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INTRODUCTION

It is now more than thirty years since the late Mark Pattison suggested to me to prepare an edition of Selden's Table Talk, and gave me some valuable hints as to the way in which a work of the kind ought to be done. Pattison was an enthusiast for Selden ; he considered him a typical Englishman, at once a representative of the best points in the distinctively English character, and wholly free from its common prejudices and shortcomings. Selden had certainly what have been termed the three main interests of (Englishmen, (politics, business and religion. |His Table Talk gives us specimens of his remarks on all threel but on matters of business not so many as on the other two. That the conversations which it reports were , held between 1634 and 1654, the year in which Selden died, may be assumed with certainty. The reporter, Milward, says in his introductory letter that he had had the opportunity to hear Selden discourse twenty years together, and he thus fixes the range of time which his notes cover. Now the letters referred to in Tythes, sec. 6, bear date in the Autumn of 1653, so that the conversation about them must have come very shortly before Selden's death. The chief part of the discourse is about contemporary events] and Selden's remarks upon these throw an

interesting light on the history of his opinions and on his attitude to the parties of his day. The early history of the book must be left incomplete on many points. It seems clear, as Mr. Singer has pointed out, that the MS. of it was put together within a few years of Selden's death. He finds proof of this in Milward's introductory letter where he speaks of ‘Mr. Justice Hale, one of the Judges of the Common Pleas.” Hale, afterwards Sir Matthew Hale, ceased to be a judge of the Common Pleas in 1658 on Cromwell's death. It is clear too from this introductory letter, that when the MS. was ready it was placed in the hands of Selden's Executors, probably in the hands of Hale, whose name stands first in the list. But what became of it afterwards I do not know. It is not to be found among Sir Matthew Hale's papers in the Lincoln's Inn Library. The collection includes several of Selden's own papers, some of them unpublished as yet, but no part of the Table Talk. I have to thank the Librarian for his courtesy in placing within my reach very full means of information on this point. Now the earliest printed edition did not come out until 1689, more than thirty years after the MS. had been prepared. Of the history of the book in the meanwhile we know little or nothing. In some form or other it must have been accessible, for it is certain that there were copies made from it or from some second-hand rendering of it. But the long time which was suffered to pass before it was sent to press, suggests that there were parts of it which its trustees did not approve, and there are some at which they may have taken very reasonable offence. (Religious questions are handled with a freedom of expression not at all to Hale's mind: the political sentiments are not those of Hale himself, and the book is disgraced by the insertion of several indecent references and expressions, which add nothing to the force of the passages in which they occur,

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