Most of the Wotton-Donne correspondence seems to come from 1598-1601, when both were employed as secretaries, Wotton to the Earl of Essex and Donne to Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Keeper. It is curious that none of the letters is in the hand of the originator: most are in that of the scribe D1, and the rest in William Parkhurst’s. An explanation is offered for the several peculiarities of the letters’ inclusion in the Burley manuscript: their existence at all, their being in the hands of other people than their originators, the lack of any established connection between Parkhurst and Wotton at the time of the letters, and the archiving of them, apparently by Parkhurst. D1 and Parkhurst were engaged in the systematic interception of correspondence, presumably on behalf of the authorities who – then as now – were interested in covert surveillance of the traffic between sources of potential disaffection. Wotton and Donne fit this description, the one an adherent of the volatile and dangerous Earl of Essex and the other a known Catholic sympathiser.
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