Boyle, Richard (1566–1643), 1st earl of Cork, landowner and politician, was born 13 October 1566 in Kent, second son of Roger Boyle, a native of Herefordshire, and his wife Joan Naylor of Canterbury, who had made their home in Preston outside Faversham in the vicinity of Canterbury. Nothing is known of the family's livelihood, but while the eldest son, John, attended King's School, Canterbury, Richard was educated locally at Faversham, possibly because his father had died in 1576. Then both Richard and John matriculated together in 1583 at Bene't Hall (latterly Corpus Christi College), Cambridge, but there is no record of Richard Boyle graduating from Cambridge. However, he seems to have acquired some legal and secretarial experience in London before 1588, when he sought employment in Ireland.
Land acquisitions and investments, 1590–1620
By 1590 Boyle was deputy escheator in Ireland with responsibility to uphold crown claims to land in the provinces of Connacht and Munster. The system in which he was employed was notoriously corrupt, and Boyle proved himself a cooperative colleague by working assiduously with officials in Dublin to dispossess whatever Irish landowners did not have good legal title to their estates. Then, instead of using these discoveries to increase state revenue, Boyle and his associates conspired to undervalue the land that had been declared crown property, and negotiated patents for themselves to those same estates at what were now deflated rents. Then, sometimes, in order to avoid detection, they sold these estates (now with good title) back to the original proprietors, or exchanged them for property that was not contentious.
By such stratagems Richard Boyle acquired considerable land, principally in the province of Connacht and Co. Clare, and he augmented this in 1595 when he married Joan Apsley, a woman of Old English descent who had become co-heiress to a significant property in Co. Limerick after her brother Edward Apsley had died. This estate should have been escheated to the crown because Apsley had committed suicide, but Boyle concealed that fact and thus gained for himself a bride with her inheritance. After this marriage, Boyle occupied himself in Munster, where he acquired some further land, mostly at the expense of the church. In 1598 he became outright owner of all of his Munster acquisitions when his wife, Joan, died while giving birth to a stillborn son. Boyle, however, had scant opportunity to enjoy his gains because Connacht and Munster had, by 1598, become embroiled in the insurrection that had been raging in Ulster since 1594/5, and because he was eventually condemned and imprisoned on the charge that he had driven loyal Irish lords into rebellion through corrupt dealings in land.
At this point Boyle's career was no different from that of several minor crown officials in Ireland and he might, like most of them, have vanished from view were it not for the favour that he enjoyed with Sir George Carew (qv), then president of Munster, and, through him, with Sir Robert Cecil, the secretary of state. These procured Boyle's release from prison, employment (in 1600) in the Munster service of Carew, and a royal pardon for past offences. Also through the good offices of Carew, Boyle was able to marry Catherine (qv), the daughter of Sir Geoffrey Fenton (qv), the secretary of state for Ireland. Then, as part of the plan, Boyle used Catherine's dowry of £1,000 to purchase from Sir Walter Ralegh (qv) the vast estate that Ralegh had been granted in the Munster plantation, and which Ralegh had augmented with church property, principally in the vicinity of Youghal, Co. Cork.
This purchase by Boyle of the Ralegh lands proved astute and became the foundation of Boyle's future wealth and greatness. After he had made his fortune, Boyle always maintained that the property was worth no more than what he had paid for it, because of the uncertain future of Ireland when he had made his purchase. Boyle further contended that Ralegh was especially beholden to him for the money because he was then a prisoner in the Tower facing a seemingly imminent execution. But if the Ralegh estate was originally worthless Boyle soon made it profitable, first by breaking the leases granted by Ralegh to the tenants he had placed there. Boyle either reinstated them on terms more favourable to himself as landlord, or replaced them with tenants of his own choosing. Those he preferred as tenants were either English military men who could be trusted to develop and defend the blocks of land he assigned them as tenants-in-chief, or English entrepreneurs, to whom he also granted large units of land with the proviso that they should improve it. These latter were lured to Munster because of the plenitude of natural resources there, notably timber and fish, or because they could deploy raw materials, notably wool, hides, and again timber, to promote manufacturing and iron-smelting at a competitive advantage. In his concern to draw an immediate income from his property, Boyle also retained Irish catholics both as tenants and cottiers, but he clearly favoured placing improving English tenants with special skills in choice locations.
As Boyle began to enjoy a liberal income from rent, he invested much of the returns in developing inland towns; some of them, like Bandon, recently constructed, others, like Lismore, ancient foundations. He then rented out house lots within the towns, and farms in their vicinity, to the artisan-tenants who had been induced to settle there, either by himself or his tenants-in-chief, or by the previous English owners of the property. Consequently the province of Munster, and more particularly the Boyle estate, assumed the appearance, in the years down to 1620, of a staple plantation being stripped of its assets by speculators who had no intention of remaining there. Weirs were constructed on inland waterways to catch the salmon and eel which ran plentifully from the sea, fishermen were introduced from the English west country to exploit the rich coastal fishing off Munster, and their catches were cured and barrelled in the several fishing places that were constructed by entrepreneurs at strategic points along the Munster coast. The countryside was also rapidly deforested as timber was used to make pipe staves and ship timber, and the less valuable wood was converted into charcoal for smelting the pig iron being imported by Boyle and his agents from the west of England to be refined in the furnaces constructed strategically on the Boyle estate. The exploitative character of the settler community that was coming to dominate Munster under the aegis of Boyle was nowhere more evident than in the town of Youghal, where Boyle resided in what had been Ralegh's house. Youghal quickly became the principal port for exporting the pipe and barrel staves shaped from the trees that had been felled in the woods along the valley of the Blackwater river, after they had been floated downstream to be shipped by English and Dutch traders to the wine-producing areas of western Europe and islands in the Atlantic.
Boyle had a personal interest in many of the businesses that developed on his estates, but his principal income always came from rent. Therefore, as it emerged just how profitable it could be to rent Munster property to skilled tenants from England – and even from the Netherlands and France – Boyle sought to expand his holdings both by buying estates from the heirs of several English grantees in the Munster plantation of the 1580s, and by foreclosing on the mortgages that he held on the property of Irish proprietors to whom he had given money on loan. The years down to 1620 therefore also marked Boyle's assembly of the largest estate in Ireland. This included properties that extended from the vicinity of Dungarvan, Co. Waterford, westwards to Dingle, Co. Kerry, and from Carrigaline, Co. Cork, northwards to Co. Limerick, while he retained his lands in Connacht and Clare and acquired an urban residence in Dublin and a country seat in nearby Co. Kildare.
This massive investment was linked with Boyle's new determination to locate himself permanently in Ireland and to secure the future of his family there, as was manifested by his decision to build a completely new residence on ancient ruins at Lismore, Co. Waterford, to which he moved his household up river from Youghal as his Lismore mansion neared completion. Then also Boyle used his wealth, and the political connections that accrued from it, to negotiate an elevation in his social position to a level that would be commensurate with his prosperity. Thus in July 1603 he became Sir Richard Boyle, in March 1607 he sat on the provincial council of Munster, in February 1613 he was elevated to membership of the Irish privy council, in September 1616 he became Baron Boyle in the Irish peerage, and in October 1620 he was created 1st earl of Cork. Also, as he became committed to Ireland, Boyle persuaded kin to join him there, including three close relatives in orders, who occupied bishoprics in Cork and Lismore and the deanery of Lismore.
Social and family ambitions
Boyle's appetite for Irish land was sharpened by his success as a father. Although his first marriage failed to produce an heir, his second wife, Catherine, became the mother of fifteen children and suffered some miscarriages besides. Eleven of the entire fifteen, including five sons, were still alive when his countess died in 1629. As the number of children increased, Boyle's preoccupations came to include providing estates for each surviving son, dowries and appropriate matches for his daughters, and a formal education, which was closely monitored by himself, for each of his children. He spoke more emphatically concerning the education of his sons than of his daughters, professing in 1635 that all the world's cares that weighed on him were ‘far inferior to [his] study and endeavours . . . to give [his] sons a religious, learned, and noble breeding’. This extended to his wish that they should be ‘bred in England and abroad in the world, and not to have their youth infected with the leaven of Ireland’ (to William Perkins, 20 June 1635, Chatsworth, letter book 2, ff 82–4; to Wotton, 4 September 1635, Chatsworth, letter book 2). Boyle also intended that all of his sons would, like himself, have noble titles with Irish estates commensurate with the social position they would enjoy. Thus his offer of £8,000 in 1630 to the earl of Arundel for his Ulster plantation estate at Killybegs in Donegal, ‘in a rude and remote part of the kingdom’, was made because he had ‘sons to provide for’. This particular sale was not concluded, but Cork made clear his ambition for his sons by commissioning a series of mansions on the particular manors on his great Munster estate that he intended to devolve on his individual sons. Thus in the 1630s his own seat at Lismore was destined for Richard, Viscount Dungarvan, his principal heir; a new house was being constructed, from ‘free stone’ purchased from Dunderry Hill, near Bristol, at Gill Abbey, Co. Cork, for his second surviving son, Lewis, Viscount Kinalmeaky; and a third house was underway at Carrigaline, Co. Cork, which was intended for his fourth son, Francis (to Arundel, 20 November 1630, Chatsworth, letter book 1, f. 204; to George Hillyard, 21 November 1637, Chatsworth, letter book 2, f. 244).
As his various endeavours succeeded, and as he himself lived beyond what even he regarded as a normal lifespan, so did his social ambitions for himself and his children increase. When acknowledging that he had paid an excessive dowry when his daughter Lettice married George Goring in 1629, Cork remarked that his hope was that by ‘this means’ he would ‘be made a privy councillor there or have the addition of a title of honour’. The first of these ambitions was not fulfilled till 28 June 1640, and while an elevation to the English peerage eluded Cork, his eldest surviving son, Richard, Viscount Dungarvan, who was to succeed him as 2nd earl of Cork, entered the English house of peers as Baron Clifford in 1644 and was created 1st earl of Burlington subsequent to the restoration of 1660. If this advancement came too late to give pleasure to the elder Cork, it was something that the father, no less than the young Dungarvan, had carefully planned for, each having ‘determined’ that Dungarvan should marry into an English noble house (to Stafford, 10 January 1630/31, Chatsworth, letter book 1, f. 221; to Wentworth, 1 July 1632, Sheffield City Library, Strafford papers, letter book 1, ff 44v–45r).
When Cork was working towards such an alliance he followed advice from his son-in-law Goring that the purchase of an English estate would prove necessary to attain his objective. This explains his purchase from the earl of Castlehaven (qv) of the manor of Stalbridge in Dorsetshire, which in 1636 he described as ‘a retiring place’ for himself and Dungarvan, where he hoped to spend his own remaining years ‘in the service of my God and in the neighbourhood and society of good friends’. In saying this Cork was casting no aspersions on residence in Ireland, since one of the prime advantages of Stalbridge, to his mind, was its convenience to Bristol and Minehead and thus to Cork, Dungarvan, Waterford, and Youghal and his own ‘poor adjoining estate’ (to Bristol, 4 June 1636, Chatsworth, letter book 2). Therefore, Cork had arrived at the conclusion, to which he had been advised by his confidants, that the holdings of a nobleman in Ireland should be complemented with country residences in England. This conviction explains his purchase also of Marstone Bigot, Somerset, and the manor of Temple Coombe, close to Stalbridge, each designed to match the Irish inheritance of a particular son. His commitment to residence in Ireland was symbolised by his concern, especially in his declining years, to see Lismore Castle and its environs beautified to the point where it could match the seat of any English nobleman. To this end he corresponded endlessly from Stalbridge with his steward John Walley on the enhancement of his demesne, the construction of walls and hedging for his gardens, on the fencing and stocking of a deerpark, on the making and stanching of nine fishponds containing carp, tench, and pike, and on the choosing and pruning of fruit trees so that his ‘son should be a great master of good fruit’ (to Walley, 21 February 1638/9, Chatsworth letter book 2, ff 332–4).
Cork's concern to bend nature to his wishes features more prominently in his later than in his earlier correspondence. Nonetheless, the creation of a civil environment was a matter of concern to him from the moment he decided that Munster, and Ireland, could become a secure base for the dynasty that he was determined to establish. References to house building and furnishing, as well as to garden development, do feature in Cork's correspondence of mid-career, but were then relatively less prominent because Cork became embroiled in Irish politics once he had decided that his family's future was to be in Ireland. He obviously perceived the Dublin government as a vehicle that might hasten, or hinder, his social advancement, but Cork also became involved in Irish politics to guard against any possible Irish insurrection which might cancel everything he had gained, or to defend himself against those officials in Ireland and England who were suggesting that his remarkable economic and social elevation warranted official investigation.
Once he entered Irish politics Cork became a man of faction, identifying himself with those of the emerging protestant elite (with whom he had forged matrimonial contacts) or those who favoured an aggressive ongoing policy of plantation as a means of reforming the country. Prominent among his allies were Sir William Parsons (qv), the Irish surveyor general, and Roger Jones (qv), Viscount Ranelagh, to whose heir, Arthur Jones Nevill (qv), Cork's daughter Catherine was married in 1630. These connections gave Cork access to such militant protestants as Sir John Clotworthy (qv), to whom Ranelagh was connected through marriage, and Cork also enjoyed support from the more strident protestant bishops, but not from those associated with Bishop John Bramhall (qv) of Derry who, following the example of Archbishop Laud in England, sought to bring an end to lay impropriatorship of church property. On the other hand, Cork was at loggerheads with the vice-treasurer, Francis Annesley (qv), Viscount Mountnorris, who was moderately disposed to the Irish catholic community. Since Mountnorris was closely allied to Adam, Viscount Loftus of Ely (qv), it made for an uneasy relationship when Cork and Loftus served as joint lords justices of Ireland (1629–33).
As this shared term as head of government was reaching its conclusion, Cork lobbied to become sole governor in Ireland, pleading that he would not flinch from bringing the full force of the law against landed papists who refused to conform in religion, and that he would resume a programme of plantation, particularly in the province of Connacht and the lordship of Ormond. These ambitions were consistent with his earlier policies, where he showed himself at ease with English protestants who, like himself, were primarily planters and self-made men, and uncomfortable with all Scots planters and with English landowners in Ireland who were also entrenched in military or civil office and in the affairs of the church. He, in other words, represented himself as an honest country gentleman opposed to the corrupting influence of office. Thus, as he remarked, the various ‘branches of government’ were ‘massy and unwieldy’, with people in the army being ‘a great party and in especial eminence there, the officers of law and justice [were] as great, [while] the clergy and ministers thereof [were] tenderly to be touched’ (to privy council, 12 Feb. 1630/31, Chatsworth, letter book 1, f. 259). Nevertheless, Cork favoured the maintenance of a ‘standing army’ because, despite the willingness of many of the Irish population to ‘settle into an honest and fair course of life’, most of them remained ‘alien in religion’, while those catholics who had not conformed to civil ways stood ‘at such a distance from the English civility, education and manners, as they [were] utterly idle and unsettled, remaining as a cloud of terror ready to break into any wicked action if opportunity were offered as well against the settled papists as the protestants’ (to Secretary Cooke, 27 Feb. 1632/3, Chatsworth, letter book 1, ff 606–13).
The continued existence of such potential rebels justified Cork in favouring the extension of plantation into the province of Connacht and the lordship of Ormond, and also in opposing the royal policy of the Graces of 1628, which promised religious tolerance – albeit not full toleration – to Irish catholics, as well as assured title to any estates that they occupied for sixty years. This rigid stance, he always contended, did not stem from any animus against catholic landowners, with whom he claimed to have ‘some power and credit, and to whom [he was] no very remote neighbour’, but rather out of conviction that stern measures would effect their civil and religious conformity (to Lord Treasurer Portland, 9 August 1630, Chatsworth, letter book 1, f. 167). To make his point, Cork, when sharing office with Loftus, had promoted the closure of mass houses in Dublin, and the destruction of objects and places of popular devotion, including St Patrick's Purgatory. When it was put to him that his intolerance would instigate riots, which it had already done in Dublin, the earl opined, from his experience of forty years in Ireland, that the protests were ‘but brave outsides and flourishes’ designed ‘to beget and nourish fears’, and, refusing to be intimidated, he called for the further prosecution of Jesuits and friars even though his ‘fortunes and whole estate depend[ed] upon the public peace of this realm’ (to Carlisle, 7 Jan. 1629/30, Chatsworth, letter book 1, ff 23–5).
Wentworth's governorship, 1633–41
Cork, as it transpired, never had the opportunity to put his political theories into action because the governorship of Ireland then fell to Thomas, Viscount Wentworth (qv) (created earl of Strafford 12 January 1640), who was to remain as chief governor of Ireland 1633–41. By the latter date, Cork was too old to be a credible successor even though his name was canvassed by his well-wishers. However, in 1632 Cork expressed himself relieved, both publicly and to his confidants, that it was a senior English figure rather than a political rival in Ireland, or some needy courtier, to whom the position of governor had fallen, and his only anxieties over Wentworth's appointment were that he was not acquainted with him and that Wentworth was a kinsman of Mountnorris's wife. Cork moved to remedy both of these deficiencies by bringing the ongoing negotiations for a marriage between Dungarvan and Elizabeth Clifford to a rapid conclusion, the future bride being a niece of Wentworth's second wife.
Neither the marriage nor the eventual arrival of Wentworth in Ireland permitted Cork the quiet retirement to his country estates that he had anticipated. Instead, these proved the most unsettling years of Cork's life because, while Wentworth had come to Ireland to promote a policy against catholics that was not unlike that which Cork favoured, the new deputy was equally concerned to undermine the position of the protestant elite in Ireland and replace it with one of his own making. His grounds for this dramatic purpose was his conviction, which he set about proving, that the wealth and status which the leaders of the protestant interest had reached in Ireland, in less than half a century, could have been attained only by fraudulent means. The first hint of what Wentworth had in store for protestant leaders came in 1635 when he acted unscrupulously to remove Mountnorris from his post as vice-treasurer. If Cork gained some satisfaction from the discomfiture of his former adversary, it was to be short-lived because, in 1636, he himself was summoned before the prerogative court of Castle Chamber on the charge that he had flagrantly encroached on the privileges of the church. The specific charges against him concerned the control that he exerted over appointments to church livings within the dioceses associated with his lordship, and of his having impropriated church lands, especially those of the collegiate church of Youghal. On the first charge, clergymen whom Cork considered his clients switched their allegiance to Wentworth and the reforming Bishop Bramhall to testify against him. On the second charge, it was established that Cork was indeed in possession of all the lands appertaining to the college of Youghal. Cork's plea that it was Ralegh who had committed the trespass did not deflect Wentworth from his purpose of depriving Cork of the college lands and imposing a fine of £15,000 on him by way of reparation for his prolonged trespass.
Wentworth hoped by this firm action against the wealthiest, and possibly the most influential, protestant in Ireland to ensure that others who were guilty of lay impropriatorship would surrender without contest. But as well as paving the way for a restructuring of the church in Ireland, Wentworth set out to erode the credibility of his adversary. Here his primary concern was to bolster his case that the rise to wealth and power of the entire group who dominated political life in Ireland could only have been achieved by fraud, and therefore should be reversed. To this end, he denigrated the reputation of Cork in graphic letters to those in positions of influence at court as well as in dramatic humiliations of Cork in Ireland, notably by compelling him to dismantle his wife's monumental tomb in St Patrick's cathedral. Such was Wentworth's animus against Cork that he might well have broken him, were it not that this would also have ruined Dungarvan and his wife, Elizabeth Clifford.
This onslaught, as might be expected, brought Cork into contact with Wentworth's enemies, including those who strove, as a matter of principle, to curb the prerogative powers of the king. Despite these associations Cork never openly enlisted as an opponent of Wentworth, and as the attack on himself abated he became a vociferous supporter of Wentworth's purpose to assist the king in his struggle with the Scottish Covenanters, and he encouraged his son-in law Viscount Barrymore to raise a regiment for the king. This was no empty posturing, since, in a confidential letter to his son-in-law Goring, Cork expressed his unqualified support of the king's proposed actions against the Scots, stating that Charles had ‘descended below himself to give . . . content . . . [to] heady, violent and distracted numbers of people that aim at the freeing of themselves from civil government’, and whose actions also threatened ‘the peace of poor Ireland’ (to Goring, 10 Dec. 1638, Chatsworth, letter book 2, f. 309). His opposing the Scots did not necessarily mean he was supporting the earl of Strafford (as Wentworth became in 1640), and Cork emerged as an opponent of Strafford, and then but an oblique one, only when the case against the governor had already been formulated. Even then, Cork's involvement did not go further than entertaining in London those who had travelled from Ireland to bear witness against their governor; offering testimony to vindicate his own reputation concerning Youghal College; being present, as a guest of the king, at Strafford's trial before the house of lords; and subsequently confiding to his diary that he had seen justice done.
Final years, 1641–3
Cork's reticence in opposing Strafford is clearly inconsistent with his commitments in Irish political life, but it was entirely in keeping with his engagement with politics in England. There he always took advice from a few trusted friends such as George Carew (qv), earl of Totnes, and after his death, from Thomas Stafford, the author of Pacata Hibernia, supposed natural son of Totnes, and usher to the privy chamber of Queen Henrietta Maria. These, and in-laws such as Goring, kept Cork informed of the rise and fall of courtiers, and it became Cork's purpose to cultivate those who happened to be in power at any given time, knowing that the source of all favour was ultimately the king. He also appreciated that, in the event of any insurrection in Ireland, the settler community there would be dependent on the king to provide military support from England. And as insurrection did come to Ireland in 1641, and as it spread to Munster the following year, Cork was all the more convinced that King Charles should be supported in Ireland and Britain against all who would challenge his authority. Then when both Cork's own son Lewis, Viscount Kinalmeaky, and his son-in-law David, earl of Barrymore, were slain in upholding the protestant cause, Richard Boyle was all the more convinced, as he approached his own death from natural causes (15 September 1643), that this was but a trial sent by God which would lead to an ultimate victory, proving the truth of his family motto that God's Providence was indeed his inheritance.
The career of Richard Boyle was therefore, to the very end, as tumultuous as it was remarkable. Its most striking feature was his advancement from an obscure and impecunious background to an Irish peerage and membership of the English privy council, and from the inconsequential income of a minor official to the rental of £20,000 which he enjoyed in 1637. Boyle, who had no previous experience of managing land, provided a textbook case on how property in Ireland could be turned to profit, not only in his own lifetime but for centuries to come. Another achievement which he would have regarded as essential was his raising a family which included such talents as his son Richard (qv), a successful courtier and future earl of Burlington; his daughter Catherine (qv), who as Lady Ranelagh was to become the principal patroness of protestant intellectuals in London during the interregnum; his son Roger (qv), who as Baron Broghill was to have a successful career as a soldier in the protestant, and even the Cromwellian, interest in Ireland and Scotland, before, as earl of Orrery, he became a formidable politician and a dramatist of the first rank during the restoration years; his daughter Mary (qv), who as countess of Warwick was to become an exemplary puritan lady; and his son Robert (qv), who was to become preeminent as a protestant scientist.
It may seem unfair to credit Boyle alone, rather than him and his wife, for raising this family, and he would have been the first to acknowledge the unfairness. However, his wife's role, as he defined it, was to bring the infants into the world and to cultivate a godly ambience during their childhood years. After that it was he – and seemingly he alone – who dedicated himself to finding for each son the best possible tutor for each particular phase of his education, and identifying for each daughter the best possible matrimonial alliance that would provide for her spiritual and material comfort while enhancing the standing of her father's family. In familial matters, as in all else, what was most remarkable was Boyle's attention to detail and his insistence that he himself should make the important decisions after he had taken the best advice. Thus, for him, seeking counsel from Sir Henry Wotton, headmaster of Eton, on who might best serve as tutors for his sons Lewis and Roger on the grand tour, was no different from soliciting information from Sir John Leeke on the saddle being used by Prince Charles so that one for Dungarvan could be ‘fellowed’ on it, or from being guided by George Hillyard of Bristol on the best stone and masons to use for his building works (to Wotton, 4 Sept. 1635, Chatsworth, letter book 2; Leeke to Cork, 14 Aug. 1624, Chatsworth, Lismore papers, xv, no. 65; to Hillyard, 21 Nov. 1637, Chatsworth, letter book 2, f. 244).
All such information was sought by Boyle because all was necessary to making the best possible decision, but decisions could only be taken when he was fully in control of his own affairs. To this end throughout his life he kept a diary to remind him of what he had done on each particular day and on what remained to be done in the future, he had his agents keep detailed records on every item of income and expenditure, and he insisted, no matter where he was, on having his rental books sent to him within days of collection. The successful progress of all his affairs, as he was only too aware, was dependent on the cooperation of other people, and while he praised those who were reliable and excoriated delinquents, he placed his trust in God and his own business acumen. The ultimate proof of his approach was his catalogue of leases organised in drawboxes which, in turn, were placed in a sequence of cases in his study at Lismore Castle (Walley to Cork, 14 Mar. 1641/2, NLI, Lismore Castle papers, MS 13237 (27)). This system, for such it was, made it possible for Boyle, at a moment's notice, to detect who was cooperating and who was defaulting on the workplan he had devised – much, no doubt, as he imagined that Divine Providence kept a reckoning on the doings of the imperfect agents of his will.