Over the years, my browsings, ruminations, ponderings and speculations about An Account, its origins and its author have continued.
Unfortunately a paper trail that documents this period of the Molesworth family’s history is still to be found. However the brothers and sisters-in-law of a key family member have left their traces in all the right places. The problem is to build a case which will convince the jury.
These then are, as was said of Miranda, the product of . . . leisure hours . . . . in a remote country retirement. Fortunately, the growth of the internet for searching for information that may be relevant and for contacting those with similar interests, has changed so much since her times.
Molesworth’s relationship with Lord Ashley (from 1699 the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury) was very important to him, as it was to be later for his son John. Molesworth and he were together in the House of Commons and after the Earl’s death, Molesworth was active in spreading his philosophy to the members of what has been called The Molesworth Circle.
One comment, in a letter written to Molesworth by the 3rd Earl, looking back on his impressions on first reading An Account, has given me much cause for speculation:
You have long had my heart, even before I knew you personally. For the holy and truly pious man, who reveal’d the greatest of mysteries; he, who, with a truly generous love to mankind, and his country, pointed out the State of Denmark to other states, and prophesy’d of the things highliest important to the growing age: he, I say, had already gain’d me as his sworn friend, before he was so kind as to make friendship reciprocal, by his acquaintance and express’d esteem. So that you may believe it no extraordinary transition in me, from making you in truth my oracle in publick affairs, to make you a thorough confident in my private.
An Account became a best seller throughout Europe, but why did the 3rd Earl react in quite this way and what exactly was he referring to?
The possibility of attending a conference focusing on the 3rd Earl was too good to miss, especially one held in the house which he lived in and knew so well.