BOOKS TO RUSSIA, DIPLOMACY IN THE HAGUE

A small group of documents.

[1779–1785].

Comprising: an invoice and part-printed bill of lading for ‘One Box Contag Printed Books’ from Messrs Thomas Payne & Son, June 1783; a manuscript receipt of payment for said shipment (£5.6.6 for the books and 9s 9d for the shipping), signed by Payne; an invoice and receipt for a ‘superf. Ratteen Suit Lined with pink Sattin compleat’ and a total of 60 ‘Rich Mother of Pearl & Gold But[ton]s’ (£13.2.0) from P. Bataille, 8 July 1779 and an autograph letter, signed, from Harris to his lawyer and friend Thomas Batt, written from the Hague, dated 25 October 1785, 4pp, 4to., with envelope; in excellent condition, creased where folded, some external faces slightly dusty.

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Harris (1746–1820) was ‘the leading British diplomatist of the final quarter of the eighteenth century’, noted for his skills as a linguist, and his popularity and easy social skills.

After stints at Madrid and Berlin, he served as envoy-extraordinary to the court of Catherine the Great in St Petersburg from 1777 to 1783, and then to the Hague 1784–8, where he was ‘at the peak of his powers’ (ODNB) and was instrumental in forging the triple alliance with the Netherlands and Prussia.

The contents of the box of books sent to Harris in St Petersburg in the last few months of his mission are unfortunately not stated,‘The Contents Unknown to me’ according the captain of the Providence.

Harris’s letter here notes that ‘the business of the Hague is certainly not more difficult than that I have been used to, but the manner of doing it requires so much more time, that it employs a day here to effect what I could have done in a Petersburg in one hour’. In his political negotations ‘I do not go backward, I do not gain ground – numberless circumstances make compleat success absolutely impossible’.

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