Edited Diaries

For my period (1640-1715) and geographical area (England and Wales), I have found editions of diaries published for ten different Puritan ministers:

Minister Place Diary dates Edition
Archer, Isaac Mildenhall, Suffolk 1659-1700 1994
Bilby, William Nottingham 1714-1717 1953
Chandler, Francis Theydon Garnon, Essex 1661-1666 1916
Henry, Philip Broad Oak, Flintshire 1647-1684 1882
Heywood, Oliver Halifax 1666-1673 1881, 1882, 1885
Jolly, Thomas Altham, Lancs 1671-1693 1894
Josselin, Ralph East Colne, Essex 1640-1683 1908
Josselin, Ralph East Colne, Essex 1640-1683 1976
Larkham, Thomas Tavistock, Devon 1650-1669 2011
Newcome, Henry Manchester 1661-1663 1849
Trench, Edmund Hackney, London 1670-1689 1693

I have quite a good distribution of dates, but as with my MS, there is nothing for the first decade of the 18th century. Geographically, most are concentrated in two regions: in the South-East (Essex, Suffolk and London) and in the North-West (Lancashire, West Yorkshire, and Flintshire).

The oldest edition, that of Edmund Trench, was published in 1693. This early date suggests that 17th-century diarists might have been aware that their intimate confessions could one day be exposed to a wider readership. In these editions, we therefore have two layers of mediation: the original event presented by the diarist and then what the editor considered appropriate for his readers. Of course, edited diaries provide more readable text for us, but the introduction of the editors’ selections has to be taken into consideration. Although my thesis is focused on the diaries, it would seem appropriate to be aware of the editors’ selection criteria wherever possible. With different priorities, modern editors tend to be less selective, aware that what earlier publishers edited out, may be what 21st-century readers wish to discover.

Returning to the 1693 edition of Edmund Trench’s diary, and conscious of a third level of mediation (mine), here is a short anecdote from 22 April 1672:

Trying Enfield-Air, for removing my Ague, I rode into the Chase, and being among the Trees thoughtful and careless, my Horse by a great and sudden start, turn’d me first on his Crupper, and ere-long on the ground ; yet only tore my Clothes among the Trees and Bushes. I was forc’d to walk back to Coz. Farrington’s, in the heat, which turn’d my expected Cold into a violent Sweat. I desired thankfully to remember that Preservation in such apparent danger, and to be sensible of God’s good Providence, as oft I ride, and no such danger appears ; and to be still as careful to perform, as I was ready to resolve and vow.

Hackney, Apr. 22. 1672.

The previous entry recorded in the edition is from 20 June 1671, whilst the next entry is from 26 July 1672. This suggests either very sporadic diary keeping on the part of Trench, or very careful selection of entries by the editor. The June 1671 entry is helpful for understanding the quoted entry in mentioning a persistent health problem, a “quadran ague”, i.e a fever recurring sporadically, literally every fourth day. However, the problem highlighted in our text concerns the perils of horse travel. According to Peter Edwards, “early modern England was very largely a ‘”horse-drawn” society”, (Edwards, p1), most people had dealings with horses and horse-related accidents were frequent, and some fatal. For example, William of Orange (King of England at the time of this publication), died following a riding accident.

Diary entries include numerous pre-suppositions, so before interpreting this text, I would like to provide a few explanations. In reading the diary, you would have learnt that a sister of Trench’s father had married Caldwell Farrington, a merchant from London (Trench, p6), so his cousin (Coz. Farrington) might well have lived in London still. The “Chase” is a green lane. Enfield was a small town, a day’s walk from London going north up the valley of the River Lea. It had received its market charter in the 14th century, and in the 16th century, the area around the town was associated with woodland and royal hunting (a brief history of Enfield).

The point that Trench (and the editor) seem to want to make is that in spite of the inconvenience of his returning on foot to London, in spite of his not benefitting from the cool country air of Enfield and finishing up sweating in the heat and effort of walking, he could not only be thankful for “Preservation” from a bad accident on that day, but he could incorporate this spiritual lesson into his daily life, being grateful that whenever he rode, he was under God’s protection. The editor might expect this anecdote to speak to readers apprehensive of riding accidents or curious of how a celebrated minister approached this aspect of life. An example from this “Holy Life” (Trench, title page) expressed in his diary could become a model for younger souls, zealous for godly self-improvement.

We can make two further observations based on this text both social and religious:

First, although Trench’s father studied medicine in Paris and Bourges (Trench, p9) and practised as a doctor (Trench, pp10-11), Trench was sick with his recurring fever (“quadran ague”) for at least ten months and could find no better cure than finding fresh country air. This illustrates how the power of medicine at the time was very limited in it diagnoses and treatments.

Secondly, Trench was conscious of developing godly habits. Not only was he grateful for avoiding a nasty accident, but he wanted to install a constant attitude of thankfulness, “as oft I ride, and no such danger appears”. In addition, he was aware of the weakness of human resolve and adds further encouragement to himself, “and to be still as careful to perform, as I was ready to resolve and vow”. On re-reading, his diary would have become a useful tool for reinforcing his good intentions.

Since so much can be extracted from a single entry of a Puritan minister’s diary, I feel that my research will need to be well-directed to avoid an excess of comment and analysis. Nevertheless, I would like to see all diaries available today and I am still looking for other editions of diaries. If anyone has any information on any other editions of diaries written by Puritan ministers (1640-1715, in England and Wales), please let me know.

Bibliography of Primary Sources

Archer, Isaac and William Coe. Two East Anglian Diaries, 1641-79: Isaac Archer and William Coe. Edited by Matthew Storey, Boydell & Brewer. 1994.

Bilby, William. “Some Remarkable Passages in the Life of William Bilby (1664-1738) with an Appendix”. Transactions of the Unitarian Historical Society, vol. 10, no. 3, 1953, pp. 123-141.

Chandler, Francis. “The Diary of an ejected Minister”. Transactions of Congregational History Society, vol. 7,1916. pp. 373-380).

Henry, Philip. Diaries and Letters of Philip Henry, M. A.  of Broad Oak, Flintshire. Edited by Matthew Henry Lee. London: Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., 1882.

Heywood, Oliver. The Whole Works of the Rev. Oliver Heywood … with Memoirs of His Life, vol. 1, Edited by R. Slate. London,  Idle, 1825.

Heywood, Oliver. “Rev. O. Heywood’s Diary.” The Rev. Oliver Heywood, B. A.  1630-1702, vol 1, Edited by J. Horsefall Turner, Brighouse: A. B. Bayes. 1882, pp. 223-304.

Heywood, Oliver. “Diary.” The Rev. Oliver Heywood, B. A.  1630-1702, vol 2, Edited by J. Horsefall Turner, Brighouse: A. B. Bayes. 1881, pp. 38-123.

Heywood, Oliver. “Last Diary.” The Rev. Oliver Heywood, B. A.  1630-1702, vol 4, Edited by J. Horsefall Turner, Brighouse: A. B. Bayes. 1885, pp. 223-304.

Jolly, Thomas. “The Note Book of the Rev Thomas Jolly A. D.  1671-1693”. Remains historical and Literary connected with the Palatine Counties of Lancaster and Chester, vol. 33, 1895, pp. 1-118.

Josselin, Ralph. The Diary of the Rev.  Ralph Josselin: 1616-1683, Edited by E. Hockliffe, London, Royal Historical Society, 1908.

Josselin, Ralph. The Diary of Ralph Josselin: 1616-1683, Edited by Alan MacFarlane, OUP, 1976.

Larkham, Thomas. The Diary of Thomas Larkham, 1647-1669 (Church of England Record Society), Edited by Susan Hardman Moore, Boydell Press, 2011.

Newcome, Henry. The Diary of the Rev.  Henry Newcome from September 30, 1661 to September 29, 1663. Edited by Thomas Heywood, Manchester, The Chetham Society, 1849.

Trench, Edmund. Some Remarkable Passages in the Holy Life and Death of the late Reverend Mr Edmund Trench, London, Thomas Parkhurst, 1693.


Bibliography of Secondary Sources

Edwards, Peter. Horse and Man in Early Modern England. Hambledon Continuum, 2008.

“A brief history of Enfield.” Enjoy Enfield, Enfield Council, new.enfield.gov.uk/enjoyenfield/a-brief-history-of-enfield. Accessed 25 August 2018.

Colin Harris

PhD student at LERMA, Aix-en-Provence. Ministerial Puritan Diaries of the 17th Century. MA ACMA (Recherche) Aix Marseille Université. BA Cantab.

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