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JOHN LANGTON SANFORD,
OF LINCOLN'S INN, BARRISTER-AT-LAW.
“History comes like a beggarly gleader in the field, after Death, the
[The Author reserves the right of Translation.]
The present volume embodies some of the results of a course of historical investigation commenced more than fifteen years ago.
My attention was then drawn to the great discrepancy in the estimates of the character of Oliver Cromwell in the pages of the historical authorities of that day. Being quite at a loss to arrive at any satisfactory conclusions as to the facts on which they based their several judgments of the Protector, I resolved to make for myself as complete a col. lection as possible of his letters, arranging them in chronological order, as a backbone to any farther investigations into his character. Having access to the library of the British Museum, I found this a less difficult but more extensive task than I had anticipated. Besides the standard books on the subject, such works as county histories and the early volumes of the Gentleman's Magazine, the Annual Register and the printed papers of the Antiquarian Society supplied me with not a few neglected records of interest; and the MSS. collections in the Museum yielded a rich additional harvest. At the end of two years I had thus brought together about 300 letters, published and unpublished, and had read through and re-punctuated into some sense most of the Protector's printed speeches. Of course
illustrative reading and research on the points which thus presented themselves were not neglected, and the general result was a clear conviction that the theory of Cromwell's hypocrisy and selfish ambition was devoid of all support in the real facts.
I had carried my studies thus far when, in 1845, the publication of Mr. Carlyle's collection of the Letters and Speeches of Cromwell gave me the results of a similar but independent course of inquiry, and confirmed me in my previous conclusion. Of course this collection contained several letters which were new to me, and, on the other hand, I found that it did not include a considerable number which it had been my good fortune to light upon, and gave others in a less perfect and authentic form. As some of these letters of mine were very interesting, I communicated the fact of their existence to Mr. Carlyle, and placed them at his disposal. They were accordingly included in his second edition (1846), with some other discoveries which I had made in the meantime, such as Cromwell's answer to the Clonmacnoise Manifesto.
For the next year or two professional studies left me little time for historical pursuits; but I never lost sight entirely of the object which I had originally proposed to myself. At this point of time family vicissitudes altered altogether my prospects and intended career, and I was led to revert to my old studies, with the hope of being able to mould my previous investigations into a work which might be supplementary to Mr. Carlyle's volumes, and afford a critical refutation of the large mass of calumnious anecdote which still passed for history even in works of such general value and authority as Mr. Forster's Statesmen of the Commonwealth. These new investigations made me thoroughly acquainted with the contents of D’Ewes' MS. Journal of the Long Parliament, preserved in the British Museum Library;
and I then found that the Lives of Pym, Hampden, and many others of that time required re-writing quite as much as that of Cromwell. My labours were thus prolonged over an unexpected space of time.
In 1848, through the courtesy of the late Dr. Buckland and the Rev. Dr. Bandinel, I had an opportunity of examining and making extracts from the Tanner MSS. in the Bodleian Library; and the next year the Rt. Hon. Maziere Brady—then Lord Chancellor of Ireland--procured me access, through the late Sir William Betham, to the forgotten council-books of the Cromwells and the Commonwealth in the Record Tower of Dublin Castle. To the Rev. Dr. Todd and several other gentlemen my acknowledgments are also due for their courtesy in admitting me to the library of Trinity College, Dublin, and the various record offices in that city. I drew attention to the neglected condition and contents of the Irish council-books in some papers communicated to the Gentleman's Magazine, then under the able editorship of Mr. John Bruce.
My new materials, however, had so enlarged my original plan, that when, in 1850, I went through the usual ordeal with the London publishers, they shrank from incurring any risk in such a speculation, and my MS. was consigned again to the shelves, where it slumbered peacefully for the next five years. I then made another and equally unsuccessful attempt to bring it before the public in a reduced and modified form. I should, perhaps, have accepted this last judgment as final, if the publication of Mr. Forster's Historical Essays, in the present year, had not called my attention to the fact that I had already lost the credit of historical discoveries in which I had anticipated that gentleman by several years; and I accordingly considered that, in justice to myself, I ought no longer to delay placing before the public some portion of my labours, leaving in their hands the