Horæ subseciuæ. Observations and discovrses.

London, [Eliot’s Court Press] for Edward Blount, 1620.


FIRST EDITION. 8vo. pp. (viii), 222, (iv), 223-324, (ii), 325-417, (iii), 419-503, (iii), 505-542. A⁴ B-X⁸ Y⁴ Z-2K⁸ 2L-2M⁴ 2N-2O⁸. Roman letter. Title and text within double box rule, floriated woodcut initials and typographical headpieces, “The Earle of Devonshires Book, Pre: 10 R.E.” (probably Richard Evelyn, father of the celebrated John) and other early annotations in early hand on front fly, later inscriptions with various Latin and English mottos, ‘C.J.’ initialed at head of title. Light age yellowing, the very rare marginal spot. A very good copy, crisp and clean in contemporary calf, spine bordered with gilt and blind rules large arabesque gilt to centers, spine rebacked to match, gilt and blind ruled in compartments with central fleurons gilt, new endpapers, lozenge on rear cover half chipped away and finely restored.

Rare, first and only edition of these important essays by William Cavendish, deeply influenced by Montaigne and Bacon, with the first edition of three discourses now attributed to Thomas Hobbes, Cavendish’s tutor, and thus the first edition of some of Hobbes’ earliest works. “Hobbes’s first discussions of substantive moral issues drew on these (skeptical) ideas, particularly as put forward by Bacon. … Hobbes and his pupils in the Devonshire household followed this precedent in a highly Baconian, and Montaigne-like, set of essays that they appear to have composed between 1610 and 1640. … The earliest example is a long ‘Discourse against flatterie’ which was published in 1611. This was an earlier version of a discourse with the same name which appeared in a group of four discourses as an adjunct to a collection of very Baconian essays, in an anonymous volume entitled Horae Subsecivae in 1620.

The essays (it is known from a manuscript at Chatsworth) were by William Cavendish, later the second earl, and Hobbes’s first ‘pupil’ (though that is rather a misnomer – Cavendish was only two years younger than Hobbes, had graduated from Cambridge the same year that Hobbes graduated from Oxford, and became his ‘tutor’ and had married the same year.) The ‘Discourse against flatterie’ is dedicated to Cavendish’s father in law in terms that are entirely appropriate for Cavendish himself. … The MS volume of Essayes at Chatsworth is dedicated by ‘Your Lordships most observant and dutiful sonne W. Cavendishe’ presumably to the first Earl by his son, Hobbes’ pupil, in Venice. The MS is in Hobbes’ hand and also contains some annotations by Hobbes. This not need mean very much however … clearly it was a matter of some indifference whether Hobbes or his pupil wrote out these treatises. …

(The essays and discourses are very important) as evidence for the intellectual life within the Cavendish household, and for the context out of which (at the very least) Hobbes’s own ideas developed. Hobbesian themes surface in these essays and discourses, however, and there seems to have been a complex intellectual relationship between Hobbes and his pupil.” Tom Sorell, ‘The Cambridge Companion to Hobbes.’

The three discourses, ‘A Discourse of Lawes’, ‘A Discourse of Rome’, and ‘A Discourse upon the beginning of Tacitus’ have now been more clearly established to be by Hobbes himself. “That the Horae Subsecivae had its origins in the Cavandish household and that Sir William Cavendish penned the ‘Observations’ and the ‘Discourse against Flattery’ published therein is certain. From the style, it is abundantly clear that the author of the three discourses now attributed to Hobbes was someone other than the author of the ‘Observations’ … and the three remaining discourses are in the style, and to some degree in the mode of argument strikingly similar to the later works of Hobbes. These discourses have recently been republished in a critical edition ‘Three discourses: A Critical Modern Edition of Newly Identified Work of the Young Hobbes.’ ed. Noel B. Reynolds…” Paul A. Rahe. ‘Against Throne and Altar: Machiavelli and Political Theory Under the English.’ 

A very good copy of this rare work; ABPC records no copies sold at auction, and ESTC gives only four locations for the work in US libraries, at Folger, Huntington, New York Society and Northwestern University.

ESTC S105996. STC 3957.


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