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Temple family correspondence

Call Number: OSB MSS 44

Scope and Contents

The Temple Family Correspondence consists of letters addressed to Mary, Lady Giffard and other members of the Temple family. The letters span the dates 1667-1776, with most of the letters predating Lady Giffard's death in 1722.

Sir William Temple is represented in the collection by one translation of a highly complimentary letter written in the name of Gabriel Portello, "who taught her Spanish," to Lady Giffard; a 1680 letter to him from James Butler, Duke of Ormonde, who discusses his view of the Irish situation; and a letter in Italian of 10 December 1688 describing the flight of James II and his family from London and accusing Londoners of "poltroneria e infidelta a lor Principe."

Lady Giffard's correspondents include Lady Dorothy Dixwell, who in a letter dated January 1, 1671 describes preparations for Lady Strangeway's country house production of Etheridge's The Comical Revenge; or, Love in a Tub; Dorothy, Dowager Countess of Sunderland, who describes the dismissal of Ormonde as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and current Court gossip, including an incident between Lord Rochester and Thomas Killigrew, in an undated (1669) letter; and the Marquis de Marsay, who asks for news of Lady Portland and discusses his health and studies.

Other letters received by Lady Giffard are primarily condolence letters on the death of her brother, invitations, or thank you notes for presents of cherries or medicines.

The collection also includes a few letters pertaining to the Bacon family. Two from Sheppard Frere thank John Bacon for presents of venison. A 1690 letter from John Montagu, Rector of Trinity College, Cambridge, to his sister (Lady Catherine Bacon) regrets that he could not secure a fellowship for someone she had recommended to him.


  • 1667-1776

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Temple Family Correspondence is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Bequest of James Marshall and Marie-Louise Osborn. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.


0.21 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The correspondence consists of 29 letters addressed to various members of Sir William Temple's family, particularly his sister, Lady Giffard. The letters discuss domestic and personal concerns, including the health of family members, preparations for visits, and purchases of supplies. Several to Lady Giffard offer condolences on the death of Sir William. A letter from James Butler, Duke of Ormonde to Sir William details his view of Irish affairs.


Sir William Temple, eldest son of Sir John Temple, Master of the Rolls in Ireland, was born in London in 1628 and raised by his uncle, Dr. Henry Hammond, at Penshurst. He entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1644 and left for the Continent in 1648. He courted Dorothy Osborne over a period of several years and married her in Middlesex in 1655.

A protege of Henry Bennet (later Earl of Arlington), Temple received his baronetcy in 1666 and two years later negotiated the Triple Alliance among England, the Netherlands and Sweden. Most of his diplomatic career was focused on the Netherlands; in 1673 he published Observations on the United Provinces and in 1677 assisted in arranging the marriage of James II's daughter Mary to William of Orange.

Temple retired from politics in 1681 and devoted his time to his estate of Moor Park and to composing memoirs, essays and miscellaneous pieces, some of which were published during his lifetime and widely praised. In 1689, Temple hired Jonathan Swift, then 22, as his secretary. Swift remained with Temple until his death in 1699, and oversaw the publication of his posthumous Works in 1701.

Although the Temples had several children, none survived them. The only child to reach adulthood, John Temple, drowned himself in the Thames in April 1689. Lady Dorothy Temple died at Moor Park in 1695, and Sir William Temple also died there in 1699. He was buried in Westminster Abbey beside his wife; but his heart was buried under a sundial in the garden at Moor Park.


Lady Martha Giffard was the younger sister of Sir William Temple. She married Sir Thomas Giffard of Castle Jordan in April 1662. He died in the following month, and Lady Martha joined her brother's household, where she remained for the rest of her life, apparently taking an active role in managing the house and estate. After Temple's death, she wrote the memoir of his life that prefaced his collected works (attributed to "A Particular Friend") but quarreled with Jonathan Swift over some aspects of the posthumous publication.

Guide to the Temple Family Correspondence
Under Revision
by Beinecke Staff
June 1996
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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