Thomas Birch's 'Weekly Letter' (1741-66): correspondence and history in the mid-eighteenth-century Royal Society.
261 - 278
Notes Rec R Soc Lond
MetadataShow full item record
Thomas Birch (1705-66), Secretary of the Royal Society from 1752 to 1765, and Philip Yorke, second Earl of Hardwicke (1720-90), wrote a 'Weekly Letter' from 1741 to 1766, an unpublished correspondence of 680 letters now housed in the British Library (Additional Mss 35396-400). The article examines the dimensions and purposes of this correspondence, an important conduit of information for the influential coterie of the 'Hardwicke circle' gathered around Yorke in the Royal Society. It explores the writers' self-conception of the correspondence, which was expressed in deliberately archaic categories of seventeenth-century news exchange, such as the newsletter, aviso and a-la-main. It shows how the letter writers negotiated their difference in status through the discourse of friendship, and concludes that the 'Weekly Letter' constituted for the correspondents a form of private knowledge, restricted in circulation to their discrete group, and as such unlike the open and networked model of Enlightenment science.
- College Publications