John Locke (trans.), [Discourses], manuscript c.1690

In July 2021, Jay Moschella of the Boston Public Library (BPL) posted on Twitter about a seventeenth-century manuscript in their collection: see here for the original post, and here for the manuscript’s BPL catalogue record. Signed “Anne Thistlethwayte” and dated 1690, the manuscript is a copy of three treatises translated by John Locke from Pierre Nicole’s Essais de morale (1671). Locke made the translations during a stay in France in the 1670s and presented a copy to the Countess of Shaftesbury in about 1679; that presentation copy is now in the Pierpont Morgan Library.[1] Locke’s translations were first published in 1712, under the title Discourses on the being of a God, and the immortality of the soul; of the weakness of man; and concerning the way of preserving peace with men.[2]  In addition to the three translated treatises by Locke, the manuscript copy in the BPL concludes with a five-page list of Anne Thistlethwayte’s books grouped by format (folios and then “quartos,” but this second group includes smaller formats as well) followed by a single-page inventory of Thistlethwayte’s possessions, including some additional “uninventory’d” books not included in the preceding list.

At the time of the original post, the BPL had no other information about the Anne Thistlethwayte who had signed the manuscript copy of Locke and included in the manuscript the record of her substantial library. With permission from the BPL, I edited the booklist for inclusion in the Private Libraries in Renaissance England database (the edition is drafted, but at the time of this posting is not yet available on PLRE’s public site). In the course of editing the booklist, I noticed a reference in the concluding inventory of possessions to “Winterslow,” which identified her as Anne Thistlethwayte (1669-1741) of West Winterslow, Wiltshire. Identifying the owner of this manuscript transformed an interesting record of female provenance into a much richer story. First, Anne’s father, Alexander Thistlethwayte (1636-1714), was a Member of Parliament and political ally of the Earl of Shaftesbury, John Locke’s patron: see here for Alexander Thistlethwayte’s biographical listing in the History of Parliament site. Anne Thistlethwayte’s copy of the Locke manuscript consequently appears to derive from her father’s social-political network: additional evidence survives indicating that the Countess of Shaftesbury allowed copies of the manuscript to circulate within her circle.[3]

Anne was 21 in 1690, when the manuscript was copied. Her booklist, however, was compiled later: about 1712, based on identifiable publication dates represented in the list. The personal inventory is dated May 1714, soon after Anne’s father died (History of Parliament says he died in 1716, but the will reproduced on is dated 1712 and underwent probate on February 9, 1714). Around this time of personal transition, Anne Thistlethwayte became a member of another high-profile circle: she is traditionally identified as the “Mrs T[histlethwayte]” who was a friend and correspondent of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762). The discovery of Anne Thistlethwayte’s library confirms the strong plausibility of the identification. Five letters survive from Montagu to Thistlethwayte, plus one summary.[4] Between August 1716 and September 1718, Montagu writes her friend from Ratisbon, Adrianople, Constantinople, Lyons, and Paris, her chatty, detailed, confiding accounts following the long arc of Montagu’s Turkish embassy voyage. Montagu assumes that her friend is curious to hear what camels really look like, and how the design and construction of houses differs from what she has “read in most of our Accounts of Turkey” (Letters, 1:341). Montagu appears to refer specifically to dismissive passages in Sir Paul Rycaut’s Present State of the Ottoman Empire, first published in 1667: Anne Thistlethwayte indeed owned a copy of this book.

The booklist recorded in this manuscript represents a snapshot of Anne Thistlethwayte’s library up to the age of about 40, a collection created in the second half of the Restoration up to the death of Queen Anne. The library encapsulates the interests—philosophical, literary, historical, theological—we might expect of a young woman interested in John Locke who would subsequently join the circle of the witty, daring, curious, educated Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. The collection is a substantial one: the list comprises 145 records, but one record lists five bound-together volumes of plays, which could represent dozens of titles. Most of Anne’s books are in English but she did own a half dozen books in French, and the presence of history and poetry suggests her French was more than aspirational. More than a third of the library can be categorized as literature (including classics in translation: Horace, Juvenal, Ovid), with most of the remainder comprising theology, history, philosophy, courtesy, and ethics (including Seneca, Cicero, Epictetus, and Plutarch) and practical books in related fields (geography, education, law, arithmetic, medicine).

Opening pages of the booklist
Pages 3-4 of the booklist
Final page of the booklist with inventory facing (with additional books)

What most stands out is Anne’s interest in the creative and intellectual work of her female contemporaries: she owned books by Mary Astell (Serious Proposal and Six Familiar Essays), Aphra Behn (Histories and Novels and Love-Letters), Katherine Philips (one of the folio Poems), Mary Chudleigh (Poems), Anne Wharton (“The Temple of Death” is probably the 1695 anthology Temple of Death that includes the first publication of Wharton’s poems), Delarivier Manley (Secret Memoirs), Judith Drake (Essay in Defence of the Female Sex, also occasionally attributed to Astell), Madame de La Fayette (Princess of Cleves) and Mary Pix (The Inhumane Cardinal). Thistlethwayte also explored female creativity in the devotional as well as the literary realm, owning a copy of Jeanne Marie Bouvier de La Motte Guyon’s Short and Easie Method of Prayer, a radically Quietist guide for which Guyon had been imprisoned by Catholic authorities. Early modern booklists seldom contain the books that literary scholars hope to find, but Anne Thistlethwayte had almost eerily prescient tastes: a reading list based on her collection would form the basis today for an excellent seminar on women writers of the period.

Katherine Philips, Thomas Sprat, “Five volumes of plays”
Lady Chudleigh, John Milton
Mary Astell, Aphra Behn (one of two entries), “French poems”

Unpacking her library further we encounter George Herbert, John Oldham, Thomas Carew, and John Cleveland; Richard Blackmore’s egregious epic Prince Arthur and Milton’s History of Britain (but not his Paradise Lost); Poems on Affairs of State, The Tatler, both parts of Marvell’s Rehearsal Transprosed; and sixteen works of prose fiction. This last cluster reminds us of the later seventeenth century surge in the popularity of novels, many translated from the French. Three novels in Anne’s library do not survive but exist now only in bookseller advertisements: The Illustrious Parisian Maid; The Inchanted Lover; and Memoirs of the Adventures of a French Lady. These entries reveal the role of booklists in confirming the existence of now lost books.

Anne Thistlethwayte also owned an additional title by John Locke (Two Treatises of Government) and the Earl of Shaftesbury’s Characteristicks as well as Descartes’ Passions of the Soul, Montaigne’s Essays, Fontenelle’s Plurality of Worlds, Malebranche’s Treatise Concerning the Search after Truth, Sprat’s History of the Royal-Society, current surveys of world history and world religions, and a variety of works by other writers still read and studied today, such as Richard Allestree, Robert Boyle, Gilbert Burnet, Hugo Grotius, Joseph Hall, James Howell,  the Marquis of Halifax, Jeremy Taylor. Browsing this entire booklist, we see in Anne Thistlethwayte a reader who is educated, curious, open; interested in the world, in history, in new ideas; a lover of literature; devout but not prudish, committed to the established church but on the side of toleration against absolutism (hence Marvell); a monarchist (possibly explaining the absence of Paradise Lost) in favor of the Protestant succession (hence Oldham’s satires against the Jesuits). In short, her reading aligns her with John Locke, whose work she encountered as a young woman of 21: Locke and her father’s ally the Earl of Shaftesbury supported constitutional monarchy, Protestant succession, civil liberty, and toleration in religion. To these, Anne adds her interest in the work of her female contemporaries; in current fiction and drama; and a Restoration passion for the wit, satire, and contemporary commentary that would enable her to hold her own in correspondence with Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. This list in itself, a snapshot of her bookshelves situated in place, time, class, and cultural environment, tells a rich story. An edited version of the full list is forthcoming on the Private Libraries in Renaissance England (PLRE) website.

Source: Boston Public Library MS q Eng.551. Images reproduced with permission.

[1] For a description of this manuscript and a parallel-text edition of Locke’s translation based on this presentation copy, see Jean S. Yolton, John Locke as Translator: Three of the Essais of Pierre Nicole in French and English (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2000). A new edition of the Discourses is under preparation for the Clarendon Edition of the Works of John Locke.

[2] Only one copy of this edition is known, now in the Bodleian Library: for a description, see M.R. Ayers, “Locke’s Translations from Nicole’s Essais: The Real First Edition,” The Locke Newsletter 11 (1980), 101-03. I owe this reference to Locke specialist Craig Walmsley, who kindly read a draft of this post and who confirmed the political links between Alexander Thistlethwayte and the Earl of Shaftesbury, the association of Anne Thistlethwayte and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and evidence for the manuscript circulation of Locke’s “Discourses.”

[3] See Ayers, “Locke’s Translations,” 102, and the October 1689 letter from Jane Stringer to Locke, in Correspondence of John Locke, ed. E. S. De Beer, 8 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1978), 3:705-07 (letter 1192). I owe the reference to Locke’s Correspondence to Mark Goldie (via Craig Walmsley).

[4] See Robert Halsband, ed., Complete Letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, 3 vols. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1965-67), 1:256. For a list of the letters to Thistlethwayte, see Letters, xxvi. The identification was made by W. Moy Thomas in his 1861 edition of the letters. Halsband notes the possibility that “Mrs Thistlethwayte” could be Anne’s sister Catherine (d.1746) or sister-in-law, Mary Pelham Thistlethwayte (c.1660-1720). But the identification with Anne seems generally accepted in scholarship on Montagu. Another sister Halsband mentions, Mary (b.1663), is not named in the father’s 1714 will and was likely deceased by the time Montagu was writing.

Lady Dorothy Long’s Library

While most of our posts involve single books or evidence of book ownership in the form of marginalia and signatures, another key area of provenance research is in the form of inventories and book lists. The fascinating database and journal series Private Libraries of Renaissance England have showcased a number of key women for whom the content of larger libraries are known. These lists, whether they are based on inventories or wills, help us determine not only what women read, but also, as Edith Snook notes, how they wanted to present themselves. Indeed, in her essay on the private library of Elizabeth Isham, Snook calls the booklist a form of life writing or “ego document,” a source that can tell us something about women’s senses of identity, particularly for noble women whose profile was of necessity at least to some degree public.

In his chapter in the collection Women’s Bookscapes, Joseph Black predicted that “Unpublished early modern booklists will … continue to turn up” (219). A few months ago, I was delighted to receive a message from Tim Couzens, who offered to share with us and our readers two lists of books that he has found in the papers of Lady Dorothy Long housed at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. Though he will be editing and publishing these lists more fully soon, we get here an advance look at the contents. The lists were evidently drawn up to facilitate their placement in the household, as they are books to be put on “the high shelf,” some of them grouped among the “little books to be put on the high shelf.” Whether the “high shelf” indicates that they needed to be placed out of reach or were stored where they were not readily accessible is unclear.

Lady Dorothy Long, née Leche (c. 1620-1710) was married in around 1640 to Sir James Long, second Baronet (1617-1692), a politician. The couple lived in their estate at Draycot, Wiltshire. Sir James had fought on the side of the royalists in the Civil Wars, but nonetheless, according to biographer John Aubrey, befriended Oliver Cromwell through his interests in hawking, a lifelong passion. Aubrey lists James Long under “amici” (friends) in his Brief Lives.

Sir James Long, by an anonymous painter. Oil on canvas, feigned oval. © National Portrait Gallery, NPG 4638.

In their edition of Elizabeth Isham’s autobiographical writings, Elizabeth Clarke and Erica Longfellow mention Lady Long (“Dolly”)’s correspondence with Isham’s brother and contrast her style with that of the more sober Isham: “[Long’s] letters employ the banter of a royalist coterie, complete with nicknames and a (mocking) reference to their ‘Academy’, in a style reminiscent of the more familiar and accomplished works of Margaret Cavendish and Katherine Philips. Lady Long does display an interest in literature, particularly the salacious Ovid, but she mocks the Countess of Dysart’s serious study of Donne.” Long donated to the Ashmolean, and their Book of Benefactors describes her in much different terms, as “the pride and joy of her family and her sex … [She] showed a deep interest in primitive religions and antiquities. Her piety and great good will to this University led her to give a carved ivory crosier [head] which had belonged to Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo, to this museum to be placed with the other treasures.”

Given these contrasting descriptions, it is fascinating to think, with Snook, of the two lists of books that belonged to Long as a form of life writing to counter the narratives of royalist eccentricity and piety.

Here is Tim Couzen’s transcription, along with his preliminary identifications of the books in brackets:

Little books to put ith highe Shelf. [15 July 1704, from content]

Narrative oth Fire at London [An Historical narrative of the Great and Terrible Fire of London, Sept 2nd1666. Gideon Harvey. This may be an original of the book published more generally by W. Nicoll in 1769.]

Epitome of Husbandry [The Epitome of the Art of Husbandry: comprising all necessary directions for the Improvement of it. Etc, by J.B. Gent (Joseph Blagrave), 1675.]

Flatmans Poems [Dr. Thomas Flatman (1635–1688) Fellow of the Royal Society, Poet and miniature painter. Probably Poems and Songs (1674).]

Counr Manners Legacy tos Son. [Counsellor Manners, His Last legacy to His Son: etc. Probably the first edition, published in 1673, by Josiah Dare.]

Dr Gouge Domestick dutys [Of Domesticall Duties, eight treatises etc. by William Gouge, 1622.]

Pasquin risen from ye Dead [London, 1674.]

Nat: Culverwel on ye Light of Nature [Nathaniel Culverwell (1619–1651), An elegant and learned discourse of the Light of Nature, 1652.]

The History of Joseph &c: [Josephus’s Antiquities of the Jews. Probably the 1700 edition.]

Theopanila Broms Poems [William Sales’s Theophania (London, 1655) and Alexander Brome’s Poems.]

G [Gaius] Velleius Paterculus [Roman Historian (c 19BC – c AD31). There are several early editions.]

Evagoros. [Evagoros. [Two possible identifications: Paul Salzman has suggested this is Evagoras, a Romance by L.L. Gent (London, 1677). A second possibility is the Greek oration by Isocrates on the King of Salamis (Unknown edition). Given the mixture of romances, for Dorothy Long’s own use, and text books from her grandson, James, it is not possible to be certain, but the former seems much more likely.]

Bookes to put into ye High Shelfe ye 15o July 1704. 

The Countise Montgomerys Urania [romance by Mary Wroth (1587–1653), dedicated to Countess of Montgomery; the book was first published in 1621.]

Orlando Furiosa: Abraham Cowleys workes [Two separate books. The first is Orlando Furioso, an Italian epic poem of Ludovico Ariosto (1516–1532), presumably in an early, but un-named translation.  Abraham Cowley (1618–1667), was an English poet, with 14 printings of his works published between 1668 and 1721.]

Mrs Phillipes’s Verses. orinda. [Katherine Philips (1631/32–1664), known as “The Matchless Orinda,” was an Anglo-Welsh royalist poet, translator, and woman of letters. After her death, in 1667, an authorized edition of her poetry was printed entitled Poems by the Most Deservedly admired Mrs Katherine Philips, the Matchless Orinda, which included her translations of Pompee and Horace.]

Scarrons Comicall Romance [Paul Scarron (1610–1660) was a French dramatist and novelist. The Roman Comique was reworked by a number of English authors.]

The Lusiad. or Portingales His: a Poem [The Lusiads is a Portuguese epic poem written by Luis vaz de Camoes (c1524/5–1580) and first published in 1572. The date and author of the early translation is not stated.]

The warres of Justinian [The history of the warres of the Emperour Justinian in eight books: etc. Written in Greek by Procopius etc. Englished by Sir Henry Holcroft (1586–1650). Published in 1653.]

Micrographia. By Rob: Hooke [Likely to be a first edition (1665) directly from the author. The book is listed in the 1846 Draycot House contents catalogue.]

The Civell warrs of Spain [Joseph Black has identified this as Prudencio de Sandoval, The Civil Wars of Spain (published in multiple editions from 1652 to 1662) This book is also listed in the 1795 Draycot House Inventory.]

Phillipe De Comines. [An early translation from French of the Memoirs of Philippe de Commines. The usual publication date for Volume 2 is 1712.]

Cornelius Tacitus Tacitus Arriana. [The Annales of Cornelius Tacitus: The description of Germanie. Translated by Richard Greenway and Sir Henry Savile (1549–1622). Published London, 1640; Ariana is a romance by Jean Desmarets, Sieur de Saint Sorlin, originally translated in 1636.]

Of Goverment of obeydiense by Jo: Hall. [Of Government and obedience as the stand directed and determined in Scripture and reason, four books by John Hall of Richmond. London, 1654.]

Cass[andra?] Sanders on Memory &c. [The title is obscured by the fold; the first book is Cassandra the fam’d romance: the whole work: in five parts / written originally in French: now elegantly rendred into English by a person of quality. Cassandra is a translation of a romance novel by Gaultier de Coste La Calprenède, translated in 1652. Possible second work is unidentified.]

Pasquil risen from ye Dead to put higher [see above.]

Standly’s 7: wise Men &c. [Thomas Stanley (1625–1678) was an English Author and translator. The History of Philosophy, 3 volumes published in 1655, 1656, and 1660, includes the seven wise men (sages) of Greece.]

A larg print of Cardinall Richeleis House [Probably the Chateau de Richelieu, south of Chinon, Touraine, rather than the Palais Royal in Paris.]

Nero Ceazar. & ye warr of Jugurth &c: [Two separate books. The first title is possibly Nero Caesar, or Monarchy Depraved. An Historical Work, by Edmund Bolton (published 1627). The second is an early English translation of Sallust (Gaius Sallustius Crispus). The Warre of Jugurth is by Thomas Heywood, 1608.]

The collection of books is, as Tim Couzens notes in his email to me, largely associated with her schooling of her grandsons, Sir Giles and Sir James Long (later 5th Baronet), before they went on to tutors and governors and to Oxford. But many women’s collections included works of history and politics, whether or not they used them to educate their children.

Poems by the Most Deservedly Admired Mrs Katherine Philips, Folger Shakespeare Library, P2035.

Readers of this blog will be particularly interested to see both Mary Wroth’s Urania and Katherine Philips’s Poems in the listing, and, compared with other such inventories, there are surprisingly few devotional books. Though Margaret Cavendish is missing, the presence of Philips certainly shows, much like the romance texts, an affiliation with royalist culture. Links between different books are evident: Thomas Flatman, author of a book of poems listed here, had written a dedicatory poem for Philip’s collection, and as it happens, another copy of Philips’s poems we have featured on this site (housed by the Folger Shakespeare library) was owned by Hannah Flatman, Thomas Flatman’s wife.

Generally, Long’s inventories reveal her political affiliations, her investment in learning (or teaching the boys in her family), and a wide range of interests in romance, history, philosophy, and poetry, with only minor concerns with household management and domestic advice so commonly found in women’s inventories and little in books of devotion that normally dominate such libraries. Perhaps those books were placed on the lower shelves.

We want to thank Tim for providing us with transcriptions and pictures of the two lists of books owned by Lady Dorothy Long and Sara Morrison and Anabel Loyd for permission to reproduce both the transcription and images.

Source: Wiltshire and Swindon History Center 2943B/1/35. Draft letters and notes by Lady Dorothy Long [No description] (1686-1704). 35 documents.

Further Reading

Joseph L. Black, “Women’s Libraries in the Private Libraries in Renaissance England Project.” Bookscapes in Early Modern Britain: Reading, Ownership, Circulation. Edited by Leah Knight, Micheline White, and Elizabeth Saur. University of Michigan Press, 2018. 214–229.

Elizabeth Clarke and Erica Longfellow, “Introduction to the Online Edition.” Elizabeth Isham’s Autobiographical Writings. Center for the Study of the Renaissance, University of Warwick, 2015.

Tim Couzens, Hand of Fate: The History of the Longs, Wellesleys and the Draycot Estate in Wiltshire. ELSP, 2001.

PLRE.Folger: Private Libraries in Renaissance England. Ed. Joseph L. Black et al. Folger Shakespeare Library.

Private Libraries in Renaissance England vols. 8-9 (2014–16).

Thomas Seccombe (rev. Henry Lancaster), “Long, Sir James, second baronet (bap. 1617, d. 1692), politician.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Date of access 23 Jan. 2022, <>.

Edith Snook, “Elizabeth Isham’s ‘own Bookes’: Property, Propriety, and the Self as Library.” Women.’’ Bookscapes in Early Modern Britain: Reading, Ownership, Circulation. Edited by Leah Knight, Micheline White, and Elizabeth Saur. University of Michigan Press, 2018. 77–93.