[PARSONS, Robert (1546-1610]. Manuscript of 'The copie of a Letter written by a Master of Arte/in Cambridge to his friend in London concerninge/some talke past of late betwen two worthy and grave men about the present state, and some/procedings of the Ea[rle] of Leyc[ester] and his/friends in England', a transcript of the attack on the Earl of Leicester published in 1584 and popularly attributed to Parsons, written in a small, elegant, late 16th-century hand, between ruled horizontals and verticals, 197 pages, 195 x 150 mm, on leaves numbered 1-89, title page, blanks (typewritten note affixed to front free endpaper, notes in a later hand on back endpaper); original limp vellum, green ties. Provenance. James P.R. Lyell (bookplate).
A contemporary copy of the notorious piece of invective directed at Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and generally known as 'Leicester's Commonwealth'. The anonymous author, writing in the form of a dialogue between his supposed 'good friend and patron and his guest, the old lawyer of some matters in our state and countrie', charges Leicester with innumerable offences, 'Machiavelian sleights', conspiracies against the government, attempts to pervert the constitution and succession, and generally monstrous behaviour. The dialogue culminates in a peroration against the 'New Men' at Court and their disregard for their betters, as 'all others who rise and mount aloft from base lynage be ordinarily most contemptuous contumelious and insolent against others of more antiquitie'. The Queen is accused of showing 'Twoe much confidence - very perillous in a Prince' in her favourite, and dire consequences predicted if Leicester is not called to account.
The 'letter' was first issued as an anonymous pamphlet at Antwerp. Publication was probably precipitated by reports of Leicester's proposal for the formation of an association to protect the Queen's person, with the principal aim of circumventing the Catholic nobility. It was popularly attributed to Robert Parsons, the Jesuit priest and controversialist then living on the continent, and referred to as 'Father Parsons' green coat', from its green covers. In June, 1585, Elizabeth issued an order in council forbidding circulation of the pamphlet, and this led to extensive copying and its circulation in manuscript form. Parsons habitually tried to blacken the reputations of leading members of the Elizabethan court in order to discredit them in Catholic eyes but is not thought to have been the author of the 'letter', which although inaccurate in its claims, is an interesting example of the hatred which Leicester's influence had aroused.