The Life of Sir Henry Wotton
by Izaak Walton
Sir Henry Wotton—whose life I now intend to write—was born in the year of our Redemption 1568, in Bocton-Hall,—commonly called Bocton, or Boughton-Place, or Palace,—in the Parish of Bocton Malherbe, in the fruitful country of Kent. Bocton-Hall being an ancient and goodly structure, beautifying and being beautified by the Parish Church of Bocton Malherbe adjoining unto it, and both seated within a fair Park of the Wottons, on the brow of such a hill, as gives the advantage of a large prospect, and of equal pleasure to all beholders.
But this House and Church are not remarkable for any thing so much, as for that the memorable Family of the Wottons have so long inhabited the one, and now lie buried in the other, as appears by their many monuments in that Church: the Wottons being a family that hath brought forth divers persons eminent for wisdom and valour; whose heroic acts, and noble employments, both in England and in foreign parts, have adorned themselves this nation; which they have served abroad faithfully, in the discharge of their great trust, and prudently in their negociations with several Princes; and also served at home with much honour and justice, in their wise managing a great part of the public affairs thereof, in the various times both of war and peace.
But lest I should be thought by any, that may incline either to deny or doubt this truth, not to have observed moderation in the commendation of this Family; and also for that I believe the merits and memory of such persons ought to be thankfully recorded, I shall offer to the consideration of every Reader, out of the testimony of their Pedigree and our Chronicles, a part—and but a part—of that just commendation which might be from thence enlarged, and shall then leave the indifferent Reader to judge whether my error be an excess or defect of commendations.
Sir Robert Wotton, of Bocton Malherbe, Knight, was born about the year of Christ 1460: he, living in the reign of King Edward the Fourth, was by him trusted to be Lieutenant of Guisnes, to be Knight Porter, and Comptroller of Calais, where he died, and lies honourably buried.
Sir Edward Wotton of Bocton Malherbe, Knight,—son and heir of the said Sir Robert—was born in the year of Christ 1489, in the reign of King Henry the Seventh; he was made Treasurer of Calais, and of the Privy Council to King Henry the Eighth, who offered him to be Lord Chancellor of England; but, saith Holinshed, out of a virtuous modesty, he refused it.
Thomas Wotton of Bocton Malherbe, Esquire, son and heir of the said Sir Edward, and the father of our Sir Henry, that occasions this relation, was born in the year of Christ 1521. He was a gentleman excellently educated, and studious in all the Liberal Arts; in the knowledge whereof he attained unto a great perfection; who, though he had—besides those abilities, a very noble and plentiful estate, and the ancient interest of his predecessors—many invitations from Queen Elizabeth to change his country recreations and retirement for a Court, offering him a Knighthood,—she was then with him at his Bocton Hall—and that to be but as an earnest of some more honourable and more profitiable employment under her; yet he humbly refused both, being "a man of great modesty, of a most plain and single heart, of an ancient freedom, and integrity of mind." A commendation which Sir Henry Wotton took occasion often to remember with great gladness, and thankfully to boast himself the son of such a father; from whom indeed he derived that noble ingenuity that was always practised by himself, and which he ever both commended and cherished in others. This Thomas was also remarkable for hospitality, a great lover and much beloved of his country; to which may justly be added, that he was a cherisher of learning, as appears by that excellent Antiquary Mr. William Lambarde, in his Perambulation of Kent.
This Thomas had four sons, Sir Edward, Sir James, Sir John, and Sir Henry.
Sir Edward was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, and made Comptroller of Her Majesty’s Household. "He was," saith Camden, "a man remarkable for many and great employments in the State, during her reign, and sent several times Ambassador into foreign nations. After her death, he was by King James made Comptroller of his Household, and called to be of his Privy Council, and by him advanced to be Lord Wotton, Baron of Merley in Kent, and made Lord Lieutenant of that County."
Sir James, the second son, may be numbered among the martial men of his age, who was, in the thirty-eighth of Queen Elizabeth’s reign—with Robert, Earl of Sussex, Count Lodowick of Nassau, Don Christophoro, son of Antonio, King of Portugal, and divers other gentlemen of nobleness and valour—knighted in the field near Cadiz in Spain, after they had gotten great honour and riches, besides a notable retaliation of injuries, by taking that town.
Sir John, being a gentleman excellently accomplished, both by learning and travel, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, and by her looked upon with more than ordinary favour, and with intentions of preferment; but death in his younger years put a period to his growing hopes.
Of Sir Henry my following discourse shall give an account.
The descent of these fore-named Wottons was all in a direct line, and most of them and their actions in the memory of those with whom we have conversed; but if I had looked so far back as to Sir Nicholas Wotton, who lived in the reign of King Richard the Second, or before him upon divers others of great note in their several ages, I might by some be thought tedious; and yet others may more justly think me negligent, if I omit to mention Nicholas Wotton, the fourth son of Sir Robert, whom I first named.
This Nicholas Wotton was Doctor of Law, and sometime Dean both of York and Canterbury; a man whom God did not only bless with a long life, but with great abilities of mind, and an inclination to employ them in the service of his country, as is testified by his several employments, having been sent nine times Ambassador unto foreign Princes; and by his being a Privy Councillor to King Henry the Eighth, to Edward the Sixth, to Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth, who also, after he had been, during the wars between England, Scotland, and France, three several timesÄand not unsuccessfully—employed in Committees for settling of Peace betwixt this and those kingdoms, "died," saith learned Camden, "full of commendations for wisdom and piety." He was also, by the Will of King Henry the Eighth, made one of his Executors, and Chief Secretary of State to his son, that pious Prince, Edward the Sixth. Concerning which Nicholas Wotton I shall say but this little more; that he refused—being offered it by Queen Elizabeth—to be Archbishop of Canlerbury,—and that he died not rich, though he lived in that time of the dissolution of Abbeys.
More might be added; but by this it may appear, that Sir Henry Wotton was a branch of such a kindred, as left a stock of reputation to their posterity: such reputation as might kindle a generous emulation in strangers, and preserve a noble ambition in those of his name and family, to perform actions worthy of their ancestors.
And that Sir Henry Wotton did so, might appear more perfectly than my pen can express it, if of his many surviving friends, some one of higher parts and employments, had been pleased to have commended his to posterity; but since some years are now past, and they have all—I know not why—forborne to do it, my gratitude to the memory of my dead friend, and the renewed request of some that still live solicitous to see this duty performed; these have had a power to persuade me to undertake it; which truly I have not done but with distrust of mine own abilities; and yet so far from despair, that I am modestly confident my humble language shall be accepted, because I shall present all readers with a commixture of truth, and Sir Henry Wotton’s merits.
This being premised, I proceed to tell the reader, that the Father of Sir Henry Wotton was twice married; first to Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir John Rudstone, Knight; after whose death, though his inclination was averse to all contentions, yet necessitated he was to several suits in Law; in the prosecution whereof,—which took up much of his time, and were the occasion of many discontents,—he was by divers of his friends earnestly persuaded to a remarriage; to whom he has often answered, "That if ever he did put on a resolution to marry, he was seriously resolved to avoid three sorts of persons: namely
Those that had children;
Those that had Law-suits;
And those that were of his kindred.
And yet, following his own Law-suits, he met in Westminster Hall with Mrs. Eleonora Morton, Widow to Robert Morton, of Kent, Esquire, who was also engaged in several suits in Law: and he observing her comportment at the time of hearing one of her causes before the Judges, could not but at the same time both compassionate her condition, and affect her person; for the tears of lovers, or beauty dressed in sadness, are observed to have in them a charming eloquence, and to become very often too strong to be resisted: which I mention, because it proved so with this Thomas Wotton; for although there were in her a concurrence of all those accidents, against which he had so seriously resolved, yet his affection to her grew then so strong, that he resolved to solicit her for a wife, and did, and obtained her.
By her—who was the daughter of Sir William Finch, of Eastwell, in Kent,—he had only Henry his youngest son. His Mother undertook to be tutoress unto him during much of his childhood; for whose care and pains he paid her each day with such visible signs of future perfection in Learning, as turned her employment into a pleasing trouble; which she was content to continue, till his Father took him into his own particular care, and disposed of him to a Tutor in his own house at Bocton.
And when time and diligent instruction had made him fit for a removal to an higher form,—which was very early,—he was sent to Winchester-school: a place of strict discipline and order, that so he might in his youth be moulded into a method of living by rule, which his wise father knew to be the most necessary way to make the future part of his life both happy to himself, and useful for the discharge of all business, whether public or private.
And that he might be confirmed in this regularity, he was, at a fit age, removed from that School, to be a Commoner of New-College in Oxford; both being founded by William Wickham, Bishop of Winchester.
There he continued till about the eighteenth year of his age, and was then transplanted into Queen’s College: where, within that year, he was by the chief of that College, persuasively enjoined to write a play for their private use;—it was the Tragedy of Tancredo—which was so interwoven with sentences, and for the method and exact personating those humours, passions and dispositions, which he proposed to represent, so performed, that the gravest of that society declared, he had, in a slight employment, given an early and a solid testimony of his future abilities. And though there may be some sour dispositions, which may think this not worth a memorial, yet that wise Knight, Baptista Guarini,—whom learned Italy accounts one of her ornaments,—thought it neither an uncomely nor an unprofitable employment for his age.
But I pass to what will be thought more serious.
About the twentieth year of his age he proceeded Master of Arts; and at that time read in Latin three Lectures de Oculo; wherein he having described the form, the motion, the curious composure of the Eye, and demonstrated how of those very many, every humour and nerve performs its distinct office, so as the God of Order hath appointed, without mixture or confusion; and all this to the advantage of man, to whom the Eye is given, not only as the body’s guide, but whereas all other of his senses require time to inform the soul, this in an instant apprehends and warns him of danger; teaching him in the very eyes of others, to discover Wit, Folly, Love, and Hatred. After he had made these observations, he fell to dispute this Optic question. "Whether we see by the emission of the beams from within, or reception of the species from without?" And after that, and many other like learned disquisitions, he, in the conclusion of his Lectures, took a fair occasion to beautify his discourse with a commendation of the blessing and benefit of "Seeing;—by which we do not only discover Nature’s secrets, but, with a continued content—for the eye is never weary of seeing—behold the great Light of the World, and by it discover the fabric of the Heavens, and both the order and motion of the Celestial Orbs; nay, that if the Eye look but downward, it may rejoice to behold the bosom of the Earth, our common mother, embroidered and adorned with numberless and various flowers, which man sees daily grow up to perfection, and then silently moralise his own condition, who, in a short time,—like those very flowers—decays, withers, and quickly returns again to that Earth, from which both had their first being."
These were so exactly debated, and so rhetorically heightened, as, among other admirers, caused that learned Italian, Albericus Gentilis, then Professor of the Civil Law in Oxford, to call him "Henrice mi Ocelle;" which dear expression of his was also used by divers of Sir Henry’s dearest friends, and by many other persons of note during his stay in the University.
But his stay there was not long, at least not so long as his friends once intended; for the year after Sir Henry proceeded Master of Arts, his Father—whom Sir Henry did never mention without this, or some like reverential expression; as, "That good man my Father," or, "My Father, the best of men;"—about that time, this good man changed this for a better life; leaving to Sir Henry, as to his other younger sons, a rent-charge of an hundred marks a year, to be paid for ever out of some one of his Manors, of a much greater value.
And here, though this good man be dead, yet I wish a circumstance or two that concerns him, may not be buried without a relation; which I shall undertake to do, for that I suppose they may so much concern the Reader to know, that I may promise myself a pardon for a short digression.
In the year of our Redemption 1553, Nicholas Wotton, Dean of Canterbury,—whom I formerly mentioned,—being then Ambassador in France, dreamed that his Nephew, this Thomas Wotton, was inclined to be a party in such a project, as, if he were not suddenly prevented, would turn both to the loss of his life, and ruin of his Family.
Doubtless the good Dean did well know that common Dreams are but a senseless paraphrase on our waking thoughts, or of the business of the day past, or are the result of our over-engaged affections, when we betake ourselves to rest; and knew that the observation of them may turn to silly superstitions, as they too often do. But, though he might know all this, and might also believe that prophecies are ceased; yet doubtless he could not but consider, that all dreams are not to be neglected or cast away without all consideration; and did therefore rather lay this Dream aside, than intend totally to lose it; and dreaming the same again the night following, when it became a double Dream, like that of Pharaoh,—of which double Dreams the learned have made many observations,—and considering that it had no dependence on his waking thoughts, much less on the desires of his heart, then he did more seriously consider it; and remembered that Almighty God was pleased in a Dream to reveal and to assure Monica, the Mother of St. Austin, "That he, her son, for whom she wept so bitterly and prayed so much, should at last become a Christian:" This, I believe, the good Dean considered; and considering also that Almighty God,—though the causes of Dreams be often unknown—hath even in these latter times also by a certain illumination of the Soul in sleep, discovered many things that human wisdom could not foresee; upon these considerations he resolved to use so prudent a remedy by way of prevention, as might introduce no great inconvenience either to himself or to his Nephew. And to that end he wrote to the Queen,—’twas Queen Mary,—and besought her, "That she would cause his Nephew, Thomas Wotton, to be sent for out of Kent; and that the Lords of her Council might interrogate him in some such feigned questions, as might give a colour for his commitment into a favourable prison; declaring that he would acquaint her Majesty with the true reason of his request, when he should next become so happy as to see and speak to her Majesty."
It was done as the Dean desired: and in prison I must leave Mr. Wotton, till I have told the Reader what followed.
At this time a marriage was concluded betwixt our Queen Mary, and Philip, King of Spain; and though this was concluded with the advice, if not by the persuasion, of her Privy Council, as having many probabilities of advantage to this nation; yet divers persons of a contrary persuasion did not only declare against it; but also raised forces to oppose it: believing—as they said—it would be a means to bring England to be under a subjection to Spain, and make those of this nation slaves to strangers.
And of this number, Sir Thomas Wyat, of Boxley-Abbey in Kent,—betwixt whose family and the family of the Wottons there had been an ancient and entire friendship,—was the principal actor; who having persuaded many of the Nobility and Gentry—especially of Kent—to side with him, and he being defeated, and taken prisoner, was legally arrainged and condemned, and lost his life: so did the Duke of Suffolk and divers others, especially many of the Gentry of Kent, who were there in several places executed as Wyat’s assistants.
And of this number, in all probability, had Mr. Wotton been, if he had not been confined; for though he could not be ignorant that "another man’s Treason makes it mine by concealing it," yet he durst confess to his Uncle, when he returned into England, and then came to visit him in prison, "That he had more than an intimation of Wyat’s intentions;" and thought he had not continued actually innocent, if his Uncle had not so happily dreamed him into a prison; out of which place when he was delivered by the same hand that caused his commitment, they both considered the Dream more seriously, and then both joined in praising God for it; "That God who ties himself to no rules, either in preventing of evil, or in showing of mercy to those, whom of good pleasure he hath chosen to love."
And this Dream was the more considerable, because that God, who in the days of old did use to speak to his people in Visions, did seem to speak to many of this Family in dreams; of which I will also give the reader one short particular of this Thomas Wotton; whose Dreams did usually prove true; both in foretelling things to come, and discovering things past; and the particular is this.—This Thomas, a little before his death, dreamed that the University Treasury was robbed by Townsmen and poor Scholars, and that the number was five; and being that day to write to his son Henry at Oxford, he thought it worth so much pains, as by a postscript in his letter to make a slight enquiry of it. The letter—which was writ out of Kent, and dated three days before—came to his son’s hands the very morning after the night in which the robbery was committed; and when the City and University were both in a perplexed inquest of the thieves, then did Sir Henry Wotton show his Father’s letter, and by it such light was given of this work of darkness, that the five guilty persons were presently discovered and apprehended, without putting the University to so much trouble as the casting of a figure.
And it may yet be more considerable that this Nicholas and Thomas Wotton should both—being men of holy lives, of even tempers, and much given to fasting and prayer—foresee and foretell the very days of their own death. Nicholas did so, being then seventy years of age, and in perfect health. Thomas did the like in the sixty-fifth year of his age; who being then in London,—where he died,—and foreseeing his death there, gave direction in what manner his body should be carried to Bocton; and though he thought his Uncle Nicholas worthy of that noble monument which he built for him in the Cathedral Church of Canterbury; yet this humble man gave direction concerning himself, to be buried privately, and especially without any pomp at his funeral. This is some account of this family, which seemed to be beloved of God.
But it may now seem more than time, that I return to Sir Henry Wotton at Oxford; where, after his Optic Lecture, he was taken into such a bosom friendship with the learned Albericus Gentilis,—whom I formerly named,—that, if it had been possible, Gentilis would have breathed all his excellent knowledge, both of the Mathematics and Law, into the breast of his dear Harry, for so Gentilis used to call him: and though he was not able to do that, yet there was in Sir Henry such a propensity and connaturalness to the Italian language, and those studies whereof Gentilis was a great master, that the friendship between them did daily increase, and proved daily advantageous to Sir Henry, for the improvement of him in several sciences during his stay in the University.
From which place, before I shall invite the reader to follow him into a foreign nation, though I must omit to mention divers persons that were then in Oxford, of memorable note for learning, and friends to Sir Henry Wotton; yet I must not omit the mention of a love that was there begun betwixt him and Dr. Donne, sometime Dean of St. Paul’s; a man of whose abilities I shall forbear to say any thing, because he who is of this nation, and pretends to learning or ingenuity, and is ignorant of Dr. Donne, deserves not to know him. The friendship of these two I must not omit to mention, being such a friendship as was generously demented; and as it was begun in their youth, and in an University, and there maintained by correspondent inclinations and studies, so it lasted till age and death forced a separation.
In Oxford he stayed till about two years after his Father’s death; at which time he was about the twenty-second year of his age; and having to his great wit added the ballast of learning, and knowledge of the Arts, he then laid aside his books, and betook himself to the useful library of travel, and a more general conversation with mankind; employing the remaining part of his youth, his industry, and fortune, to adorn his mind, and to purchase the rich treasure of foreign knowledge: of which both for the secrets of Nature, the dispositions of many nations, their several laws and languages, he was the possessor in a very large measure; as I shall faithfully make to appear, before I take my pen from the following narration of his life.
In his travels, which was almost nine years before his return into England, he stayed but one year in France, and most of that in Geneva, where he became acquainted with Theodore Beza,—then very aged;—and with Isaac Casaubon, in whose house, if I be rightly informed, Sir Henry Wotton was lodged, and there contracted a most worthy friendship with that man of rare learning and ingenuity.
Three of the remaining eight years were spent in Germany, the other five in Italy,—the stage on which God appointed he should act a great part of his life;—where, both in Rome, Venice, and Florence, he became acquainted with the most eminent men for learning and all manner of Arts; as Picture, Sculpture, Chemistry, Architecture, and other manual Arts; even Arts of inferior nature; of all which he was a most dear lover, and a most excellent judge.
He returned out of Italy into England about the thirtieth year of his age, being then noted by many both for his person and comportment: for indeed he was of a choice shape, tall of stature, and of a most persuasive behaviour; which was so mixed with sweet discourse and civilities, as gained him much love from all persons with whom he entered into an acquaintance.
And whereas he was noted in his youth to have a sharp wit, and apt to jest; that, by time, travel, and conversation, was so polished, and made so useful, that his company seemed to be one of the delights of mankind; insomuch as Robert Earl of Essex—then one of the darlings of Fortune, and in greatest favour with Queen Elizabeth—invited him first into a friendship, and, after a knowledge of his great abilities, to be one of his Secretaries; the other being Mr. Henry Cuffe, sometime of Merton College in Oxford,—and there also the acquaintance of Sir Henry Wotton in his youth,—Mr. Cuffe being then a man of no common note in the University for his learning; nor, after his removal from that place, for the great abilities of his mind, nor indeed for the fatalness of his end.
Sir Henry Wotton, being now taken into a serviceable friendship with the Earl of Essex, did personally attend his counsels and employments in two voyages at sea against the Spaniard, and also in that—which was the Earl’s last—into Ireland; that voyage, wherein he then did so much provoke the Queen to anger, and worse at his return into England; upon whose immoveable favour the Earl had built such sandy hopes, as encouraged him to those undertakings, which, with the help of a contrary faction, suddenly caused his commitment to the Tower.
Sir Henry Wotton observing this, though he was not of that faction—for the Earl’s followers were also divided into their several interests—which encouraged the Earl to those undertakings which proved so fatal to him and divers of his confederation, yet, knowing Treason to be so comprehensive, as to take in even circumstances, and out of them to make such positive conclusions, as subtle Statesmen shall project, either for their revenge or safety; considering this, he thought prevention, by absence out of England, a better security, than to stay in it, and there plead his innocency in a prison. Therefore did he, so soon as the Earl was apprehended, very quickly, and as privately, glide through Kent to Dover, without so much as looking toward his native and beloved Bocton; and was, by the help of favourable winds, and liberal payment of the mariners, within sixteen hours after his departure from London, set upon the French shore; where he heard shortly after, that the Earl was arraigned, condemned, and beheaded; and that his friend Mr. Cuffe was hanged, and divers other persons of eminent quality executed.
The times did not look so favourably upon Sir Henry Wotton, as to invite his return into England: having therefore procured of Sir Edward Wotton, his elder brother, an assurance that his annuity should be paid him in Italy, thither he went, happily renewing his intermitted friendship and interest, and indeed his great content in a new conversation with his old acquaintance in that nation, and more particularly in Florence,—which City is not more eminent for the Great Duke’s Court, than for the great recourse of men of choicest note for learning and arts,—in which number he there met with his old friend Signior Vietta, a gentleman of Venice, and then taken to be Secretary to the Great Duke of Tuscany.
After some stay in Florence, he went the fourth time to visit Rome, where, in the English College he had very many friends;—their humanity made them really so, though they knew him to be a dissenter from many of their principles of religion; and having enjoyed their company, and satisfied himself concerning some curiosities that did partly occasion his journey thither, he returned back to Florence, where a most notable accident befell him; an accident that did not only find new employment for his choice abilities, but did introduce him to a knowledge and interest with our King James, then King of Scotland; which I shall proceed to relate.
But first I am to tell the Reader, that though Queen Elizabeth, or she and her Council, were never willing to declare her successor; yet James, then King of the Scots, was confidently believed by most to be the man upon whom the sweet trouble of Kingly government would be imposed; and the Queen declining very fast, both by age and visible infirmities, those that were of the Romish persuasion in point of religion,—even Rome itself, and those of this nation,—knowing that the death of the Queen and the establishing of her successor, were taken to be critical days for destroying or establishing the Protestant religion in this nation, did therefore improve all opportunities for preventing a Protestant Prince to succeed her. And as the Pope’s Excommunication of Queen Elizabeth, had both by the judgment and practice of the Jesuited Papist, exposed her to be warrantably destroyed; so, if we may believe an angry adversary, a secular Priest against a Jesuit—you may believe, that about that time there were many endeavours, first to excommunicate, and then to shorten the life of King James.
Immediately after Sir Henry Wotton’s return from Rome to Florence,—which was about a year before the death of Queen Elizabeth,—Ferdinand the Great Duke of Florence, had intercepted certain letters, that discovered a design to take away the life of James, the then King of Scots. The Duke abhorring this fact, and resolving to endeavour a prevention of it, advised with his Secretary Vietta, by what means a caution might be best given to that King; and after consideration it was resolved to be done by Sir Henry Wotton, whom Vietta first commended to the Duke, and the Duke had noted and approved of above all the English that frequented his Court.
Sir Henry was gladly called by his friend Vietta to the Duke, who, after much profession of trust and friendship, acquainted him with the secret; and being well instructed, dispatched him into Scotland with letters to the King, and with those letters such Italian antidotes against poison, as the Scots till then had been strangers to.
Having parted from the Duke, he took up the name and language of an Italian; and thinking it best to avoid the line of English intelligence and danger, he posted into Norway, and through that country towards Scotland, where he found the King at Stirling. Being there, he used means, by Bernard Lindsey, one of the King’s Bed-chamber, to procure him a speedy and private conference with his Majesty; assuring him, "That the business which he was to negociate was of such consequence, as had caused the Great Duke of Tuscany to enjoin him suddenly to leave his native country of Italy, to impart it to his King.
This being by Bernard Lindsey made known to the King, the King, after a little wonder—mixed with jealousy—to hear of an Italian Ambassador, or messenger, required his name,—which was said to be Octavio Baldi,—and appointed him to be heard privately at a fixed hour that evening.
When Octavio Baldi came to the Presence-chamber door, he was requested to lay aside his long rapier—which, Italian-like, he then wore;—and being entered the chamber, he found there with the King three or four Scotch Lords standing distant in several corners of the chamber: at the sight of whom he made a stand; which the King observing, "bade him be bold, and deliver his message; for he would undertake for the secrecy of all that were present." Then did Octavio Baldi deliver his letters and his message to the King in Italian; which when the King had graciously received, after a little pause, Octavio Baldi steps to the table, and whispers to the King in his own language, that he was an Englishman, beseeching him for a more private conference with his Majesty, and that he might be concealed during his stay in that nation; which was promised and really performed by the King, during all his abode there, which was about three months; all which time was spent with much pleasantness to the King, and with as much to Octavio Baldi himself, as that country could afford; from which he departed as true an Italian as he came thither.
To the Duke at Florence he returned with a fair and grateful account of his employment; and within some few months after his return, there came certain news to Florence, that Queen Elizabeth was dead: and James, King of the Scots, proclaimed King of England. The Duke knowing travel and business to be the best schools of wisdom, and that Sir Henry Wotton had been tutored in both, advised him to return presently to England, and there joy the King with his new and better title, and wait there upon Fortune for a better employment.
When King James came into England, he found amongst other of the late Queen’s officers, Sir Edward, who was, after Lord Wotton, Comptroller of the House, of whom he demanded, "If he knew one Henry Wotton, that had spent much time in foreign travel?" The Lord replied he knew him well, and that he was his brother. Then the King, asking where he then was, was answered, at Venice or Florence; but by late letters from thence he understood he would suddenly be at Paris. "Send for him," said the King, "and when he shall come into England, bid him repair privately to me." The Lord Wotton, after a little wonder, asked the King, "If he knew him?" To which the King answered, "You must rest unsatisfied of that till you bring the gentleman to me."
Not many months after this discourse, the Lord Wotton brought his brother to attend the King, who took him in his arms, and bade him welcome by the name of Octavio Baldi, saying, he was the most honest, and therefore the best dissembler that he ever met with: and said, "Seeing I know you neither want learning, travel, nor experience, and that I have had so real a testimony of your faithfulness and abilities to manage an ambassage, I have sent for you to declare my purpose; which is, to make use of you in that kind hereafter." And indeed the King did so, most of those two and twenty years of his reign but before he dismissed Octavio Baldi from his present attendance upon him, he restored him to his old name of Henry Wotton, by which he then knighted him.
Not long after this, the King having resolved according to his Motto—Beati pacifici—to have a friendship with his neighbour Kingdoms of France and Spain; and also, for divers weighty reasons, to enter into an alliance with the State of Venice, and to that end to send Ambassadors to those several places, did propose the choice of these employments to Sir Henry Wotton; who, considering the smallness of his own estate,—which he never took care to augment,—and knowing the Courts of great Princes to be sumptuous, and necessarily expensive, inclined most to that of Venice, as being a place of more retirement, and best suiting with his genius, who did ever love to join with business, study and a trial of natural experiments; for both which, fruitful Italy, that darling of Nature, and cherisher of all arts, is so justly famed in all parts of the Christian world.
Sir Henry having, after some short time and consideration, resolved upon Venice, and a large allowance being appointed by the King for his voyage thither, and a settled maintenance during his stay there, he left England, nobly accompanied through France to Venice, by gentlemen of the best families and breeding that this nation afforded: they were too many to name; but these two, for the following reasons, may not be omitted. Sir Albertus Morton, his Nephew, who went his Secretary; and William Bedel, a man of choice learning, and sanctified wisdom, who went his Chaplain.
And though his dear friend Dr. Donne—then a private gentleman—was not one of the number that did personally accompany him in this voyage, yet the reading of this following letter, sent by him to Sir Henry Wotton, the morning before he left England, may testify he wanted not his friend’s best wishes to attend him.
After those reverend papers, whose soul is
Our good and great King’s lov’d hand and fear’d name:
By which to you he derives much of his,
And, how he may, makes you almost the same:
A taper of his torch; a copy writ
From his original, and a fair beam
Of the same warm and dazzling Sun, though it
Must in another sphere his virtue stream:
After those learned papers, which your hand
Hath stor’d with notes of use and pleasure too:
From which rich treasury you may command
Fit matter whether you will write or do:
After those loving papers which friends send
With glad grief to your sea-ward steps farewell,
And thicken on you now as prayers ascend
To Heaven on troops at a good man’s passing-bell:
Admit this honest paper, and allow
It such an audience as yourself would ask,
What you would say at Venice, this says now,
And has for nature what you have for task.
To swear much love; nor to be chang’d before
Honour alone will to your fortune fit;
Nor shall I then honour your fortune more,
Than I have done your honour wanting wit.
But ’tis an easier load—though both oppress –
To want, than govern greatness; for we are
In that, our own and only business;
In this, we must for others’ vices care.
’Tis therefore well your spirits now are placed
In their last furnace, in activity,
Which fits them; Schools, and Courts, and Wars o’erpast
To touch and taste in any best degree.
For me!—if there be such a thing as I –
Fortune—if there be such a thing as she –
Finds that I bear so well her tyranny,
That she thinks nothing else so fit for me.
But though she part us, to hear my oft prayers
For your increase, God is as near me here:
And, to send you what I shall beg, his stairs
In length and ease are alike every where.
Sir Henry Wotton was received by the State of Venice with much honour and gladness, both for that he delivered his ambassage most elegantly in the Italian language, and came also in such a juncture of time, as his master’s friendship seemed useful for that Republic. The time of his coming thither was about the year 1604, Leonardo Donato being then Duke; a wise and resolved man, and to all purposes such—Sir Henry Wotton would often say it—as the State of Venice could not then have wanted; there having been formerly, in the time of Pope Clement the Eighth, some contests about the privileges of Churchmen, and the power of the Civil Magistrates; of which, for the information of common readers, I shall say a little, because it may give light to some passages that follow.
About the year 1603, the Republic of Venice made several injunctions against lay-persons giving lands or goods to the Church, without licence from the Civil Magistrate; and in that inhibition they expressed their reasons to be, "For that when any goods or land once came into the hands of the Ecclesiastics, it was not subject to alienation: by reason whereof—the lay-people being at their death charitable even to excess,—the Clergy grew every day more numerous, and pretended an exemption from all public service and taxes, and from all secular judgment; so that the burden grew thereby too heavy to be born by the Laity."
Another occasion of difference was, that about this time complaints were justly made by the Venetians against two Clergymen, the Abbot of Nervesa, and a Canon of Vicenza, for committing such sins as I think not fit to name: nor are these mentioned with an intent to fix a scandal upon any calling; for holiness is not tied to Ecclesiastical Orders,—and Italy is observed to breed the most virtuous and most vicious men of any nation. These two having been long complained of at Rome in the name of the State of Venice, and no satisfaction being given to the Venetians, they seized the persons of this Abbot and Canon, and committed them to prison.
The justice or injustice of such, or the like power, then used by the Venetians, had formerly had some calm debates betwixt the former Pope Clement the Eighth, and that Republic: I say, calm, for he did not excommunicate them; considering,—as I conceive,—that in the late Council of Trent, it was at last—after many politic disturbances and delays, and endeavours to preserve the Pope’s present power,—in order to a general reformation of those many errors, which were in time crept into the Church, declared by that Council, "That though discipline and especial Excommunication be one of the chief sinews of Church-government, and intended to keep men in obedience to it; for which end it was declared to be very profitable; yet it was also declared, and advised to be used with great sobriety and care, because experience had informed them, that when it was pronounced unadvisedly or rashly, it became more contemned than feared." And, though this was the advice of that Council at the conclusion of it, which was not many years before this quarrel with the Venetians; yet this prudent, patient Pope Clement dying, Pope Paul the Fifth, who succeeded him,—though not immediately, yet in the same year,—being a man of a much hotter temper, brought this difference with the Venetians to a much higher contention; objecting those late acts of that State to be a diminution of his just power, and limited a time of twenty-four days for their revocation; threatening if he were not obeyed, to proceed to the Excommunication of the Republic, who still offered to shew both reason and ancient custom to warrant their factions. But this Pope, contrary to his predecessor’s moderation, required absolute obedience without disputes.
Thus it continued for about a year, the Pope still threatening Excommunication, and the Venetians still answering him with fair speeches, and no compliance; till at last the Pope’s zeal to the Apostolic See did make him to excommunicate the Duke, the whole Senate, and all their dominions, and, that done, to shut up all their Churches; charging the whole clergy to forbear all sacred offices to the Venetians, till their obedience should render them capable of Absolution.
But this act of the Pope’s did but the more confirm the Venetians in their resolution not to obey him: and to that end, upon the hearing of the Pope’s interdict, they presently published, by sound of trumpet, a Proclamation to this effect:
"That whosoever hath received from Rome any copy of a papal Interdict, published there, as well against the Law of God, as against the honour of this nation, shall presently render it to the Council of Ten, upon pain of Death. And made it loss of estate and Nobility, but to speak in behalf of the Jesuits."
Then was Duado their Ambassador called home from Rome, and the Inquisition presently suspended by order of the State: and the flood-gates being thus set open any man that had a pleasant or scoffing wit, might safely vent it against the Pope, either by free speaking, or by libels in print; and both became very pleasant to the people.
Matters thus heightened, the State advised with Father Paul, a holy and learned Friar,—the author of the "History of the Council of Trent,"—whose advice was, "Neither to provoke the Pope, nor lose their own right:" he declaring publicly in print, in the name of the State, "That the Pope was trusted to keep two keys, one of Prudence and the other of Power: and that, if they were not both used together, Power alone is not effectual in an Excommunication."
And thus these discontents and oppositions continued, till a report was blown abroad, that the Venetians were all turned Protestants; which was believed by many, for that it was observed that the English Ambassador was so often in conference with the Senate, and his Chaplain Mr. Bedel, more often with Father Paul, whom the people did not take to be his friend: and also, for that the Republic of Venice was known to give commission to Gregory Justiniano, then their Ambassador in England, to make all these proceedings known to the King of England, and to crave a promise of his assistance, if need should require: and in the mean time they required the King’s advice and judgment; which was the same that he gave to Pope Clement, at his first coming to the Crown of England;—that Pope then moving him to an union with the Roman Church;—namely, "To endeavour the calling of a free Council, for the settlement of peace in Christendom; and that he doubted not but that the French King, and divers other Princes, would join to assist in so good a work; and, in the mean time, the sin of this breach, both with his and the Venetian dominions, must of necessity lie at the Pope’s door."
In this contention—which lasted almost two years—the Pope grew still higher, and the Venetians more and more resolved and careless; still acquainting King James with their proceedings, which was done by the help of Sir Henry Wotton, Mr. Bedel, and Padre Paulo, whom the Venetians did then call to be one of their consulters of State, and with his pen to defend their just cause; which was by him so performed, that the Pope saw plainly he had weakened his power by exceeding it, and offered the Venetians absolution upon very easy terms; which the Venetians still slighting, did at last obtain by that which was scarce so much as a shew of acknowledging it: for they made an order, that in that day in which they were absolved, there should be no public rejoicing, nor any bonfires that night, lest the common people might judge, that they desired an absolution, or were absolved for committing a fault.
These contests were the occasion of Padre Paulo’s knowledge and interest with King James; for whose sake principally, Padre Paulo compiled that eminent History of the remarkable Council of Trent; which history was, as fast as it was written, sent in several sheets in letters by Sir Henry Wotton, Mr. Bedel, and others, unto King James, and the then Bishop of Canterbury, into England, and there first made public, both in English and the universal language.
For eight years after Sir Henry Wotton’s going into Italy, he stood fair and highly valued in the King’s opinion; but at last became much clouded by an accident, which I shall proceed to relate.
At his first going Ambassador into Italy, as he passed through Germany, he stayed some days at Augusta; where having been in his former travels well known by many of the best note for learning and ingeniousness,—those that are esteemed the virtuosi of that nation,—with whom he passing an evening in merriments, was requested by Christopher Flecamore to write some sentence in his Albo;—a book of white paper, which for that purpose many of the German gentry usually carry about them:—and Sir Henry Wotton consenting to the motion, took an occasion, from some accidental discourse of the present company, to write a pleasant definition of an Ambassador in these very words:
"Legatus est vir bonus, peregrè missus ad mentiendum Reipublicae causâ."
Which Sir Henry Wotton could have been content should have been thus Englished:
"An Ambassador is an honest man, sent to lie abroad for the good of his country."
But the word for lie—being the hinge upon which the conceit was to turn—was not so expressed in Latin, as would admit—in the hands of an enemy especially—so fair a construction as Sir Henry thought in English. Yet as it was, it slept quietly among other sentences in this Albo, almost eight years, till by accident it fell into the hands of Jasper Scioppius, a Romanist, a man of a restless spirit and a malicious pen; who, with books against King James, prints this as a principle of that religion professed by the King, and his Ambassador Sir Henry Wotton, then at Venice; and in Venice it was presently after written in several glass-windows, and spitefully declared to be Sir Henry Wotton’s.
This coming to the knowledge of King James, he apprehended it to be such an oversight, such a weakness, or worse, in Sir Henry Wotton, as caused the King to express much wrath against him: and this caused Sir Henry Wotton to write two apologies, one to Velserus—one of the chiefs of Augusta—in the universal language, which he caused to be printed, and given and scattered in the most remarkable places both of Germany and Italy, as an antidote against the venomous books of Scioppius; and another Apology to King James; which were both so ingenious, so clear, and so choicely eloquent, that his Majesty—who was a pure judge of it—could not forbear at the receipt thereof, to declare publicly, "That Sir Henry Wotton had commuted sufficiently for a greater offence."
And now, as broken bones well set become stronger, so Sir Henry Wotton did not only recover, but was much more confirmed in his Majesty’s estimation and favour than formerly he had been.
And, as that man of great wit and useful fancy, his friend Dr. Donne, gave in a Will of his—a Will of conceits—his Reputation to his Friends, and his Industry to his Foes, because from thence he received both: so those friends, that in this time of trial laboured to excuse this facetious freedom of Sir Henry Wotton’s, were to him more dear, and by him more highly valued; and those acquaintance, that urged this as an advantage against him, caused him by this error to grow both more wise, and—which is the best fruit error can bring forth—for the future to become more industriously watchful over his tongue and pen.
I have told you a part of his employment in Italy; where, notwithstanding the death of his favourer, the Duke Leonardo Donato, who had an undissembled affection for him, and the malicious accusation of Scioppius, yet his interest—as though it had been an entailed love—was still found to live and increase in all the succeeding Dukes during his employment to that State, which was almost twenty years; all which time he studied the dispositions of those Dukes, and the other Consulters of State; well knowing that he who negociates a continued business, and neglects the study of dispositions, usually fails in his proposed ends. But in this Sir Henry Wotton did not fail; for, by a fine sorting of fit presents, curious, and not costly entertainments, always sweetened by various and pleasant discourse—with which, and his choice application of stories, and his elegant delivery of all these, even in their Italian language, he first got, and still preserved, such interest in the State of Venice, that it was observed—such was either his merit or his modesty—they never denied him any request.
But all this shows but his abilities, and his fitness for that employment: it will therefore be needful to tell the Reader, what use he made of the interest which these procured him: and that indeed was rather to oblige others than to enrich himself: he still endeavouring that the reputation of the English might be maintained, both in the German Empire and in Italy; where many gentlemen, whom travel had invited into that nation, received from him cheerful entertainments, advice for their behaviour, and, by his interest, shelter or deliverance from those accidental storms of adversity which usually attend upon travel.
And because these things may appear to the Reader to be but generals, I shall acquaint him with two particular examples; one of his merciful disposition, and one of the nobleness of his mind; which shall follow.
There had been many English Soldiers brought by Commanders of their own country, to serve the Venetians for pay against the Turk; and those English, having by irregularities, or improvidence, brought themselves into several galleys and prisons, Sir Henry Wotton became a petitioner to that State for their lives and enlargement; and his request was granted: so that those—which were many hundreds, and there made the sad examples of human misery, by hard imprisonment and unpitied poverty in a strange nation—were by his means released, relieved, and in a comfortable condition sent to thank God and him, for their lives and liberty in their own country.
And this I have observed as one testimony of the compassionate nature of him, who was, during his stay in those parts, as a city of refuge for the distressed of this and other nations.
And for that which I offer as a testimony of the nobleness of his mind, I shall make way to the Reader’s clearer understanding of it, by telling him, that beside several other foreign employments, Sir Henry Wotton was sent thrice Ambassador to the Republic of Venice. And at his last going thither, he was employed Ambassador to several of the German Princes, and more particularly to the Emperor Ferdinando the Second; and that his employment to him, and those Princes, was to incline them to equitable conditions for the restoration of the Queen of Bohemia and her descendants, to their patrimonial inheritance of the Palatinate.
This was, by his eight months’ constant endeavours and attendance upon the Emperor, his Court and Council, brought to a probability of a successful conclusion, without bloodshed. But there were at that time two opposite armies in the field; and as they were treating, there was a battle fought, in the managery whereof there were so many miserable errors on the one side,—so Sir Henry Wotton expresses it in a dispatch to the King—and so advantageous events to the Emperor, as put an end to all present hopes of a successful treaty; so that Sir Henry, seeing the face altered by that victory, prepared for a removal from that Court; and at his departure from the Emperor, was so bold as to remember him, "That the events of every battle move on the unseen wheels of Fortune, which are this moment up, and down the next: and therefore humbly advised him to use his victory so soberly, as still to put on thoughts of peace." Which advice, though it seemed to be spoken with some passion,—his dear mistress the Queen of Bohemia, being concerned in it—was yet taken in good part by the Emperor; who replied, "That he would consider his advice. And though he looked on the King his master, as an abettor of his enemy, the Palsgrave; yet for Sir Henry himself, his behaviour had been such during the manage of the Treaty, that he took him to be a person of much honour and merit; and did therefore desire him to accept of that Jewel, as a testimony of his good opinion of him:" which was a jewel of Diamonds of more value than a thousand pounds.
This Jewel was received with all outward circumstances and terms of honour by Sir Henry Wotton. But the next morning, at his departing from Vienna, he, at his taking leave of the Countess of Sabrina—an Italian Lady, in whose house the Emperor had appointed him to be lodged, and honourably entertained—acknowledged her merits, and besought her to accept of that Jewel, as a testimony of his gratitude for her civilities; presenting her with the same that was given him by the Emperor: which being suddenly discovered, and told to the Emperor, was by him taken for a high affront, and Sir Henry Wotton told so by a messenger. To which he replied, "That though he received it With thankfulness, yet he found in himself an indisposition to be the better for any gift that came from an enemy to his Royal Mistress, the Queen of Bohemia;" for so she was pleased he should always call her. Many other of his services to his Prince and this nation might be insisted upon; as namely, his procurations of privileges and courtesies with the German Princes, and the Republic of Venice, for the English Merchants: and what he did by direction of King James with the Venetian State, concerning the Bishop of Spalato’s return to the Church of Rome. But for the particulars of these, and many more that I meant to make known, I want a view of some papers that might inform me,—his late Majesty’s Letter-Office having now suffered a strange alienation,—and indeed I want time too: for the Printer’s press stays for what is written: so that I must haste to bring Sir Henry Wotton in an instant from Venice to London, leaving the reader to make up what is defective in this place, by the small supplement of the Inscription under his Arms, which he left at all those houses where he rested, or lodged, when he returned from his last Embassy into England.
Henricus Wottonius Anglo-Cantianus, Thomae optimi viri filius natu minimus, à Serenissimo
Jacobo I. Mag. Brit. Rege, in equestrem titulum adscitus, ejusdemque ter ad Rempublicam Venetam Legatus Ordinarius, semel ad Confoederatarum Provinciarum Ordines in Juliacensi negotio. Bis ad Carolum Emanuel, Sabaudiae Ducem; semel ad Unitos Superioris Germaniae Principes in Conventu Heilbrunensi, postremò ad Archiducem Leopoldum, Ducem Wittembergensem, Civitates Imperiales, Argentinam, Ulmamque, et ipsum Romanorum Imperatorem Ferdinandum Secundum, Legatus Extraordinarius, tandem hoc didicit,
Animas fieri sapientiores quiescendo.
To London he came the year before King James died; who having, for the reward of his foreign service, promised him the reversion of an office, which was fit to be turned into present money, which he wanted, for a supply of his present necessities; and also granted him the reversion of the Master of the Rolls place, if he outlived charitable Sir Julius Caesar, who then possessed it, and then grown so old that he was said to be kept alive beyond Nature’s course, by the prayers of those many poor which he daily relieved.
But these were but in hope; and his condition required a present support: for in the beginning of these employments he sold to his elder brother, the Lord Wotton, the rent-charge left by his good father; and—which is worse—was now at his return indebted to several persons, whom he was not able to satisfy, but by the King’s payment of his arrears, due for his foreign employments. He had brought into England many servants, of which some were German and Italian Artists: this was part of his condition, who had many times hardly sufficient to supply the occasions of the day: for it may by no means be said of his providence, as himself said of Sir Philip Sidney’s wit, "That it was the very measure of congruity," he being always so careless of money, as though our Saviour’s words, "Care not for tomorrow," were to be literally understood.
But it pleased the God of Providence, that in this juncture of time, the Provostship of his Majesty’s College of Eton, became void by the death of Mr. Thomas Murray, for which there were, as the place deserved, many earnest and powerful suitors to the King. And Sir Henry, who had for many years—like Sisyphus—rolled the restless stone of a State-employment, knowing experimentally that the great blessing of sweet content was not to be found in multitudes of men or business, and that a College was the fittest place to nourish holy thoughts, and to afford rest both to his body and mind, which his age—being now almost threescore years—seemed to require, did therefore use his own, and the interest of all his friends to procure that place. By which means, and quitting the King of his promised reversionary offices, and a piece of honest policy,—which I have not time to relate,—he got a grant of it from his Majesty.
And this was a fair satisfaction to his mind; but money was wanting to furnish him with those necessaries which attend removes, and a settlement in such a place; and, to procure that, he wrote to his old friend Mr. Nicholas Pey, for his assistance. Of which Nicholas Pey I shall here say a little, for the clearing of some passages that I shall mention hereafter.
He was in his youth a Clerk, or in some such way a servant to the Lord Wotton, Sir Henry’s brother; and by him, when he was Comptroller of the King’s Household, was made a great officer in his Majesty’s house. This and other favours being conferred upon Mr. Pey—in whom there was a radical honesty—were always thankfully acknowledged by him, and his gratitude expressed by a willing and unwearied serviceableness to that family even till his death. To him Sir Henry Wotton wrote, to use all his interest at Court, to procure five hundred pounds of his arrears, for less would not settle him in the College; and the want of such a sum "wrinkled his face with care;"—’twas his own expression,—and, that money being procured, he should the next day after find him in his College, and "Invidiae remedium" writ over his study door.
This money, being part of his arrears, was by his own, and the help of honest Nicholas Pey’s interest in Court, quickly procured him, and he as quickly in the College; the place, where indeed his happiness then seemed to have its beginning; the College being to his mind as a quiet harbour to a sea-faring man after a tempestuous voyage; where, by the bounty of the pious Founder, his very food and raiment were plentifully provided for him in kind, and more money than enough; where he was freed from all corroding cares, and seated on such a rock, as the waves of want could not probably shake: where he might sit in a calm, and, looking down, behold the busy multitude turmoiled and tossed in a tempestuous sea of trouble and dangers; and—as Sir William Davenant has happily expressed the like of another person –
Laugh at the graver business of the State,
Which speaks men rather wise than fortunate.
Being thus settled according to the desires of his heart, his first study was the Statutes of the College; by which he conceived himself bound to enter into Holy Orders, which he did, being made Deacon with all convenient speed. Shortly after which time, as he came in his surplice from the Church-service, an old friend, a person of quality, met him so attired, and joyed him of his new habit. To whom Sir Henry Wotton replied, "I thank God and the King, by whose goodness I now am in this condition; a condition which that Emperor Charles the Fifth seemed to approve; who, after so many remarkable victories, when his glory was great in the eyes of all men, freely gave up his Crown, and the many cares that attended it, to Philip his Son, making a holy retreat to a Cloisteral life, where he might, by devout meditations, consult with God,—which the rich or busy men seldom do—and have leisure both to examine the errors of his life past, and prepare for that great day, wherein all flesh must make an account of their actions: and after a kind of tempestuous life, I now have the like advantage from him, ‘that makes the outgoings of the morning to praise him;’ even from my God, whom I daily magnify for this particular mercy of an exemption from business, a quiet mind, and a liberal maintenance, even in this part of my life, when my age and infirmities seem to sound me a retreat from the pleasures of this world, and invite me to contemplation, in which I have ever taken the greatest felicity."
And now to speak a little of the employment of his time in the College. After his customary public Devotions, his use was to retire into his Study, and there to spend some hours in reading the Bible, and Authors in Divinity, closing up his meditations with private prayer; this was, for the most part, his employment in the forenoon. But when he was once sat to dinner, then nothing but cheerful thoughts possessed his mind, and those still increased by constant company at his table, of such persons as brought thither additions both of learning and pleasure: but some part of most days was usually spent in Philosophical conclusions. Nor did he forget his innate pleasure of Angling, which he would usually call, "his idle time not idly spent;" saying often, "he would rather live five May months than forty Decembers."
He was a great lover of his neighbours, and a bountiful entertainer of them very often at his table, where his meat was choice, and his discourse better.
He was a constant cherisher of all those youths in that School, in whom he found either a constant diligence, or a genius that prompted them to learning; for whose encouragement he was—beside many other things of necessity and beauty—at the charge of setting up in it two rows of pillars, on which he caused to be choicely drawn the pictures of divers of the most famous Greek and Latin Historians, Poets, and Orators; persuading them not to neglect Rhetoric, because "Almighty God has left mankind affections to be wrought upon:" And he would often say, "That none despised Eloquence, but such dull souls as were not capable of it." He would also often make choice of some observations out of those Historians and Poets; and would never leave the School, without dropping some choice Greek or Latin apophthegm or sentence, that might be worthy of a room in the memory of a growing scholar.
He was pleased constantly to breed up one or more hopeful youths, which he picked out of the School, and took into his own domestic care, and to attend him at his meals: out of whose discourse and behaviour, he gathered observations for the better completing of his intended work of Education: of which, by his still striving to make the whole better, he lived to leave but part to posterity.
He was a great enemy to wrangling disputes of Religion; concerning which I shall say a little, both to testify that, and to show the readiness of his wit.
Having at his being in Rome made acquaintance with a pleasant Priest, who invited him one evening to hear their Vesper music at Church; the Priest seeing Sir Henry stand obscurely in a corner, sends to him by a boy of the Choir this question, writ in a small piece of paper; "Where was your religion to be found before Luther?" To which question Sir Henry presently underwrit, "My Religion was to be found then, where yours is not to be found now, in the written word of God."
The next Vesper, Sir Henry went purposely to the same Church, and sent one of the Choir boys with this question to his honest, pleasant friend, the Priest: "Do you believe all those many thousands of poor Christians were damned, that were excommunicated because the Pope and the Duke of Venice could not agree about their temporal power? even those poor Christians that knew not why they quarreled. Speak your conscience." To which he underwrit in French, "Monsieur, excusez-moi."
To one that asked him, "Whether a Papist may be saved?" he replied, "You may be saved without knowing that. Look to yourself."
To another, whose earnestness exceeded his knowledge, and was still railing against the Papists, he gave this advice: "Pray, Sir, forbear till you have studied the points better: for the wise Italians have this Proverb; ‘He that understands amiss concludes worse.’ And take heed of thinking, the farther you go from the Church of Rome, the nearer you are to God.
And to another that spake indiscreet and bitter words against Arminius, I heard him reply to this purpose:
"In my travel towards Venice, as I passed through Germany, I rested almost a year at Leyden, where I entered into an acquaintance with Arminius,—then the Professor of Divinity in that University,—a man much talked of in this age, which is made up of opposition and controversy. And indeed, if I mistake not Arminius in his expressions,—as so weak a brain as mine is may easily do,—then I know I differ from him in some points; yet I profess my judgment of him to be, that he was a man of most rare learning, and I knew him to be of a most strict life, and of a most meek spirit. And that he was so mild appears by his proposals to our Master Perkins of Cambridge, from whose book, ‘Of the Order and Causes of Salvation’—which first was writ in Latin—Arminius took the occasion of writing some queries to him concerning the consequents of his doctrine; intending them, ’tis said, to come privately to Mr. Perkins’ own hands, and to receive from him a like private and a like loving answer. But Mr. Perkins died before these queries came to him, and ’tis thought Arminius meant them to die with him; for though he lived long after, I have heard he forbore to publish them: but since his death his sons did not. And ’tis pity, if God had been so pleased, that Mr. Perkins did not live to see, consider, and answer those proposals himself; for he was also of a most meek spirit, and of great and sanctified learning. And though, since their deaths, many of high parts and piety have undertaken to clear the controversy; yet for the most part they have rather satisfied themselves, than convinced the dissenting party. And, doubtless, many middle-witted men, which yet may mean well, many scholars that are in the highest form for learning, which yet may preach well, men that are but preachers, and shall never know, till they come to Heaven, where the questions stick betwixt Arminius and the Church of England,—if there be any,—will yet in this world be tampering with, and thereby perplexing the controversy, and do therefore justly fall under the reproof of St. Jude, for being busy-bodies, and for meddling with things they understand not."
And here it offers itself—I think not unfitly—to tell the Reader, that a friend of Sir Henry Wotton’s being designed for the employment of an Ambassador, came to Eton, and requested from him some experimental rules for his prudent and safe carriage in his negociations; to whom he smilingly gave this for an infallible aphorism; "That, to be in safety himself, and serviceable to his country, he should always, and upon all occasions, speak the truth,—it seems a State paradox—for, says Sir Henry Wotton, you shall never be believed; and by this means your truth will secure yourself, if you shall ever be called to any account; and it will also put your adversaries—who will still hunt counter—to a loss in all their disquisitions and undertakings."
Many more of this nature might be observed; but they must be laid aside: for I shall here make a little stop, and invite the Reader to look back with me, whilst, according to my promise, I shall say a little of Sir Albertus Morton, and Mr. William Bedel, whom I formerly mentioned.
I have told you that are my Reader, that at Sir Henry Wotton’s first going Ambassador into Italy, his Cousin, Sir Albertus Morton, went his Secretary: and I am next to tell you, that Sir Albertus died Secretary of State to our late King; but cannot, am not able to express the sorrow that possessed Sir Henry Wotton, at his first hearing the news that Sir Albertus was by death lost to him and this world. And yet the Reader may partly guess by these following expressions: the first in a letter to his Nicholas Pey, of which this that followeth is a part.
– "And, my dear Nich. when I had been here almost a fortnight, in the midst of my great contentment, I received notice of Sir Albertus Morton his departure out of this world, who was dearer to me than mine own being in it: what a wound it is to my heart, you that knew him, and know me, will easily believe: but our Creator’s will must be done, and unrepiningly received by his own creatures, who is the Lord of all Nature and of all Fortune, when he taketh to himself now one, and then another, till that expected day, wherein it shall please him to dissolve the whole, and wrap up even the Heaven itself as a scroll of parchment. This is the last philosophy that we must study upon earth; let us therefore, that yet remain here, as our days and friends waste, reinforce our love to each other; which of all virtues, both spiritual and moral, hath the highest privilege, because death itself cannot end it. And my good Nich." &c.
This is a part of his sorrow thus expressed to his Nich. Pey: the other part is in this following Elegy, of which the Reader may safely conclude it was too hearty to be dissembled.
WEPT AT THE GRAVE OF SIR ALBERTUS MORTON,
BY HENRY WOTTON.
Silence, in truth would speak my sorrow best,
For deepest wounds can least their feelings tell:
Yet, let me borrow from mine own unrest,
A time to bid him, whom I lov’d, farewell.
Oh, my unhappy lines! you that before
Have serv’d my youth to vent some wanton cries,
And now, congeal’d with grief can scarce implore
Strength to accent, "Here my Albertus lies."
This is that sable stone, this is the cave
And womb of earth, that doth his corse embrace:
While others sing his praise, let me engrave
These bleeding numbers to adorn the place.
Here will I paint the characters of woe;
Here will I pay my tribute to the dead;
And here my faithful tears in showers shall flow,
To humanize the flints on which I tread.
Where, though I mourn my matchless loss alone,
And none between my weakness judge and me;
Yet even these pensive walls allow my moan,
Whose doleful echoes to my plaints agree.
But is he gone? and live I rhyming here,
As if some Muse would listen to my lay?
When all distun’d sit waiting for their dear,
And bathe the banks where he was wont to play. –
Dwell then in endless bliss with happy souls,
Discharg’d from Nature’s and from Fortune’s trust;
Whilst on this fluid globe my hour-glass rolls,
And runs the rest of my remaining dust.
This concerning his Sir Albertus Morton.
And for what I shall say concerning Mr. William Bedel, I must prepare the Reader by telling him, that when King James sent Sir Henry Wotton Ambassador to the State of Venice, he sent also an Ambassador to the King of France, and another to the King of Spain. With the Ambassador of France went Joseph Hall, late Bishop of Norwich, whose many and useful works speak his great merit: with the Ambassador to Spain went James Wadsworth; and with Sir Henry Wotton went William Bedel.
These three Chaplains to these three Ambassadors were all bred in one University, all of one College, all beneficed in one Diocese, and all most dear and entire friends. But in Spain, Mr. Wadsworth met with temptations, or reasons, such as were so powerful as to persuade him—who of the three was formerly observed to be the most averse to that Religion that calls itself Catholic—to disclaim himself a member of the Church of England, and to declare himself for the Church of Rome, discharging himself of his attendance on the Ambassador, and betaking himself to a monasterial life, in which he lived very regularly and so died.
When Dr. Hall, the late Bishop of Norwich, came into England, he wrote to Mr. Wadsworth,—it is the first Epistle in his printed Decades,—to persuade his return, or to shew the reason of his apostacy. The letter seemed to have in it many sweet expressions of love; and yet there was in it some expression that was so unpleasant to Mr. Wadsworth, that he chose rather to acquaint his old friend Mr. Bedel with his motives; by which means there passed betwixt Mr. Bedel and Mr. Wadsworth, divers letters which be extant in print, and did well deserve it; for in them there seems to be a controversy, not of Religion only, but who should answer each other with most love and meekness; which I mention the rather, because it too seldom falls out to be so in a book-war.
There is yet a little more to be said of Mr. Bedel, for the greater part of which the Reader is referred to this following letter of Sir Henry Wotton’s, written to our late King Charles the First:
"May it please Your most Gracious Majesty,
"Having been informed that certain persons have, by the good wishes of the Archbishop of Armagh, been directed hither, with a most humble petition unto your Majesty that you will be pleased to make Mr. William Bedel—now resident upon a small benefice in Suffolk—Governor of your College at Dublin, for the good of that Society; and myself being required to render unto your Majesty some testimony of the said William Bedel who was long my Chaplain at Venice, in the time of my first employment there, I am bound in all conscience and truth—so far as your Majesty will vouchsafe to accept my poor judgment—to affirm of him, that I think hardly a fitter man for that charge could have been propounded unto your Majesty in your whole kingdom, for singular erudition and piety, conformity to the rites of the Church, and zeal to advance the cause of God, wherein his travails abroad were not obscure in the time of the Excommunication of the Venetians.
"For it may please your Majesty to know, that this is the man whom Padre Paulo took, I may say, into his very soul, with whom he did communicate the inwardest thoughts of his heart; from whom he professed to have received more knowledge in all Divinity, both scholastical and positive, than from any that he had ever practised in his days; of which all the passages were well known to the King your Father, of most blessed memory. And so, with your Majesty’s good favour, I will end this needless office; for the general fame of his learning, his life and Christian temper, and those religious labours which himself hath dedicated to your Majesty, do better describe him than I am able.
Most humble and faithful servant,
To this letter I shall add this: that he was—to the great joy of Sir Henry Wotton—made Governor of the said college; and that, after a fair discharge of his duty and trust there he was thence removed to be Bishop of Kilmore. In both places his life was so holy, as seemed to equal the primitive Christians: for as they, so he kept all the Ember-weeks, observed—besides his private devotions—the canonical hours of prayer very strictly, and so he did all the Feasts and Fast-days of his mother, the Church of England. To which I may add, that his patience and charity were both such, as shewed his affections were set upon things that are above; for indeed his whole life brought forth the fruits of the spirit; there being in him such a remarkable meekness, that as St. Paul advised his Timothy in the election of a Bishop, "That he have a good report of those that be without;" so had he: for those that were without, even those that in point of Religion were of the Roman persuasion,—of which there were very many in his Diocese,—did yet—such is the Power of visible piety—ever look upon him with respect and reverence, and testified it by a concealing, and safe protecting him from death in the late horrid rebellion in Ireland, when the fury of the wild Irish knew no distinction of persons: and yet, there and then he was protected and cherished by those of a contrary persuasion; and there and then he died, not by violence or misusage, but by grief in a quiet prison (1629). And with him was lost many of his learned writings which were thought worthy of preservation; and amongst the rest was lost the Bible, which by many years labour, and conference, and study, he had translated into the Irish tongue, with an intent to have printed it for public use.
More might be said of Mr. Bedel, who, I told the Reader, was Sir Henry Wotton’s first Chaplain; and much of his second Chaplain, Isaac Bargrave, Doctor in Divinity, and the late learned and hospitable Dean of Canterbury; as also of the merits of many others, that had the happiness to attend Sir Henry in his foreign employments: but the Reader may think that in this digression I have already carried him too far from Eton College, and therefore I shall lead him back as gently and as orderly as I may to that place, for a further conference concerning Sir Henry Wotton.
Sir Henry Wotton had proposed to himself, before he entered into his Collegiate life, to write the Life of Martin Luther, and in it the History of the Reformation, as it was carried on in Germany: for the doing of which he had many advantages by his several Embassies into those parts, and his interest in the several Princes of the Empire; by whose means he had access to the Records of all the Hans Towns, and the knowledge of many secret passages that fell not under common view; and in these he had made a happy progress, as was well known to his worthy friend Dr. Duppa, the late reverend Bishop of Salisbury. But in the midst of this design, his late Majesty King Charles the First, that knew the value of Sir Henry Wotton’s pen, did, by a persuasive loving violence—to which may be added a promise of 500l. a year—force him to lay Luther aside, and betake himself to write the history of England; in which he proceeded to write some short characters of a few Kings, as a foundation upon which he meant to build; but for the present, meant to be more large in the story of Henry the Sixth, the Founder of that College, in which he then enjoyed all the worldly happiness of his present being. But Sir Henry died in the midst of this undertaking, and the footsteps of his labours are not recoverable by a more than common diligence.
This is some account both of his inclination and the employment of his time in the College, where he seemed to have his youth renewed by a continual conversation with that learned society, and a daily recourse of other friends of choicest breeding and parts; by which that great blessing of a cheerful heart was still maintained; he being always free, even to the last of his days, from that peevishness which usually attends age.
And yet his mirth was sometimes damped by the remembrance of divers old debts, partly contracted in his foreign employments, for which his just arrears due from the King would have made satisfaction: but being still delayed with Court-promises, and finding some decays of health, he did, about two years before his death, out of a Christian desire that none should be a loser by him, make his last Will; concerning which a doubt still remains, namely, whether it discovered more holy wit, or conscionable policy. But there is no doubt but that his chief design, was a Christian endeavour that his debts might be satisfied.
And that it may remain as such a testimony, and a legacy to those that loved him, I shall here impart it to the reader, as it was found written with his own hand.
"In the name of God Almighty and All-merciful, I Henry Wotton, Provost of his Majesty’s College by Eton, being mindful of mine own mortality, which the sin of our first parents did bring upon all flesh, do by this last Will and Testament thus dispose of myself, and the poor things I shall leave in this world. My Soul I bequeath to the Immortal God my Maker, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, my blessed Redeemer and Mediator, through his all sole-sufficient satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, and efficient for his elect; in the number of whom I am one by his mere grace, and thereof most unremoveably assured by his Holy Spirit, the true eternal Comforter. My body I bequeath to the earth, if I shall end my transitory days, at or near Eton, to be buried in the Chapel of the said College, as the Fellows shall dispose thereof, with whom I have lived—my God knows—in all loving affection; or if I shall die near Bocton Malherbe, in the County of Kent, then I wish to be laid in that Parish-Church, as near as may be to the sepulchre of my good father, expecting a joyful resurrection with him in the day of Christ."
After this account of his faith, and this surrender of his soul to that God that inspired it, and this direction for the disposal of his body, he proceeded to appoint that his Executors should lay over his grave a marble stone, plain, and not costly: and considering that time moulders even marble to dust,—for—Monuments themselves must die; therefore did he—waving the common way—think fit rather to preserve his name—to which the son of Sirach adviseth all men—by a useful Apophthegm, than by a large enumeration of his descent or merits, of both which he might justly have boasted; but he was content to forget them, and did choose only this prudent, pious sentence to discover his disposition, and preserve his memory.
It was directed by him to be thus inscribed;
Hic jacet hujus Sententiae primus Author:
DISPUTANDI PRURITUS ECCLESIARUM SCABIES.
Nomen alias quaere.
Which may be Englished thus:
Here lies the first Author of this sentence:
THE ITCH OF DISPUTATION WILL PROVE
THE SCAB OF THE CHURCH.
Inquire his Name elsewhere.
And if any shall object, as I think some have, that Sir Henry Wotton was not the first author of this sentence: but that this, or a sentence like it, was long before his time; to him I answer, that Solomon says, "Nothing can be spoken, that hath not been spoken; for there is no new thing under the sun." But grant, that in his various reading he had met with this, or a like sentence, yet reason mixed with charity should persuade all Readers to believe, that Sir Henry Wotton’s mind was then so fixed on that part of the communion of Saints which is above, that an holy lethargy did surprise his memory. For doubtless, if he had not believed himself to be the first author of what he said, he was too prudent first to own, and then expose it to public view and censure of every critic. And questionless it will be charity in all Readers to think his mind was then so fixed on Heaven, that a holy zeal did transport him; and that, in this sacred ecstacy, his thoughts were then only of the Church Triumphant, into which he daily expected his admission; and that Almighty God was then pleased to make him a Prophet, to tell the Church Militant, and particularly that part of it in this nation, where the weeds of controversy grow to be daily both more numerous and more destructive to humble piety; and where men have consciences that boggle at ceremonies, and yet scruple not to speak and act such sins as the ancient humble Christians believed to be a sin to think; and where, our reverend Hooker says, "former simplicity, and softness of spirit, is not now to be found, because Zeal hath drowned Charity, and Skill, Meekness." It will be good to think, that these sad changes, have proved this Epitaph to be a useful caution unto us of this nation; and the sad effects thereof in Germany have proved it to be a mournful truth.
This by way of observation concerning his Epitaph; the rest of his Will follows in his own words:
"Further, I the said Henry Wotton, do constitute and ordain to be joint Executors of this my last Will and Testament, my two grand-nephews, Albert Morton, second son to Sir Robert Morton, Knight, late deceased, and Thomas Bargrave, eldest son to Dr. Bargrave, Dean of Canterbury, husband to my right virtuous and only Niece. And I do pray the foresaid Dr. Bargrave, and Mr. Nicholas Pey, my most faithful and chosen friends, together with Mr. John Harrison, one of the Fellows of Eton College, best acquainted with my books, and pictures, and other utensils, to be Supervisors of this my last Will and Testament. And I do pray the foresaid Dr. Bargrave, and Mr. Nicholas Pey, to be solicitors for such arrearages as shall appear due unto me from his Majesty’s Exchequer at the time of my death; and to assist my forenamed Executors in some reasonable and conscientious satisfaction of my creditors, and discharge of my legacies now specified; or that shall be hereafter added unto this my Testament, by any Codicil or Schedule, or left in the hands, or in any memorial with the aforesaid Mr. John Harrison. And first, to my most dear Sovereign and Master, of incomparable goodness,—in whose gracious opinion I have ever had some portion, as far as the interest of a plain honest man—I leave four pictures at large of those Dukes of Venice, in whose time I was there employed, with their names written on the back side, which hang in my great ordinary Dining room, done after the life by Edoardo Fialetto: likewise a table of the Venetian College, where Ambassadors had their audience, hanging over the mantle of the chimney in the said room, done by the same hand, which containeth a draught in little, well resembling the famous Duke Leonardo Donato, in a time which needed a wise and constant man. Item. The picture of a Duke of Venice, hanging over against the door, done either by Titiano, or some other principal hand, long before my time. Most humbly beseeching his Majesty, that the said pieces may remain in some corner of any of his houses, for a poor memorial of his most humble vassal.
"Item. I leave his said Majesty all the papers and negociations of Sir Nich. Throgmorton, Knight, during his famous employment under Queen Elizabeth, in Scotland, and in France; which contain divers secrets of State, that perchance his Majesty will think fit to be preserved in his Paper-Office, after they have been perused and sorted by Mr. Secretary Windebank, with whom I have heretofore, as I remember, conferred about them. They were committed to my disposal by Sir Arthur Throgmorton, his Son, to whose worthy memory I cannot better discharge my faith, than by assigning them to the highest place of trust. Item. I leave to our most gracious and virtuous Queen Mary, Dioscorides, with the plants naturally coloured, and the text translated by Matthiolo, in the best language of Tuscany, whence her said Majesty is lineally descended, for a poor token of my thankful devotion, for the honour she was once pleased to do my private Study with her presence. I leave to the most hopeful Prince, the picture of the elected and crowned Queen of Bohemia, his Aunt, of clear and resplendent virtues, through the clouds of her fortune. To my Lord’s Grace of Canterbury now being, I leave my picture of Divine Love, rarely copied from one in the King’s galleries, of my presentation to his Majesty; beseeching him to receive it as a pledge of my humble reverence to his great wisdom. And to the most worthy Lord Bishop of London, Lord High Treasurer of England, in true admiration of his Christian simplicity and contempt of earthly pomp, I leave a picture of Heraclitus bewailing, and Democritus laughing at the world; most humbly beseeching the said Lord Archbishop his Grace, and the Lord Bishop of London, of both whose favours I have tasted in my lifetime, to intercede with our most gracious Sovereign after my death, in the bowels of Jesus Christ, that out of compassionate memory of my long services,—wherein I more studied the public honour than mine own utility,—some order may be taken out of my arrears due in the Exchequer, for such satisfaction of my creditors, as those whom I have ordained Supervisors of this my last Will and Testament shall present unto their Lordships, without their further trouble: hoping likewise in his Majesty’s most indubitable goodness, that he will keep me from all prejudice, which I may otherwise suffer by any defect of formality in the demand of my said arrears. To –– for a poor addition to his Cabinet, I leave, as emblems of his attractive virtues and obliging nobleness, my great Loadstone, and a piece of Amber, of both kinds naturally united, and only differing in degree of concoction, which is thought somewhat rare. Item. A piece of Chrystal Sexangular—as they grow all—grasping divers several things within it, which I bought among the Rhaetian Alps, in the very place where it grew; recommending most humbly unto his Lordship, the reputation of my poor name in the point of my debts, as I have done to the forenamed Spiritual Lords, and am heartily sorry that I have no better token of my humble thankfulness to his honoured person. Item. I leave to Sir Francis Windebank, one of his Majesty’s principal Secretaries of State,—whom I found my great friend in point of necessity,—the four Seasons of old Bassano, to hang near the eye in his Parlour,—being in little form,—which I bought at Venice, where I first entered into his most worthy acquaintance.
"To the above-named Dr. Bargrave, Dean of Canterbury, I leave all my Italian Books not disposed in this Will. I leave to him likewise my Viol de Gamba, which bath been twice with me in Italy, in which country I first contracted with him an unremoveable affection. To my other Supervisor, Mr. Nicholas Pey, I leave my Chest, or Cabinet of Instruments and Engines of all kinds of uses: in the lower box whereof, are some fit to be bequeathed to none but so entire an honest man as he is. I leave him likewise forty pounds for his pains in the solicitation of my arrears; and am sorry that my ragged estate can reach no further to one that hath taken such care for me in the same kind, during all my foreign employments. To the Library of Eton College, I leave all my Manuscripts not before disposed, and to each of the Fellows a plain Ring of Gold, enameled black, all save the verge, with this motto within, "Amor unit omnia."
"This is my last Will and Testament, save what shall be added by a Schedule thereunto annexed, written on the First of October, in the present Year of our Redemption, 1637, and subscribed by myself, with the testimony of these Witnesses,
And now, because the mind of man is best satisfied by the knowledge of events, I think fit to declare, that every one that was named in his Will did gladly receive their legacies: by which, and his most just and passionate desires for the payment of his debts, they joined in assisting the Overseers of his Will; and by their joint endeavours to the King,—than whom none was more willing—conscionable satisfaction was given for his just debts.
The next thing wherewith I shall acquaint the Reader is, that he went usually once a year, if not oftener, to the beloved Bocton Hall, where he would say, "He found a cure for all cares, by the cheerful company, which he called the living furniture of that place; and a restoration of his strength, by the connaturalness of that which he called his genial air."
He yearly went also to Oxford. But the Summer before his death he changed that for a journey to Winchester College, to which School he was first removed from Bocton. And as he returned from Winchester towards Eton College, said to a friend, his companion in that journey; "How useful was that advice of a holy Monk, who persuaded his friend to perform his customary devotions in a constant place, because in that place we usually meet with those very thoughts which possessed us at our last being there! And I find it thus far experimentally true, that at my now being in that School, and seeing that very place where I sat when I was a boy, occasioned me to remember those very thoughts of my youth which then possessed me: sweet thoughts indeed, that promised my growing years numerous pleasures, without mixtures of cares: and those to be enjoyed, when time—which I therefore thought slow-paced—had changed my youth into manhood. But age and experience have taught me that those were but empty hopes; for I have always found it true, as my Saviour did foretell, ‘sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.’ Nevertheless, I saw there a succession of boys using the same recreations, and, questionless, possessed with the same thoughts that then possessed me. Thus one generation succeeds another, both in their lives, recreations, hopes, fears, and death."
After his return from Winchester to Eton, which was about five months before his death, he became much more retired and contemplative: in which time he was often visited by Mr. John Hales,—learned Mr. John Hales,—then a Fellow of that College, to whom upon an occasion he spake to this purpose: "I have, in my passage to my grave, met with most of those joys of which a discoursive soul is capable; and been entertained with more inferior pleasures than the sons of men are usually made partakers of: nevertheless, in this voyage I have not always floated on the calm sea of content; but have often met with cross winds and storms, and with many troubles of mind and temptations to evil. And yet, though I have been, and am a man compassed about with human frailties, Almighty God hath by his grace prevented me from making shipwreck of faith and a good conscience, the thought of which is now the joy of my heart, and I most humbly praise him for it; and I humbly acknowledge that it was not myself, but he that hath kept me to this great age, and let him take the glory of his great mercy. And, my dear friend, I now see that I draw near my harbour of death; that harbour that will secure me from all the future storms and waves of this restless world; and I praise God I am willing to leave it, and expect a better; that world wherein dwelleth righteousness; and I long for it!"
These and the like expressions, were then uttered by him at the beginning of a feverish distemper, at which time he was also troubled with an Asthma, or short spitting: but after less than twenty fits, by the help of familiar physic and a spare diet, this fever abated, yet so as to leave him much weaker than it found him; and his Asthma seemed also to be overcome in a good degree by his forbearing tobacco, which, as many thoughtful men do, he also had taken somewhat immoderately. This was his then present condition, and thus he continued till about the end of October, 1639, which was about a month before his death, at which time he again fell into a fever, which though he seemed to recover, yet these still left him so weak, that they, and those other common infirmities that accompany age, were wont to visit him like civil friends, and after some short time to leave him,—came now both oftener and with more violence, and at last took up their constant habitation with him, still weakening his body and abating his cheerfulness; of both which he grew more sensible, and did the oftener retire into his Study, and there made many papers that had passed his pen, both in the days of his youth and in the busy part of his life, useless, by a fire made there to that purpose. These, and several unusual expressions to his servants and friends, seemed to foretell that the day of his death drew near; for which he seemed to those many friends that observed him, to be well prepared, and to be both patient and free from all fear, as several of his letters writ on this his last sick-bed may testify. And thus he continued till about the beginning of December following, at which time he was seized more violently with a Quotidian fever; in the tenth fit of which fever, his better part, that part of Sir Henry Wotton which could not die, put off mortality with as much content and cheerfulness as human frailty is capable of, being then in great tranquility of mind, and in perfect peace with God and man.
And thus the circle of Sir Henry Wotton’s life—that circle which began at Bocton, and in the circumference thereof did first touch at Winchester School, then at Oxford, and after upon so many remarkable parts and passages in Christendom—that circle of his Life was by Death thus closed up and completed, in the seventy and second year of his age, at Eton College; where, according to his Will, he now lies buried, with his Motto on a plain Grave-stone over him: dying worthy of his name and family, worthy of the love and favour of so many Princes, and persons of eminent wisdom and learning, worthy of the trust committed unto him, for the service of his Prince and Country.
And all Readers are requested to believe, that he was worthy of a more worthy pen, to have preserved his Memory, and commended his Merits to the imitation of posterity.