Narcissus Luttrell

Narcissus Luttrell (1657–1732) was an English historian, diarist, and bibliographer, and briefly Member of Parliament for two different Cornish boroughs.[1] He published A Brief Historical Relation of State Affairs from September 1678 to April 1714, a chronicle of the Parliaments of England and Great Britain distilled from his diary after Macauley had drawn attention to the manuscript in All Souls College, Oxford.[2]

Although Luttrell was for most of his life a private citizen and relied primarily on secondary sources for the workings of Parliament, he is often the best source available for legal and political matters of the time. The legislation itself is covered by the official parliamentary journals, but Luttrell's diary is often the only record of debates within the Palace of Westminster. As a result, Luttrell provides crucial political information which cannot be found elsewhere; as one example out of many, he notes that the debate on taxation of 1691 was divided according to geography, with Norfolk and Suffolk arguing against the remainder of the country over methods of taxation.[3] Since individual members' votes were not recorded, the political significance of the legislation would be less clear without Luttrell's record.

Luttrell's diary also covers major events in diplomacy, literature and the arts, as well as parliamentary proceedings, and is supplemented in those areas by annotations within his massive library. He also compiled a bibliography of texts relating to the Popish Plot, The Compleat Catalogue of Stitch’d Books and Single Sheets, &c. Luttrell had one of the most impressive book collections of his time, but due apparently to financial difficulties he had to divide and sell it, and various portions are now contained in several libraries in Britain and the United States, notably the British Library, Newberry Library and Huntington Library.

Major published works


  1. Rayment
  2. The Oxford Companion to English Literature, 6th Edition. Edited by Margaret Drabble, Oxford University Press, 2000 p.617
  3. Beckett
Parliament of England
Preceded by
William Coryton
John Tregagle
Member of Parliament for Bossiney
with Charles Robartes

Succeeded by
Charles Robartes
Sir Peter Colleton, Bt
Preceded by
Sir John Carew
Richard Carew
Member of Parliament for Saltash
with Sir John Carew 1691–1692
Michael Hill 1692–1695

Succeeded by
Francis Buller
Walter Moyle
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