3 June 2009
LOCKE, John (1632-1704). Autograph letter signed ('J. Locke') to [William] Charleton [the assumed name of William Courten], Lyon, 5 November 1678, 3 pages, 4to, address panel, docketed by the recipient, fragment of seal. Provenance: Maggs Bros Catalogue no. 616 (1935), no. 982 (one of 6 letters by Locke of which five were addressed to Charleton); Sotheby's sale, 18 November 1974, lot 391.
THE ABANDONMENT OF A JOURNEY TO ITALY BECAUSE OF SNOW IN THE ALPS. Having left Charleton at Montpellier, where he was treated with great kindness, Locke finds that his intended journey to Italy is to prove abortive, 'For all the imagination y[o]u will have till this letter came to y[o]u of my being on the other side the Alpes, will be but soe many castles of y[ou]r building on the other side the Pyrenes. We are the first of those that are come to[o] late to passe the mountaines this winter -- an English Gent that came over Mount Senné [Cenis] about 8 or 10 days since found the passage very good but there fell soe much snow as soon as he was over that the very men that brought over his things for five pistols told him they would not carry them back ag[ai]n for an hundred'. Although 'with good luck one might bustle through' Locke has decided that he will winter in Paris, since his charge, Caleb Banks, 'is not the pope's nephew, & soe has noe necessety at any rate to get to Rome to make his fortune'. The second part of the letter encloses messages for friends in Montpellier (including the botanist Pierre Maynol) and gives news of others in Paris and Lyon; Charleton is to send on the box of clothes they left with him to Jacques Selapris, their host in Lyon.
William Courten (1642-1702), naturalist and collector, studied botany at Montpellier, and lived abroad under his assumed name of Charleton for fourteen years from 1670. His great collection passed to Sir Hans Sloane, and then to the British Museum and Natural History Museum.
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