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By much the greater portion of the following letters has been printed from a volume in the Cottonian Library in the British Museum, (MS. Cotton. Cleopatra, E. iv.) composed of letters and documents, which appear to me to have been selected at some early period from the Cromwell papers, so long preserved in the Chapter House at Westminster, and now lodged partly in the Record Office at the Rolls House, and partly in the State Paper Office. I have added to these a few documents taken from other collections in our national repository, and more especially from the Scudamore Papers, lately added to the treasures of the British Museum.
I leave these letters to tell their own story. They throw light on the history of a great event, which changed entirely the face of society in our island, an event which I regard as the greatest blessing conferred by Providence upon this country since the first introduction of the Christian religion. I will not at present enter into the history of this revolution, but leave the documents for others to comment upon. I have suppressed nothing, for I believe that they contain nothing which is untrue ;
and the worst crimes laid to the charge of the monks are but too fully verified by the long chain of historical evidence reaching without interruption from the twelfth century to the sixteenth. Those who have studied in the interior history of this long period the demoralizing effects of the popish system of confession and absolution will find no difficulty in conceiving the facility with which the inmates of the monasteries, at the time of their dissolution, confessed to vices from the very name of which our imagination now recoils. These documents are of peculiar importance amid the religious disputes which at present agitate the world; and I think that even the various lists of the confessions of the monks and nuns of the several religious houses, entitled comperta, and preserved in manuscript, ought to be made public. The great cause of the Reformation has been but ill served by concealing the depravities of the system which it overthrew.
I will only add that I have done what I could, under circumstances, to ascertain the dates of these letters, and arrange them in chronological order. It was the custom at this period in dating letters to write the day of the month without the year, which now gives rise to considerable difficulties. In the description in the Cottonian Catalogue the dates of these letters are thrown into almost hopeless confusion.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
Letter I. EDMOND ABBOT OF YORK TO CARDINAL Wolsey. York, Sept. 20,
1528. Suppression of the priory of Romburgh
XVII. Dr. LAYton to CROMWELL. Sion, Dec. 12, 1534. The nuns
of Syon. Conduct of Bishop the Confessor. Many of the monks
weary of their habit .
XIX. RychARD Zouche to CROMWELL. Requests to have the abbey
of Stavordale restored as it was founded by his ancestors
rection at Norton. The abbot and some others in custody
XXIII. DR. Legh to CROMWELL. Laycock, Aug. 20. Requesting
uniformity in the proceedings against the monasteries
XXV. John BARTELOT TO CROMWELL. Sta that he and five others
found the prior of the Crutched Friars, in London, in bed with a
lous life of the Abbot of Rievaulx, who refused to acknowledge the
XXVII. John Fitz-JAMES TO CROMWELL. Redliche, Sept. 2. The
abbot of Glastonbury requests to be freed from four of the injunc-
tions of the last visitation
ing that the heads of the religious houses should not be allowed to
of the Charter House (London). Behaviour of the monks. In-
structions for the management of that house
the visitation of the university of Oxford