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The Finding Of John Evelyn's Ms Diary At Wotton








The MS. Diary, or "Kalendarium," of the celebrated John Evelyn lay among
the family papers at Wotton, in Surrey, from the period of his death, in
1706, until their rare interest and value were discovered in the following
singular manner.

The library at Wotton is rich in curious books, with notes in John
Evelyn's handwriting, as well as papers on various subjects, and
transcripts of letters by the philosopher, who appears never to have
employed an amanuensis. The arrangement of these treasures was,
many years since, entrusted to the late Mr. Upcott, of the London
Institution, who made a complete catalogue of the collection.

One afternoon, as Lady Evelyn and a female companion were seated in
one of the fine old apartments of Wotton, making feather tippets,
her ladyship pleasantly observed to Mr. Upcott, "You may think this
feather-work a strange way of passing time: it is, however, my hobby;
and I dare say you, too, Mr. Upcott, have your hobby." The librarian
replied that his favourite pursuit was the collection of the autographs
of eminent persons. Lady Evelyn remarked, that in all probability the
MSS. of "Sylva" Evelyn would afford Mr. Upcott some amusement. His
reply may be well imagined. The bell was rung, and a servant desired to
bring the papers from a lumber-room of the old mansion; and from one of
the baskets so produced was brought to light the manuscript Diary of
John Evelyn--one of the most finished specimens of autobiography in the
whole compass of English literature.

The publication of the Diary, with a selection of familiar letters, and
private correspondence, was entrusted to Mr. William Bray, F.S.A.; and
the last sheets of the MS., with a dedication to Lady Evelyn, were
actually in the hands of the printer at the hour of her death. The work
appeared in 1818; and a volume of Miscellaneous Papers, by Evelyn, was
subsequently published, under Mr. Upcott's editorial superintendence.

Wotton House, though situate in the angle of two valleys, is actually on
part of Leith Hill, the rise from thence being very gradual. Evelyn's
"Diary" contains a pen-and-ink sketch of the mansion as it appeared in
1653.



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Next: Families Of Literary Men




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