Dutch letters in the London National Archives

This Saturday (11 February 2006), an article by historian Roelof van Gelder appeared in the Dutch paper NRC Handelsblad on the presence of piles of Dutch letters from the Late Modern period in the National Archives in London. The letters are part of so-called "prize papers", papers which were confiscated when Dutch ships were pirated by the English navy during the wars between the two countries at the time. There are letters from children to fathers in the East or West Indies, from jilted lovers, from local administrators begging for financial support, and much, much more besides. What a treasure trove! The Royal Library in the The Hague is currently preparing a database of the letters, and summaries will soon be published on the website of the National Archives (Search Catalogue: HCA 30, 32, 49).

Roelof van Gelder rightly notes that the letters should contain important material for studying the language of the common man (women and children included!). In order to be of real use to the sociolinguistic historian, I hope that proper attention is paid to the transcription of the letters.

What I’d be interested to know is whether the collection includes English letters as well. These would be of particular interest to our project.

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  1. ingrid tieken

    In M, the monthly magazine of Dutch NRC-Handelsblad, Roelof van Gelder publishes a transcription of one of the Sailing Letters (see earlier entry in this weblog on “Dutch Letters in the London National Archives”). The transcription is usually accompanied by the original letter, which invites a comparison between the two. My comparison showed that the text is not transcribed but translated and adapted, which is unfortunate as the result won’t be of any use to linguists or anyone else interested in studying the language of the period. Below follows my transcription on the passages shown in the October instalment.

    Zeer Waarde Vader, Broeders en Zusters!

    Mijn laatste aan UwEdn. was van den 21 Maart. In de maand
    April zou ik nader geschreeven hebben, maar het Schip dat toen
    na Amsterdam gezeild is, vertrok buiten mijn weeten, als zijnde
    niet geadverteerd geweest.
    Op 2 April ontvingen wij hier, na lang en pijnlijk wagten,
    over Engeland tijdingen uit Holland loopende tot den 29 Januarij.
    De jongste die wij hier hadden waaren ?
    gende na de Holl. Couranten van gepass. najaar en winter tot
    de jongste datums toe; en zo’ er eenige van de meest interessante
    politieke pamphletjes, mits niet veel kostende, bijgevoegd wier
    den, zou des te aangenaamer zijn.
    Ik zende deeze brief over Hamburg, zijnde het zeer twij
    felagtig of vooreerst nog wel een Schip van hier na Holland
    zal vertrekken.
    Wij bevelen UwEdn. in Gods Vaderlijke bescherming
    ons in UwEdns. Vriendschap: Wij verzoeken veele complimen
    ten aan de vrienden, en blijven met eerbied, hoogagting en
    alle affectie als altoos
    Waarde Vrienden!
    Geheel de Uwen
    Hendk. & Anta. Doijer

    30 Maij 1795.

  2. Marina Dossena

    A colleague informs me that Horace Walpole’s letters are available at
    http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/4610 (within the Gutenberg Project).

    The following might also be of interest –

    Hamilton, Olive 1982. The Divine Country. The British in Tuscany 1372-1980.
    London: André Deutsch.

    p. 63
    In his first years in Florence Mann had to work as assistant to the indolent Vane,
    who was the sort of person, he related, ‘who took to his bed for six weeks because
    the Duke of Newcastle omitted on one occasion the usual prefix “very” to “your
    humble servant” at the bottom of a letter’.

    In 1740 Horace Mann (later Sir) took over from Charles Vane as British
    representative in Florence. For a collection of his letters, cf. Doran, John (ed.)
    1876. ‘Mann’ and Manners at the Court of Florence, 1740-1786.
    Founded on the letters of Horace Mann to Horace Walpole. London: R. Bentley and Son,
    2 vols.

    Also see:

  3. j. p. ward

    If you are looking for historians to do some of the transcription and translation of the Dutch letters into English the undersigned would be only too willing to do some part-time unpaid work as a matter of interest and in order to be, in his old age (I am 75), of some use to the community. My experience has been with early 16th century Dutch archival sources.
    J. P. WARD, D. Litt. (Leiden).

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