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A Letter from Sir George Carey to his Wife

(My modernised spelling and punctuation: for original spelling select here.)

This letter, containing vital information on Nashe, lay unnoticed for centuries in the archives of Berkeley Castle until Mrs. Katherine Duncan-Jones of Somerville College, Oxford discovered it. She published a brief account in the Times Literary Supplement of March 22, 1996, then wrote on it more fully in an article which appeared in The Review of English Studies. Anyone wanting to understand the whole background, or see the letter in facsimile, should read her article.

Briefly, the letter's from Sir George Carey. A relation of the Queen, he had been appointed Governor of the Isle of Wight, off the south coast. In November 1593 he made a swift trip to court to sort out some legal business, leaving his wife and teenage daughter behind. In the letter he's apologising for not returning home as soon as he'd promised. Perhaps Lady Carey grumbled a bit. She seems to have made him swear to return within a certain time, but he comes up with four good reasons why he can't. Personally I think that's three excuses too many, and a scurrilous lampoon a few years later, when Carey had been promoted to Lord Chamberlain, suggests that if Lady Elizabeth worried about her husband's "business trips" away from her she had good reason:

Chamberlain, Chamberlain
He's of Her Grace's kin
Fool hath he ever been
With his Joan Silverpin...
"Joan Silverpin" means a tart, and the lampoon goes on to suggest Carey has venereal disease. He was certainly failing at the time it was written. But all that's years away in the future here. In this letter he feels fine, he's off the leash, has a new estate at Drayton to organise, lawsuits to fight, he's picking up all the latest foreign and home gossip - and he even has time to stoop down from a great height to save Thomas Nashe from perishing in a squalid Elizabethan jail.

The letter is addressed on the back:
"To the Lady Carey: in all kindness commend me, and tell her I will love her by so much the more she shall make much and free you from melancholy till my return; to Bess deliver my blessing, and from myself my love entire and unshared to any. From Drayton (Drayton Manor, in Middlesex) 13 this Tuesday night."
Yours faithfully and ever
George Carey

(The opening is almost impenetrably flowery. Mrs. Duncan-Jones thinks Sir George was making a conscious effort to write in a high style because his wife was a woman of literary tastes. Basically, all it says is - I miss you and I can't help being delayed.)

"My sweet Soul! whose life in thy presence joyeth most of any, and by thy want wanteth what should sustain his being, or give comfort to the oppression of his discontent: receive the wishes of his desire, that thinketh all time too long that he tarrieth from thee, and accept the excuses unfeigned that forceth his delay, not in his power to remedy."
(Sir George goes on to say that he just missed meeting the Earl of Northumberland, who'd already gone to London, so went straightaway to the Careys' new manor at Drayton - where he couldn't do much except draw plans, because of course he needs Lady Carey's advice before making changes. And he's worn out, and missing her terribly.)
"My journey to Petworth (home of the Earl of Northumberland) was crossed by the Earl's former departure to London, whereby in great speed I hastened to Drayton, where I cast not my view to see anything that contented me. But I wished thy great eyes partners of my liking; I cast not my thoughts to intend anything for walks, but my thoughts there intend to wish thee to advise, before I do devise. And when I am by overtoil and framing plats (drawing plans) wearied with the day's travail, the night's rest is then no rest, for that I rest not where I should be best pleased."
(He says he spent the next week planning treats for his wife, and only came to court on Saturday, hoping to make it a quick visit. But the Queen learned he'd arrived, sent for him, and before he knew it he was agreeing to stay for the Accession Day celebrations on November 17...)
"The last week I spent to devise delights, to content the delight of my "chiefest delight" - and came not to the court until Saturday, not meaning that night to have seen Her Majesty. But the Earl of Essex acquainting her with my being there, I was presently (at once) sent for to Her Majesty, who used me very kindly; and after sundry demands both of Bess and you, with idle discourses of foreign and home causes, dismissed me from a wearisome kneeling.

My coming interpreted to be for honouring the 17 day (17th November, anniversary of Elizabeth's accession), my good manners not permitting me to deny it (when I found no means to escape the expectation and demand thereof) made me yield to perform what I may - which shall be with as small cost as I may..."

(He's so busy he can't think straight - but the good news is, the lawsuit he came to fight can't take place a while yet so he'll be home almost within the time promised... )
"The multiplicity of part my needful, part my pleasing business, hath made an university in my brains! And yet the retaining of a Judge's place in her Majesty's hands hath prorogued for this term the pleading between the City (of London) and me, whereby neither St. Alban's nor London shall have the honour to rub my horse's heels, but, - within a few days after my limited time of your Ladyship's licence! - I will take my flight where I will take my rest."
(Time for some of hot gossip for his wife back on the dull little island - court news, foreign affairs, and lastly, a tidbit about poor Nashe. )
"The action that now possesseth most for the present is, every gallant's best-employed wits - brave to show themselves at the course in the field (i.e. the Accession Day tournament), witty in their shield devices, and pleasing in the choice of their presents.

Ostend is by one day's advertisement (news) to be besieged, by another's to be dismissed - the enemy's force 25,000 and the defendants not 2,000. Duke Ernestus, the Emperor's brother, is coming out of Germany to be Governor for the King of Spain, and expected to be in Flanders by the last of this month, with 4,500 horse and 12,000 foot. So that some exploits are undoubtedly to be expected - an attempt upon Ostend, Calais and Boulogne, the next spring if not before.

Particularities of many comedia-tragedical court news I will defer till my coming, and one million of times each day wish myself with thy sweet self - and believe my absence cannot seem so long to thee as thine doth to me. Yet, so to stay to dispatch that I may leave no cause shortly to return, I hope you will account time well lent.

Nashe hath dedicated a book unto you, with promise of a better. Will Cotton will disburse 5 or 20 nobles in your reward to him, and he shall not find my purse shut to relieve him out of prison - there presently (right now) in great misery, malicied for writing against the Londoners in the 83 leaf." ( p. 83 of 'Christ's Tears Over Jerusalem')

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