George Savile, First Marquess of Halifax



The Works of George Savile Marquis of Halifax, ed. Mark N. Brown, 3 vols (Oxford, 1989)

Brown, HLQ (1972)

Mark N. Brown, ‘The Works of George Savile Marquis of Halifax: Dates and Circumstances of Composition’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 35 (1971-2), 143-57.

Brown, HLQ (1974)

Mark N. Brown, ‘Trimmers and Moderates in the Reign of Charles II’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 37 (1973-4), 311-36.


H. C. Foxcroft, The Life and Letters of Sir George Savile, Bart. First Marquis of Halifax &c. with a new edition of his works now for the first time collected and revised, 2 vols (London, New York and Bombay, 1898; reprinted New York and London, 1968).


Halifax's Papers

George Savile, first Marquess of Halifax, eminent statesman and pamphleteer — Dryden's ‘Jotham of piercing wit and pregnant thought’ — was a prolific writer and correspondent and his papers have survived in considerable numbers. They include autograph drafts, notebooks, memoranda, correspondence and other working documents relating to both his literary and political work, as well as scribal manuscripts directly associated with him. Such papers survive despite some measure of dispersal of the original Halifax Archive.

Halifax's papers evidently passed at his death to his son William (1665-1700), second Marquess of Halifax, who in 1695 married Lady Mary Finch, daughter of Daniel Finch (1647-1730), second Earl of Nottingham and sixth Earl of Winchilsea. After the second Marquess's death in 1700 — upon which the principal family seat at Rufford in Nottinghamshire passed to a cousin of Halifax's, Sir John Savile, sixth Baronet (1651-1704) — his widow preserved the main archive at Halifax House in St James's Square, London, until her own death in 1718. The papers were retained by her elder daughter, Lady Dorothy Savile (1699-1758), Countess of Burlington, until the house was sold in 1720. Lord Nottingham advised her at that time about the archives, saying that Lord Finch (1689-1769), third Earl of Nottingham &c., would take care to search every ye least hole or corner and to bring away every scrip wthout looking into ym' so that she might afterwards ‘upon perusal of ym judge what are fitt to be kept and wt to be burnt’ (British Library, Add. MS 28569, f. 154r; quoted in Foxcroft, I, viii). Whether any manuscripts were actually ‘burnt’ at that time is not known. Besides manuscripts that can be accounted for, Lady Burlington certainly retained the original manuscripts, now lost, of Halifax's celebrated Character of King Charles the Second and of his Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflections, which were published in 1750 (Foxcroft, II, 343-60, 489-528). Unconfirmed, and perhaps suspect, is an allegation by Lord Oxford (reported by Edmond Malone and cited in Foxcroft, I, viii) that she destroyed a copy of Halifax's ‘Journal’ or ‘Memoirs’ at the instigation of Alexander Pope, who thought them too critical of Roman Catholicism. The majority of the Halifax papers which Lady Burlington acquired clearly passed in due course to her daughter, Charlotte Boyle, who in 1748 married William Cavendish (1720-64), fourth Duke of Devonshire.

This brief history largely accounts for the main existing collections of Halifax's papers. Most important is the collection which passed into the muniments of the Finch family, now preserved in the Leicestershire Record Office (DG 7). These papers — which were unknown to Foxcroft but which have been investigated by more recent scholars — include autograph drafts of one familiar work by Halifax (HaG 44-45), besides a considerable quantity of unpublished drafts, papers and commonplace books by him (*HaG 60, HaG 69-71).

A second notable collection — the majority of which was known to Foxcroft — remains among the muniments of the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. It includes an important notebook of Halifax's as well as a quantity of miscellaneous autograph drafts, memoranda, correspondence received and other papers belonging to him (HaG 67-68). The Halifax Collection at Chatsworth has been largely (but not fully) calendared in an HMC Report (1977: NRA No. 77/28). Items not included in the report are to be found at Chatsworth, in the ‘Letters’ series. and in a box of Halifax and Nottingham letters and legal and estate papers kept in the librarian's cabinet.

A third collection — which, again, was known to Foxcroft — was probably derived from the Devonshire archives later in the eighteenth century. This is the Halifax Papers among the muniments of the Earls Spencer, formerly at Althorp in Northamptonshire and now (since 1984) in the British Library. Although the Spencer family — largely descending from Halifax's brother-in-law and fierce political rival Robert Spencer (1640-1702), second Earl of Sunderland— had some obvious connection with Halifax through his first wife, Dorothy Spencer (d.1670), while his great-great-grandson, the fifth Duke of Devonshire (1748-1811), married in 1774 Georgiana (1757-1806), daughter of John, first Earl Spencer, it seems likely that those Halifax papers now in the Spencer muniments were brought there directly from the Devonshire archives (perhaps while at Devonshire House) by Miss Rachel Lloyd (d.1803). The latter made several volumes of transcripts of Halifax papers, the originals quite possibly borrowed by her and remaining at the time of her death among her papers, which were left to Georgiana, Dowager Countess Spencer. The Spencer Papers today, now in the British Library (Add. MSS 75301-75350), include one notable autograph manuscript of an important journal by him (*HaG 61), various autograph memoranda by him (*HaG 65), and a quantity of correspondence received by him, in addition to Rachel Lloyd's transcripts (HaG 62-63).

A fourth Halifax collection — one unknown to Foxcroft — is owned by the present Lord Savile of Rufford and is preserved at the Nottinghamshire Record Office (DDSR and DDSR addit.). It includes a number of letters received by Halifax from correspondents and various of his legal and official papers, although none of his literary papers. It is presumably what was left behind at Rufford when Lady Halifax moved to London after 1700.

This general tally of Halifax's papers could be extended by an account of manuscripts almost certainly transcribed from his autograph manuscripts by persons known to him (Sir William Trumbull, for instance) and of papers of his, or copies of his tracts, which are still among the archives of notable English families (such as those of the Marquess of Bath, the Earl of Lonsdale and the Harley and Pakington families) who were related to or associated with him.

Of those political pamphlets by Halifax published during his lifetime, only two are known to survive in his owm hand: that is, A Rough Draught of a New Model at Sea, two drafts of which are among the Finch Manuscripts (HaG 44-45), and Some Cautions offered to the Consideration of those who are to choose Members to serve in the ensuing Parliament, the autograph of which is among the Spencer Papers (*HaG 55).

Other Miscellaneous Remains

Autograph manuscripts of works unfinished or unpublished by Halifax are somewhat more numerous. A series of drafts, notes, memoranda, notebooks and journals by Halifax, found in various archives, are given separate entries below, in the ‘Miscellaneous Remains’ sections (HaG 59-71), according to their present physical units. They include material on a variety of subjects, sometimes in more than one version, which, as Dr Brown has noted (Huntington Library Quarterly (1972), 156-7), were never intended to be read in their present form and which have demanded considerable editorial arrangement in his edition of the Works.

Many of Halifax's unpublished miscellaneous writings take the form of brief observations and aphorisms on specific subjects, usually written out in narrow columns (up to three to a page and representing successive stages of addition and revision). Many are written on loose sheets, often marked ‘Misc.’; others appear in alphabetically arranged commonplace books. These last items are notable contributions to an important literary sub-genre of the seventeenth century, one distinguished at the beginning of the century by the methodical compilations of Francis Bacon and at the end by those of John Locke who, indeed, devised A New Method of a Common-Place Book (first published in French in the Bibliothèque Universelle, 1686, and in an English translation in Locke's Posthumous Works, 1706). It is probable that what was published in 1750 as Halifax's Political, Moral, and Miscellaneous Thoughts and Reflections (Foxcroft, II, 489-528) was a very similar commonplace book or collection of unbound ‘Miscellanies’, although the published version may well represent an editorial selection and rearrangement (see Brown, Huntington Library Quarterly (1972), 155-6). Some virtually identical aphorisms are found in the extant commonplace books, which suggests that Halifax was accustomed to re-copying and re-ordering his observations by way of literary refinement, so that the true extent of this process is not necessarily represented fully by the surviving manuscripts.

Letters and Documents

Other surviving papers of Halifax fall outside the purview of a strictly literary survey but may be summarised briefly. Many scores of letters by Halifax survive, the majority in the autograph originals, some in the hands of amanuenses or copied in letterbooks. A number of other letters by him are now ‘lost’ but were printed in earlier publications from about 1700 onwards. Perhaps the greater part (though by no means all) of Halifax's extant correspondence is edited in Foxcroft. However, an additional series is printed in Dorothy Lane Poole, ‘Some Unpublished Letters of George Savile, Lord Halifax, to Gilbert Burnet’, English Historical Review, 26 (1911), 535-42, and no doubt many more letters by him will come to light in due course

Currently known locations include the following:

Marquess of Bath, Longleat House (passim, including Thynne Papers, Vols. XV, ff. 3r-54r, and XXXV, ff. 67r-73r)

Bodleian Library (MSS Add. A. 191, ff. 74-94; Tanner 28, ff. 332, 366)

British Library (Add. MSS 9828, f. 18r; 15892, ff. 108r, 119r; 22183, ff. 139r, 141r, 144r; 28053, f. 5r; 28896, f. 5r; 32680, ff. 81r, 137r; 63752-63781 (Preston archive, passim); 75301-75350, 75359-75363 (Althorp Papers, passim); Loan MS 29/187, ff. 179r-82r, 283r; Stowe MSS 200, ff. 224r, 433r, 453r; 201, f. 381r; 202, ff. 251r, 332r; 204, f. 318r; 206, f. 55)

Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone (U 1590 C7/27 and C474)

Duke of Devonshire, Chatsworth House (Hardwick 58; Letters 60, 60.3, 60.4, 60.5; ‘MS Correspondence Vol. II’ [green morocco box in cabinet]; Box of Halifax and Nottingham letters and documents in cabinet)

University of Kansas

National Archives, Kew (SP 8/1, pt 2, ff. 90r-5r, 132r-5r, 143r-6r, 155r-6r, 203r-8r, 244r-5r [nine letters to William of Orange]; SP 9/193 [nineteenth-century transcripts]; SP 78/100-1; SP 84/125-6 (ff. 121r-2v); SP 84/190/34 (f. 35r)

University of Nottingham (Galway MSS)

Warwickshire County Record Office (Denbigh MSS, C8/20-22)

Yale (Osb MSS Files 6479-6480, formerly Osborn Files/Halifax)

Letters in Rodd's sale catalogues for 1836, item 623, and 1847, item 1973

Alfred Morrison collection (now dispersed; quoted in Catalogue of the Collection of…Alfred Morrison, II (1885), p. 225

T.E.P. Lefroy papers (now dispersed, recorded in HMC, 1st Report (1870), Appendix, p. 56, including two letters sold at Sotheby's, 3 May 1889, lot 41, to J. Webster)

A letter sold at Christie's, 29 April 1981, lot 50.

Facsimile examples of autograph letters by Halifax may be found in Lawrence B. Phillips, The Autographic Album (London, 1866), p. 107; in Joseph Netherclift, A Collection of A Hundred Characteristic and Interesting Autograph Letters (London, 1899), p. 83; and in Sotheby's sale catalogue, 11 July 1986, lot 303 (Preston archives). The order signed by Halifax and others for bringing Samuel Pepys from the Tower to the Council Chamber, 2 June 1679, is reproduced in facsimile in Colonel Sir Henry James, Facsimiles of National Manuscripts from William the Conqueror to Queen Anne, 4 vols (Southampton, 1865-8), IV, No. LXIV.

Collections of letters written to Halifax by his many correspondents, besides those in the Spencer Papers mentioned above, include the Devonshire muniments at Chatsworth (Halifax Collection, Group C; Letters 55-9, 60.2; Box of Halifax and Nottingham letters and documents in cabinet); in the Savile of Rufford Papers (Nottinghamshire Record Office, DDSR and DDSR addit.); in the National Archives, Kew (passim); and in a letterbook of Richard Graham, first Viscount Preston at Yale (Osborn MS fb 83).

Many other miscellaneous documents copied or signed by Halifax, chiefly in an official capacity, are found in such repositories as: the Bodleian Library (MSS Rawl. A. 139, B, p. 278; Rawl. D. 863, f. 17r); British Library (Add. MSS 22183, f. 139r; 28103, f. 72r; 32095, f. 123r; 34195, f. 85r; Egerton MS 2618, f. 140r); Historical Society of Pennsylvania (Simon Gratz Collection, British Statesmen, Case 9, Box 35); Huntington (HA 10685); Pierpont Morgan Library (R. of E. v. James II and v. William III; Royal House of Stuart v. 3, pp. 6-9); and National Archives, Kew (SP 29/421/64; SP 78/134/73-5 (ff. 78r-80v); SP 84/190/52).

Principal Writings

As for Halifax's main writings, a number of Halifax's political pamphlets had wide contemporary circulation in manuscript before they were published. Halifax was himself usually responsible for initiating such circulation, although on at least one occasion a tract was copied and circulated without his authorization. The Lady's New Year's Gift: or, Advice to a Daughter — one of his most widely known works — was surreptitiously published in 1687/8, it seems, through the dishonesty of the scrbe to whom the author's manuscript was originally entrusted (see Foxcroft, II, 379). Among other things, it is now possible to record no fewer than 23 scribal copies of Halifax's most celebrated work, The Character of a Trimmer (HaG 3-22.8), of which only four were known to Foxcroft. What might possibly be other copies of the work — some of them perhaps overlapping with items given entries below — were recorded earlier One, written ‘very fair’, was among the manuscripts of the antiquary Peter Le Neve (1661-1729) sold by John Wilcox on 19 March 1730/1, lot 85, to the antiquary Thomas Martin (1697-1771). Another, dated 1684, was sold at Sotheby's, 6 December 1811 (7th day), lot 1444, to the bibliographer Joseph Haslewood (1769-1933). Another, in a folio volume including a petition of the gentlemen of Kent and a list of ships in 1664-7, was sold by Sotheby's, 1 July 1861 (Tenison sale), lot 14 to the bookseller Joseph Lilly. What may have been the same volume was sold, with other of Lilly's stock, at Sotheby's, 27 January 1873, lot 1382, to Hamilton. Yet another, ‘beautifully written, dated 1688, and …apparently in the same handwriting’, was owned by one ‘F. M. S.’ and reported in N&Q, 4 (3 May 1873), 364. And yet another, comprising 162 quarto pages, was sold at Sotheby's, 31 January 1956, lot 445, to Pickering.

Another widely circulated tract, the Maxims of State, survives in at least seventeen manuscript texts (HaG 27-42), two of them among the Finch Papers. A Rough Draught of a New Model at Sea is represented by nine copies (HaG 46-54) in addition to the two holograph drafts (HaG 44-45), including one copy directly transcribed from the second autograph draft by Halifax's friend, the diplomat Sir William Trumbull (HaG 47). In addition to the holograph (*HaG 55), three copies (two of them owned by Trumbull and Robert Harley respectively) are also recorded for Some cautions offered to the Consideration of those who are to choose Members to serve in the ensuing Parliament (HaG 56-58). Further contemporary copies of any of these tracts could well come to light in due course.

Alexander Sion

Certain scribal manuscripts of works by Halifax are of particular interest since they are known to be in the hand of one of his personal amanuenses. Among other things, this scribe later wrote an account of Halifax under the title Saviliana/or/The Works/of/George Savile/Late Marquis of Halifax/In four Tracts/The Character of a Trimmer/A Letter to a Dissenter/The Anatomy of an Equivalent/and/Advice to a Daughter, this being evidently intended as an introduction to a posthumous edition of four of Halifax's tracts, an edition which, however, did not actually materialize (possibly because of the appearance of Matthew Gillyflower's edition of Halifax's Miscellanies in 1700). The extant manuscript is among the Spencer Papers in the British Library (HaG 72). Various suggestions have been made as to the identity of this scribe, the candidates including William Mompesson, Edward Wilson, Charles Hauses, Charles Dartiquenave and M. Rambaud. The scribe has now been positively identified by M.N. Brown, however, as Alexander Sion (1654-1730), a Huguenot refugee whom Halifax appointed as his domestic chaplain some time after 23 October 1690 and whom he presented to the rectory of Barrowby in Lincolnshire in 1693. At least two letters written and signed by him survive: one written to Halifax in 1693, now in a box of miscellaneous Halifax and Nottingham papers in the cabinet at Chatsworth House; and another written to the second Lord Halifax in 1697, now among the Savile papers in the Nottinghamshire Record Office (DDSR 212/6). Besides Saviliana, Sion was responsible for one of the copies of The Character of a Trimmer (HaG 5); for copying most of the entries into one of Halifax's commonplace books (*HaG 71); for two of Halifax's library catalogues (discussed below); and for a translation into French of Halifax's tract The Lady's New Year's Gift: or, Advice to a Daughter. This translation is preserved in a series of four autograph revised drafts by Sion in Cambridge University Library, their chronological sequence having been established by M.N. Brown (HaG 25.2-25.8). This work too was intended for publication and was, in fact, printed in London in 1692 for James Partridge and Matthew Gillyflower, who in 1688 had published the ‘Second Edition Corrected by the Original’ of The Lady's New Year's Gift.

Halifax's Library

The two library catalogues in Sion's hand are also in Cambridge University Library: namely, MS Dd. 2. 14, ff. 2-49 (‘A Catalogue of the Books In the Lower Library London [i.e. at Halifax House in St James's Square], 1692’) and MS Dd. 9. 51, ff. 2-26 (‘A Catalogue of the books In the Library of Rufford belonging to My Lord Marquiss of Halifax In the year 1693’, including items marked as being ‘put up in boxes, in London, in order to be sent down’). These two catalogues can be supplemented by three further, anonymous, catalogues in the same repository which have been clearly identified by M.N. Brown as also relating to Halifax's library at a slightly earlier period: namely, MS Dd. 9. 3, ff. 2-24 (‘14. Jan. 1679. Catalogus Librorum Londini Remanentium’); MS Oo. 6. 108 (c), ff. 2-34 (‘Catalogue of the Books in ye Liberary In London: Taken Septbr ye 3. 1683’); and (in the same hand as the last item) Ms Oo. 6. 108 (c), ff. 35-80 (‘A Catalogue of the Books in the Libriary at London. Taken September the third in the yeare 1684’). Altogether, and allowing for some measure of overlap, these catalogues bear witness to a library of perhaps some 2,000 volumes, in English, French, Latin, Italian and Spanish. Unfortunately the books have long been dispersed. Nothing is known of those at Halifax House (since demolished) following its sale in 1720, while none of Halifax's books appears to be retained at Rufford today. There is a possibility that some of these books passed to Barbara Savile (d.1797), sister (and in 1784 sole heir) of Sir George Savile, eighth Baronet. In 1752, at Rufford, she married Richard Lumley (1725-82), fourth Earl of Scarborough. The total effects of Lord Scarborough himself were auctioned at Sandbeck in Yorkshire by Christie's on 19-27 August 1785, lots 1-110. Some hundreds of books were in this sale but were largely unspecified and probably eighteenth-century, so that little or nothing seems likely to have derived from Halifax's library.

Indeed, the only volumes from Halifax's library which it seems possible to trace today are manuscripts. A seventeenth-century transcript of the medieval cartulary of Rufford Abbey, containing an inscription and some marginal annotations in Halifax's hand, is now in the British Library (Harley MS 1063) and, like one of the miscellaneous collections recorded below (*HaG 64), was once owned by the elder John Anstis (1669-1744). The original cartulary itself is still owned by the Savile family and is in the British Library among the Loan MSS (No. 41). What was apparently another of Halifax's manuscript volumes was described as a composite collection of ‘Papers on Coin Trade, &c. addressed to Lord Halifax by Sir William Petty, endorsed by Lord Halifax, bound together…folio’. This was sold in the Phillipps sale at Sotheby's on 9 June 1898, lot 624. It may be mentioned that the original autograph draft of one of these tracts — the Quantulumcunque concerning Money of 1682, which was printed with a dedication to Halifax in 1695 — is still preserved among the Petty Papers now in the British Library (Add.MS 72865, ff. 148r-53r, a copy by an amanuensis being in Add. MS 72854, ff. 128r-32v).

Yet another manuscript volume possibly owned by Halifax was described by William Oldys (in the Biographia Britannica, Vol. III (1750), p. 2061) as a ‘Medley of diverting Sayings, Stories, Characters, &c. in Verse and Prose, written in Quarto, about the Year 1686, (as it is attested in another hand) by Charles Cotton, Esq; some time in the Library of the Earl of Hallifax’. This manuscript is not, however, mentioned in any of the catalogues of Halifax's library and it is just possible that Oldys was referring to Charles Montagu (1661-1715), who became Earl of Halifax in 1714 shortly before his death and whose manuscripts (but not this one) were sold by Samuel Baker (viz. Sotheby's) on 28 November 1760.

The Canon

The canon of Halifax's published works has been largely established in Foxcroft, who has accepted as her basis the posthumous edition of Halifax's collected works, published in 1700 under the title Miscellanies by Matthew Gillyflower. Her decision is supported — although for somewhat different reasons — by M.N. Brown in his edition of the Works. One short work which she accepted despite some uncertainty of evidence is the Character of Doctor Burnet, which was first printed in 1734 by Thomas Burnet in his edition of his father's History of his Own Time. Thomas Burnet allegedly printed his text from a ‘Copy …taken from one given to the Bishop, in the Marquiss of Halifax's own Hand-writing, which was in the Editor's hands, but is at present mislaid’. The attribution to Halifax is supported by the discovery of a text which was evidently sent to Thomas Burnet (to replace the one he lost) by a certain John Macknay, who had made a copy some years earlier from ‘the Origenal (by ye Marquis of Hallifax’) (see HaG 59). The one notable addition which can be made to Foxcroft's version of the canon is the early Observations upon a Late Libel (1681), the printer's manuscript of which (HaG 43) was discovered by M.N. Brown in 1971. Following the attribution of this work to Halifax in Hugh Macdonald's edition in 1940, its authorship has been disputed and as recently as 1969 it was rejected from the canon in J.P. Kenyon's Penguin edition of Halifax's Complete Works (see p. 345). However, the attribution has been warmly supported by H. C. Foxcroft in ‘New Light on George Savile, First Marquis of Halifax, “The Trimmer”’, History, NS 26 (1941-2), 176-87 (pp. 179-81) and by M.N. Brown (see particularly HLQ (1972), 143-5).

As regards the Halifax ‘apocrypha’, there seems to be no good reason to question Foxcroft's rejection of various other tracts that have been occasionally attributed to Halifax (see her discussion, II, 532-40). Some of these tracts appeared in the posthumous publication Miscellanies Historical and Philological: Being a Curious Collection of Private Papers found in the study of a Noble-Man lately deceas'd (London, 1703) and were allegedly ‘found among the Manuscripts of the late Famous M— of H—’, a claim likely to be only a publisher's ploy to boost their significance. Some of these tracts — nowhere else ascribed to Halifax — are to be found in a manuscript volume compiled c.1681-2 by Sir William Haward (d.1690s), which is now in the Bodleian (MS Don. b. 8). Yet other manuscript texts of individual tracts in the apocrypha are to be found: for instance, a contemporary copy of A Letter from a Clergy-Man in the City, to His Friend in the Country (1688) is at the University of Kansas (MS P185), and the satirical poem The Club-men of the House of Commons (‘Let noble Sir Positive lead the Van’) of 1694 is found in various collections of poems on affairs of state, including Bodleian (MSS Eng. poet. c. 18, ff. 153v, 152, 154-5; Locke c. 32, f. 31) and British Library (Egerton MS 2623, f. 76; Harley MS 7315, f. 237). A further collection of political tracts not mentioned in Foxcroft was owned by Wriothesley Russell (1680-1711), second Duke of Bedford, now in the library of the Duke of Bedford, Woburn Abbey (HMC MS No. 270). It is described on its title-page as ‘Certain Select Manuscripts on Several Subjects Collected by George late Marq: of Halifax’ and, in addition to tracts by Finch, Robert Harley, Sir Charles Sedley, Charles Montagu and others, includes a text of Halifax's own Maxims of State (HaG 29). However, the nature of this text (derived from one of the copies which circulated with Montagu's later additions) does not support the likelihood that any of the items in this volume did actually derive from papers owned by Halifax himself.

A final apocryphal work which may be mentioned only in order that it may be dismissed is A letter written to Mr Van R— de M— (as is supposed) by my ld Hallifax, a contemporary copy of which (on six folio pages) is at Worcester College, Oxford (MS 237, items 43-4). Whoever the author was, it is stylistically quite unlike anything written by the first Marquess of Halifax.

Peter Beal