This communication presents a newly discovered letter to Thomas Hobbes. It offers
conclusive evidence that the letter was written by Hobbes's friend, the scientist and Anglican clergyman
Robert Payne, and strong evidence that the letter was in fact received by Hobbes in late 1649. The
discovered letter was part of a running controversy over questions of church government in which
Hobbes and Payne engaged during the composition of Leviathan. In it Payne tries unsuccessfully to
soften Hobbes's strident Erastianism, and to defend the beleaguered Church of England from his
criticisms. The letter thus sheds light on the political and religious context in which Leviathan was
composed. Moreover, the letter offers an indirect but intriguing glimpse at underlying assumptions of
Hobbes's religious thought.
1 The author would like to thank Mark Kishlansky, Richard Tuck, Noel Malcolm,
and Susan Pedersen for their comments on earlier versions of this article.