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Diary of the times of Charles II/Volume 1/Gilbert Spencer to Mr. Sidney, September 1


London, 1st September, 1679.

Most Honoured Sir,

We have at last now dispatched the business at Bramber, though we met with great difficulties, lying under several disadvantages, as that of your not being there, nor in England, nor known to any of them; this made for the Gorings, both Henry Goring and Peircy, who have been formerly chosen there: then, what you will be surprised at, your brother Algernon made an interest for one Sir Charles Woosley, who was one of Oliver's friends, and he seems to be mightily disgusted because you should stand at Bramber, where he intended once to stand, which I have taken upon me to answer to Sir Jo. Pelham, that you knew nothing of it. It seems he had a great desire to be a Member, and therefore Penn[2] and Sir John Fagg, and such men, made him interest in several places; and the design, as I find since, was to get Woosley in, if he got in any where else.—Penn (as I presume you will hear by a better hand) wrote to Sir Jo. Pelham that your standing at Bramber would make a greater feud between you and your brothers then is between you and the elder; unless, for an expedient, your interest and Sir Jo, Pelham's credit were engaged for that worthy patriot, C. W.: whether this were only cunning in Penn, or true in your brother, I cannot well say; but I believe you have most cause to take the matter ill from him, who, after he knew you stood, should have turned by and put in a stranger; this added to the trouble and your charge, for he having been there about eight days before the election, and given money to some in the town, and made his learned speech with thanks for their good will to him, and recommended to them that gent., and left ten or twelve guineas to thank them as was pretended, and left instructions and promises with some of that party of £10 a man, which works powerfully under hand. Those promises on the one hand, and Mr. Goring's frequent treats and drinkings on the other, made us spend much more than we should, to keep our party firm.

Mr. Westbrooke wishes us well, but durst not appear against his friends and neighbours, the Gorings; but we had an indefatigable friend of Mr. Turner, who lives on the spot, who, by the credit he had with the Burgers, and the powerful charms we urged of feasting and drinking, made your interest so great that the day before the election, after some treaty on the points, Mr. Peircy Goring consented to desist, if he might have his charge reimbursed, which was readily consented to; for I found by this you would prevent all grudges between the Gorings and the Bridgers, and which was more, it would prevent any ill-will between Sir Jo. Pelham and those who, a few days before, had been at the election of knights for the putting by of Sir J. Fagg, who lost it; and the two brothers. Sir Jo. and Sir Nicholas Pelham, carried it.

The charge he was at, he says, was £80, which I have engaged to pay this week; 'twas more than we thought it could have been, but it is not to be imagined what those fellows, their wives, and children will devour in a day and night, and what extraordinary reckonings the taverns and alehouses make, who, being Burgers, are not to be disputed with on that point. And now. Sir, I am coming to tell you we have spent you almost £200[3] more, and have been no ill husbands neither; but, if we had not met with the difficulties aforesaid, half this expense would have served. And, if ever there should be the like occasion, you are sure of Bramber; for Peircy, I reckon, has passed over his interest for ever: they long very much to see you, when you come over (which I begin to hope to hear of); Mr. Pelham and I have engaged they shall have that satisfaction; Mr. Pelham was so kind as to go over with me, and came again the day of election, though very wet; Sir Jo. sent over half a buck, with which we treated bravely. I made it an article that the gentleman should declare amongst the Burgers that he did desist, and that he would take it as well if they were for you as for him; and, to do him right, he owned a great respect for your family, and, in particular, for yourself; and, if they would choose a stranger, he knew none more worthy; but this could not be brought into example to leave the neighbours and gentlemen of the country; but he having his residence at Maidstone, we thought him as much a stranger as you, Sir.

I have now given you an account of all the most serious parts of this affair; there are many things I might add, which are too long and impertinent, and therefore I shall say no more of that matter, unless I beg leave to tell you that you would have laughed to see how pleased I seemed to be in kissing of old women, and drinking wine with handfulls of sugar, and great glasses of burnt brandy, three things much against the stomach, yet with a very good will, because, to serve him I most honoured. I hope, Sir, you will pardon this tedious, indigested matter, which you find strangely huddled together, as it came into the mind of,

Your most obedient and most dutiful servant,

G. Spencer.

  1. Gilbert Spencer had been steward to Lord Leicester; his name frequently occurs in the Sidney Papers. He was one of those whom Lady Leicester took leave of when on her deathbed,[I 1] and he appears to have been a zealous and faithful servant to this her favourite son. To Lord Leicester, his elder brother, it will be seen in subsequent letters he had a hearty hatred, and he certainly bore no good-will to Algernon.
  2. Penn was at that time living at Worminghurst, in the neighbourhood of Bramber, an estate which came to him through his wife.
  3. "The country groaned under this pressure, (taxes) and began to be dissatisfied; which, having an influence on some gentlemen of both houses, gave birth to two parties, the one for the Country, the other for the Court. The former pretended, in an impartial manner, to espouse the cause of the people, in their liberties and properties, and whatever is dear to Englishmen, to assist the religion and government by law established. The latter pretended to the same, but thought the King was to have a competent income, and be invested with due power for the exercise of his regal office, without having too great a dependence on the people, a cause which had been of such pernicious effects to his royal father. Hence it was that gentlemen bestirred themselves more than usual to be elected into a seat in parliament; so that great was the competition between the candidates, and at great expenses they were, even from one or two hundred to two thousand pounds. But the concerns of the public were not what alone actuated all men; some wanted to be in the House, to be screened from their debts; that Parliament (the long Parliament) having sate a long time, and some had obtained great emoluments from the Court to stand up for their interest. So that it is no wonder that I had no less than five competitors when I offered myself for Aldborough."—Reresby's Mem. 177. Such was the state of things in 1674, and. considering the difference in the value of money, the expense of a seat in Parliament was nearly what it is at present, and the mode of obtaining it, judging from this letter of Spencer's, very much the same.
  1. She espied Gilbert Spencer, my servant. "Gilbert," said she, "farewell. I thanke you for your good-will, and for the services that you have don me, and I give you my little nag."—Lord Leicester's Journal.