The Civil War Journal of Nehemiah Wallington
April 9, 2011 4:50 PM   Subscribe

The Civil War Journal of Nehemiah Wallington, digitized by the John Rylands Library, is one of the surviving diaries kept by this seventeenth-century Puritan. Although Wallington recorded a number of key events, like the execution of Archbishop Laud, the diary has garnered most attention for its report of the Chelmsford witch trials, overseen by Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins (enter "witchcraft" into the search box to see Wallington's account). For more of the intellectual context for early modern witch-hunting in the British Isles, see the Witches in Early Modern England and Survey of Scottish Witchcraft databases, as well as the handy collection of primary texts in Cornell's Witchcraft Collection.
posted by thomas j wise (13 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Was he Parliament or Royalist?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 5:15 PM on April 9, 2011

Don't be cavalier, Chocolate Pickle.
posted by orthogonality at 5:26 PM on April 9, 2011

Thank you for this link. I'm doing some research for a Civil War era story, and this fits in nicely. As a side note. I have an ancestor's mustering-out papers from the war as well as a couple of tintypes of him in uniform, and a diary he kept, post-war. Pretty cool, overall.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 5:43 PM on April 9, 2011

I have an ancestor's mustering-out papers from the war as well as a couple of tintypes of him in uniform, and a diary he kept, post-war. Pretty cool, overall.
Erm, I think you've got the wrong civil war, unless tintypes were invented way before I think they were!

Wallington's journal was the basis for the book Wallington's World.
posted by craichead at 5:52 PM on April 9, 2011 [1 favorite]

Since this is searchable, I assume there exists a typescript, but the link shows photos of the handwritten manuscript. Which is hard to read.
posted by orthogonality at 6:03 PM on April 9, 2011

--Since this is searchable..--

It's searching metadata, or to be more exact: "Search Catalog Data". And I think the script is very legible and easy enough to read from photographed pages. They could do with some energetic high school nerds, perhaps, to render a transcription, but I don't mind it as is.
ſhewing how mercifull God had beene to her in ſpairing her life giving her time of repentance, the firſt ſtep wherof muſt be her confeſſion & contrition whereupon ſhe confeſſed that ſhe had done much miſchife & that ſhe had compacted withe the Devill that he uſually ſucked her and appeared unto her in the ſhape of a ſquirell
Thank you thomas j wise !
posted by peacay at 10:45 PM on April 9, 2011

It appears to largely be written in a very clear italic hand - so basically modern handwriting, except for the long s's. I wonder of the clarity of the handwriting has anything to do with it's trancription and wide use as a source? How many wonderful and fascinating diaries languish in obscurity because their writers wrote in chicken scratches? I remember looking once at something written by the 4th Earl of Bedford - it looked like someone has just made abstract swooshes of ink on a page, it was that messy and unreadable.
posted by jb at 11:22 PM on April 9, 2011

Yeah, yeah, I've read handwritten manuscripts and long esses before. And yeah, it's decent handwriting. But typeface is easier on the eyes.
posted by orthogonality at 12:28 AM on April 10, 2011

This is a wonderful resource. I have studied some of Wallington's diaries but having them online makes it a thousand times easier to do so.

Was he Parliament or Royalist?

Very strongly Parliamentarian: he is a classic example of a middling sort Puritan looking for reform of the 1630s Church such as curbing the power of bishops, removing fixed altars and rails, getting rid of surplices etc. For Wallington the English Civil Wars were wars of religion, without doubt. There are lots of points in his diaries where he annotates material he's copied in from pamphlets or newsbooks with pro-Parliamentarian comments.

Also like many other middling sort Puritans, he is intensely paranoid and introspective. On one day his family plans a walk across the fields to Peckham, and he ends up not going so he can sit and ponder the horrible events taking place across England instead. But he does seem to fall victim to the kind of events that lead to introspection, for example this extract about his daughter Sarah's near death experiences, which I love for its melodrama:

There fell out of the hie garret into the shope a great heavie cleaver with three irone teeth my wife and my Daughter Sarah siting at the upper end of the shope this heavie cleaver fell close unto them: but did not hit them the Lords name be praised: for if it had hit them it would have maimed them if not killed them.

Againe that day at night I and my wife sitting by a good fier and my Daughter Sarah was blowing the fier with a small pare of bellowes and shee had fell flatt into the fier had not the Lord keept her for as shee was folling my wife gave a sudden starte and shoved her side so that shee had none hurt blessed and praised be the Lord for it Amen.

Another mercie of God toward me in my poore childe Sarah is this That… [she] went forth with another littel childe to play as wee had thought, but it seems my daster Sarah left the other childe and went herselfe as farr as the furder tower hil and as shee was going into estsmithfeld shee fell down and hite herselfe a sore bloe on the forehead. Then shee began to cry. Then a woman spake unto her: but she could not answare her: then the woman took her up and began to carrie her into Wopping thinking shee had dwelt there: but a portter seeing her asked the woman where shee carried that childe, and shee said into Wopping. Then the proter told her that she dwelt in escheape: so the woman brought her home againe to us thankes be to God…

And how could we eate or have sleapt that night with thinking what is become of our poore childe thinking it may be it is drowned at the watterside or some other mischife hath befallen it: and how should we have gone to chruch the next day being the Sabbath being full of grife and such disstractfull thoughts as we should have had: But oh oh the goodnesse of my God in sending this my child in saftie home again his Name for evermore have the prayse and the glory of it Amen Amen.

But when you compare it with this extract about the death of his first child, Elizabeth, you realise why he is so neurotic:

And one the next dat being Satterday in the afternoone: Ruth [Wallington's maid] tolde my wife that shee had a pricking in her necke which words put us all in feare and towards night shee went to bead. And about eaight a clocke at night my wife was in the cleaching washing of dishes my dauster Elizabeth then being mery went unto her mother and said unto her what doe you heare my wife? And at night when wee were abead: sayes shee to mee, Father I goe abroode tomorrow and bye you a plomee pie. These were the last words that I did here my sweete child speeke. For the very pangs of death seassed upon her one Sabbath mornning and so she continued in great agonies (which was very grevious unto us the beholders) till Tuseday morning and then my sweete childe died at foore a clocke in the mornning being the eleventh day of October and was beuried that day at night.
posted by greycap at 12:46 AM on April 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

It's great to have this online, though to be honest it's the least interesting of Wallington's surviving notebooks, as it deals mainly with public events, whereas Wallington is at his most interesting when he's talking about himself. His description of his son John's death in 1626 is one of the most moving passages that I know in any seventeenth-century text; 'even so distant, I can taste the grief' as Philip Larkin says somewhere:

The night before he died hee lay crying all that night mame O Johns hand: O Johns foote: for hee was strocke cold all one side of his body and about three a clocke in the morning: Mistris Trotter that watch with him wakened my wife and I and tolde us hee was a departing now. And my wife started up and looked upon him, hee then being aware of his Mother he sayd mame John fall down opaday: mame John fall down opoday .. and at eleven a clocke at night hee sayd unto the mayd Jane some beere and shee gave him some beere. Then he sayd opaday, these are the last words that my sweete sonne John spake: and so ended this miserable life on tuseday the fift day of April 1626.

Wallington wrote fifty notebooks (he gives us a list of them), but only seven of them survive. This one only came to light fairly recently, after Paul Seaver had published his biography of Wallington in 1985, and it's not improbable that others survive, unrecognised, in libraries or private collections in Britain and America. I always dream of finding one in a secondhand bookshop, or at the bottom of a box in a car boot sale. Stranger things have happened.
posted by verstegan at 1:22 AM on April 10, 2011 [5 favorites]

orthogonality, and anyone else looking for a transcript: extracts from this manuscript were edited by David Booy in The Notebooks of Nehemiah Wallington (2007), and can be found online, at least in the UK, on Google Books.
posted by verstegan at 6:53 AM on April 10, 2011

I wonder of the clarity of the handwriting has anything to do with it's trancription and wide use as a source?
I doubt it, although I'm sure that historians thank their lucky stars daily for his lovely penmanship. But Martha Ballard had pretty terrible handwriting, and historians have made extensive use of her journal.
posted by craichead at 7:02 AM on April 10, 2011

ooh, Ballard did have bad writing. One can get used to that sort of thing, but it's very draining to read for long periods.
posted by jb at 7:27 AM on April 10, 2011

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