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Adam Winthrop's Commonplace Book

Among the manuscripts of the Winthrop family that were collected by Robert C. Winthrop in the late nineteenth century was what he described as "an old manuscript volume, which seemed to have been a kind of Commonplace-Book of Adam Winthrop". On three occasions he read papers to the Massachusetts Historical Society in which he presented excerpts from that volume, indicating that there were other materials also in the manuscript.


The following passages are the three selections from Adam Winthrop's Commonplace Book which were published in the Society's Proceedings. They tell us something of Adam's interests and perspectives. A question that needs to be asked is where Winthrop received the material which he copied into his book. A plausible source for one of the documents is offered below, but additional suggestions would be welcome.

I. The Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots Massachusetts Historical Society Proceedings, XII (1871-73), 285-287

The manner & order of the execution of the late Queene of Scottes, with the wordes which she spake at her Deathe, truely sett downe by Doctor Fletcher Deane of Peterborowe


Your assured & lovinge Soveraigne as therto by good desert enduced, Eliza: Regina To my faythfull Amias

II. The Execution of Sir Walter Raleigh

Massachusetts Historical Society Proceedings, XIII (1873-75), 94-98

The Confession and Execution of Sir Walter Raleighe

Uppon Wedensdaie beinge the 28th of October, 1618, the Lieutenant of the Tower, accordinge to a warrant to him directed, brought Sir Walter Raleigh from the tower to the Kinges benche barre at Westminster, where the records of his arraignment at Winchester were opened, and he was demanded why execution shyoulde not be done uppon him; accordinge to Judgement therein pronounced against him; To which he began by waie of answere to justifie himselfe in his proceedinges in the last voiage. But the L chiefe justice silenced him, sainge there was no other matter in question, but concerninge the Judgement of Death which had formallye beene given against him. And it was the Kinges pleasure (uppon some occasion beste knowen to himselfe) nowe to have the same executed, unles he coulde shewe good cause to the contrary. Unto which Sir Walter R. saide, that he was tolde by his Counsell, that in regarde his Majestie, since the saide Judgement, had bin pleased to imploie him in his service (as by Commission he had done) it made voide the saide Judgement, and was vivification unto him. But the Lorde chiefe Justice toulde him, he was therin deceived; and that the opinion of the Courte was to the contrary. Wherewith he rested satisfied, and desired that some reasonable time might be allowed him, to prepare himselfe for deathe. But it was answered him, that the time of deathe appointed to him was to-morrowe: and that it was not to be doubted, but that he had prepared himselfe for deathe longe since. And I am glad, saide the L. Chiefe Justice, that you have given the worlde so good satisfaction of your Religion: as by some bookes published by you, you have done. And so Mr. Attorneye generall required in the Kinges behalfe, that execution might be done uppon the prisoner, accordinge to the saide Judgement. Then the Shrifes of Middlesex were comanded to take him into their custodie, who presently caried him to the gate house in Westminster, from whence the next morninge he shoulde goe betwene the saide Shrives to the olde palace of Westminster; where a large scaffolde was erected for his execution. Whereuppon when he came with a cheerefull countenance he saluted the Lordes, knightes and gentlemen there present. After which a proclamation beinge made for silence, he addressed himsmelfe to speake in this manner: I desire to be borne with all, for this is the thirde daye of my fevere, and if I shall shewe my weakenes, I beseeche you to attribute it to my maladie, for this is the houre it was wonte to come. Then pausing awhile, he sett and directed himselfe to a windowe, where satt the Earles of Arundel, Northampton and Doncaster, with some other Lordes and knightes, and spake as followeth: I thanke God of his infinite goodnes that he hathe sent mee to die in the light, and not in the darkenes; but because the place where the Lordes satt was farre distant from the scaffolde, that he perceived they coulde not heare him well, therefore he saide, I will straine my voice, for I woulde willinglie have your honors heare mee. But the L. Of Arundel said nay, but wee will rather come downe to the scaffolde to heare thee, which he and some others did. Whither beinge come, he saluted theme generallie, and so began to speake as followeth: As I said before, so nowe I saie againe, I thancke God &c., but not in the darke prison of the Tower, where I have sufered a great deale of adversitie and cruell sickenes. And I thancke God that the fevere hath not taken me at this time, and I pray God I may not. There are so many pointes of supition that his Majestie hath conceived against mee, and wherein he canot be satisfied, which I desire to cleere and to resolve your Lords of. One is that his Majestie hath bin informed that I have ofte had plotts with France, and his Majestie had good reason to induce him thereunto: The first was, that when I came back from Guyana, beinge come to Plymouth, I indevored to have gone in a Barke to Rochel, which was because I woulde have made my peace before I came to Englande. The 2 was that uppon my flight, I did intende to flye into France for the savinge of my life, that had some terror from above.


Note: one possible source of the account of Realegh's execution coming to Adam Winthrop or John Winthrop could have been Sir Robert Naunton

III. Letters of Olympia Morata

Massachusetts Historical Soceity Proceedings, XV (1876-77), 245-249

Note: Olympia Morata was born in Ferrara in 1526. From her youth she displayed an aptitude for classical languages and in her teens composed poetry in Greek and Latin. She was chosen as a special companion for the eldest daughter of the Duke of Ferrara. She was attracted to the ideas of Luther and as a Protestant was forced to flee from Ferrara. She married Andre Grunthler, a physician, and went to Augsburg and then to Schweinfurt. They escaped from the siege of that town and settled in Heidleburg. She died a victim of the plague in 1555. The young and precocious female scholar received testimonials from Beza and other reformers and was something of a legend in her time. Her writings were bequeathed to Celio Secundo Curio, professor of Roman Eloquence at the University of Basle, who published them in Basle in 1558; a second edition, in 1562, was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth. Of her printed letters one was in Greek, two in Italian, and the remaining forty-five in Latin. Adam Winthrop copied English translations of some of the letters in his commonplace book. It is a possibility that he may have been drawn to her story by his brother William, who was an elder of the Italian congregation in London.

The arguments and contentes of the Epistle of Olimpia Morata, to her sister Victoria

After their deliverance out of the cittie of Swinforde, which was beseeged xiiii monethes, & afterwardes taken, spoiled, & sett on fire by the Emperors Soldiers, Olimpia & her husbande, who was twise taken by them, & yet again delivered, founde great frendship of certaine noble men & women, who intertained them, & relived their necessitie: whereof in this Epistle shee certifieth her sister, beinge then in service with a noble ladie at Ferrara, & relateth unto her bothe the violent maner of the siege, & the great distresse that the cittie was in, & also the perill & danger that they themselves had incurred, if they had not bin warned by a stranger to flie from thence after it was taken. Therefore shee exhorteth her sister to give God thanckes for their deliverance, & sheweth her howe well content shee is to suffer afflictions for Christ & his gospels sake; exhorting her also to have a special care of her owne salvation, & to leade a godly life, thoughe shee bee one of the electe that shal be saved, with many other godly instructions. Shee sendeth salutations to divers, & willeth her to certifie her at large of her affaires & other thinges.

Olimpia Morata, the wife of Andrew Gunthrer, unto her sister Victoria Morata, sendethe greetinge

Deare Sister, – Wee are yet (throughe the love of God towards us) safelie escaped out of the great shipwracke of our wedded cuntrie: for which you also, sister, are bounde to render thanckes to the almightie & good God, who hathe preserved us beinge plucked from the fire & sworde, & even out of the jawes of utter distruction. If I shoulde declare to you the dangers & miseries of warre which wee have suffered, I shoulde rather compile a greate volume than an epistle: For wee were xiiii monethes full, whilst the citie was beeseeged, in great distresse, & night & daie amonge the shotte of gunnes: so as if I shoulde tell you the number of shotte that battered the walles in one daie, perchance it woulde seeme incredible. But God woulde have the citie holde out so longe that he might reduce the people to goodnes, for whilst wee were beeseeged fewe of ours were slaine; & the citie was impregnable, though it was not very greate, nor sufficientlie defended against so great force & munitions of the enymie. But at lengthe, when we thought they had bin gone (as the Emperor himselfe & other princes of the Empire had comanded), & that all thinges now had bin quiet, see, upon the suddaine, & not without treacherie, they rushe into the citie, & when they had rifeled it, they set it on fire. This sore wounde did Germanie (otherwise happie) receive in her bowelles throughe civil dissention of the princes. In this so grete feare & astonishment, when, as my husbande & I were even thinckinge to get us into the Churche as into a sanctuary, a souldior, whome we knewe not, came runninge, & advized us forthwith to flie out of the cittie, or otherwise wee shoulde be burned with it. And trulie, if we had bin in the Churche, the very smoke had stifeled us, as it did others, who fled thether. Therefore we obeied his warninge, whosoever he was; which whilest wee doe, we fall amongst the soldiours, who spoile us; and my husbande also is twice taken of them, which I tooke most heavilie of all: who, if hee had bin any longer detained, & God had deferred his helpe (for God did give him to mee at my petition), I had surelie died throughe the bitternesse of my greefe. The losse of all other thinges I easily endured (for I had only my smocke lefte to cover my bodie), but the losse of my most deare husbande I coulde no waie have borne. But God our father hearde my sobbes, not onlie at that present time, but after also. For he beinge our guide, wee came to divers Counts (as nowe a daies they call them), being lordes of townes & castelles, of whom we were honorable received, & had bestowed uppon us clothes & other necessaries: amonge whom there is one whose wife is the daughter of one of the most noble Dukes of the Germans, who are called Palsgraves. This Ladie entertained mee with suche love & godlie affection, beinge brought verie lowe, that when I was sicke shee ministred to me with her owne handes; & besides that shee gave me a faire gowne, worthe above five powndes. An other noble man, whom we had not so muche as hearde of before, sent us, whilst wee were in our journie, a good supplie of monye. By their liberalitie we were sustained in so great straightes untill my husband was called to Heidelberge (where wee nowe bee) by the most illustrious prince Pallatine, one of the seven Electors of the Empire, to be the publicke reader of Phisicke there, for it is one of the Universities of Germanie, & not the meanest of them. Althoughe in this calamitous & turbulent time, there is more preparinge for armes then for artes. The Bishops have a greate armye, & the others have the like, so as they spoile, rifle, & burne all thinges. Also in Englande the godlie are greevouslie afflicted. I heare that Bernardino Ocello, of Iene, a true Xtian man, is fled to Geneva. So that every where he that wilbe a Christian must beare his Crossse. And truelie for my part I had rather suffer, so it be with Christ, then to injoy the whole earthe without Christ. Neither do I desire any thinge more but him. Although I am not ignorant that our forepassed sufferinges shall not be the last, many other thinges abide us to be suffered hereafter if wee live; nay, not at this very time are wee free from troubles. One thinge I pray for, that God will give me faithe & constancie unto the ende, which I also trust that he will doe, for he hathe promised to heare my prayers, as often as I call uppon him. And I doe dailie powre out my soule before him. Neither is it in vaine, for I feele myselfe so strengthened & confirmed that I have not given place to his adversaries, who abounde in all places, no not a haires breadthe, in the cause of religion. Neither in any thinge doe I consent with those Epicures, who pretende the sacred name of the Gospel, to cover their filthie lustes. Thus thou seest (Deare Sister) that no place is cleare of enemies, the worlde, the Devil, & the fleshe. But it is farre better to suffer afflictions with the Churche of God, in this most short life, then to be condemned with the adversaries to everlasting sorrow, where the eyes are closed up to eternal night. Wherefore I earnestlie pray thee (good sister) to have respecte to thy salvation, & to feare him more, who with one worde created all thinges, who hathe made you, who hath saved you, & heaped so many benefites uppon you, then a fewe unprofitable burthens of the earthe, then the shadowe of the worlde althoughe it threaten, or ells smile & fawne uppon you. For all thinges that you looke uppon, what are they but a thynne vapour, or vanishinge smoke, or as stubble & haie, suddenlie to be consumed by fire. If so be that you feele yourselfe weake in this waie that leadeth to heaven, take heede that you excuse not your weakenes; for the concealinge of a disease makes it the greater, & it is displeasinge unto God: for this cause the prophet David (Psa. Cxli. 4) praiethe that God woulde not suffer his heart to incline so muche, as that he shoulde pretende an excuse for his sinnes. What must you doe then? Confesse your disease unto the lorde, the true physition: beseche him that he would applie some medicine to you; that he woulde adde strengthe to your weakenes; & that he woulde cause you to love & feare him more then men, for therfore in the psalmes he is so often called the God of our strengthe, to the ende that he may fortifie us & make us stronge, so that wee will knowe ourselves, & aske it of him; for he wilbe prayed to continually that he may be intereated. And be assured that he heareth thy praiers, & will doe what thous desirest; yea, & above thy request, since he is liberall, & bountifull towardes all those that seeke him heartelye. But take heede (my sister) that you despise not the voice of the gospell & saie, if, indeed, if I bee one of those that bee chosen, & appointed to salvation, I cannot perishe, for this were to tempt God, who willeth us, by the obedience of the gospel, & praier, to obtaine salvation. For albeit election be certaine, & the salvation of those who be predestinate be sure, which such as are Christes doe feele in the inner man; yet is it not without Christ, & those thinges which doe adorne the Christian profession. Paul tells us, that faithe is by hearinge, & hearinge by the worde of God. The same he writes also in the epistle to the Galathians, & in the Actes of the Apostles it appeares by the very place, that those were endued with the holy Ghost which had harkened to the voice of the gospel. Let that also never be forgotten of you, which both Paul & James doe affirme, that the faith is approved of the lorde which is lovelie & workinge by love, & not that which is idle & unprofitable. If it be so that you want libertie to heare, yet let no daie passe without readinge the holy scripture & prayer; that God woulde inlighten your mynde, to understande & gather out the thinges which may further you to live well & happilie. But if also you have little spare time from your mistres buysines, arise somewhat the more earlie in the morninge, & goe a little the later to bed in the eveninge, & so in your private bedchamber performe those duties that serve for your salvation. For the lorde comandes us to seeke his kingedome & the righteousnes thereof, before all thinges. Those duties performed, intende your mistres service with that willingnes & faithefulnes, with that respecte & honor which may well beseeme a Christian maiden wel brought up. Speake to Lavinia your mistres that shee also may seeke ease of her griefes & vexations from Christian philosophie, together with rest from all cares. Wee shall shortlie arive in the wished haven. Time passeth swiftelie, as wel in adversitie, as in prosperitie. But if her sufferinges seeme longer & harder, let her consider that shee suffers with the citizens of heaven & of Christ, yea with Christ himselfe. For even that noble woman, whom I mentioned before, doth beare her Crosse, & that no light one neither. And thoughe she be borne of a roial race & stocke, of which there have also bin some Emperors, yet shee is as content with this meaner condition, which hathe befallen her. This ladie, in xix yeares space, had scarse one daie free from sicknes; yea, nowe also shee is & hathe bin many daies so dangerouslie sicke, that it is gretlie doubted of her life. Shee is a woman most religious & continuallie talketh of God, & of the life to come, with an earnest desire oftentimes brought into the hazarde of their lives & goodes for the gospels sake. O my deare sister, praye you with Moses in the 90 Psalme, Teache me, O Lorde, to number my dayes, & to have alwaies before myne eyes the fewnesse of them; that contemninge this vaine lyfe, I may wholy addicte myselfe to wisdome, & to the contemplation of eternitie. Seeke the lorde whilest he may be founde, pray to him continually, when you take your foode give him thanckes; resigne yourselfe wholly to his love. Walke not in the waie of the wicked. Keep your harte pure & chaste; that at lengthe overcoming you may receive your rewarde. Salute hartilie in my name those matrons & damselles that be with you. Write unto me a large letter of all your afaires. The letters of your deare Ladie Lavinia (whose name I honor) I do greatlie desire: hir sweete behaviour & godlines are never out of my mynde. I sent hir some little bokes, but chefelie of Celius Secundus makinge. I longe to knowe whether shee received them, & if they were welcome unto her. My husbande & brother Emilius doe kisse & most hartilie salute you. Farewell, my deere & sweete sister Victoria. From Hidelberghe, 6 Aug 1554

An Epistle of Olympia Morata, unto Celius Secundus Curio

I suppose, well-beloved Celius, I neede not nowe to use any excuse to you why I have not answered your letters, delivered unto me longe since, for that the warre itselfe doo the sufficiently cleere me, wherewith for the space of xiii monethes we were so vexed, that by it we received all maner of calamities. For so sone as Marquis Albert, by reason of the fitnesse of the place, had placed his hoste in Swnforde, then his enymies which were many, began to beseege the cittie, & to assaulte it, & daie & night with their gunnes to beate the walles on all sides, when neverthelesse wee were also afflicted within the walles by the Marquesses soldiers with many injuries, neither was any man safe ynoughe in his owne house. Beesides so often as their wages was not paide them, when it was due, they did threaten to take awaye all from the citizins, as thoughe they had been sent for, & hired by us. In so muche as the cittie, by maintaininge so many soldiours, was nowe utterlye consumed. By whose infection also so grevous a disease did welneere invade all the citizins that many, through greefe, & trouble of mynde being afflicted, died thereof, wherewith also my moste lovinge husbande was taken, so that there appeared no hope of his life, whom God having pitttie of mee most afflicted, without any medicine applied, did heale. For in the towne ther was not any salves.

But as Seneca saieth, the goinge out of one evil is the steppe to another that will come: for beinge delivered by God from that disease, wee were by & by beseeged with a greater bande of enymies, which daie & night did throwe fire into the cittie, that oftentimes in the night you woulde have thought the whole towne had bin on fire. And all that time wee were constrained to lie hidde in wine cellars. But at lengthe when wee looked for a happie ende of the warre, throughe the departure of the Marquis, who was about to leade awaie his hoaste by night to another place, wee fell into greater miserie. For he was scarcelie gone out of the cittie with his hoaste, when the next daye the soldiers of the Bisshops & of the Noringbers rushed into the cittie, & after they pilled it they sett it on fire. But God tooke us out of the middest of the flames, when one even of the enymies had admonished us to depart out of the cittie before it burnt in every parte; whose counsel obeyinge, wee went forthe, being spoiled & made naked of all thinges, so that wee might not be suffered to carry awaye a halfepeny. Nerelie in the middest of the market-place our garmentes were plucked from us, neither was there any thinge lefte mee, but my smocke to cover my bodie withall. And when wee were goune out of the cittie, my husband was taken by the enymies, whom I coulde not ransome with a smal thinge; but when I sawe him lead out of my sight, I prayed to almyghty God with teares & sighes, who presently sent him freed to me againe. But nowe beinge goune out of the cittie, wee knewe not whether to goe. At last wee tooke our journye towards Hamelburgh, unto which towne I was scarse able to creepe. For that towne was distant three Germaine miles from Swinforde. And the townsmen were unwillinge to receive us; for that they were forbidden to intertaine or harbour any of us. But I, amongst the poore women, seemed of all the beggers to bee a queene: I entered into that towne barefoote, my haire ruffeled, with a torne coate, which indeede was not myne owne, but was lent mee of another woman. And through the wearysomenes of that journie, at lengthe also I fell into an ague, which held me all the time of my travaillinge. For when the Hamelburghs feared that it was not safe for them to let us abide with them any longe time, wee were forced, though I was sicke, within fowre daies after to depart from thence. But there againe whilst wee were compelled to passe by the Bishops chefe officer, who saide that his most mercyfull lorde commanded him to kill all persons that fled thether out of Swinforde. Therefore we were holden captives there betwene hope & feare until wee were let goe by the Bishops letters. And then at length God began to look mercifully upon us; & brought us first to the noble Earle of Rinecks, & afterwardes to the most honorable Countes Erbacks, who for the Christian religion have often ventured their lives & the losse of their estates & goodes, of whom we were bountifully intertained, & with many giftes. Also we taried with them many daies, until I was wel amended, & my husband chosen to reade the phisicke lecture publickly in the Universitie of Heidelbergh.

IV. The death of the Lady Mary

Winthrop Papers mss, Massachusetts Historical Society