1868 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Manningham

John Bruce, in Preface, Diary of John Manningham (1868) i-x.



The original of MANNINGHAM'S DIARY, which is here printed, is No. 5353 in the Harleian collection of MSS. in the British Museum. It is a diminutive 12mo. volume, measuring not quite six inches by four, and containing 133 leaves. The handwriting, of which an admirable representation is given in the fac-simile prefixed, is small, and in the main extremely legible; yet in some few places, from haste in the writer, from corrections, from blotting, from the effects of time, and from other obvious causes, difficulties have occurred in a word or two, which, even with the assistance of gentlemen most skilful in reading the old hands, have not been entirely overcome. The few instances in which the collater has been baffled are indicated by marks of doubt.

The first historical writer who noticed this little volume for a literary purpose was Mr. John Payne Collier. In his Annals of the Stage, published in 1831 (i. 320), Mr. Collier quoted from this Diary various passages connected with his special subject, and drew attention to the principal personal facts disclosed by the writer respecting himself, namely, that he had many relations in Kent, and had probably been a member of the Middle Temple.

The late Mr. Joseph Hunter was the next writer who used the work for an historical purpose. With his well-known fondness for genealogical inquiries he applied himself to determine who the writer was whom Mr. Collier had designated merely as a barrister. In this inquiry Mr. Hunter was completely successful. Pursuing the clue given by the mention of relationships in Kent in the various ways which would occur to a person skilled in such investigations, Mr. Hunter fell upon a track in which coincidences between the facts stated in the MS. and those elicited by his own researches followed one another so rapidly as in the end to leave not even the shadow of a doubt that the desired result had been obtained.

We shall briefly indicate the course by which Mr. Hunter arrived at his conclusions. It looks easy enough after the end has been attained, but it will be borne in mind that inquiries of this kind are extremely discursive. The statement of a few leading facts upon the establishment of which the final conclusion is arrived at, gives no idea of the time lost in investigations which are merely tentative. In all such inquiries we are soon reminded of the pretty passages which, after turnings and windings almost ad libitum, are ultimately found to lead to nothing.

Besides cousins of at least seven different names who are alluded to by the Diarist, several of them in connection with Canterbury, Sandwich, and Godmersham, there is one whom he specially commemorates as "my cousin in Kent" (p. 19), and whom he frequently vouches by that designation, or merely as his cousin, as his authority for information which he chronicles. This cousin was evidently the writer's most important connection — the great man of the family. To visit him and his somewhat wayward second wife was the principal object of the Diarist's Journeys into Kent. It also appears that this cousin was a man advanced in life, — roughly stated to be 62 years of age in March 1602-3, and that he resided at a place called Bradbourne, in the neighbourhood of Maidstone. This last fact led directly to the identification desired.

Bradbourne was easily found. It has been for centuries a family seat in the parish of East Malling. Hasted has represented the house in one of his pictorial illustrations pretty much as it yet exists. It has been shorn indeed of many of the noble trees, of the deer, and of some of the other aristocratic adornments with which the county historian surrounded it, but it still stands a stately old-fashioned red-brick mansion, probably of the date of the reign of Queen Anne. Long before that period the same spot was occupied by a previous residence of a county family. From the time of the Protectorate it has belonged to a branch of the old Kentish stock, the Twysdens; and before they purchased it — "in the reign of Queen Elizabeth," as Hasted remarks — "it was in the possession of a family named Manningham." — Manningham! Our diarist slightly alludes to a cousin of that name, "G. Manningham, deceased." The clue was vague, but at that little chink there entered light sufficient to guide the researches of an antiquary.

The inscriptions on the older monuments in East Malling church are printed in Thorpe's Registrum Roffense. To them Mr. Hunter had recourse, and with good success. Amongst them he found one upon a monument still standing on the north side of the chancel of the church to a Richard Manningham, evidently a person of importance in that neighbourhood. It is not stated in the inscription that he was the owner of Bradbourne, but he lived at the time when our author paid his visits thither, and his age, as given on the monument, although not coincident with that stated by the Diarist, — for the monument declares that Richard Manningham died on the 25th April, 1611, in his 72nd year, — was sufficiently near to stimulate to further inquiries. But without following Mr. Hunter step by step it will be enough to state that from the inscription he went to Doctors' Commons, where, under the vicious system of mismanagement which then prevailed, he was one of the favoured two or three who were permitted to use the testamentary records, whilst all other inquirers were excluded with a most offensive disregard of courtesy. The will of Richard Manningham helped on the inquiry very considerably. It was further advanced by an heraldic Visitation of Kent, and was finally and triumphantly concluded by an inspection of the register-books of the Middle Temple.

Without derogating in the slightest degree from the merit of Mr. Hunter's investigations, or desiring to deprive his memory of one atom of the credit which attaches to it on that account, we prefer to state the facts respecting the Manninghams in words of our own, which will enable us to weave into the narrative some additions to the results of Mr. Hunter's inquiries.

About the middle of the sixteenth century the Manninghams were a numerous family of the middle class, branches of which were scattered about in various parts of England. The Richard Manningham of the monument at East Malling was born at St. Alban's; Robert Manningham, descended from a stock which removed out of Bedfordshire into Cambridgeshire, lived and died at Fen Drayton in that county; George Manningham dwelt in Kent, and from the marriages of his female descendants in that county there probably sprang the numerous cousinred of the family to which we have already alluded. Their status in Kent before Richard Manningham settled at Bradbourne may be inferred from one fact which appears in the Diary, namely, that George Manningham was bound as surety with William Somner, father of the well known antiquary of Canterbury, for the father's performance of the duties of the registrarship of the Ecclesiastical Court, in which office he preceded his son.

Richard, Robert, and George Manningham are all stated to have been relations, and probably they all stood about upon a par in worldly circumstances, but Richard pursued a way of life which enabled him to shoot ahead of all the members of his family. Of his youth we have no particulars, but he was well educated even according to present notions. He united an acquaintance with modern languages to the share of classical knowledge taught in our old grammar-schools, and is commemorated as having spoken and written Latin, French, and Dutch, with freedom and elegance, and as having been able at the age of sixty-two to repeat "memoriter" almost the whole of the first and second books of the Aeneid.

Brought up to some branch of commerce, he was a member of the Mercers' Company of London, and in his business days resided in the metropolis, but age found him with a competency, and brought with it some customary infirmities. He retired from London, purchased the quiet sheltered Bradbourne, and passed the evening of his days in occupations in which literature bore a considerable share.

He was twice married; the first time to a native of Holland, a family connection of the Lady Palavicini, afterwards wife of Sir Oliver Cromwell, the uncle of the future Protector. This marriage was a happy one. The lady survived the purchase of Bradbourne, and was buried in the church of East Malling. Richard Manningham's second match was with a Kentish widow. The traces we find of her in the Diary do not leave an impression that she added much to her husband's happiness. She is not alluded to in his will. We may therefore conclude that she died between 1602 and 1611. There is no mention of issue by either marriage.

Childless, solitary, and infirm, Richard Manningham was in no degree misanthropic. Out of his abundance he applied considerable sums in charity, and for the benefit of his kindred, and at an early period looked around for a Manningham who might inherit the principal portion of his property and carry on his name. His choice fell upon John Manningham, a son of Robert of Fen Drayton, and his wife Joan, a daughter of John Fisher of Bledlow in the county of Bedford. That person is our Diarist.

Richard Manningham carried out the obligations of this adoption in the most liberal way. It is obvious from the Diary that John Manningham, whom Richard Manningham designated by the several titles of "cousin," "kinsman," and "son in love," received a generous education of the best kind. He was intended for the practice of the law, and on the 16th March, 1597-8, was entered of the Middle Temple, as the son and heir of Robert Manningham of Fen Drayton, gentleman, deceased. John Chapman, probably the same person who is mentioned in the Diary as one of the cousins who lived at Godmersham, and John Hoskyns, were the members of the Inn who were his sureties upon his admission.

On the 7th June 1605, having kept his exercises and been on the books for the needful seven years, he was called to the degree of an utter barrister; whether afterwards advanced to the dignity of being permitted to plead in actual causes in court does not appear.

Whilst in the Temple he had for his chamber-fellow Edward Curle, son of William Curle, a retainer of Sir Robert Cecil, who procured him to be appointed one of the auditors of the Court of Wards. Several persons of this family are quoted in the Diary, and the close relationship of chamber-fellow ripened not merely into lasting friendship with Edward Curle, and with his brother Walter, who afterwards became Bishop of Winchester, but into affection towards their sister Anne. John Manningham and Anne Curle were married probably about 1607. A son was born to them in 1608, who was named Richard after the quasi-grandfather at Bradbourne. Two other sons were subsequently named John and Walter, and three daughters, Susanna, Anne, and Elizabeth. Where John Manningham lived after he quitted the Temple, whether in London with a view to practice at the Bar, at Hatfield which was the place of residence of the Curles, or at Bradbourne with his "father in love," then a second time a widower, does not appear.

On the 3rd January 1609-10, the old merchant proved the reality of his assumed fatherhood by executing a deed of gift to John Manningham, of the mansion-house of Bradbourne and the lands surrounding it in East Malling, and two years afterwards, on the 21st January, being, as he states, "in tolerable health of body in regard of mine age and infirmities," he made his will. It confirmed, "if needful," the deed of gift to John Manningham, appointed him sole executor, and with some slight exceptions and the charge of a considerable number of legacies, most of them tokens of remembrance, gave him all the residue of his property. The multitude of the old man's legacies and not less so their character tell of his continuing interest in the connections of his past life. They read like the last utterances of a warm and affectionate spirit casting back its glance upon those from whom it was. about to part; whilst his adjuration to his adopted son to discharge the amounts with punctuality, although deformed by the verbiage of legal formality, and smacking a little of the mercantile estimate of the indispensable importance of payment on the very day, is not devoid of real solemnity. Omitting some of the tautologous expressions it reads thus: — "I charge John Manningham, by all the love and duty which he oweth me, for all my love and liberality which I have always borne [to] him and his heretofore, but chiefly in this my will, that he pay every legacy within six months after my death, those excepted that are appointed to be paid at certain days, and those to be duly paid at their days appointed, as my trust is in him, and as he will answer afore God and me at the latter day!" Nor is the pious close of the document without a share of true impressiveness: — "Having thus, I thank God, finished my will, and set an order in my worldly affairs, I will henceforward await God's will to depart hence in peace, most humbly beseeching him that when the day of my dissolution shall be come, I may by his grace be armed with a true and lively faith, firm hope, and constant patience, and be ready to forsake all to go to my blessed Saviour and Redeemer Jesus Christ. Amen, good Lord!"

He had not long to wait. His will was dated, as we have remarked, on the 21st January, 1611-12. On the 25th of the following April, Richard Manningham entered into his rest, and John Manningham into possession as adopted heir. On the following 1st of May he proved the will of his "father in love" at Doctors' Commons.

The few particulars we have been able to gather of the course of this family after the death of Richard Manningham are little more than a brief register of dates. On the 16th April 1617, William Curle the father died. He was interred in Hatfield church, where a monument commemorates his fidelity as a public officer, his good fortune in his children and friends, and his calm and happy death.

In 1619, John Philipot, York Herald, made a Visitation for Kent as Deputy for Camden, the Clarencieux. On this occasion John Manningham registered his arms and pedigree. It is observable that he did not introduce into it the descent of his cousin Richard Manningham from their common ancestor, nor even his name. If the Visitation may be depended upon we may infer that between the time when the return was made and the 21st January 1621-2 when John Manningham made his own will, he lost his daughter Anne by death, and his youngest son, to whom he gave the name of his brother-in-law Walter, was born. Before the same day his other brother-in-law and chamber-fellow Edward Curle had also died. The last trace we have found of him is in 1613.

In the will of John Manningham to which we have just alluded, and which it will be observed was dated like that of his predecessor on a 21st January, he described himself as of "East Malling, esquire," and devised Bradbourne and all the lands derived from his "late dear cousin and father in love" Richard Manningham "who for ever," he remarks, "is gratefully to be remembered by me and mine," to his widow for life and after her decease entailed the same on his three sons in succession. He gave to his daughter Susanna a marriage portion of 300; to Elizabeth, 250; to the little Benjamin of his flock, the young Walter, anything but a Benjamin's share of 100; and to his executors 20 nobles a piece; all the rest of his personally he divided between his widow and his eldest son. He named as executors Dr. Walter Curle, who had then ascended upon the ladder of preferment to the Deanery of Lichfield, and John Manningham's cousin, Dr. William Roberts of Enfield. The Will was proved on the 4th December, 1622, by Dr. Curle alone, Dr. Roberts having renounced.

Two further facts bring to an end the brief glimmerings we have been able to discover respecting the third generation of the Manninghams at Bradbourne.

Bishop Walter Curle made his will on the 15th March 1646-7, and left to his nephew and godson Walter Manningham a sum of 50 to the boy's mother — "my loving sister Mrs. Anne Manningham," the Bishop left "a piece of plate of twenty ounces."

Nine years afterwards the "loving sister" had followed the Bishop into the better land. Where she was buried does not appear, certainly not at East Malling. Bradbourne then fell to the second Richard Manningham, who sold it in 1656 to Mr. Justice Twysden, in whose family it still remains. Thus drops the curtain upon the connexion of the Manninghams with East Malling.

Other persons of the same name appear in the succeeding century, one on the episcopal bench as Bishop of Chichester, from 1709 to 1722, and his son Sir Richard Manningham as a distinguished physician and discoverer of the fraud of Mary Tofts the rabbit-breeder, but their connexion with the subjects of our inquiry does not very clearly appear....