« PreviousContinue »
THE LIBRARY OF ENTERTAINING KNOWLEDGE.
THE GUNPOWDER PLOT. .
CHARLES KNIGHT, 22, LUDGATE STREET.
The materials applied to the illustration of the trials in this volume originally formed part of a detailed narrative of the Gunpowder Plot, and were intended for publication as a separate work. That intention having been abandoned, for reasons which would not interest the reader, it was suggested that the facts collected for that purpose might be advantageously used as an introduction to the trials of the several conspirators. The obvious objection to this proposition was, that if the historical introduction were given so much in detail as to render it either interesting or valuable, it would necessarily exceed the office of an illustration of the trials, and become, both in importance and extent, a prominent part of the work, instead of being merely accessary to the main design. On the other hand, in a collection of Criminal Trials intended to illustrate English history, it was impossible to pass over so important an event as the Gunpowder Plot; and in order to render the imperfect reports of the proceedings arising out of this transaction entertaining, or even intelligible, a narrative of the circumstances which occasioned and attended it was absolutely indispensable, and the more detailed and minute the narrative, the more likely it was considered to be to effect the object of this series, by combining entertainment with useful information. For this reason it was determined to be more expedient to encounter the objection above alluded to, and to devote a volume to the subject, than to omit these trials altogether from the series.
The source from which by far the greater part of the
following pages has been drawn is the collection of original documents respecting the Gunpowder Plot, at the State-Paper Office, arranged and indexed some years ago by Mr. Lemon. Although it was not thought expedient by the Privy Council of James I. to publish to the world much information respecting the plot, it is clear, from the existence of th mass of evidence, that they were in possession of full knowledge of its minutest details. Perhaps no conspiracy in English history was ever more industriously inquired into. For nearly six months the inquiry almost daily occupied the earnest attention of the Commissioners appointed by the King to examine the prisoners and witnesses, during the whole of which time their labours were zealously aided by Chief Justice Popham, Sir Edward Coke, Sir Francis Bacon, and several others of the most acute and experienced lawyers, of the day. More than five hundred depositions of witnesses and real or supposed confederates were taken, a large proportion of which, together with numerous contemporary letters and papers relating to the transaction, are still in existence at the StatePaper Office. Besides those documents which have remained in the Office, as their proper place of custody, ever since the time of the first Earl of Salisbury, many papers appear to have been added at a later period. When Sir Edward Coke was discharged by James I. from his judicial station in 1618, his papers were seized by order of the Privy Council, and deposited in the State-Paper Office; and it appears from an inventory of the articles so deposited, in the hand-writing of Sir Thomas Wilson, who shortly afterwards became keeper of the State papers, that, among many other documents of a public and private nature, there was “a black buckram bag containing papers about the Powder Plot.” As many of the most valuable documents in the collection are copies