Cavendish family papers relating to Hobbes

Scope and Content

This series predominently comprises material created in the course of Thomas Hobbes's life at Hardwick and Chatsworth as tutor and secretary and later under the patronage of the Cavendish Earls of Devonshire. The link between all these items in this series is the Cavendish family.

Some items were produced as a direct consequence of Hobbes's tutoring of the 2nd and 3rd Earls, such as the Latin digest of Artistole's "Rhetoric" (HS/D/1); the geometrical exercises (HS/D/2) and the "Essays" probably written by William Cavendish (1590-1628) (HS/D/3).

Other material in this series was created by or for others in the Cavendish household but in some way links to Hobbes. This includes the "narration of proceedings...concerning the inheritance of William Earl of Devonshire" (HS/D/6) which was produced for the 3rd Earl but is signed by Hobbes and explains his role as mediator between the 3rd Earl and Christian Cavendish (the Earl's mother) in relation to her handling of his inherited estates. It also includes the fragment of a formal political disputation (HS/D/5), which was written by the 4th Earl to Hobbes with his answer on the same sheet, and the two memorandums written by servants in the Cavendish household, one of which has little relation to Hobbes other than being written by Hobbes's amanuenis James Whildon.

The last type of material in this series comprises items that have been included in the Hobbes archive on the assumption that they have some connection to Hobbes, when they are in fact items created by Cavendish family members around this period but bear no relation to Hobbes (see HS/D/9 and HS/D/4).


The current arrangement is based on that in the 1977 RCHM report. The series is recorded in the 1977 RCHM report as: "Papers connected with Hobbes in his relation to the Cavendish Family", and was likely arranged in its current form by 1936. In 2021, as part of fully cataloguing this collection for online publication, minor rearrangement took place as follows:

HS/D/9 which was formerly in the 'F' series as HS/F/1 was placed with the D series due to the F series containing only two items neither of which related to each other. This item bears more relation to the other manuscript by the future 2nd Earl (1590-1628) in the Hobbes collection (HS/D/3), though there is some doubt that HS/D/9 was actually produced during Hobbes's employment as tutor. Within this series itself the rest of the items were left in their original listing which appears to be exercise-related items first and general notes and memos following these. HS/D/9 was added to the end of the series so as not to disrupt the original reference numbers in this series.

Custodial History

The nature of the material in this series would seem to suggest it was compiled by collecting together any material within the Cavendish family papers at Chatsworth and Hardwick that had some link to Hobbes. In this way it is a somewhat artifical series, and the items in it likely only exist today because they were preserved by the family rather than by Hobbes himself. The series was probably arranged in its current form by 1936 when Shillinglaw catalogued this collection.