Manuscripts of Drummond of Hawthornden
MacDonald, Robert H.
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Literary remains often survive more by good luck than good management: looking at the history of the Hawthornden MSS the wonder is that they exist at all. For more than one hundred and fifty years after Drummond's death his papers were treated in a most casual way; handed out to editors, looked over, neglected, lost, scribbled upon and shuffled, till we might think ourselves fortunate to have any left. In the last century a responsible scholar came forward to save what he could, and one of his first emotions was an intense regret at the amount of valuable material that had been destroyed. Drummond died in 1649, leaving behind him in manuscript an unpublished history, several unpublished political essays, a considerable number of posthumous poems, some letters, commonplace books and miscellaneous notes. The history and the essays were at first thought too controversial for immediate publication, and the poems had been suppressed by Drummond himself; nevertheless six years later the bulk of this material was offered to the public. Drummond's son William was a youth of fourteen on his father's death; Drummond's brother-in-law, Sir John Scot of Scotstarvet, sorted through the MSS and sent to the printer Richard Tomlins in London the history and some letters, and a year later, some poems. (The originals may have gone to London, but it seems more likely that Sir John had copies made for Tomlins and his editors, Mr. Hall and Edward Phillips.) During the next fifty years the MSS lay at Hawthornden, where they were pawed over from time to time by Drummond's son, now Sir William, and scribbled upon by Drummond's daughter Eliza. Sir William went through the papers and marked the contents - perhaps with a thought to their publication - and censored the letters, erasing as many phrases referring to the family poverty as caught his eye. He may have destroyed some leaves, for there are gaps in this volume of the MSS.