A Letter From The Learned Mr. John Locke,
Right Hon. Thomas Earl Of Pembroke, With An Old Manuscript On The Subject Of
BOOK III - The Principles of Masonry
illustrations of masonry
6th May, 1696
I have at length, by the help of Mr. Collins, procured a copy of that MS. in
the Bodleian library, which you were so curious to see: and, in obedience to
your lordship's commands, I herewith send it to you. Most of the notes annexed
to it, are what I made yesterday for the reading of my Lady Masham, who is
become so fond of masonry, as to say, that she now more than ever wishes herself
a man, that she might be capable of admission into the fraternity.
The MS. of which this is a copy, appears to be about 160 years old; yet (as
your lordship will observe by the title) it is itself a copy of one yet more
ancient by about 100 years: for the original is said to be the hand-writing of
K. Henry VI. Where that prince had it, is at present an uncertainty; but it
seems to me to be an examination (taken perhaps before the king) of some one of
the brotherhood of masons; among whom he entered himself, as it is said, when he
came out of his minority, and thenceforth put a stop to a persecution that had
been raised against them: But I must not detain your lordship longer by my
preface from the thing itself.
I know not what effect the sight of this old paper may have upon your
lordship; but for my own part I cannot deny, that it has so much raised my
curiosity, as to induce me to enter myself into the fraternity, which I am
determined to do (if I may be admitted) the next time I go to London, and that
will be shortly. I am,
And most humble servant,
Certayn Questyons, with Answeres to the same, concerning the Mystery of
Maçonrye; writtene by the hande of kynge Henrye, the sixthe of the name, and
faithfullye copyed by me Johan Leylande,
Antiquarius, by the commande of his
Quest. What mote yet be?
Answ. Ytt beeth the skylle of nature, the understondynge of the myghte
that ys hereynne, and its sondrye werckynges; sonderlyche, the skylle of
rectenyngs, of waightes and metynges, and the true manere of façonnynge al
thynges for nannes use; headlye, dwellinges, and buyldynges of alle kindes, and
all odher thynges that make gudde to manne.
Quest. Where dyd it begynne?
Answ. Ytt dyd begynne with the
fyrste menne in the este, whych were before the ffyrste manne of the weste, and comynge
westlye, ytt hathe broughte herwyth alle comfortes to the wylde and
Quest. Who dyd brynge ytt westlye?
Answ. The Venetians, whoo beynge
grate merchaundes, comed ffyrste ffromme the este ynn Venetia, for the
commodytye of marchaundysynge beithe este and weste bey the redde and
Quest. Howe comede ytt yn Engelonde?
Answ. Peter Gower a Grecian,
journeyedde ffor kunnyng yn Egypte, and in Syria, and yn everyche londe whereas
the Venetians hadde plauntedde maçonrye, and wynnynge entraunce yn al lodges of
maçonnes, he lerned muche, and retournedde, and woned yn Grecia Magna, wacksynge, and becommynge a myghtye wyseacre, and gratelyche renowned, and her he
framed a grate lodge at Groton, and
maked manye maçonnes, some whereoffe dyde journeye yn Fraunce, and maked manye
maçonnes, wherefromme, yn processe of tyme, the arte passed yn Engelonde.
Quest. Dothe maçonnes descouer here artes unto odhers?
Answ. Peter Gower, whenne he journeyede to lernne, was ffyrste made, and anonne techedde; evenne soe
shulde all odhers beyn recht. Natheless
maçonnes hauethe alweys, yn everyche tyme, from tyme to tyme, communycatedde to
mannkynde soche of her secrettes as generallyche myghte be usefulle; they haueth
keped backe soche allein as shulde be harmfulle yff they comed yn euylle
haundes, oder soche as ne myghte be holpynge wythouten the techynges to be
joynedde herwythe in the lodge, oder soche as do bynde the freres more
stronglyche togeder, bey the proffytte and commodytye commynge to the confrerie
Quest. Qhatte artes haueth the maçonnes techedde mankynde?
Answ. The artes agricultura,
architectura, astronomia, geometria, numeres, musica, poesie, kymistrye,
governmente, and relygyonne.
Quest. Howe commethe maçonnes more teachers than odher monne?
Answ. The hemselfe haueth allein in arte of ffyndynge neue artes, whyche arte
the ffyrste maçonnes receaued from Godde; by the whyche they fyndethe what artes
hem plesethe, and the treu way of techynge the same, whatt odher menne doethe
ffynde out, ys onelyche bey chaunce, and herfore but lytel I tro.
Quest. What dothe the maçonnes concele and hyde?
Answ. Thay concelethe the arte of ffyndynge neue artes, and thatt ys
for here own proffytte, and preise: Thay
concelethe the arte of kepynge
secrettes, thatt soe the worlde mayeth nothinge concele from them. Thay
concelethe the arte of wunderwerckynge, and of foresayinge thynges to comme,
that so thay same artes may not be usedde of the wyckedde to an euyell ende.
Thay also concelethe the arte of
chaunges, the wey of wynnynge the facultye of Abrac, the skylle of becommynge gude and
parfyghte wythouten the holpynges of fere and hope; and the universelle longage of maçonnes.
Quest. Wylle he teche me thay same artes?
Answ. Ye shalle be techedde yff ye be werthye, and able to lerne.
Quest. Dothe all maçonnes kunne more then odher menne?
Answ. Not so. Thay onlyche haueth recht and occasyonne more then odher
menne to kunne, butt manye doeth fale yn capacity, and manye more doth want
industrye, that ys pernecessarye for the gaynynge all kunnynge.
Quest. Are maçonnes gudder men then odhers?
Answ. Some maçonnes are not so virtuous as some odher menne; but, yn
the moste parte, thay be more gude then thay woulde be yf thay war not maçonnes.
Quest. Doth maçonnes love eidher odher myghtylye as beeth fayde?
Answ. Yea verylyche, and yt may not odherwife be: for gude menne and
treu, kennynge eidher odher to be soche, doeth always love the more as thay be
[Here endethe the questyonnes, and awnsweres.]
A Glossary of antiquated Words in the foregoing Manuscript
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