William Bruce and the Authorship of ‘A Relation of State of Polonia [...] Anno 1598’
The article discusses the issue of the authorship of a description of Poland entitled ‘A Relation of State of Polonia and the United Provinces of that Crowne Anno 1598’, extant in manuscript form at the British Library. In spite of the dating to be found in the title, the Relation contains information relative to the period after 1600. The work is anonymous. Its appearance in print in 1965 launched a discussion concerning its hypothetical author. Most of the arguments brought out are connected with the analysis of the content and the linguistic aspects of the source; since it is difficult to ascertain whether the manuscript came from the author himself, its external form is omitted. The debate points to three possible authors, the first of whom is William Bruce, an itinerant Scottish lawyer, writer, soldier and diplomat, who appeared in Poland c. 1595 and was employed among others by Chancellor Jan Zamoyski. Bruce, nevertheless, retained contacts with the court in London, and since 1604 through 1610 acted as official agent of British merchants in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth; in fact he was a representative of the Court of St. James in Poland. Ascribing the authorship to his person is strongly supported by the fact that he remained in the country for a prolonged period and knew it well, not to mention that seeking contact with the English court he needed to portray himself as a competent candidate for employment. Other potential authors of the Relation are English diplomats, who were sent to Poland towards the end of the 16th century: Sir George Carew (envoy to Poland in 1598, and author of a description of France, the structure of which resembles the anonymous Relation), and Christopher Parkins, a less likely candidate.
Kalinowska points out that unless new data is presented, it is impossible to discern which of the persons in question is the authentic author; there are serious arguments for and against each candidature. Nevertheless, the hypothesis forwarded by Antoni Mączak, according to which William Bruce, after writing the Relation, handed it over to George Carew, who took it with him back to England, inserting his own additions, is plausible. Kalinowska argues that the additions could also have been the work of Christopher Parkins, a former envoy to Poland, who would have included his remarks already in London.