4 Robert Payne, the Hobbes Manuscripts, and the 'Short Tract'


Thomas Hobbes's manuscripts are scattered among several archives, but the most important concentration of them is, fittingly enough, at Chatsworth in Derbyshire. Hobbes spent nearly sixty years in the service of the Cavendish family; he lived at Chatsworth for the last four or five years of his life, and died not far away, at Hardwick Hall, the Cavendishes' other great Derbyshire house. What happened to Hobbes's papers after his death, however, is not known in any detail. His executor, James Wheldon (the Earl of Devonshire's baker at Chatsworth), tried to put some of them in order, writing endorsements, for example, on many of the letters from Hobbes's foreign correspondents. Those particular items are known to have been at Chatsworth in the early eighteenth century: when White Kennett was there in 1707 he was told that 'there was an old trunk of his [sc. Hobbes's] papers in the house, containing chiefly the correspondence between him and foreigners'. 1 Even that trunkful could not have been there continuously, though, as today's Chatsworth (the house White Kennett visited) is a completely different building from the Elizabethan Chatsworth where Hobbes had lived. Other items relating to Hobbes were moved sooner or later to Hardwick Hall; it was there that they were studied by that pioneering Hobbes scholar, Ferdinand Tönnies, in the 1870s. 2 Some manuscripts may have become detached from the collection, such as the group of letters to Hobbes now contained in British Library MS Add. 32553; on the other hand, some items were definitely added to it, such as the copy of Hobbes's poem 'De mirabilibus pecci' and the transcript of his translations of letters from Fulgenzio Micanzio to the second Earl, both of which were acquired in the nineteenth century. Only in the mid-twentieth century were the Hobbes papers systematically listed and given the catalogue numbers which they now bear. And, although this task was performed with considerable thoroughness, some items that


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