On 5 December 1642 Henry Marten (MP for Berkshire and a well-known radical extremist) made a speech in the House of Commons which criticized the Earl of Essex, commander of Parliament’s main army, which was in winter quarters at Windsor. But what did he say? Several books in my collection mention the incident but they don’t always say the same thing.
Here are the references and quotes. References in square brackets are the sources cited by the author:
J. H. Hexter, The Reign of King Pym (Cambridge, MA, 1941), p. 110 [British Library, Harleian manuscript 164, f. 243]:
The cry without the walls found echoes in the House of Commons, as some of the fiery spirits began to cry down the Lord General. Martin attacked him openly, contrasting the military successes in the north and west with the Earl’s immobility near London in December. “It is summer in Devonshire, summer in Yorkshire and only winter at Windsor,” where the general was in quarters. Hoyle seconded Martin hinting that Essex’s slowness and carelessness would ruin the kingdom. Suspicions of the Earl’s integrity, groundless as they were, “had already taken birth”…
Vernon F. Snow, Essex the Rebel: the Life of Robert Devereux, the Third Earl of Essex 1591-1646 (Lincoln, Nebraska, 1970), p. 349 [Hexter, King Pym, p. 110]:
The war party in the Lower House and London disapproved of Essex’s reluctance to take the initiative and give battle. Radical Henry Marten disparaged Essex when he asserted, “It is summer in Devonshire, summer in Yorkshire and cold winter in Windsor.”
Ivor Waters, Henry Marten and the Long Parliament (Chepstow, 1976), p. 17 [nothing]:
Essex delayed in Windsor, and on December 5th. Henry Marten stood up in the House to describe the royalist victories all over England and attack the dilatory Captain-General who, he alleged, “would have it was summer in Devonshire, summer in Yorkshire, and early winter at Windsor”.
Sarah Barber, A Revolutionary Rogue: Henry Marten and the English Republic (Stroud, 2000): doesn’t mention the incident at all, which is kind of strange for a biography of Henry Marten.
Ian Gentles, The English Revolution and the Wars in the Three Kingdoms, 1638-1652 (London, 2007), p. 159 [BL Harl. 164, f. 243]:
The almost unrelieved gloom induced by these despatches from the north, south and south-west prompted the hard-line war party member Henry Marten, ‘whose custom it was to bark at everybody’, to voice the first public dissatisfaction with the Earl of Essex’s leadership. Referring to his stationary presence at Windsor Marten declared rhetorically ‘that all these miseries proceeded from his slowness… It was summer in Devonshire, summer in Yorkshire and only winter at Windsor; and therefore desired that we might speedily send to the Lord General to move forward.’
Harleian manuscript 164 is the diary of Sir Simonds D’Ewes, MP for Sudbury in Suffolk. He usually took a moderate conservative position and opposed anything to do with fighting the civil war. This is my transcript of the relevant passage:
Mr Henry Marten stood upp whose custome it was to barke at everie bodie & fell upon the Earle of Essex Lord generall being at windsor: saying, that all these miseries proceeded from his slownes, that wee saw it was summer in Devonshire, summer in yorkeshire & onlie winter at Windsor; & therefore desired that wee might speedelie send to the Lord General to move forward. Alderman Hoile of yorke seconded him; & saied that unless the saied Lord Generall used more care & speed the kingdome would be ruined: but S[i]r Gilbert Gerrard & others excused him that what hee did was by advise of a councell of warre & soe the matter was laied aside for the present
So Ian Gentles wins for quoting D’Ewes most accurately. The way Hexter put the phrase in speech marks and changed the tense of the verb made it look like a direct quote of Marten’s actual words when it wasn’t. Snow followed Hexter but changed ‘only winter’ (which was correct) to ‘cold winter’ for no apparent reason. Waters changed it again to ‘early winter’ (or were these typesetting errors that were missed at the proof stage?). We can correct these errors by comparing with what D’Ewes wrote, but we still don’t have direct access to the words Marten actually used. Other sources don’t help with this.
The incident is also mentioned in the diary of Lawrence Whitaker, MP for Okehampton in Devon (British Library, Add. 31116, f. 14v). After recording reports of atrocities committed by the Cornish army, he wrote:
It was Ordered [tha]t these Relac[i]ons should be sent to [th]e Lo[rd] Gen[er]all, & to desire him to Consider whether it were not high time for [th]e Army to move, w[hi]ch now was, & for a fortnight had beene lying still at Windsor
The Commons Journal never records speeches so there’s no trace there. According to my notes, Walter Yonge’s diary (BL, Add. 18777, f. 81v.) doesn’t add much to the Commons Journal, although his writing is extremely difficult to read (I’m usually good at palaeography, but everyone has their limits).
Every historian I’ve looked at prefers D’Ewes’s account, which is understandable because he gives more detail than Whitaker. But they all omit one part: according to D’Ewes, Essex was defended by his ally Sir Gilbert Gerard. Leaving this out gives the impression that Essex was more unpopular than he actually was. He had friends as well as enemies. Hexter and Snow were generally sympathetic to Essex, and the quote from Hexter above asserts that the aspersions were ‘groundless’, but they both left out some evidence that would have supported their views. As Gentles points out, this was the first time that Essex’s competence had been questioned by someone on the parliamentary side. At this time it was still quite unusual.
Overall this isn’t a very important point but it shows that if something is in quote marks in a peer reviewed publication that doesn’t guarantee that it’s an accurate quote, and if it is an accurate rendition of the quoted text, there might be something interesting next to it in the source that it came from. Footnotes (or other methods of citing sources) don’t automatically give a claim authority, but they make it possible to check. That’s why they’re important.