The early years of Thomas Hobbes are almost entirely sunk in obscurity. Biographers from George Croom Robertson (1886) to Miriam Reik (1977) have added little, for the period before 1628, to the scant information provided by Aubrey and the Latin Vitae. If to this we add the handful of details which have been gleaned by modern scholarship, the picture remains a bare one, and one that can be briefly summarized.
On leaving Oxford in 1608, Hobbes was employed by William, Lord Cavendish, as a tutor for his son, who was Hobbes's junior by two years. Within a few years, Hobbes and his pupil (who, to prevent confusion, will henceforth be referred to simply as 'Cavendish') went on a grand tour of Europe, the chronology of which remains uncertain. 1 Between 1615 and 1628 Cavendish corresponded with Fulgenzio Micanzio, whose letters Hobbes appears to have translated from the Italian. 2 It has also been claimed, though on much more dubious grounds, that Hobbes was involved in the composition of the volume of essays entitled Horae subsecivae, which was published anonymously in 1620, and of which a prior version is preserved in manuscript with a dedication by 'W. Cavendisshe' to his father. 3 Little can be added to these facts up to 1629 (the year which saw the publication of Hobbes's translation of Thucydides, following the death of his pupil-patron), except Aubrey's account of the connexion with Bacon, and one letter written to Hobbes in 1622 by Robert Mason, who appears to have regarded him as a well-placed source of political gossip. At the start of his letter, Mason encouraged Hobbes to carry on 'communicating with your friend such occurrences of these active times,