influence upon the rise of the Western diary and autobiography it is interesting to note that the urge to record personal histories is by no means an exclusively Western phenomenon. For the European history of the diary we can claim origins in the biographical works of ancient Rome and Greece. The idea of recording a testament of one’s own life on paper in imitation of the works on historical figures by eminent writers, such as Suetonius or Plutarch, must have held some considerable appeal to the literate, well educated classes of Renaissance and early modern Europe. Thus we must regard the twin aspects of increasing levels of literacy and increasing quantities of printed material as having enormous influence upon the development of diary writing and autobiography in general.

The appearance of diaries in the early modern period was the product of certain cultural factors. Diaries did not spring from an increase in literacy fully-grown, though without a certain proportion of the population having the requisite literary skills the growth and development of the genre would have been seriously curtailed. Many early modern diaries have survived to the present day. The most comprehensive catalogue to date on British diaries is that by William Matthews.[9] He lists, chronologically, 328 diaries from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland between 1442 and 1700. From this number approximately 280 are English and it is these which constitute the sample for this work. I have also contacted 35 public record offices and libraries throughout England and have counted a further 74 manuscripts of English diaries which have come to light since Matthews completed his work. Alongside this I have noted nine printed diaries which Matthews missed when compiling his list, or which have been newly published since 1950. This produces a total of 363 possible English diaries. According to the chronological list compiled by Matthews, the earliest surviving British diary was written in 1442 before the invention of the printing press.[10] No other surviving diary has come to light for this period. The next surviving diary was written 47 years later in 1489, after the invention of the printing press but perhaps too soon for the press to have made much of an impact upon literacy levels.[11] These two diaries are all we have for the fifteenth century, yet their existence encourages us to believe that more were written but unfortunately did not survive. This is a great loss to us. It would have been incredibly useful to have examined the contents of other such early diaries and compare them to those written during the latter part of the early modern period when printed works were more accessible and the public more literate. The surviving fifteenth-century diaries are essentially formal court records written during specific diplomatic missions, one to France and the later diary to Spain. Public and diplomatic diaries were clearly an established literary genre in England before the seventeenth century.

The title of ‘diary’ for all of the documents discussed in this sample is slightly erroneous. Writers of the period used ‘diary’, ‘journal’,’account-book’ and ‘diurnal’ to describe these works, yet the basic format of their writing was the same or at least similar. Some writers used the term ‘diary’ and ‘journal’ interchangeably, for example Samuel Pepys often mentioned writing in his ‘diary’ but would also write: ‘Lord’s Day…I up and set down my Journall’.[12] A number of diarists appear to have opted for ‘journal’ as a descriptive title for their personal writing. In many cases when examining printed diaries it is impossible to know whether the diarist wrote the title of ‘journal’ or ‘diary’ originally himself. The inclusion of the word ‘diary’ or ‘journal’ may in fact have come from the editor rather than the original manuscript, in which case the definition of the term may derive from a more modern source than the original author. The concept of a diary or journal may have meant something very different to a Victorian editor and a seventeenth century diarist. For Arthur Ponsonby, writing at the beginning of the twentieth century, there was a clear difference between diary and journal. According to him ‘the word Journal should be reserved for the purely objective historical or scientific records, and the word Diary for the personal memoranda, notes and expressions of opinion’. [13] Yet, as shown above, contemporary diaries from the early modern period tend to show that the words journal and diary were often interchangeable. It is entirely possible that since diary writing was still a relatively new genre by the seventeenth century, there was no clearly defined interpretation of what exactly the two terms meant and whether there was any significant difference between them.

The diary is essentially an autobiographical work, yet it should not be confused with an autobiography. An autobiography and a diary are clearly different. Dean Ebner has made the important point that an autobiography is a ‘life-review’, in which the individual undertakes an autobiography as an exercise in examining one’s personal life history.[14] It is essentially retrospective, while the diary is written as life proceeds. The diary tries to keep pace with the individual’s life and the reader does not expect the same level of retrospective analysis in a diary that would be found in an autobiography. According to A. Girard ‘a diary is not an autobiography, it does not pretend to be a study of life, it merely gives what the author wants to tell of life, and the development of his thoughts’.[15] Thus, while the diary can be classified as autobiographical writing, it is distinct from the ‘autobiography’ as it is undertaken in a different manner. In the diary there is less room for retrospection; the problems and worries of daily life which concern the diarist are past history for the autobiographer. For Linda Pollock the ‘pure’ diary consisted of ‘the outflow of the spontaneous impulse to record experience as such and so preserve it’.[16] Élisabeth Bourcier also finds the diary a spontaneous genre. For her the difference between the autobiography and the diary is that the diary ‘writes about the moment and ignores the future, it knows nothing of tomorrow’. [17] The essence of the diary is thus to record life as it is lived, yet as we shall see some ‘diaries’ were editions of earlier personal accounts put together selectively and giving the author’s version of his or her life. As Pollock concedes, the diarists did select, either consciously or unconsciously, the information which they recorded. [18]

This overview of the subject has set out the historical context in which we must view early modern diaries. Yet such facts and figures do not bring us any closer to the real people who wrote diaries. Family ties, such as the Woodforde family from Winchester, the Newdigates from Warwickshire, the Isham family from Northamptonshire or the Winthrop family from Suffolk, often connected diarists. All of these families passed the tradition of diary-writing through generations. Again, some individuals appear to have formed themselves into a community, within which diary writing was a common hobby. The most notable example of this type of diary community was a collection of Presbyterian ministers in Lancashire and Yorkshire, all writing during the persecution years of the 1660s and 1670s. As stated above, the purpose of this brief study is to suggest that the habit of keeping a diary tended to influence others to imitate this practice and begin their own diaries. One diarist may have shared the idea of his or her personal hobby with acquaintances who in turn inspired their friends to take up pen and record their own lives on a daily basis. In the case of families a child could be inspired to emulate a parent’s habit of diary writing. John Evelyn confessed that he began to keep a diary because: ‘of what I had seene my Father do, I began to observe matters more punctualy, which I did use to set down in a blanke Almanac’.[19]

The frequency of connections may allude to the fact that many people with sufficient education decided to keep a diary. It has already been noted that diaries were not by any means confined to certain areas of the country, and diary writing was not confined to one particular profession of people. The numbers of diarists who either knew one another or had some connection with one another gives force to the argument that, at least by the seventeenth century, diarists were not simply lone individuals who had tapped into new ideas on self-expression all by themselves. Instead they were part of a general trend which was being spread across the country through educational, religious and familial networks. Haller referred to the growth of the spiritual notebook during this time and the printed works which encouraged the faithful to record their spiritual journey in diary form.[20] Works such as Isaac Ambrose’s Prima: The First Things in Relation to the Middle and Last Things, published in 1674, spoke of the importance of the diary for a Christian and set an example of proper subject matter by including excerpts of his spiritual diary.[21] It is clear that the concept of keeping a diary was being spread throughout the population both by printed works and for some people, most notably Puritans, through the pulpit as ministers encouraged their congregations to follow the example set by godly men such as Ambrose.

However it is possible that the number of connections may instead point to the existence of small self-contained communities of diarists. The geographical spread of diarists across the country would have limited the contact between diarists from, say, London and Manchester. Not surprisingly, the diarists who appear to have been connected normally came from the same geographical locality, the same university, or shared the same profession. It is improbable that there was a national diary network which connected all diarists into a form of literary community. Instead the most likely explanation for the connections lies not simply in the fact that diary writing had become, by the seventeenth century, a literary trend but that most connections existed within established social, familial or religious groups making up small networks across the country within which people influenced one another. As will be discussed below, some people were inspired to keep a diary because others of their social circle were diarists. In other cases it would appear that diarists moved in the same circle of friends without knowing that they were mixing with fellow diarists. [22]

The connections between diarists existed on two levels. Firstly, and most importantly for this work, connections existed between a number of diarists who were aware of the existence of one another’s diaries. They may have discussed diary writing or have encouraged one another to take up diary writing. On another level connections existed between diarists on a more co-incidental level where the diarists may not even have met. In such cases neither diarist appears to have been aware of the other’s diary and diary writing did not form any basis for their connection, as far as we know. These diarists tended to have been connected by co-incidental ties such as family, friendship or even that one diarist had heard of the other by, for example, reading the other’s diary though they had never met. Thus connections existed, but no example has come to light of a formally organised, coherent network of diarists. Connections existed, but were for the most part accidental and were mostly based upon other factors than diary keeping. Yet the fact that such connections existed at all and existed so widely amongst diarists is a fascinating discovery.

To begin with, the most well known friendship between diarists of this period was that which existed between Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn. Both were members of the Royal Society, a society founded in the 1660s to engage in scientific experiments, debate and promote learning, and, although they were by no means close friends, during the years of Pepys’ diary at least, they frequently recorded their meetings and compliments for one another in their diaries. Evelyn held the post of Commissioner for the Sick and Wounded, a post which brought him into the same professional sphere as Pepys during the Dutch conflict of the 1660s. Pepys mentioned a scheme of his in 1666 to get Evelyn into the Navy office as a Commissioner, so obviously Pepys had a high regard for his talents and his loyalty to himself.[23] Pepys first mentioned Evelyn on 1 May 1665, recording that he had visited ‘Mr. Evelings, which is a most beautiful place…’. [24] Evelyn was not mentioned very frequently in the Pepys diary, and he appears to have been someone with whom Pepys had a general acquaintance concerning navy business, and whom he occasionally met around the governmental areas of Whitehall or Westminster, or at the Royal Society. Evelyn mentioned their acquaintance in a diary entry for June 1669; Pepys traveled with him when the two men went together to visit Evelyn’s brother in order to encourage him to have an operation. The entry runs: ‘I went that evening to Lond: to carry Mr. Pepys to my Bro: (now exceedingly afflicted with the Stone in the bladder) who himself had ben successfully cut; & carried the Stone (which was as big as a tenis-ball) to shew him, and encourage his resolution to go thro the operacion’. Pepys was again referred to in the Evelyn diary when they met at the royal court at Windsor in 1674 and traveled back to London together. [25] In 1676 Evelyn recorded attending a feast in Trinity House in London when ‘Mr. Pepys (Secretary of the Admiralty) [was] chosen Master’. A few months later Evelyn recorded having dinner with ‘Sec: Pepys’ at the Admiralty. [26]

Pepys was also associated with two other diarists; Sir William Rider, a merchant, and Arthur Annesley, 1st Earl Anglesey the Treasurer of the Navy from 1667. Pepys’ association with Sir William Rider is interesting because he records a discussion they had in 1664 concerning diaries. Pepys records that he was ‘mightily pleased’ to hear that Rider had kept a journal for almost forty years.[27] Unfortunately this journal remains untraced. The diary of Arthur Annesley, however, has survived. His acquaintance with Pepys appears to have developed after Pepys’ own period of diary writing. Pepys was recorded in the Anglesey diary in an entry dated 21 August 1682 as a dinner guest at Annesley’s home.[28] Pepys recorded an earlier encounter with Annesley, in 1664, at a meeting of the Committee of the Fishery in Whitehall. Co-incidentally Pepys attended the meeting with his fellow diarist Sir William Rider. There he noted the partiality shown towards the main speaker, Sir Edward Ford, by those attending the meeting, except for Annesley who Pepys regarded as ‘a grave, serious man’.[29] We can guess that his regard for ‘my Lord Annesly’ must certainly have increased when Annesley became Navy Treasurer.

Annesley himself was connected to other diarists. His link with Lady Elizabeth Delavel, whose ‘diary’ may be better classed as a memoir, is quite tenuous but still worth a mention in order to highlight the extent of the diary network.[30] Annesley’s son James, Lord Annesley, for a time courted Elizabeth, daughter of Viscount Newburgh. Their families opposed their romance, and James eventually married another woman, much to Elizabeth’s chagrin, as recorded in her diary. Arthur Annesley also became associated with other diarists for he mentioned reading the diary of a Captain Forster. It appears that the Forster family had a connection with Annesley. The Captain may have been employed in the navy, or was an old friend. For whatever reason, on the death of Captain Forster, Annesely took it upon himself to sort out the deceased’s papers for his widow. Part of this included Captain Forster’s diary which Annesley obviously read for information on Forster’s business interests and also to better remember the man himself. He wrote: ‘I find by Capt. Forsters diaryes for late years what I believed before that he was a good friend and honest industrious man…’[31]

Diarists could also be connected through common interests, if not always through common professions. The diarists, and fellow antiquarians, Abraham de la Pryme and Ralph Thoresby were correspondents. [32] De la Pryme mentioned Thoresby in his diary in the context of having read Thoresby’s book on the topography of Leeds. De la Pryme also mentioned having heard of Mr. Jolly ‘the great Presbyterian’ from Lancashire, another diarist, and one connected with the northern diary network which will be discussed below.

The diary network could also extend through families. An interesting interconnection between diarists, even before a trend in keeping diaries became apparent, linked two of the female diarists, Lady Margaret Hoby and Lady Anne Clifford, who were cousins by marriage.[33] It has already been noted that parents could encourage their children to keep diaries of noteworthy events or to record their spiritual progress. Examples of children following in the footsteps of their parents include the Rev. Philip Henry whose daughter Sarah (who became Sarah Savage on her marriage) also kept a diary. Incidentally, Philip Henry, as a boy, was connected to the family of another diarist, Lady Anne Clifford, when she was Countess of Pembroke. Henry’s father was steward to the Earl of Pembroke and Philip was named after him.[34] While it is unlikely that Lady Anne ever influenced the young Philip Henry to keep a diary this connection again goes to prove how common diary writing was becoming through the seventeenth century.

An example of what may have been a parent teaching a child to keep a diary is contained within the diary of Samuel Newton, Alderman of Cambridge, who wrote between 1662 and 1717. Although he did not mention whether he wanted his son to keep a diary of his own we can assume that Newton held his diary in high regard and expected his son to recognise its status. One entry in the diary was written in a child’s hand with lines ruled to guide it. It was written by John Newton, aged seven, and at that time one year into his grammar school education. The entry reads: ‘I John Newton being in Coates this nineteenth day of October Anno Domini 1667 and not then full eight years old, wrote this by me. John Newton’. [35] This example of a child being allowed to write in his father’s private book is significant. It shows the importance placed upon the diary as a personal document and as a means to preserve a family’s history. We can speculate as to whether John Newton followed his father’s example and kept a similar record at some point in his life. However, the real significance of this example is to show the importance which could be placed upon the diary as a document and, also, that it was not always a private book but was sometimes shown to the children of the family and may have been emulated by them when they became sufficiently literate.[36]

Some families contained generations of diarists. Both the Isham family and the Winthrop family have surviving diaries spanning three generations. The Isham diaries began in 1609 with the diary of Elizabeth Isham. This was followed by a travel diary by Sir John Isham in 1626, and the diary of Thomas Isham, written in Latin when he was aged thirteen in 1671.[37] Elizabeth Isham may have been the mother or grandmother of John, and it is likely that John was the uncle of Thomas. Whatever the connections to one another they were all related through the same branch of the family: all were from the Isham family of Lamport Hall, Northamptonshire. The diary of the youngest Isham, Thomas, is particularly interesting because it was written at the request of his father who promised him a small sum of money if he kept a diary in Latin in order to improve his proficiency in that language.[38]

A comparable example of parental encouragement appears in a letter to the young Ralph Thoresby from his father, dated 1677, in which the boy was asked to ‘take a little journal of any thing remarkable every day, principally as to yourself, as, suppose, Aug. 2. I was at such a place; (or) I omitted such a duty; (or) such a one preached from such a text, and my heart was touched…I have thought this a good method for one to keep a good tolerable decorum in actions, &c. because he is accountable to himself as well as to God…’. [39] This comment brings the usefulness of the diary beyond the spiritual record and focuses its usage as a secular personal history. His father’s advice seems to have had the desired effect, for Ralph kept a diary from 1677 to 1724, one year before his death. His father’s belief in the benefit of keeping a diary came through personal experience. In 1680 Ralph recorded in his own diary that he was currently reading his father’s diary, and in 1692 he mentioned lending his father’s diary to his friend, Mr. Sharp. [40]Not only did he himself benefit from his father’s advice and diary manuscript, but Thoresby obviously believed in its value strongly enough to let someone else read it. Here a chain of diaries becomes apparent, with one diarist encouraging another to write, both within the immediate family and also amongst members of the diarist’s social circle.

The Winthrop family provides another interesting example. The diaries began with Adam Winthrop, an auditor of Trinity College and St. John’s College, Cambridge, in 1594.[41] His son John Winthrop, later the Governor of Massachusetts, also kept a diary, dated from 1606. [42] In the next generation of the family his son, John, also had a diary, but it was written for him by his grandfather in order to record the events of his life while the child was too young to do so himself.[43] Again, this reveals the diary as an important document within the family. The eldest generation believed in its value strongly enough to carry on what was becoming a family tradition, and keep an accurate record of their family history. John junior would inherit not only information about the lives of his father and grandfather but also of his own early life. Such a work may have proved useful in later life, and if John kept a diary of his own he would have been able to incorporate this early volume into any later memoirs. However, whether the American generation of Winthrops kept up the tradition begun by their English ancestors is beyond the scope of this article.

The final set of interconnected diarists had common ground in their religious beliefs. In particular it is worth looking at a group of Presbyterian ministers living in Lancashire and Yorkshire who kept diaries which spanned from the 1640’s to the first decade of the eighteenth century. When reading through their diaries it becomes noticeable that they mentioned one another as correspondents and also recorded occasions when they met. These connections recorded through their diaries show that it was very likely that they believed themselves to be connected not only in friendship, but also connected in faith and community, particularly during the years of persecution after the restoration of the monarchy.

This Presbyterian network may be said to centre on one particular diarist: the Reverend Oliver Heywood. Heywood began his diary sometime during the 1660s, but the precise date for the beginning of the diary is confusing. Matthews has it listed as 1666 but the earliest entries are retrospective, covering his childhood and years at university. The earliest dated diary entry appears to be for the year 1664 when he recorded: ‘[July 13 64] yesterday being at Shibden hall to visit a friend there I was desired to tarry dinner…’. [44] However the diary does appear to begin with consecutive dated entries around 1666. Foremost among Heywood’s connections was his fellow diarist and father-in-law, the Rev. John Angier. On Angier’s death Heywood decided to write and publish a biography of Angier commemorating his contribution to the Presbyterian cause. This ‘Life of John Angier of Denton…’ included his diary as well as extracts from Angier’s published works.[45] To have written and published such a work was not unusual at this time. As discussed above the diary was not always private but was often used after the death of the diarist as a testament to their piety during their lives. According to Haller, ‘the diary was…in many instances after its author’s decease it was used, supplemented by personal reminiscence, as material for an account of his life in the faith’, further ‘again and again the preacher who wrote the biography or preached the funeral sermon tells us with high approval how the departed saint kept a daily record of the state of his soul’ these biographical accounts were known as a ‘lean-to’. [46] Heywood may have wished to have his father-in-law remembered in this way as a paragon of Christian virtue, and it is probable that he expected a local readership based upon those who had known Angier. Incidentally, Heywood included in his edition of Angier’s diary a mention of the death of the Presbyterian author Isaac Ambrose. It is important to note that Ambrose’s work,Prima: The First Things in Reference to the Middle and Last(1674), encouraged Protestants to keep a spiritual diary as an account of their sins and struggle to live as Christians. Angier noted in his diary the details of Ambrose’s sudden death and his own shock at the news ‘Rev. Mr. Ambrose was in the street at Preston at 7 of the clock at night and dead before 8. O what a sudden translation!’ [47]

To publish his father-in-law’s diary Heywood must have believed that Angier would have consented to have his personal record read publicly. Perhaps Heywood obtained permission to publish before Angier’s death, or, given the practice of commemoration of those who led exemplary lives, Angier may have expected his diary to be published in this manner even while he wrote it. If so, and given that he edited and published another’s diary, we might wonder whether Oliver Heywood wrote his own diary in the knowledge that it would one day be read by the general public after his death. The most likely answer is that he probably had some idea whilst writing his diary that it would be read by someone after his death, as with many other Puritan diaries used in funeral sermons or which formed the basis of biographies.[48] Even if it was not published it is very likely that it would have been read by his family in remembrance of his ministry. He certainly was not averse to publishing his thoughts, for in 1667 he records having a book of ‘heart-treasures’ printed out of his own purse.[49] It may be true to say that Heywood believed in the printed word as a means of promoting the reformed Christian faith. His own spiritual experiences were worthy of publication because they acted as a personal testament of God’s involvement in the individual’s life.

His diary itself hints at his belief in a future audience. He began writing during the 1660s when persecution against Presbyterians and other dissenter groups became instituted by the state through the so-called Clarendon Code. During this time he was deprived of his living and became an itinerant preacher through Yorkshire and Lancashire. It is likely that these traumatic experiences, and perhaps a sense that he was living through an important period of history for his religion, inspired Heywood to keep a diary. The diary enabled him to record his own contribution towards a religious cause in which he believed so strongly that he was willing to uproot himself and wander across the north of England in order to spread the gospel. The diary justified his actions and acted as a permanent testament of his personal sacrifices for his religion. On one hand this testament may have been directed at God as an account of the continuation of his belief through earthly suffering. However, Heywood by publishing Angiers’ diary also hinted that he wished his own to be given the same public recognition.[50]

Heywood was central in the network of northern diarists. Not only was he John Angier’s son-in-law and biographer but his diary mentioned his association with the Rev. Thomas Jolly and the Rev. Henry Newcome. [51] Heywood himself was mentioned in the diary of Ralph Thoresby, also a resident of Yorkshire. Thoresby recorded a meeting with Heywood in 1681: ‘who gave me a pleasing account of holy Mr. Angier, his father-in-law.’[52] Thoresby recorded another meeting as having taken place in 1691. He also noted that he met Henry Newcome, another Presbyterian minister and diarist, in Manchester during 1684 and corresponded with John Evelyn in 1699. [53]

The diary of the Rev. Thomas Jolly was kept between 1671 and 1693 in Lancashire.[54] Like Heywood he was a Presbyterian who continued with his ministry despite the severe restrictions imposed during the 1660s. Keeping a diary recorded his struggle for his faith and, like the diaries written by soldiers, gave men such as Heywood and Jolly an opportunity to record their personal participation in important events. The extreme circumstances under which they lived and conducted their ministry gave an impetus to record their struggle. Unlike Heywood, Jolly does not appear to have kept a diary of those first years of persecution, but wrote from the 1670’s onwards when the laws prohibiting public worship were applied intermittently. Although Jolly rarely mentioned his connection with Heywood, he himself was mentioned in Heywood’s diary on a number of occasions.a>[55] Jolly appeared in the Heywood diary in 1663 preaching at Coley Hall, Yorkshire, and in 1671 Heywood noted that he and Jolly swapped congregations for a time, while Heywood ‘went into Lanc. For Mr. Jolly to preach with his people as he stayed to preach with mine, went to his house on the north-side of Pendle-hill that night, stayed all day and went through his bookes…’. [56] Jolly appears to have been a close friend of Heywood’s extended family, for in Angier’s diary an entry recorded that Jolly came to stay with the Angier family in November 1662 and ‘desired to stay with us the winter’.[57] From this it appears that Heywood, Angier and Jolly were not only close colleagues, attending one another’s sermons, sharing responsibility for preaching and ministry, but also formed a close knit social circle welcome at one another’s homes. Heywood was himself mentioned in Jolly’s diary in an entry for 1673 when Jolly heard him preach, and in 1678 when Jolly sought Heywood’s advice on a spiritual matter.[58] The fact that these three ministers were connected both by religious and familial ties again points to the possibility that diary keeping may have evolved through social and family interaction. It may have been that one man kept a diary, having perhaps been inspired by another diarist, and the others followed his example wishing to mimic his piety. Or perhaps, as diary writing was considered a worthwhile spiritual exercise, all three kept diaries independently of one another but discussed the benefits of diary writing for the godly Christian and by doing so encouraged one another to keep up the practice. Unfortunately neither Angier, Heywood nor Jolly mention in their diaries whether they discussed their hobby and so it can only be inferred from the fact of their close acquaintance that they were aware of one another’s diaries (before the death of Angier) and of belonging to a small diary network.

The final Heywood connection is that of the Rev. Henry Newcome, another Lancastrian Presbyterian minister, who kept a diary during the years of dissenter persecution from 1661 to 1695. [59] He, along with John Angier, was a signatory for the ‘Petition of Ministers of Lancashire’ in 1660 which pledged their loyalty to the monarchy on the return of Charles II. The actual beginning of Newcome’s diary may be traced as far back as 1646 while he was at Cambridge, but unfortunately the only surviving diary entries are for the years 1661 to 1663. Incidentally, Newcome cited another diarist, Samuel Ward (whose surviving diary is dated from 1595 to 1599), as the inspiration to begin to record daily events. In one entry Newcome explained that the idea of keeping a diary occurred to him while at university. He wrote: ‘In the year 1646, when I had been two years at Cambridge, upon some working on my soul…I was induced to begin a diary. It was chiefly begun upon the occasion of hearing that Dr. Ward…had left a diary of his life in his study, from his being sixteen years of age. I thought it was a very brave thing to have such a thing left from so early a time of his life, and so set upon it’.[60] Here is the work of one diarist directly influencing an individual to begin a diary.

Evidence for Newcome’s association with Heywood centres on the Heywood diary. Newcome was mentioned as participating in a private fast in 1668 when Heywood: came to Manchester ‘and the day after, being Wednesday we kept a private fast, my brother Goodwin Mr. Newcom and I were imployed…’.[61] In 1672 Newcome was again mentioned in the Heywood diary, this time he was involved in a meeting of eighteen ministers:’to consult about our use of the king’s indulgence…’ which lifted proscriptions upon public worship for dissenters. [62] While Heywood did not appear in the Newcome diary, other diarists associated with the network were mentioned. He seems to have had an association with John Angier whom he referred to as an acquaintance, and Isaac Ambrose became an ‘intimate acquaintance…’.[63] He also mentions Mr. Jolly in an entry dated August 1659 and refers to the diarist, and antiquarian, Elias Ashmole as his ‘brother’ with whom he occasionally met. The association with Ashmole links Newcome with John Evelyn in the diary network, though the two never met: in 1678 Evelyn recorded having been to visit Mr. Elias Ashmole’s ‘library & Curiosities at Lambeth…’ [64] Newcome also mentions an association with another religious author of that era, Richard Baxter, the author of A Christian Directory (1673), who, incidentally, prefaced a book of religious biography written by Samuel Clarke and recommended by Oliver Heywood in his Life of John Angier.[65] Roger Lowe, also a Lancastrian Presbyterian, mentioned in his diary that he read Isaac Ambrose’s Primawhich brings him into the northern diary network although Lowe never mentioned whether he heard any of the ministers preach.[66]

The connections between those four diarists highlight, not only at the close-knit community existing between the northern Presbyterian ministers, but also the importance placed upon keeping a diary to record the endurance of those who strived to keep a religious faith alive during times of persecution. In fact during such times it was not only important to keep a record to preserve the important events of the struggle, but it was also highly important to ensure that one’s diary, with names of fellow worshippers and ministers, did not fall into the hands of the authorities. Philip Henry, from Flintshire, recorded in his diary in 1665, how fellow Presbyterian, Mr. Steele, had his diary taken from him by government authorities. Henry worried in case other ministers would be implicated by its contents and noted how he must be more careful with his own notebook because: ‘I have found a great deal of Good by this way of Review daily & am loth to give it over, but I shall take warning & bee more Cautious, for malice may take that with the left hand which is written with the right…’.[67] The incident involving Steele appears to have also cautioned others in this diary network, for Henry Newcome also noted the seizure of Steele’s diary with some concern. [68] Keeping such a diary was a potentially hazardous exercise during this period, yet this fact did not deter Philip Henry from his writing and this in itself attests to the spiritual and personal importance which could be placed upon diaries by their authors.

Diary networks extended across England. The existence of these networks may indicate that many more diaries were kept than we have access to today. The habit of writing a diary may have been quite commonplace amongst those who possessed the skills of reading and writing, and had an income which could afford paper, pens and ink. The evidence points to the fact that these diarists were aware that other people of their acquaintance kept diaries and that those diaries could serve to record a common purpose. This common purpose is evidenced both by Heywood recording the ministry of other preachers and by publishing diaries posthumously. It is also evidenced by families such as the Ishams and the Winthrops encouraging the habit of diary writing among each generation of their families. The diarists appear to have been aware of the broader life of the diary, that it would exist beyond their death and speak to others of their lives and struggles. It would, in fact, re-create them. One final instance of the diary network deserves to be mentioned here: Mary, Countess of Warwick. She kept a very pious diary recording her spiritual meditations, and it seems that her fame as a Christian lady outlived her death, for in 1680 Ralph Thoresby from Leeds, noted in his diary that he was:’mightily taken with her pious Diary…’. [69] Although they never met it is interesting that Thoresby, like Newcome, could find inspiration in another’s diary. In the end the lasting impression that we are left with from these networks is that diarists were aware that they were not alone in their hobby and that they were, in fact, in impressive company. They read the diaries of exemplary men and women who had lived before them, and perhaps felt that their own diaries would one day make a contribution towards the improvement of morality within England.

In conclusion it must be pointed out that this paper forms only the first tentative step in examining the connections between diarists, who they were and why they kept diaries. The connections between the diarists are interesting for the very basic reason that out of the hundreds of sixteenth and seventeenth century diaries which exist we can point to a number of them and see that those people were connected in a variety of ways. Some diarists were directly connected with others and many have been influenced by them to begin the habit. Very often that influence came from a family member and the elder generation would instruct and encourage the younger to keep a diary for self-improvement and as a record of their family history. Other connections between diarists were more tenuous; men from different parts of the country wrote of one another though they may never have met.

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[1] William Matthews, British Diaries: An Annotated Bibliography of British Diaries Written Between 1442 and 1942, University of California Press, California, 1950.

[2] Roy Porter, (ed.) Rewriting the Self: Histories from the Renaissance to the Present, Routledge, London, 1997, p. 3.

[3] William Haller, The Rise of Puritanism, Columbia University Press, New York, 1957, p. 96.

[4] Other occupations of diarists include ministers with 37 surviving diaries, statesmen with 26, government officials with 20 and MPs with 14. Further down the scale there were three criminals and three astrologers, but only one midwife and one theatre-owner.

[5] James Fretwell, ‘A Family History Begun by James Fretwell’, cited by Michael Mascuch, Origins of the Individualist Self: Autobiography and Self-Identity in England, 1591-1791, Stanford University Press, California 1996, p. 73; Paul Delany, British Autobiography in the Seventeenth Century, Routledge, London, 1969, p. 10.

[6] Margaret Willy, English Diarists: Evelyn and Pepys, National Book League, London, 1963, p. 9.

[7] Ralph Houlbrook, The English Family, 1450-1700, London, 1992.

[8] Peter Burke, ‘Representations of the Self from Petrarch to Descartes’, in Roy Porter (ed.), Rewriting the Self, p. 28.

[9] William Matthews, British Diaries, pp. 1-53; More detailed information on diary writing is contained in my docotral thesis, Recreational Activities and Attitudes of Early Modern English Diarists, 1500-1700, (unpublished). See Chapter 3 ‘The Diarists’, p. 26.

[10] William Matthews, British Diaries. The diary reference is anonymous and is attributed to a secretary of Thomas Beckington who journeyed to the court of the French King Charles VII on behalf of Henry VI. See N.H. Nicolas, (ed.)Journal of one of the suite of Thomas Beckington, London, 1828.

[11] Roger Machado, Rerum Briticanicarum medii nevi scriptores, Longman, London, 1858.

[12] Samuel Pepys, The Diary of Samuel Pepys, William Matthews and Robert Latham, Bell, London, 1971, vol. 1, p. 251.

[13] Arthur Ponsonby, English Diaries: A Review of English Diaries from the Sixteenth Century to the Twentieth Century, with an Introduction on Diary Writing, Methuen, London, 1923, p. 5.

[14] Dean Ebner, Autobiography in Seventeenth Century England, Mouton, The Hague, 1971, p. 20.

[15] A. Girard, cited by Elisabeth Bourcier in Les Journaux Prives en Angleterre de 1600-1660, Publications de la Sorbonne, Paris, 1976, p. 6.

[16] Linda A. Pollock, Forgotten Children: Parent-Child Relations from 1500-1900 , Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1983, p. 73. She agrees with Spalding’s ‘instinct to self-expression’; see P. A. Spalding Self-harvest: A Study of Diaries and the Diarist , London, 1949, p. 54.

[17] Élisabeth Bourcier, Les Journaux Privés en Angleterre, p. 4.

[18] Linda Pollock, Forgotten Children, p. 78.

[19] John Evelyn, The Diary of John Evelyn, E.S. de Beer (ed.), Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1955, Vol. I, p. 79.

[20] William Haller, The Rise of Puritanism, pp. 38-96.

[21] Isaac Ambrose, Prima: The First Things in Relation to the Middle and Last Things, London, 1674, pp. 88-89.

[22] This may have been the case of Samuel Pepys who made the acquaintance of John Evelyn and the Earl of Anglesey, and was mentioned in both their diaries although there is no record of these men ever discussing the subject of diary writing.

[23] Samuel Pepys, The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Robert Latham and William Matthews (ed.), London, 1971, Vol. VII, p. 26.

[24] Samuel Pepys, Diary, Vol. VI, pp. 94-5.

[25] John Evelyn, Diary, Vol. III, p. 529; Vol. IV, p. 91.

[26] John Evelyn, Diary , Vol. IV, pp. 43, 96.

[27] Samuel Pepys, Diary, Vol. V, p. 98.

[28] Arthur Annesley, Earl of Anglesey, Diary 1667-1671, British Library (Add. MSS 40860 and Add. MS 18730) II, f.98v.

[29] Pepys, Diary, Vol. V, p. 336.

[30] Lady Elizabeth Delavel, ‘The Meditations of Lady Elizabeth Delavel, 1662-1671’, Douglas G. Greene (ed.), Surtees Society , Vol. 190, 1975, p. 27.

[31] Arthur Annesley, Diary, (British Library, Add. MSS 18730), II, f.37r.

[32] Ralph Thoresby, The Diary of Ralph Thoresby, 1677-1724, Rev. Joseph Hunter (ed.), H. Colburn and . Bently, London, 1830. See also ‘The Diary of Abraham de la Pryme the Yorkshire Antiquary’, Surtees Society (1870). Thoresby also conducted a correspondence with Oliver Heywood during 1694, and with John Evelyn in 1699. See Ralph Thoresby, Letters of eminent men addressed to Ralph Thoresby, H. Colburn and R. Bently, London, 1832, pp. 179, 381.

[33] See Lady Margaret Hoby, Diary of Lady Margaret Hoby, 1599-1605, Dorothy M. Meads (ed.), Routledge, London, 1930, p. 54, for the connection between Lady Margaret and Lady Anne. Lady Margaret married Thomas Posthumous Hoby whose mother had married, on the death of his father, Lord John Russell, uncle to Lady Anne on the maternal side.

[34] See introduction to Philip Henry’s diary for the family connection to the Earl of Pembroke. Diaries and Letters of Philip Henry, of Broad Oak, Flintshire 1631-1696, Matthew Henry Lee (ed.), Kegan Paul & Co., London, 1882.

[35] Samuel Newton, The Diary of Samuel Newton, Alderman of Cambridge, 1662-1717 , J. E. Foster (ed.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1890, p. 23.

[36] Diaries were not always written with the intention of remaining secret, as with John Angier’s diary (see below) they were often written by Puritans to edify relatives and brethren after the diarist’s death as a record of their pious life and testament to their faith. William Haller discussed this use of the diary as a means of showing examples of faith to those left on earth to encourage them to live similarly pious and righteous lives. See Haller, The Rise of Puritanism, p. 98.

[37] For a discussion of the Isham diaries see Arthur Ponsonby, More English Diaries, Methuen, London, 1927. For Sir John Isham, extracts in Sir Thomas Isham’s Diary, Walter Rye (ed.), Norwich, 1875.

[38] Thomas Isham’s Diary.

[39] Ralph Thoresby, Diary, Vol. I, p. xv.

[40] Ralph Thoresby, Diary, p. 239.

[41] Adam Winthrop, ‘Diary’, in Robert C. Winthrop, Life and Letters of John Winthrop, New York, 1971, Vol. I, p. 36.

[42] Adam Winthrop, ‘Diary’, pp. 64 – 109.

[43] Adam Winthrop, ‘Diary’, p. 41.

[44] Oliver Heywood, The Reverend Oliver Heywood, B.A.,1630-1702, His Autobiography, Diaries, Anecdotes and Event Books; illustrating the general and family history of Yorkshire and Lancashire, J. Horsfall Turner (ed.), Brighouse, 1882, p. 90.

[45] John Angier, ‘Oliver Heywood’s Life of John Angier of Denton, Together With Angier’s Diary and Extracts From His “An Helpe To Better Hearts”‘, Chetham Society, XCVII, 1937.

[46] William Haller, The Rise of Puritanism, pp. 97-100.

[47] John Angier, ‘Oliver Heywood’s life of John Angier’, p. 131.

[48] See William Haller, The Rise of Puritanism, p. 97.

[49] Oliver Heywood, Diary, Vol. I, p. 246.

[50] Oliver Heywood, Diary, pp. 18, 159. Heywood must certainly have thought of future publication since he also wrote an autobiography based upon his own diaries and included a genealogy which points towards leaving a record of his family history for his descendents to use.

[51] Oliver Heywood, Diary . Heywood recorded a meeting with Newcome in 1668, p. 252; and Jolly in 1671, p. 276.

[52] Ralph Thoresby, Diary, p. 79.

[53] Ralph Thoresby, Diary, p. 176. For his correspondence with Evelyn see Letters of Eminent Men Addressed to Ralph Thoresby, London, 1832, Vol. I, p. 381.

[54] Thomas Jolly, ‘The Note-book of the Rev. Thomas Jolly, A.D. 1671-1693’, Chetham Society, XXXIII, 1894.

[55] It would appear that Heywood was mentioned twice in the Jolly diary , once when Jolly attended a sermon preached by Heywood in 1673 , and on another occasion when the two men two discuss spiritual matters in 1678, see Thomas Jolly ‘Notebook’, pp. 11, 34.

[56] Oliver Heywood, Diary, p. 276.

[57] Oliver Heywood, ‘Oliver Heywood’s Life of John Angier’, p. 128. Attached onto the ‘Life of John Angier’ is a smaller diary belonging to Angier’s nephew, Samuel Angier, also a Presbyterian minister from Lancashire, written in 1682. The diary contains little of interest being mainly notes on accounts, weather and local deaths.

[58] Thomas Jolly, ‘Notebook’, p. 34.

[59] Henry Newcome, ‘The Diary of the Rev. Henry Newcome’, Chetham Society, XVIII, 1849.

[60] Henry Newcome, ‘Diary’, pp. 14 -15.

[61] Oliver Heywood, Diary, Vol. I, p. 252.

[62] Oliver Heywood, Diary, p. 289.

[63] Henry Newcome, ‘Diary’, p. 35.

[64] John Evelyn, Diary, Vol. IV, p. 138.

[65] Oliver Heywood, ‘Oliver Heywood’s Life of John Angier of Denton’, Chetham Society, XCVII, 1937, p. 46.

[66] Roger Lowe, The Diary of Roger Lowe, William L. Sachse (ed.), Yale, 1938.

[67] Philip Henry, ‘Diary’, p. 173.

[68] Henry Newcome, ‘Diary’, p. 147.

[69] Ralph Thoresby, Diary, Vol.1, p. 38.

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