UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A study of the life and times of Dorothy Osborne as found in her letters MacKenzie, Mabel Laura


The purpose of this thesis has been the re-creation of the social background of Dorothy Osborne, an evaluation of her letters, and an examination of the scholarship done on the letters. The series of letters, which has been called one of the best of the Restoration correspondences, was written by Dorothy Osborne, during the years 1652-1654, to her lover, William Temple. Three collected editions of the letters were used, by E.A. Parry, Israel Gollancz and G.C. Moore Smith, respectively. Moore Smith compiled his edition using the original spelling and punctuation of the letters, but a detailed examination of the text showed that it was substantially the same as the first edition, which was made by Parry. The Gollancz edition is not as complete as either of the other two. Moore Smith's edition of Lady Giffard’s MSS. was used extensively, as this contained much information on both Dorothy Osborne and William Temple. In studying the bibliography of the letters, it was found that there was much careless scholarship, even on the part of Professor Moore Smith. The major error, however, belongs to Edward Gibbon, the historian, who had harsh things to say about Temple's scholarship, and whose criticism was perpetuated in both Parry's and Moore Smith's editions. With regard to essays and literary criticisms carelessness was still more evident. Both Virginia Woolf and Lord David Cecil were guilty in this respect, the latter having half a dozen grave errors in his latest book on the subject. To amplify the background of the social scene several volumes relating to the period were examined, and a collection of Lady Giffard's letters, which included half a dozen letters from Lady Temple to her husband, were carefully considered. In the evaluation of the letters essayists and editors of the literature of the period were consulted. It was found that not enough importance was attached to Henry Osborne, the strange figure who haunts the letters; therefore this aspect of the letters was examined in detail, probably for the first time. To sum up: the thesis contains some new material, it clears up several vexed points, and it assembles pertinent material taken from ninety letters in such a way as to give a picture of the life and times of Dorothy Osborne.

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