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The Collation

George Goodwin, neo-Latin poet, identified as George Goodwin, rector of Moreton, Essex

Today’s Collation post is short and sweet, and courtesy of Heather Wolfe, the Folger’s Curator of Manuscripts. Heather is currently on sabbatical in the UK, having been awarded the 2021–22 Munby Fellowship at Cambridge University Library, but she still occasionally sends gems back to Folger catalogers. This particular gem, and permission to blog about it, arrived just in the nick of time: the post I’d planned to publish today turned out to require material that’s inaccessible during the Folger’s multi-year renovation.1

Heather alerted us to the significance of Folger manuscript L.d.311, a letter in the Papers of the Bacon-Townshend family of Stiffkey, Norfolk, 1550-1640 that describes the circumstances around the publication of a book from 1620:

Handwritten letter

Letter from George Goodwin to Roger Townshend, 1st bart., 13 March 1619/20, Folger manuscript L.d.311.

The letter has an informative docket title, added by the recipient after re-folding it for storage: “Mr. Goodwin letter sent to mee / with the booke hee published”

Handwritten title

Docket title of Folger manuscript L.d.311.

“Mee” in this case is English landowner and politician Sir Roger Townsend, 1st Baronet of Raynham (1596–1637):

Handwritten address

Address panel reading “To the Rt. Worshipfull Sir Roger / Townshend Knight & Baronet / at his howse in Barbican / at London” (Folger manuscript L.d.311, see our digital image collection for the full page)

The “booke hee published” is Melissa religionis pontificae (London: Nathaniel Butter, 1620).2

Printed title page

Title page of the British Library copy of George Goodwin, Melissa religionis pontificae (London: Nathaniel Butter, 1620) via Google Books

Although the letter doesn’t give the book’s title, it does go into the background of its publication. Apparently Richard Vaughan (ca.  1553–1607), bishop of London, had long ago encouraged Goodwin “to the per​​fourmance of a little peice of worke” which then circulated in manuscript. It went first to Cambridge University, and then to London “& so to my Lordship of Canterbury, where it stayed a good while.”

But who is “Mr. Goodwin”, the book’s author?

According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, he is George Goodwin (fl. 1620), author of “a set of powerful satires against Roman Catholicism.” Nothing else is known about this particular George Goodwin, but there are two good candidates for his identity:

Of his life nothing is known, unless he may be tentatively identified with the rector of Moreton, Essex, 1596–1625, who matriculated at Trinity, Cambridge, in 1578, became a fellow in 1585, BD in 1593, married, in May 1594, Elizabeth Morris at Chipping Ongar, Essex, and was buried at Moreton in March 1625; another of the same name matriculated at Christ’s in 1582, while Oxford provides no suitable candidates.3

Now here’s the gem [drumroll, please]: George Goodwin wrote this letter in “Mooreton”. This means that the George Goodwin who wrote neo-Latin satiric poetry against the Catholic Church is, in fact, “the rector of Moreton, Essex” who lived from 1596 to 1625.

Handwritten signature with place and date

Signature block of Folger manuscript L.d.311 “Mooreton Marche 13 / 1619. / Your very lovinge freind / George Goodwin” [note that in the calendar reckoning in England at the time, the year changed over on 25 March ("Lady Day") so the letter was actually written on March 13, 1620. For more on the topic, see the Collation post Untangling Lady Day dating and the Julian calendar]

We’ll be sending a link to this post to the editors of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, letting them know that there is good evidence that the tentative possible identification of George Goodwin, neo-Latin poet, with “the rector of Moreton, Essex” is correct.

Finally, here’s a semi-diplomatic transcription of the body of the letter, as far as I can make out.  I’m stumped by the squiggle before “Dr Vaughan” in the first line. An abbreviation for “Master”? Please do make suggestions for improvements in the comments.

Good Si​r​ Roger​​, of late yeeres [Master?] Dr​ Vaughan BBisho​p of
London​ moved me to the p​er​formance of a little peice
of worke. I was lately occasioned to print it.
Before the printing I sent it to the vniuer​sitie, from
whence it came to London, & so to my Lordshi​p of Canterbur​y
where it stayed a good while. I indeavoured twoe
things in it, brevitie & p​erspicuitie. vanitie it wer
for me to wright what was said of it, or to beleve
all to be true th​a​t​ was sayd. Suche as it is, I shall
praye th​a​t​ it maie tend to the furtherance of Godes​
truthe, & to the establishinge​ of those in this truthe
of whome I was once an vnworthy Tutor.
Amongst them I shall allwayes make a most especiall
accompt of you​r​selfe, acknowledginge​ me & myne
many wayes beholding vnto you​. And so praying you​
to accept one little​ Copie of my little​ booke whi​ch​ I send
vnto you​ herewi​th​, I take my leave, comitting you​ wi​th​
all yours​ to the most blessed p​ro​tecci​on of the Allmightie.
Mooreton​ Ma​rche 13.
you​r​ very loving freind​
George​ Goodwin




  1. Is there a name for Researcher’s Murphy’s Law? Anything that can be photographed for future research will be missing at least one crucial view for the argument you want to make.
  2. An English translation by John Vicars, Babels balm, or, The honey-combe of Romes religion, appeared in 1624.
  3. Money, D.  Goodwin, George (fl. 1620), Latin poet. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 10 Jan. 2022, from


Yes, that’s really ‘Master Dr’ used as a title (as opposed to a form of address). It sounds really odd, but it does seem to have been widely used, especially during the 17th century!

Elisabeth Chaghafi — January 12, 2022

Aha! Thanks. It’s definition III.19.b. in the Oxford English Dictionary, “A title of rank or respect prefixed to a title of office or occupation. Now archaic and English regional.”

Erin Blake — January 12, 2022

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