Royalist approaches to the civil war and commonwealth in familiar letter collections
James Howell, Thomas Forde, Robert Loveday, and Margaret Cavendish provide by way of their published letter collections an answer to the question, what do familiar letters mean in the uncivil, unstable, and dangerous times of the civil war and commonwealth periods? The familiar letter was constructed in their collections to demonstrate many of the cultural qualities that for royalists were absent from these periods. Among these qualities are civility, sincerity, intimacy, and stability, all of which are embodied in an inclusive perception of friendship. These letter writers analysed this cultural degeneration as a species of royalist critique, and the letters were intended to act as a bulwark against such degeneration. Although there was nothing novel about familiar letters containing references to and emphasizing friendship, accentuating it in print during this period, in light of the deterioration of various social bonds that the civil wars set in motion, is precisely the point. These writers in printing familiar letters exploited the genre in order to probe the critical and political potential of the familiar letter collection, to assert a royalist critique, and to claim familiar letters as royalist literary property.