LUTTRELL, Narcissus (1657-1732), of Holborn, London, and Kentisbury, Devon
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Family and Education
b. 12 Aug. 1657, 2nd but o. surv. s. of Francis Luttrell of Gray’s Inn by Catherine, da. of Narcissus Mapowder of Holsworthy, Devon, and coh. of her bro. Anthony. educ. Sheen, Surr. (Mr Aldrich); Newington Green (Charles Morton) 1673; G. Inn 1673, called 1680, ancient 1702, bencher 1706 (never accepted); St. John’s Camb. 1674. m. (1) 28 Feb. 1682, Sarah (d. 1722), da. of Daniel Baker, merchant, of Hatton Garden, Mdx., 1s.; (2) 13 May 1725, Mary (d. 1745), da. of John Bearsley of Wolverhampton, Staffs., 1s. d.v.p. suc. fa. 1677.1
Although from a west-country family, Luttrell was born in Holborn and it is clear that he spent most of his life in and around London. A calculation in 1705 revealed his inheritance, initially worth about £205 p.a., to have increased to about £450 p.a., with assets valued at about £12,000.2
Luttrell followed in his father’s footsteps in training to be a lawyer. However, after his admission to Gray’s Inn, he spent five months at Newington Dissenting Academy learning philosophy and logic, and followed this with a sojourn at Cambridge until Christmas 1674. Presumably he then devoted attention to his legal studies until the death of his father, but afterwards, between 1677 and 1680, he recorded 14 journeys around England in a travel diary. He was elected at a young age to the second Parliament of 1679. Although an obituary notice referred to his role as ‘one of the warm promoters of the Exclusion bill’, there is no contemporary evidence for this. However, he was friendly with the Whiggish publisher Jacob Tonson at this time, and referred to the anti-Court electoral tract, An Address to the Honourable City of London . . . Concerning their Choice of a New Parliament (1681), as ‘good wholesome advice and touches not a little home’. Having been called to the bar in 1680, he is thought to have ‘soon quitted the practice of the law’. However, there is evidence that he practised during his tenure of a parliamentary seat at Westminster. Thus, through his ‘good friend’ Francis Gwyn*, Luttrell borrowed Robert Harley’s* copy of Leland’s Itinerary in April 1693. On 24 May Luttrell returned the book, regretting that he had been unable to peruse it, ‘my attendance at Westminster this term having taken up much of my time’.3
It is clear, however, that as time passed Luttrell was more interested in antiquarian pursuits than the law. When Sir Bartholomew Shower* wrote to him at Gray’s Inn in January 1701 it was to borrow a treatise written in Henry VIII’s reign: ‘your care and curiosity in collecting all things worthy of observation makes me resort immediately to yourself’. Indeed, by 1706 Luttrell had spent £1,500 on books. Hearne later commented on the propensity of Luttrell and his son, Francis, to collect material, along with their disinclination to publish anything.4
Luttrell’s return for Saltash in 1691 was somewhat fortuitous. He had unsuccessfully contested for the Cornish borough of Newport on the Manaton interest at a by-election in December 1690, petitioning in January 1691 against the return of John Morice, a Whig. The House ordered that the dispute be heard at the bar in six weeks, although Parliament was adjourned only four days later. Meanwhile, with the death of Richard Carew, a timely by-election occurred at Saltash, which allowed the Morices to return Luttrell and obviated the need for an embarrassing hearing over Newport. The official return gave as his address ‘Kenterbury’ [Kentisbury], nine miles from Barnstaple.
From the day Luttrell took his seat, on 6 Nov. 1691, he kept a parliamentary diary. It is clear that he was in almost daily attendance: indeed, until the end of the 1692–3 session he was only absent for one day (7 Jan. 1693). The diary is comprehensive in its coverage of each parliamentary day, particularly on procedural matters. However, it is singularly uninformative about the political views of its author, being devoid of personal reflections. Although Alexander Luttrell was also a Member of this Parliament, the activity relating to ‘Mr Luttrell’ in the Journals is much reduced after 1695, when Narcissus Luttrell ceased to be an MP, making it almost certain that before then it is he who was intended by most of these references. Although ‘Mr Luttrell’ was appointed to over 140 select committees, including 21 committees of inquiry, his actual involvement in the management of legislation was sparse, being limited to six drafting committees, three conference committees and the steering of one bill through the House. This latter measure was a bill which had originated in the Lords enabling the bishop of Bangor (Humphrey Humphreys, a Celtic scholar and antiquarian) to make a lease of Bangor House in Luttrell’s own parish of St. Andrew’s, Holborn, which he reported on 24 Feb. 1693 and carried up three days later. Of most interest are his four tellerships: on 2 Feb. 1694 (with Peter Shakerley) in favour of the passage of an estate bill; on 14 Mar. (with John Perry) in favour of sending Henry Henning into custody for defaulting on a call of the House; on 9 Apr. (with Gwyn) against the passage of the Cavendish estate bill; and on 7 Feb. 1695 (with Thomas Christie) in favour of exempting empty houses from the land tax. From an analysis of his fellow tellers, it would seem that Luttrell’s friends in the House were Country Tories. It is difficult to be certain of Luttrell’s politics since his name occurs on none of the surviving parliamentary lists for the period. However, it was again a Country Tory, Sir Thomas Clarges, who, on 7 Feb. 1693, brought to the attention of the House a complaint of breach of privilege following the impressment of one of Luttrell’s servants. This impression that Luttrell’s parliamentary associates were mainly Tories sits uncomfortably with the fact that he appears to have used mainly Whig sources when compiling his Brief Relation, a chronicle of events covering most of this period. Luttrell clearly intended to continue representing Saltash, but unfortunately Lady Carew was determined to assert the family interest in favour of Walter Moyle*, and so Luttrell declined to force a poll. He had been a conscientious Member, writing once a week to the town and thereby building up a body of supporters who wished him to continue at Westminster.5
In 1710 Luttrell purchased the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury’s (Anthony Ashley*) residence in Chelsea, later prompting Hearne to suggest that he may have ‘imbibed’ the principles of Shaftesbury and Locke. By this time he was concerned to secure an office for his son, Francis, also a barrister. Thus he approached Lord Treasurer Oxford (Harley) on 23 Jan. 1712, recommending Francis for a place, preferably in the Stamp Office. According to Luttrell the young man had ‘been bred a scholar, and is called to the bar, and for whose affection to the government and present ministry, either Colonel [Robert] Byerley, Mr [Francis] Gwyn or Sir William Drake [4th Bt.] will be his compurgators’, all three of whom were senior Tory MPs. ‘Encouraged by former kindnesses’, Luttrell applied again to Oxford in August, having been informed of likely changes in the Stamp Office.6
Luttrell had a long career as a Middlesex j.p., deputy-lieutenant and land tax commissioner. Although appointed to the bench in 1693 ‘and so continued for several years’, he ‘never acted’. However, in 1696 he became a vestryman of St. Giles-in-the-Fields, probably a more congenial activity. Upon his removal to Chelsea he was sworn in again as a j.p. and acted more consistently, a private journal from the early 1720s recording a number of local meetings involving Luttrell in his capacity as a j.p. and a vestryman. The latter office was clearly important to him as he attended his parish church on an almost daily basis when not otherwise engaged. He was dismissed from the bench in 1723, apparently on a false allegation that he was an enemy to ‘those very principles which he had all along boldly espoused while he was in Parliament’.7
Luttrell died on 26 or 27 June 1732, ‘after a tedious indisposition’, and was buried in Chelsea on 6 July. The six pall-bearers at his funeral bear testimony to his standing as ‘a gentleman of a plentiful fortune and of very ancient family’, and also to his stature in the legal world: Viscount Falmouth (Hugh Boscawen II*), Viscount Fermanagh [I] (Ralph Verney†), Lord Raymond (Sir Robert*), Lord Chief Justice Eyre (Robert*), Mr Justice Price (Robert*) and Sergeant Bridges (William), all of them together representing a broad political spectrum. In his will Luttrell left his estates to his son, Francis.8
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. Som. RO, DD/L2/100/3, ‘Hist. Acct. of the Fam. of the Luttrells’ (1725); Vivian, Vis. Devon, 539, 541; H. C. Maxwell-Lyte, Hist. Dunster, 522–4; info. from Dr D. F. Lemmings.
- 2. Maxwell-Lyte, 522; Luttrell Diary, p. xii.
- 3. ‘Hist. Acct. of the Fam. of the Luttrells’; N. and Q. clii. 111; ser. 2, xii. 45; Book Collector, vi. 21, 23–24; Add. 70201, Luttrell to Harley, 24 May 1693.
- 4. Add. 41843, f. 17; Book Collector, 20; Hearne Colls. x. 161–2.
- 5. Cornw. RO, Carew Pole CC/FF/1, Mary, Lady Carew to John Triese, 15, 26 Oct., 5 Nov. 1695; Luttrell Diary, pp. viii, ix, xi, 405.
- 6. Maxwell-Lyte, 523; Hearne Colls. xi. 96; Add. 70247, Luttrell to Oxford, 23 Jan. 1711[–12]; HMC Portland, v. 210.
- 7. ‘Hist. Acct. of the Fam. of the Luttrells’; N. and Q. ccvii. 389, 411–15; clii. 111; Maxwell-Lyte, 522; Luttrell Diary, pp. xi–xii.
- 8. Gent. Mag. 1732, p. 827; Hist. Reg. Chron. 1732, p. 28; Faulkner, Chelsea, ii. 135; N. and Q. clii. 111; PCC 210 Bedford.