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Full text of "Sir Henry Wotton : a biographical sketch"

SIR HENRY WOTTON 



A BIOGRAPHICAL 
SKETCH 



By ADOLPHUS WILLIAM WARD 

LITT.D. HON. LL.D. PRINCIPAL OF THE OWENS 

COLLEGE MANCHESTER HON. FELLOW 

OF PETERHOUSE CAMBRIDGE 




WESTMINSTER 

ARCHIBALD CONSTABLE AND CO 
2 WHITEHALL GARDENS 

1898 






BUTLER & TANNER, 

THE SELWOOD PRINTING WORKS, 

FROME, AND LONDON, 




I 



ALTHOUGH the name of Sir Henry 
Wotton is a fairly familiar one to the 
ears of Englishmen, there are not, I think, 
many to whom he is very much more than 
a name. Those who know something of 
him beyond the fact that " once he wrote 
a pretty poem," derive this knowledge 
mainly from Izaak Walton's life of his 
friend. 1 Yet while this biographical nar- 
rative, steeped as it is in warm personal 
sentiment, possesses an interest and a 

1 One of the five Lives^ now usually printed to- 
gether. Walton's Life of Sir Henry Wotton was 
originally prefixed to Reliquia Wottoniance^ of which 
the first edition appeared in 165 1. The edition of the 
Lives which I have used is that of Dr. Thomas Zouch, 
Izaak Walton's biographer, 2nd edition, 1807. A 
MS. sketch of Wotton's life by the antiquary William 
Fulman (who also collected materials for the life of 
John Hales, of Eton), is preserved in the library of 
Corpus Christi College, Oxford, together with some 
letters of Wotton's. Other letters of his in MS* are 




SIR HENRY WOTTON 

charm of its own, it exhibits Sir Henry 
Wotton, to all intents and purposes, under 
a single aspect only, and that hardly of 
a kind which usually commands either a 
wide-spread or a long-lived popularity. Yet 
it very naturally suggested itself to the 
associate of the diplomatist and scholar's 
declining years ; and I daresay many or 
most of us, should we live to his age, would 
prefer to be like him remembered as we 
were in the calm and peaceful eventide of 
our lives, and to leave behind us, could 
we do so with truthfulness, the record of 
victory over the passions of life, and of 
freedom from care 

"Of public fame or private breath." 



at All Souls', and notes from his letters by Brydall 
(see below) at Queen's College. I owe this informa- 
tion, together with some other notes as to the MS. 
remains of Wotton in the Oxford Libraries, to the 
courtesy of the Provost of Queen's, the present Vice- 
Chancellor of the University. Fulman's life was pro- 
bably used by Bliss in his edition of Wood's Athena 
(cf. the notice of Fulman in vol. xx. of The Dictionary 
of National Biography i 1889). 

2 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

But we know full well that to few men it 
is given to compass the conditions of such 
contentment, and that there are still fewer 
in whose lives these conditions are more 
than at first a dream as of a distant haven, 
and then, when at last they draw within 
reach, intermixtures of a little satisfaction 
with many disappointments and disillusion- 
ings. And perhaps the resistance against 
the gentle temptation to suppose that the 
curfew-bell implies a vote of thanks is, by 
a happy counter-dispensation, strongest in 
natures which, like Sir Henry Wotton's 
(if I rightly estimate it), are intellectually, 
by constitution or by force of circum- 
stances, dual. Wotton's experiences were, 
for the most part, those of a traveller and 
a diplomatist, who knew the ins and the 
outs of many cities and of many men, and 
who, for better or worse, was obliged to 
put his trust in princes. But his man- 
hood had begun, and his green old age 
ended, as the life of a student whose pen 
was ever in his hand, and in ninety-nine 
3 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

out of a hundred instances, therein proving 
him a true man of letters, was employed 
in the noting of conceptions rather than in 
the correction of final proofs. These two 
methods, and the two views involved in 
them, of the conduct of life, are not so 
easily reconciled, as is sometimes supposed, 
in the management of an individual career; 
in the mutual relations of men the game 
would be democratically dull, but that the 
more distinguished figures on the board 
move respectively in different ways. To 
be sure, the amiable Izaak Walton, after 
dwelling on the relative advantages of the 
active and the contemplative mode, insin- 
uates that they both meet together, "and 
do most properly belong to the most 
honest, ingenious, harmless art of ang- 
ling." Which, however, of the two paths 
that led to the same bank was the truly 
congenial one to Sir Henry Wotton ? 
Was he well warranted in applying to 
himself the words which he inscribed over 
his study door : Invidice remedium a cure 
4 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

against longings and troubles ? Did he 
judge with accuracy when he described 
himself as "of his nature academical " ? 
How much of self-delusion, if any, lurked 
beneath the following rather involved con- 
trast between the supposed bent of his 
nature, and the employments to which he 
gave up the last years of his manhood : 

" A poor scholar, for that is the highest of my own 
titles, and in truth, the furthest end of my ambition. 
This other honour (wherewith it hath pleased his 
Majesty to cloath my unworthiness) belonging un- 
properly unto me ; who, I hope, am both born, and 
formed in my education, fitter to be an Instrument 
of Truth than of Art " [as we should say, craft]. " In 
the meanwhile, till his Majesty shall resolve me again 
into my own plain and simple elements, I have 
abroad " [as ambassador] " done my poor endea- 
vour, according to those occasions which God hath 
opened." * 

Such is the nature of the problem, 
not perhaps signally intricate or profound, 
but neither, I think, devoid of general 
as well as special interest, which I pro- 
pose to illustrate rather than solve in 

1 To Sir Arthur Throckmorton, Reliquice Wot- 
p. 275. 

5 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

the following sketch. In this attempt 
I shall principally rely on Wotton's own 
literary remains, which include what was 
recoverable of his writings in prose and 
verse, and of personal letters from his 
hand. 1 And whatever conclusions it may 
suggest as to the dualism of his intellectual 
nature, and as to his shortcomings in com- 
parison with his own or any other ideals, 
it will, unless I mistake, show him to have 
been a man of noble purposes and high 
thoughts, such as, when united to a candid 
spirit, a courteous bearing and a pious 
spirit compose the amalgam of a true 
English gentleman. Nor shall we miss in 
him that ingredient of humour without a 
grain or two of which the commixture 

1 The collection called Reliquice. Wottoniana was 
first published by Izaak Walton in 1651, with the 
aid of Sir Henry's niece by marriage, the relict of the 
second and last Lord Wotton. Subsequent editions 
were dedicated to his grand-nephew, Philip, the second 
Earl of Chesterfield. (See Zouch's Life of Izaak 
Walton.) The edition cited in this Essay is that of 
1685, described in the title-page as the fourth, which 
was the first to include the letters to Lord Zouch. 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

would somehow seem to be not quite 
complete. 

Of the fine qualities which distinguished 
Sir Henry Wotton we shall probably be 
disposed to allow the credit of not a few 
to his ancestry. For more than two cen- 
turies before his birth, which occurred in 
the year 1568, his forefathers had dwelt 
at Bocton Hall, in the parish of Bocton- 
Malherbe, in the fair county of Kent a 
willing nurse of enterprise, as we know, 
in many a period of our national history. 
Above all, the men of Kent were wont to 
claim for themselves by right of birth that 
freedom of speech which is appropriate to 
shires flattering themselves that they think 
to-day what all England will think to- 
morrow. Combined with the reasonable 
self-confidence which has always marked 
the sons of English country gentlemen, 
such a feeling is apt to serve as a useful 
mainstay in life. 1 In the Philosophical 

1 Sir Henry Wotton, although he never owned an 
acre of land, had in him something of that country 

7 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

Survey of Education, which remains one 
of Wotton's most interesting literary frag- 
ments, he undertakes to speak " without 
publick offence, though still with the 
freedom of a plain Kentish-man." l Yet 
among the public services for which, under 
the Tudors at all events, the Wotton 
family had been chiefly distinguished, the 
most conspicuous had been diplomatic ; 
the eminent Dr. Nicholas Wotton himself, 
who under Elizabeth noluit archiepisco- 
pari, and who had been Secretary of State 

gentleman's pride which is a quite different thing from 
personal vanity or self-consciousness. In his Life 
and Death of the Duke of Buckingham (Reliquiae^ 
p. 208) he refers with scorn to one of the censors of 
the Duke, who "would scant allow him to be a 
gentleman " whereas his ancestors had " chiefly con- 
tinued " about four hundred years in the same seat 
in Leicestershire, etc. He was of opinion, that even 
in literary composition good breeding should make 
itself perceptible, though it ought not there to assert 
itself with too much emphasis. One of the Aphorisms 
appended to the fragmentary Survey cited in the text 
(/., p. 91) would have approved itself to the author 
of Pendmnis : " Somewhat of the Gentleman gives a 
tincture to a Scholar ; too much stains him." 
1 /*., p. 71. 

8 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

under Edward VI., is stated by Walton to 
have been nine times " Ambassador unto 
foreign princes." According to the same 
authority, however, Thomas Wotton, the 
father of Sir Henry, preferred to dwell in 
his ancestral home, exercising hospitality 
and cherishing learning ; and from him 
his youngest son may have derived what 
he himself believed to be the most deep- 
seated of his tastes and tendencies. Of his 
mother, his father's second wife, we hear 
nothing, except that though his friends 
had advised Thomas Wotton, in making 
his second choice, to take care to avoid 
" those that had children, those that had 
law-suits, and those that were of his kin- 
dred," all these impediments coexisted 
in her, but that love prevailed over all. 
Henry's three elder brothers, the sons of 
their father's first consort, were all of them 
active servants of the Queen ; the eldest, 
Edward, who was in his turn employed on 
several embassies, was afterwards raised 
to the peerage by King James I., over 
9 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

whom he had gained a strong personal in- 
fluence already as English ambassador at 
the Scottish Court. Like his more cele- 
brated brother, he seems to have taken a 
warm interest in literature. 1 

Henry Wotton, who never lost his love 
for Bocton Hall, and who in the decline of 
his age, when he was becoming just a little 
of a valetudinarian, declared, in conformity 
with a pleasing superstition, that its air 
best agreed with him, 2 in due course 

1 To him was addressed one of the Sonnets ap- 
pended by Chapman to his Translation of Books 
I.-XII. of the Iliad (1609 or post) ; but it was with- 
drawn with two other of these Sonnets in the edition 
of the entire Iliad, published in 1 6 1 1. See Dictionary 
of National Biography ', vol. x. (1887), p. 49 (art. 
George Chapman). As to the descent from this 
Lord Wotton of the celebrated Earl of Chesterfield 
(in some respects a kindred spirit), who alienated the 
manor of St. Mary Lyng Ockmere, which the Wottons 
had acquired by intermarriage with the ancient family 
of Bellknap in the reign of Henry VIII, see Hasted's 
History of the County of Kent (2nd edition, 1787), 
vol. ii. pp. 116-7. The second Earl of Chesterfield, 
to whom Izaak Walton dedicated the 1672 edition of 
the ReliquicZ) was his grandfather. 

2 To Nich. Pey, 1626 (Reliqui(Z> p. 321). 

IO 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

passed on to Winchester and New Col- 
lege, Oxford. His old school we find him 
revisiting the year before his death, in- 
dulging in a fancy of deeper significance 
than the other, that in the familiar place 
he might meet again with the thoughts 
and hopes, long since dulled or dis- 
appointed, of his boyhood. At Oxford he 
must have carried on his studies in the 
spirit of freedom which is the essence of 
the true intellectual life of a University, 
whose real purpose, as he tells us himself, 1 
is not to prepare for " the performance of 
some solemn exercise," or, let us say, 
some stiff examination but to enable men 
to "live some space among the assiduous 
advantages and helps of knowledge." 
That he was not estranged by labours 
taking a different bent from the love of 

1 In another of his Aphorisms of Education (Re- 
p. 87), where he favourably contrasts the usage 



in this respect of the English Universities with those 
of the foreign of his own day. He could not foresee 
the days of the University of London as at present, 
and apparently in perpetuum^ constituted. 
II 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

polite letters is proved by his having at 
Queen's, whither he had migrated from 
New, and where his name occurs in one of 
the earliest lists of members of the college, 
composed a play called Tancredo, a subject 
characteristically derived from the master- 
piece of contemporary Italian literature 
which the Gerusalemme Liberata so sig- 
nally typifies both in its charms and in its 
symptoms of beginning decay. 1 He never 
wholly lost the instinct of dramatic com- 
position ; and apart from his fondness for 
drawing characters, of which instances will 
be found in his letters as well as in his set 
compositions, and which w r ere quite in har- 
mony with the literary fashion of his age, he 
actually dramatised doubtless in his later 

1 Tasso's poem was first published in 1581. 
Wotton's play, which is not extant, must have been 
written about 1586. It is not at all likely that 
Wotton's play was a version of the story of Tancred 
and Gismunda, dramatised for the English stage in 
1563 (and again in 1591), and in a seventeenth cen- 
tury version which Mr. I. Gollanez is now editing, 
Thomson's Tancred and Sigismunda (1745) appears 
to be taken, not from Boccaccio, but from Gil Bias. 

12 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

days the theme of a religious meditation. 1 
In literary occupations, such as the com- 
position of Tancredo y Wotton may be con- 
jectured to have enjoyed the sympathy, if 
not the co-operation, of a friend who first 
became dear to him at Oxford, and of 
whose life, so singularly rich in its inner 
experiences of both joy and sorrow, he 
undertook, too late for carrying out his 
purpose, to write an account. This was 
the famous John Donne, many years after- 
wards Dean of St. Paul's, and probably, of 
all contemporary English writers, the one 
who exercised the most commanding in- 
fluence in those spheres of life and thought 
in which Wotton moved. In later times 
his verse has been by turns extolled and 
censured with almost the same vehemence, 
while his prose has come to be all but 
forgotten. 2 Notwithstanding, however, 

1 A Meditation upon the 22nd Chapter of Genesis 
(Reliquia, pp. 265-9) is a dramatic speech supposed 
to be delivered by "the Father of the Believers" on 
receiving the Divine injunction to sacrifice his son. 

2 According to Wood, Athena^ vol. iii. p. 502 (Bliss's 

13 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

Wotton's literary tastes and intimacies 
during his Oxford residence, his most ab- 
sorbing interests there seem rather to have 
been what we should call scientific. As 
part of the exercises for his Master s de- 
gree, which he seems to have taken about 
1589 or 1590, he read in Latin three lec- 
tures De OculOy and the excellence of these 
procured for him the friendship of Alberi- 
cus Gentilis, then Professor of Civil Law 
in the University. Gentilis, while en- 
couraging Wotton's predilection for mathe- 
matical studies, cannot have failed to instil 
into him some interest in the subjects of 
his own teaching, and in that of his treatise 
De LegationibuSy published in 1583, in 
particular. 1 But at the same time he 

edition), Donne was a commoner of Hart Hall (after- 
wards, and now again, Hertford College) at a time 
when Sir Henry Wotton " had a chamber there." 

1 It was followed in 1589 by the De Jure Belli, to 
which Grotius afterwards acknowledged his obliga- 
tions. Albericus Gentilis was probably the first 
Italian Protestant, but very far from being the last, 
with whom Wotton contracted friendship. See as to 
him Hallam's Literature of Europe^ Part II. chap. iv. 

14 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

familiarised him with the Italian language, 
which Wotton afterwards grew to use like 
a second native tongue. His love of 
scientific pursuits proved enduring, and 
can hardly but have been strengthened by 
his kinsmanship with Bacon, to whom as 
late as 1620 he is found sending, together 
with compliments on the completion (or 
supposed completion) of the Novum Or- 
ganon, on account of certain early experi- 
ments witnessed by him in Kepler's house 
at Linz. 1 Wotton was of the Baconian 
school as a student, or if the term be 
thought more fitting, as an amateur of 
science; in 1622 he writes from Venice to 
Charles, Prince of Wales, promising to 
communicate to him such philosophical 
experiments as might come in his way ; 
" for mere speculations have ever seemed 
to my conceit, as if reason were given us 
like an half moon in a Coat of Arms, only 
for a logical Difference from inferior Crea- 
tures, and not for any active power in 
1 Reliquia, pp. 298 seqq. 
15 




SIR HENRY WOTTON 

itself." 1 "As a chimical man" even in 
his old age, he was consulted by his friend 
Izaak Walton on the ingredients of certain 
strong-smelling oils celebrated as seductive 
to fish ; 2 but into this investigation, or into 
that of certain distillings from vegetables 
for medical purposes which he discussed 
with his nephew, Sir Edmund Bacon, 
about the same period of his life, 3 we may 
be excused from following him. In his 
retirement at Eton College he also in- 
terested himself in experiments of measur- 
ing small divisions of time by the descent 
of drops through a filter. 4 Hcec quidem 
hactenus. 

But neither optics nor the drama are, or, 
at least, were in the latter part of the six- 
teenth century, usually regarded as aids to 
fortune ; and probably Francis Bacon him- 
self, although at the time when his "very 



p. 319. 

2 The Compleat Angler (reprint of the 1653 
edition), p. 98. 

3 Reliquice, pp. 454-5 (1633). 

4 /#., p. 475 (1628 or post}. 

16 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

good cosin " was carrying on his studies 
at Oxford, he was still chiefly intent upon 
" drawing in " patrons for the pursuit of 
science, would a little later have refrained 
from advising him to "draw them in" 
with a view to what is coarsely called the 
main chance. 1 What has been already 
noted as to the traditional ways of life of 
the Wottons, suggests the most obvious 
explanation of the choice actually made by 
Henry among the paths likely to lead to 
success in life. That on which he actually 
entered was neither a very direct nor a very 
easy one ; but it nowhere appears that a 
short-cut to the goal was open to him. He 
was, of course, without the personal posi- 
tion or influence at Court such as might 
have enabled him to " beg " an heiress, 
and it was not his luck to be married by 
one outright. I cannot say whether we 
ought to interpret the Poem written by Sir 
Henry Wotton in his Youth, otherwise 

1 Cf. Abbott, Introduction to Bacoris Essays (1876), 
vol. i. p. xxviii. 

17 C 




SIR HENRY WOTTON 

entitled Of a Woman s Heart, as com- 
memorating a personal experience ; it is 
full of the bitter despondency of ado- 
lescence, and it is at the same time virtually 
the solitary love-poem of his composition. 
For the commonplace dialogue, " by the 
way," with the subsequent Serjeant Hos- 
kyns (of whom a word more anon), is not 
to be taken into account, and Sir Henry 
Wotton's devotion to Queen Elizabeth of 
Bohemia was, as we shall see, rooted in 
quite a different kind of sentiment. If in 
his youth he really cherished a passion and 
then renounced it 

" Untrue she was ; yet I believed her eyes, 

Instructed spies, 

Till I was taught, that love was but a school 
To breed a fool," 

this born depositary of other people's 
secrets kept his own through life ; for we 
shall look in vain through the whole of his 
literary writings and correspondence for 
either any second trace of his own amour, 
or for so much as another reference to the 
18 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

generally interesting subject of love and 
marriage. 

As it would seem, in the earlier part of 
the year 1590, Henry Wotton, who had 
finished his course of studies at Oxford, 
and whom the death of his father about 
this time had probably further impelled to 
bethink himself of the prospects for his 
future, began a course of foreign travel 
which, in the first instance, occupied about 
seven years. We shall see that he left 
England again about the close of the cen- 
tury, and that it was not till after his 
return at the commencement of the reign 
of James I. that he regularly entered into 
the foreign service of the Crown. But 
there can be no doubt that this had from 
the first been the object of his ambition. 
It was with the same definite end in view 
that he not only resided successively in 
a considerable number of places in Ger- 
many, Italy, Switzerland and France, but 
diligently and systematically collected in- 
formation on the laws, politics, and social 
19 




SIR HENRY WOTTON 

life of these several countries, and kept up 
an active correspondence of what I may 
call an intelligentiary kind on the subject 
of his experiences with friends and patrons 
at home. Nowadays, as I venture to sur- 
mise, the English diplomatic service would 
be apt to resent the admission of a jour- 
nalist to its ranks ; at least, so I judge 
from the dislike which I have heard ex- 
pressed to such appointments even in a less 
elevated official sphere. And yet it is pre- 
cisely as a journalist of the best kind in 
other words as an educated observer who 
has cultivated both the habit of enquiry 
and the art of expression, but neither of 
them to the exclusion of the other that 
Wotton and others after him have qualified 
themselves for these important branches 
of public work. In any case, Wotton, who 
in his later years modestly averred of 
himself that " in the College of Travellers, 
wherein if the fruit of the time he had 
spent were answerable to the length, he 
20 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

might run for a Deacon at last," 1 travelled 
neither for honest gain, like his contem- 
porary, James Ho well, nor for travel's sake, 
like his other contemporary, Tom Coryate. 2 
He was not one of those who, in his own 
phrase, which holds true of a condition of 
things still within the memory of man, 
" are as desirous men should observe they 
have travelled far as careful in their travels 
to observe nothing." 3 At the same time 
he makes no secret of the circumstance 
on which another species of modern 
travellers is wont to dwell with misplaced 
emphasis, since there is nothing to prevent 
them from staying at home that it be- 
hoved him in his journeyings to practise 
economy. Of one of his sojourns he 
writes that, " with the best frugality he 

1 Reliquice^ pp. 356-7. 

J Tom Coryate was, as Wood relates, vol. ii. p. 299, 
introduced to Wotton at Venice by a letter beginning 
" Good wine needs no bush, neither a worthy man 
letters commendatory," which much pleased the bearer, 
who had on a similar occasion been, to his natural 
annoyance, introduced as a 'very honest poor wretch.' 

3 /., p. 91 (Aphorisms of Education]. 
21 




SIR HENRY WOTTON 

could use, yet did it pinch the shoulder of 
a younger Brother." 1 And some of his 
earlier letters contain rather curious details 
on the cost of living in different towns, a 
subject which at the time could not but be 
interesting to him. 2 

His first residence abroad in 1590 
he seems to have begun, as was fitting, 
by a stay in a foreign University, at 
Altdorf, the academical appendage (even 
if not as luminous through the ages as 
Padua was to Venice) of the Free Im- 
perial City of Nurnberg, where English 
Protestants like himself and Lord Zouch 
were sure of a friendly welcome. 3 To 

1 Reliquia, pp. 684-5 (concerning his stay at Rome 
in 1592). 

2 Thus he writes from Vienna in 1590 ($., p. 587) : 
" Students are forc'd here to live with better fare than 
they would. The Reason is manifest, because, as the 
Times are, a man may with more gain keep an Ordinary 
of seven Messes at a Duckat a Person weekly, than 
of four at a Floryn : for the Dutch will drink the like 
at both, and Meat is cheap with us, but the Wine 
dear." 

3 Nine years later an illustrious and obstreperous 
student was immatriculated at Altdorf in the person 

22 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

this associate and patron * was addressed 
the first series of Henry Wotton's epistles 
from foreign parts, which, like so many 
correspondences of the times, combined 
the character of private communications 



of Albrecht von Waldstein, the son of Protestant 
(Bohemian) parents. Cf. Forster, Walknstein's 
Briefe (1828), vol. i. pp. 4, seqq. ; and see Schiller's 
Wallensteirfs Lager. 

1 Edward Lord Zouch was afterwards a confi- 
dential servant of King James I. It was to him that 
Lord Pembroke addressed the solemn letter about 
the speckled sow, printed in Dalrymple's Memorials 
of James I. (1766), p. 71. He rose to be a politician 
of some mark. When, on the death of Salisbury in 
1612, the Treasury was put into commission, Lord 
Zouch and Sir Henry Wotton's eldest brother, Lord 
Wotton, were included in it. (Gardiner, History of 
England, etc., new edition, vol. ii. p. 154.) In 1615 
Lord Zouch was, without any solicitation on his part, 
appointed to the Wardenship of the Cinque Ports, 
which, however, in 1624, he gave up to Buckingham 
in return for ^1,000 and a pension of half that 
amount. (/., p. 327, and vol. v. p. 310.) That his 
political sentiments harmonized with Wotton's, may 
be gathered from the circumstance that in 1623 
Zouch was one of the absentees from the Privy 
Council on the occasion of the oath being taken to 
the Spanish marriage treaty ; nor can it be shown 
that he ever took the oath. (/., p. 69.) 

23 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

with that of newsletters. The earliest of 
them is, curiously enough, dated from 
Ingolstadt. For this University, which, 
as he informs us, was in orthodox quarters 
regarded as "the only fit place of Ger- 
many for" the higher education of "a 
Catholic gentleman," l was in point of 
fact the flower of Jesuit educational in- 
stitutions, and equipped its pupils for the 
conflicts of the world as well as of the 
schools. Now, it was with the Jesuits 
and their ascendancy in the religious life 
of the w r orld an ascendancy very in- 
adequately, and yet on the whole not 
inappropriately, described as ultramontane 
in its purposes that Sir Henry Wotton 
may be said to have waged a lifelong 
conflict. In the last decade of the six- 
teenth century the heyday of Jesuit 

1 See Reliqui(z> pp. 615-16. The reference, in a 
letter from Vienna dated February loth, 1591, is to 
the contested will of the Archduke Charles of Styria, 
which directed that his son and heir, Ferdinand, 
should be educated at Ingolstadt, where he actually 
was educated and to some purpose. 
24 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

influence over the policy of the House 
of Austria had not yet arrived. Indeed, 
the long succession of Wotton's ensuing 
letters to Lord Zouch shows public 
opinion at Vienna to have still remained 
in doubt whether the vacillating rule of 
the Emperor Rudolf II. would ultimately 
succumb to the Protestant sympathies of 
a large proportion of his territorial sub- 
jects and the effects of the tolerant system 
favoured by his predecessor, Maximilian 
II., or whether he would after all con- 
clude it to be his interest, his duty, or 
his destiny for what trust there was in 
his nature he put in the stars to fall 
back upon the ancient ways of his House. 
But after Wotton had spent a few months 
in Vienna, this shrewd young observer 
began to have some notion of the hidden 
side of the cards ; he informed Lord 
Zouch that for all the Emperor's pretence 
of poverty, he was secretly aiding the 
League, the militant organisation of 
Catholicism, and that in his opinion 
25 




SIR HENRY WOTTON 

which not long afterwards certainly 
seemed to be on the eve of justification 
Rudolf was, by his refusal of liberty of 
conscience, precipitating the downfall of 
his dynasty. 1 Nurtured as Wotton w r as 
in principles directly antagonistic to that 
great Reaction whose operations were 
more or less perceptibly overspreading 
the greater part of Europe, it argued 
some boldness, even on the part of a 
personage politically so insignificant as he 
still was, that he should have pursued 
his travels, as he did late in 1591 or early 
in 1592, into Italy, and still more that 
he should have pushed on to Rome. He 
may have run no such formal risk at 
home as English travellers did a quarter 
of a century later, when as ambassador 
at Venice he was himself instructed by 
King James to stop any of his subjects 
on their way towards Rome and the 
perils of perversion, or if they insisted 

1 In the notable letter dated Vienna, April xyth, 
1591 (Reliquice, pp. 639, seqq.). 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

on the journey, to transmit their names 
to be made a note of for the royal in- 
spection. 1 And at Rome itself, in this year 
1592, Clement VIII. had just come forth 
Pope from the Conclave, a politic Pontiff 
under the control of no Power in par- 
ticular, and rigorous only towards his own 
nobili and banditti, between whom there 
was in many instances uncommonly little 
to choose. Still there were elements of 
unsafely at Rome for Protestant travellers 
even then ; and Wotton may have judged 
well in arriving there in good Catholic 
company, and perhaps even in adopting 
an Alcibiades-like device for his entry. 
He donned for this occasion a black hat 
with "a mighty blue feather/' so as to 
be sure in the first instance of being 
thought an Englishman ; in the second, 
of being reputed as light in mind as in 
apparel ; and thirdly, that no man would 
think him desirous of remaining " unknown 

1 See the curious instruction (1616), reprinted in 
Reliquia^ pp. 483-4. 

27 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

who, by wearing of that feather, took a 
course to make himself known through 
Rome in a few days." l Notwithstanding 
this odd first appearance, he found means 
and opportunities both on this and on a 
second visit to Rome made shortly after- 
wards for acquiring a very considerable 
familiarity with the city of the Popes 
and with the court and government of 
the reigning Pontiff. He repudiates as 
unfounded a rumour that he had some 
trouble with the Inquisition, 2 and he 
carried himself so skilfully as to be 
admitted in his character of a scholar to 
a friendly interview with not less im- 
portant a personage than Bellarmin (not 
yet a Cardinal), and to make the acquaint- 
ance, as an Englishman, of Cardinal Allen, 
then near the close of his life of unrest. 3 



i) p. 652. 

2 /., p. 702. 

3 He mentions his visit to Bellarmin himself (see 
Reliquice^ p. 705); his acquaintance with Cardinal 
Allen he implies at the opening of his State of 
Christendom (see below). Bellarmin was made a 
Cardinal in 1599 ; Cardinal Allen died in 1596. 

28 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

Wotton's stern judgment of the social 
condition of Rome need not be attributed 
to confessional antipathy ; for the society 
which enacted the tragedy of the Cenci 
in real life, and which Clement VIII. 
with a high moral courage strove to 
purge, was in truth an abomination in 
the sight of Heaven and of man. Yet 
bad as Rome was, Wotton seems to have 
thought no better of Florence where, 
after visiting Genoa, Naples, and, it would 
seem, Venice, he made a stay of several 
months ; he calls the beautiful city " a 
paradise inhabited with devils." * The 
language he considered the only good 
thing to be learnt in the fairest of all 
Italian towns ; and this he mastered so 
thoroughly as to be made anxious to be- 
come equally perfect in French. 

With this end in view, he in 1593 spent 
some time in Geneva, where he was for- 
tunate enough to be lodged in the house 
of the illustrious scholar Isaac Casaubon, 

1 Reliquiae i p. 673, 
29 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

established since 1582 as Professor of 
Greek in the "Academy" of the Republic. 
Wotton's personal intercourse with this 
famous scholar might have formed a bright 
spot in the midst of the troubles whereby 
Casaubon was perennially beset, had it not 
been for a temporary difficulty which 
while it lasted only added to these anxieties. 
Wotton's income was limited to the 
annuity of a hundred marks bequeathed 
to him by his father; and when he left 
Casaubon's house, there remained owing 
to the latter the bill which the young 
Englishman had run up, and the price of 
the horse on which he rode away. More- 
over, the host had become surety for a 
loan which the guest had contracted. 
Within a few months everything was paid ; 
but when we think of Casaubon as a man 
of irritable temper, we may further re- 
member that this temper had its trials. 1 
The three or four years which follow are 

1 See M, Pattison's Isaac Casaubon (1875), PP 
44-6. 

30 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

the obscurest if not the only obscure 
portion of the life of Wotton as recorded 
for us ; possibly, more light might be thrown 
upon them by a closer investigation than 
can be attempted here. By 1597 he must 
have returned to England from his travels ; 
for a letter by him is preserved, dated 
Plymouth, October 3Oth in that year, and 
addressed to the Earl of Essex, then fresh 
home from his expedition to the Azores, 
informing him of the Spanish intrigues 
in Switzerland, and asking his patronage 
and his recommendation for employment 
in the event of " any Actions between 
Her Majesty and the Emperour." 1 That 
Wotton stood at this time towards Essex 
in the relation of a personal "servant," as 
he is called in the superscription of the 
letter in the Reliquice, seems indisputable ; 
and how well he learnt to know his patron 
is shown by the interesting " parallel," 
preserved among his literary remains, 
which he afterwards composed between the 

) pp, 712-13. 
31 




SIR HENRY WOTTON 

Earl and his later patron Buckingham. 
Very possibly he may have been, in the 
first instance, introduced to Essex through 
the brothers Francis and Anthony Bacon, 
and have supplied the Earl with some of the 
"intelligence" from abroad in the quality 
and quantity of which, as Mr. Sidney Lee 
says, 1 Essex House rivalled the Foreign 
Office ; and he seems afterwards to have 
acted as one of his patron's secretaries. 
He was certainly in the confidence of 
Essex by October, I595. 2 But when Wal- 
ton goes on to say that Wotton attended 
Essex in two voyages at sea against the 
Spaniards, as well as in his last unhappy 
expedition in Ireland, I prefer, before 

1 Art. Essex t in Dictionary of National Biography \ 
vol. xiv. (1888). 

2 See the letter from Ambrose Rogers to William 
Waad, Clerk of the Council, dated October 3rd, 1595, 
calendared in Part V. of Hatfield MSS. (Historical 
MSS. Commission), C. 7574, P- 400. The Margrave 
of Baden is conjectured to be making ' his address 
to Her Majesty by the Earl of Essex, for he useth 
Mr. Wotton very friendly,' and has twice admitted 
him to an audience. 

32 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

accepting the statement, to await the 
result of the researches into the subject 
instituted by Mr. Lee or by one of his 
contributors. There is no reference in 
the letter of October, 1597, either to the 
Azores expedition just terminated, or to 
the capture of Cadiz in the previous year, 
in which Wotton's fellow-secretary, Henry 
Cuffe, and his college friend Donne are 
known to have taken part. Can it be 
that there is here some confusion with 
Henry Wotton's brother James, who was 
also at Cadiz, and was one of the three- 
score adventurous gentlemen knighted 
there by the prodigal commander? 1 But 
the strange thing is that the entire extant 
correspondence and the whole of the 
literary remains of Sir Henry Wotton 
should not contain so far, at least, as the 

1 Walton cites the well-known rhyme, which may 
have come closely home to Sir James Wotton. 

" A knight of Gales, a gentleman of Wales, and a 

laird of the north countrie, 
A yeoman of Kent with his yearly rent, will buy 
them out all three." 

33 D 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

present writer has observed so much as 
a single reference or allusion to his having 
accompanied Essex, either to sea against 
the Spaniards, or into Ireland ; a reticence 
for which there might indeed have been 
good reasons under Queen Elizabeth, but 
which in the reign of James I. would have 
been almost inexplicable. Moreover, 
Wotton nowhere lays claim to anything 
in the nature of martial experience, and 
when, in 1615, he finds himself in the Low 
Countries amidst camps and campaigners, 
he exclaims with unfeigned sincerity: "For 
what sin, in the name of Christ, was I sent 
here among soldiers, being by my profession 
Academical, and by my charge Pacifical ? " 
But whatever may have been the nature 
and extent of Henry Wotton's services to 
Essex, the day arrived only too soon when 
the follower had no choice but to draw 
back from the brink of the precipice over 
which his patron was about to cast himself 
headlong. Wotton's delineation of Essex's 
1 Reliquia, pp. 438-9. 
34 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

character just cited is, so far as it goes, 
neither unfair nor ungenerous ; and a fur- 
ther indication of the goodwill which he 
bore to the unfortunate favourite's memory 
is the grudge which he seems to have 
nursed against Robert Cecil (afterwards 
Earl of Salisbury), the successful head of 
the opposite faction in Elizabeth's latter 
years. 1 But as Wotton had not, like his 
fellow-secretary, connived at the hatching 
of the futile conspiracy, so he was justified 
in making his escape before the outbreak, 
and thus avoiding the catastrophe in which 
Henry Cuffe was involved together with 
their patron. " At the Earl's end," he 
writes, 2 " I was abroad," on the banks of 
the Arno once more, or among the lagunes 

1 An obiter dictum (for such it seems to have been) 
of Sir Henry Wotton, as to Salisbury's supposed habit 
of " creating plots that he might have the honour of 
the discovery " appears to be cited by Father Gerard 
in support of his paradox, that the so-called Gun- 
powder Plot was a figment of this description by 
Salisbury. See Gardiner, What Gunpowder Plot was 

(1897)- 

2 A Parallel, etc. (Reliquia t p. 180). 

35 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

of Venice, where, according to one state- 
ment, he had sought safety as early as 1 599. 1 
It is in Venice that he is said to have 
written what was to prove his longest 
and most important prose work, although 
it was not published till several years after 
his death, a little later than the rest of his 
prose writings. 2 This was the treatise on 
the State of Christendom, a sort of his- 
torico-political survey, displaying both in- 
formation and insight, but at the same time 
free-spoken in a degree which sufficiently 
accounts for its having remained unpub- 
lished till eighteen years after its author's 
death. The introduction bears a certain 
formal resemblance to that of the Utopia, 
the model of so many later political or 
semi-political disquisitions ; but it is even 
slighter in construction, and would not call 
for notice at all, except from a biographi- 
cal point of view. At the outset, but in 

1 Essex arrived in London from Ireland on Sep- 
tember 28th of that year. 

2 Viz., in 1637. I have used the edition of 1667, 
kindly lent me by my friend Mr. J. P. Whitney. 

36 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

what is certainly not the least interesting 
passage of the work, the author relates how, 
in the weary days of his exile, there had 
occurred to him, among other possible 
ways of bringing about his return home, 
the notion of " murdering some notable 
traitor to his prince and country." But it 
is only fair to him to add, that he further 
mentions how both his head and his heart 
were induced to abhor such an action in 
view, respectively, of " the great difficulty 
to escape unpunished," and of "the con- 
tinual terror that such an offence might 
breed into his conscience." l The essay, as 

1 The notion which at the outset of his essay Wotton 
describes himself as having entertained and repressed, 
is not out of accordance with the pronouncement at 
its close (see the Supplementary Section on the 
poisoning of Escovedo), as to its being a juster con- 
clusion in the case of Philip II. than in that of Henry 
III. (because of his having ordered the assassination 
of Guise), that he may be " lawfully excommunicated 
and deposed, and that no war against him, of what 
nature soever^ can be held unjust and unlawful," so 
long as he continues in his present course. Such ex- 
pressions prove (what for the rest is sufficiently proved 
already), that at the close as well as in the middle of 

37 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

a whole, although overburdened with much 
useless classical learning, especially in the 
way of parallels, a rhetorical exercise much 
affected by Wotton, is readable, even where 
it cannot be called convincing. The poli- 
tical acumen of the writer is exemplified by 
the demonstration that the Spaniard is by 
no means so strong as is generally supposed, 
in his finances, to begin with ; but it is 
rather startling at the close of the essay to 
find not only vigilance inculcated against 
France as well as against Spain, but a 
shrewd, though ungenerous, warning added 
against allowing the Low Countries to de- 
velope into a strong and united Power. But, 
although the spirit of The Prince seems to 
animate such political teachings as these, 
the general tone of sturdy patriotism which 

the sixteenth century, when Melanchthon avowed his 
desire that God would put it into the heart of some 
true man to slay the English Nero (King Henry VIII. 
to wit), the methods in question were not monopolised 
by one side of the great contention. As for Wotton 
himself, nobody but Scioppius (see below) has ever 
pretended to regard him as a would-be assassin, even 
in the glorified form of a martyr to Protestant loyalty. 

38 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

characterises this essay renders a latter-day 
English reader unwilling to enquire too 
closely into either the consistency of its 
logic or the purity of its ethics. It would 
be difficult to instance a worse argument 
of its kind than the endeavour to excuse 
the religious intolerance of the sovereigns 
of England and France in contrast to that 
practised in Flanders by Philip of Spain ; 
and (leaving unnoticed the defence of the 
execution of Mary Queen of Scots) we 
are almost revolted by the audacity 
of the ensuing apology (it is practically 
nothing else) for Henry III. of France and 
his murder of the Duke of Guise. 1 While 
the treatise furnishes much unmistakable 
evidence of political thought as well as 
observation, 2 its main interest for us lies in 
the flood of light which it pours on the 

1 Sir Henry Wotton stands by no means alone 
among English writers of his age in this tenderness 
towards the person of Queen Elizabeth's former 
suitor. Cf. in the Elizabethan drama Marlowe's 
Massacre of Paris and Chapman's Revenge of Bussy 
(FAmbois. 

2 See below. 

39 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

sympathies and antipathies of a man of 
action belonging to that later generation of 
Elizabethans who cherished traditions no 
longer suited to the statesmanship of which 
it was their lot to become the agents. The 
State of Christendom would hardly have 
stood Henry Wotton in good stead by way 
of a recommendation to the service of the 
Pacific King. 

After liberating his soul in literary so- 
liloquy, Wotton, when a short time after- 
wards he paid a second visit to Rome, may 
be supposed to have schooled himself to 
the practice of the celebrated formula 
which in his old age he impressed upon 
Milton, then starting on his Italian jour- 
ney. "7 pensieri stretti e il viso sciolto 
your thoughts close and your countenance 
loose." Thus we may fancy him returning 
from his experience of the English College, 
armed with both courage and discretion, 
to Florence, where, quite unexpectedly, 
his opportunity came to him at last. It 
usually comes, as we are wont to advise 
40 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

our younger friends, to those who wait ; 
but not, we should be careful to add, to 
those who wait unprepared. 1 

The reigning prince at Florence in those 
days was the Grand-Duke Ferdinand, of 
whom Wotton, more suo, has in one of the 
papers printed among his remains drawn a 
very life-like character. 2 The shrewd dis- 
cernment of this banker-prince, whose best 
qualities (as is at times the case with great 
financial personages) would seem not to 
have shown themselves on the surface, but 
who was true to the ancestral insignia of 

1 In one of his Aphorisms of Education (" Felicity 
shows the ground where Industry builds a Fortune ") 
Sir Henry Wotton dwells on what may be termed 
the complement of the maxim that " Every man has 
his opportunity," citing Archimedes' requirement of a 
TroO OTW, and asserting that it is necessary in regard to 
the building of a fortune. This opinion was not 
strange in one who had had to "wander" so long 
before he was allowed to begin what in the narrower 
sense of the word can be called his career. A 
fortune, again in the narrower sense, this "under- 
valuer of money," as Walton calls him in The 
Compleat Angler^ was not predestined to make. 

2 A Character of Ferdinando di Medici^ Grand 
Duke of Tuscany. (Dedicated to the King.) 

41 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

the Medici, stood Wotton in good stead. 
For the absolutely confidential commission 
with which he was entrusted by the Grand 
Duke, and which proved his stepping- 
stone to the confidence of his own future 
sovereign, then King James VI. of Scot- 
land, would have been neither to the taste 
nor to the advantage of an agent less dis- 
tinguished by courage and prudence. 

Something was said above as to schemes 
of assassination that were never carried 
beyond the stage of imagination ; but 
Queen Elizabeth and those to whom her 
life was dear knew only too well of prac- 
tical attempts in the same direction, 1 and 
the Scottish monarch who hoped to be her 
successor on the English throne was not 
without one notable experience, according 
to his own statement, of the same kind, or 
without fears as to the recurrence of the 

1 Among the verse attributed to Wotton are some 
stanzas, fierce in spirit, written in " answer " to those 
attributed to Chidiock Tychbourne, said to have 
composed them on the night before his execution, 
with Ballard and Babington, in 1586. 
42 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

same peril. 1 The most insidious form of 
murder poisoning was unhappily known 
on both sides of the Alps ; but Italy, and 
in Italy Florence, were traditionally as- 
sociated in particular with the planning 
and perpetration of this sort of crimes. 
Whether or not some Scottish or English 
plotters had actually, with the help of 
Italian technical instruction, contrived a 
design upon the life of the Scottish king, 
at all events rumours of such a scheme 
appear to have reached the ears of the 
Grand - Duke Ferdinand. He resolved 
upon transmitting the information to the 
fellow-sovereign whose life was menaced, 
while furnishing him at the same time 
with a casket of antidotes, wherein, says 
Wotton, " he did excel all the princes of 
the world." And Wotton himself was 
chosen by the Grand- Duke as the agent 
who should convey both warning and pre- 

1 The mysterious incidents in which the " Gowrie 
Conspiracy" ended occurred in 1600, on August 5th, 
a day afterwards appointed by King James to be kept 
as one of annual thanksgiving for his escape. 

43 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

servatives. In the guise of an Italian, and 
under the assumed name of Ottavio Baidi, 
he, after what he describes as a painful 
journey, contrived to make his way to the 
presence of James VI. at Stirling Castle, 
and, revealing his incognito to the king 
alone, to acquaint him with the purpose 
of his hazardous adventure. After three 
months' stay at Court he was graciously 
dismissed, and returned still in the cha- 
racter of Ottavio Baldi to Florence. 
Only a few months later we are now in 
the early part of the year 1603 the news 
arrived there of the death of Queen Eliza- 
beth. By the Grand- Duke Ferdinand's 
advice, Wotton once more crossed the 
Alps, advancing as far as Paris (if we may 
be permitted to ignore geographical bear- 
ings) in the direction of the rising sun. 
At Paris tidings reached him from his 
eldest brother, who had himself shown no 
slackness in putting in an appearance be- 
fore his new sovereign, that King James 
I, desired his presence. When he had 

44 




A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

lastened to respond to the summons, the 
king took Ottavio Baldi, as he playfully 
addressed him, into his royal arms, and 
very soon afterwards offered him an em- 
bassy in his service. It would seem that 
he might have gone ambassador either to 
France or to Spain ; but, well acquainted 
as he was with the conditions of expendi- 
ture at such Courts as these an expen- 
diture which would have signified to him 
nothing short of ruin he asked in prefer- 
ence for the post of ambassador at Venice, 
Hither in 1604 ne repaired, sped by an 
unbearably clever, but very cordial, con- 
gratulatory poem from his friend Donne, 1 
and accompanied by his nephew, Albertus 
Morton, as his secretary, and by Dr. 
William Bedell, of Emmanuel College, 
Cambridge, and Bury St. Edmunds, as 
his chaplain. At last, work for which he 
was pre-eminently fitted, and in a sphere 
wholly congenial to him, lay ready to his 
hand. 

1 It is printed by Izaak Walton. 

45 



II 



WE may suppose Sir Henry Wotton, 
as he was now called, after 
being knighted by the king, to have set 
forth on his journey towards Venice in 
excellent spirits. Perhaps he might have 
done better to put a restraint upon them ; 
but at Augsburg an English friend, in 
accordance with a simple fashion still occa- 
sionally honoured in the observance by 
childlike minds, asked him to write some- 
thing in his album, when he complied by 
inscribing therein a Latin sentence of 
more flippancy than wit, even in Walton's 
punning English version : "An ambas- 
sador is an honest man, sent to lie abroad 
for the good of his country." Now and 
then, as we know, bad jokes (and for that 
matter, good jokes too) come home to 
roost ; and Sir Henry Wotton, as we shall 
see in due course, was to hear more of a 
46 




A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

sally which was very far from being his 
happiest effort of the sort. Indeed, he 
said a very much more pointed and a far 
more sensible thing when, long after- 
wards, 1 he told the Lord Keeper Williams 
that "Ambassadors (in our old Kentish 
language) are but spies of the time " ; for 
it is the closer view of things as they are, 
and consequently the more accurate fore- 
knowledge of things as they will be, that 
constitutes the chief distinctive value of 
legatine intelligence. And he made a 
wittier jest, and one almost in the ap- 
proved Bismarckian style, when, also in 
the days of his retirement, he exhorted a 
beginner in the profession which he had 
then long quitted, always and upon all 
occasions to speak the truth ; for " you 
shall never be believed," 2 and thus, while 
keeping yourself safe, you will put others 
on the wrong scent. We shall see in the 
course of this sketch that his resident or 

1 In 1621-22 apparently; see Reliquia^ p. 306, 
* Walton's Life, 

47 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

leiger ambassadorship at Venice was very 
far from exhausting his efforts as a political 
agent, although here as well as elsewhere 
he was often charged with the conduct of 
political business of great difficulty and 
high importance. 1 

But Venice where in the course of three 
ambassadorial periods, 2 Sir Henry must, 
according to the nearest calculation that 
can be made, have spent the better part of 
fifteen years was the principal scene of 
his official activity. Thus it is here, among 
surroundings not very different from those 
with which so many travellers of our own 
day are familiar, that we may picture him 
to ourselves taking and giving counsel, 
drawing wisdom from both men and books, 
and gradually disciplining his ardent spirit 

1 See, for a summary of his diplomatic activity, the 
eulogy prefixed to the Latin translation of his work 
on Architecture (cf. the Advertisement to the Reader, 
prefixed to the Reliquia) ; and his own enumeration 
in a letter to the king (1615) of the treaties negotiated 
by him (Reliquice, p. 280). 

2 1604-12; 1615-19; 1621-24. But the absolute 
accuracy of all these dates can hardly be guaranteed. 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

into that calm but not melancholy philo- 
sophy of life which became to him second 
nature and of which, to the friends of his 
later years, he seemed a typical represen- 
tative. I say, among familiar surroundings, 
not only because the still mystery of the 
Venetian canals, and the pride of the sun- 
sets mantling the face of the Doge's bride 
with a hundred hues, were the same then 
as now, and must have been the same 
even in the greatest days of Venice days 
that, in the earlier part of the seventeenth 
century, had long passed away. But the 
architectural and decorative splendour of 
which in our own day so much has faded 
into the semblance of the fabric of a vision, 
was then still in its meridian glory. St. 
Mark's, with what has been so well de- 
scribed 1 as its " Eastern aroma," continued 
to remind the beholder of the mighty past, 
when Venice had been the greatest of 

1 By Mr. Horatio F. Brown in his admirable 
Venice : an Historical Sketch of the Republic (1893), to 
which I desire here to make a general acknowledg- 

--- 4- 






SIR HENRY WOTTON 

sea-powers ; and the Ducal Palace that 
choicest of caskets in which Italian art had 
deposited some of its most brilliant gems 
seemed to assert a territorial authority of 
which in truth the mere remnants were left 
to a community, politically nearly decrepit, 
and commercially all but bloodless. Yet, 
while at no period can the outward aspect 
of Venice have been fairer, or the collection 
of all that adorned and enriched her 
queenly beauty more complete, as a State, 
so far at least as appearances went, she 
still bore herself with dignity, and even, 
as we shall see, when the nature of the 
occasion allowed, with notable firmness. 
Although her methods of government had 
become more complex and more secret, 
her political system had undergone no 
radical changes ; neither was public virtue 
yet extinct among her born leaders. If the 
traditions of her statecraft no longer suf- 
ficed to enable her to hold her own among 
those Great Powers which, in a fatal hour, 
had banded together for her annihilation, 
50 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

the sleepless vigilance of her oligarchy and 
its agents still seemed capable of ensuring 
her safety ; and the moderation in counsel 
which Wotton recognises as a hereditary 
characteristic of her rulers, 1 prevented them 
as a rule from that fatal rashness which 
is so frequently the resort of States at a 
hopeless stage of decay. Moreover, her 
historic efforts against the Turk, although 
they seemed to have come to an end with 
the disastrous peace of 1573, were still 
regarded with gratitude, and her tradi- 
tional apprehension of Spain commended 
her to the goodwill of other States who 
had reasons of their own for fearing the 
masterful policy of that Power. And at 
least, if the day of her downfall was draw- 
ing nearer, she seemed prepared to meet 
it with something of the self-contained 
dignity of her period of grandeur ; for not- 
withstanding the love of display and bustle 
which coloured her everyday life in the 

1 See A Letter Concerning the Original of Venice 
) p. 252). 

51 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

earlier part of the seventeenth century, 
I can see no evidence that she had already 
sunk into what she was to be in the 
eighteenth, a city of sensual enjoyment, 
an earlier Paris of the Second Empire. 1 

Sir Henry Wotton was, as a matter of 
course, alive to the beauty of Venice, and 
to the value of the treasures of art accumu- 
lated in her churches and palaces. He had 
made a special study of architecture, on 
which theme he afterwards printed a treatise 
not devoid of merit, although after making 
a brief attempt at a systematic survey of 

1 Even in the Second of Marston's Satires (1598), 
though Venice is mentioned first among foreign cities 
haunted by the English traveller in search of frivolous 
excitement, he is finally apostrophised as a " polluted 
Neapolitan." A very competent account of Venice, of 
her local attractions, and of the causes of her decline 
as a State, is given in his well-known Familiar Letter s^ 
by James Howell, who visited the Maiden-City, as 
he says Venice was generally called in Italy, during 
Wotton's third embassy. The immediate purpose of 
his visit was of a business character, as he was engaged 
in the glass-making interest. He mentions favours 
received by him from Sir Henry, who afterwards 
composed some complimentary verses on Howell's 
Dodonds Grove, before its publication in 1639. 
52 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

the art it falls back in the main on topics 
of detail, concerned with the ornaments or 
accessories of architecture rather than with 
its principles and their embodiment. 1 His 
position as ambassador would in any case 
have made it inevitable that he should 
interest himself in pictures; for he was 
inevitably expected to pick up examples 
of Titian, and other masters in vogue, for 
friends and patrons at home, to say nothing 
of Murano glass, or of products of the 
famous Aldine and other Renascence 
printing-presses. 2 But the bent of his 

1 The Elements of Architecture^ first published in 
1624, was subsequently translated into Latin, and 
published as an appendix to Vitruvius, and again to 
Frdart's Parallel of the Ancient Architecture with the 
Modern. 

2 I am informed (cf. ante, p. i note)) that Brasenose 
College, Oxford, has a MS. of Terence once belonging 
to Wotton, which he bought at Venice of the heirs of 
Cardinal Bembo. There is no ground for the supposi- 
tion that the pictures sent by Wotton to Buckingham 
were not commissions, but gifts sent with an eye to 
future favours. Cf. Maxwell Lyte, History of Eton 
College. His parcels for King James seem at times 
to have contained melon-seeds, and at others contro- 
versial pamphlets likely to interest his Majesty. 

53 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

own intellectual interests, as well as his 
serious official duties, after all lay in a dif- 
ferent direction, and more than one of the 
problems with which he had to deal in his 
capacity of ambassador to the Signiory of 
Venice was of a kind well suited to engage 
the whole of the energies at his command. 1 

1 Wotton's own literary remains contain less matter 
than might have been looked for concerning Venetian 
history and politics; it should however be remem- 
bered that the Journal of 'his Embassies to Venice con- 
stituted a separate MS., which is stated to have 
formerly been in the library of Lord Edward Conway. 
Of Wotton's projected History of Venice nothing is 
extant, and probably nothing was written, save the 
Latin dedication to King James, which "Ottavio 
Baldi " transmitted to him with a letter dated Decem- 
ber gth, 1622, and a short epistolary fragment on the 
" Original " (origin) of Venice. Of superior interest 
is his account of the election of the Doge Niccolo 
Donate in 1618, and the short notice of the election 
in the same year of his successor, Antonio Priuli. 
The former narrative comprises some noteworthy 
particulars as to the procedure followed on such occa- 
sions, of which Wotton had repeatedly been an ob- 
server. " The election of the Duke of Venice," he 
writes, " is one of the most intricate and curious forms 
in the world. . . . Whereupon occurreth a pretty 
question, What need there was of such a deal of solici- 
tude in choosing a Prince of such limited authority ? " 

54 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

The absorbing question of the earlier 
years of Sir Henry Wotton's first embassy 
to Venice was the celebrated conflict be- 
tween the Republic and the Papacy, in 
which the chief combatants were Pope 
Paul V. .and his namesake the famous 
Servite Father. The Venetians had al- 
ways professed a loyal adherence to the 
doctrines of the Church, and even in the 
time , of Sir Henry Wotton, who was 
allowed in his residence liberty of Protes- 
tant worship conducted by his own chap- 
lain, it would seem that a native convert to 
Protestantism could not with comfort (or 
perhaps with safety) remain in the city. 1 But 

1 In the earliest of his letters to Sir Edmund Bacon, 
written in 1611 (Reliquia^ p. 400), Wotton intro- 
duces to his nephew a Venetian physician, Gasparo 
Despotini, the sole cause of whose removal from 
Venice was his "illumination in God's saving truth." 
William Bedell had brought Despotini with him to 
England, because " he could no longer bear with the 
corruptions of the Roman worship, and so chose a 
freer air." The Archbishop of Spalato (vide infra} 
was of the party. Bedell settled Despotini in practice 
near Bury St. Edmunds. See Burnet's Life of Bedell 
(1692), p. 1 8. 

55 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

they had simultaneously known how to 
preserve in the ecclesiastical administration 
of Venice something more than indepen- 
dence for their Patriarch as towards the 
Holy See. Their abhorrence of clerical 
influence was shown by the prohibition of 
the tenure of any public office, or the exer- 
cise of any public function, at Venice by a 
priest, and by the exclusion from public 
discussions on matters concerning the Curia 
of all persons related in certain degrees to 
the holder of an ecclesiastical benefice. 1 
In return, the policy of the Papacy as 
an Italian Power had in the critical epoch 
of the League of Cambray been one of 
deadly hostility to Venetian interests. 
Venice had survived the terrible experi- 
ence that had revealed her real weak- 
ness, as well as the excommunication and 
interdict whereby Pope Julius II. had 
retorted on her seizure of Faenza, Cesena 
and Rimini. But the relations between 

1 M. Brosch, Geschichte des Kirchenstaates^ vol. i. 
(1880), p. 352. 

56 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

the two Powers had continued strained, 
and even Clement VIII., who managed his 
foreign relations so considerately, had 
found himself involved in a difficulty with 
the Signiory on the occasion of a not very 
discreet insistance by the latter on a not 
very reasonable privilege. 1 Paul V., who 
after a short interval in 1605 succeeded 
to Clement VIII. in the chair of St. Peter, 

1 This characteristic incident is well related by 
Wotton himself, in one of his letters to Lord Zouch, 
dated Florence, July loth, 1592 (Reliqui^ pp. 673 
seqq.) : " Donate, the Ambassador of Venice, hath been 
twice call'd to the Vatican, where he very roundly 
told the Pope that the Signiory wonder'd to under- 
stand him offended at the taking away of Marco di 
Sharra, considering that they had priviledge from the 
Seat of Rome to take any Banditti whatever out of the 
Ecclesiastical State and employ him in their Wars ; 
which said, he drew forth the authentick of the 
Priviledge. The Pope answer'd, that their priviledge 
extended itself no further than to the Banditti, but 
Marco di Sharra was moreover attainted of Heresie 
on nine articles. To which Donato replied very 
warily that of that the Signiory had not understood, 
because as yet he was not declar'd an Heretick, and 
so the Disputation receiv'd an end. The Venetians 
are esteem'd generally not to have done discreetly in 
that Action." 

57 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

brought to it the most exalted concep- 
tions of the Papal authority, such as in 
his eyes warranted its interference in the 
affairs of several Italian States, and were 
wholly incompatible with the determination 
of the Venetian oligarchy to retain the 
control of clergy as well as laity in their 
sea-girt city. In 1604 the statute of the 
Republic prohibiting the erection of new 
churches or convents and the introduction 
of new monastic Orders in Venice without 
the authorisation of the Senate had been 
re-issued; and early in 1605 the operation 
of a rigorous Mortmain statute was ex- 
tended to the entire territory of the Re- 
public. 1 Other causes of friction had 
arisen : the Venetian Senate had resolved 
to tax the clergy of Brescia for the 
restoration of the ramparts of that town, 
and the Pope had refused to confirm the 
Senate's nomination of a new Patriarch. 
And in the autumn of the same year the 
gauntlet was cast at the feet of the haughty 
1 Brosch, tf.s. y p. 354. 
58 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

Pontiff by the arrest, under the orders of 
the Council of Ten, of two criminous clerks, 
charged with acts infamous enough 
to bring them indisputably under the 
category of offenders such as the Venetian 
authorities claimed the right of trying. 

The course of the contest which fol- 
lowed is too well known to every his- 
torical student to require more than the 
most perfunctory summary. The Venetian 
Senate having declined to annul its 
decrees, or to surrender the two clerics, a 
bull of excommunication and interdict was 
in April, 1606, launched against the Re- 
public. The Senate dismissed the Pope's 
Nuncio, declared his interdict null and 
void, and ordered the clergy to exercise 
their functions as usual. The Jesuits and 
the members of other militant Orders 
were expelled from the city, and the 
waters of the literary controversy which 
accompanied the State-conflict swelled into 
a flood. On the Papal side the ponderous 
learning of Baronius, and the tried acumen 
59 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

of Bellarmin were put under contribution ; 
but Venice had a stronger champion than 
either in Father Paul, with whom I think 
it may be said that the literary honours 
of the fray have usually been allowed to 
have rested. Meanwhile, not only Italy, 
but Europe at large, had come to take a 
keen interest in the progress of the 
quarrel ; and while there were ominous 
signs that Spain, the most dangerous ad- 
versary of Venetian independence, would 
espouse the cause of Rome, the Protestant 
Maritime Powers were offering their sup- 
port to Venice. However, for reasons 
which it is easy to understand, she pre- 
ferred to make use of the mediation of 
France ; and through the good offices of 
that Power a compromise was ultimately 
effected, in which the formal concessions 
were in favour of the Pope, but of which 
the substantial result justified the action of 
the Republic. The two criminous clerks 
were surrendered to the Papal authorities, 
but the banished Jesuits were not re-ad- 
60 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

mitted into Venice, and the Senate, while 
undertaking in the execution of its ob- 
noxious decrees not to offend against a 
traditional piety towards the Holy See, 
declined to withdraw them. The interdict 
was taken off, but the absolution which 
ought to have accompanied the withdrawal 
was refused by the impenitent Venetians, 
on the ground of the invalidity of the 
original imposition. The great attempt 
of Paul V. had come too late, if he had 
fancied himself capable of reasserting the 
pretensions of a Gregory or an Innocent 
too early, if he had reckoned upon Venice 
being powerless to resist the visitation of 
his thunderbolts. 

It was necessary to recall thus much 
concerning this oft-told episode, because it 
is certain that Sir Henry Wotton entered 
heart and soul into the ultimately success- 
ful proceedings of the Venetian Govern- 
ment, and that, in full accordance with the 
wishes of his Sovereign who was by this 
time thoroughly awake to the significance 
61 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

of the claims of Rome, and of the efforts 
of her agents he upheld the policy of her 
adversary, and sought to rally round it a 
league of sympathetic Powers. Not only 
this ; but, more especially through the 
medium of his learned and strenuous chap- 
lain, Dr. William Bedell, he formed most 
intimate relations with the man who was 
the real director of the resistance to 
Rome. There may be a certain irony in 
the fact that it was a monk prompted by a 
future bishop who conducted the success- 
ful struggle against Papal claims, and that 
in consequence the Venetians, traditionally 
jealous of clerical influence, accorded to 
him a prerogative position in the adminis- 
tration of their State ; but Paolo Sarpi's 
Servite habit did not protect him against 
the stilo Romano, any more than his 
Orders restrained the freedom of his criti- 
cal pen as the historian of the Council of 
Trent. 1 What Wotton says of him and of 

1 Sarpi never acknowledged the authorship of the 
Storia del Concilio Tridentino^ which was first published 

62 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

his intimacy with Bedell is certainly not of 
a nature to invalidate the popular belief 
that Father Paul was a Protestant at 
heart ; * but such summary ways of dis- 

in England through the ex-Archbishop of Spalato, 
but there can be no doubt that the work was his. 
See the masterly exposition of the standpoint of this 
famous history, and of the characteristic features of 
its execution in the Appendix to Ranke's History oj 
the Popes. A notice is there added of Sarpi's History 
of the dispute between Rome and Venice (Lyons, 
1624) ; and it is pointed out as an instance of Sarpi's 
partisan method of dealing with historical facts that, 
detesting both Rome and Spain, he omits all mention 
of the fact that the latter Power favoured the exclu- 
sion of the Jesuits from Venice. 

1 " This," wrote Sir Henry Wotton, in recommend- 
ing Bedell to the notice of King Charles I. in 1627, 
" 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 pro- 
fessed 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 unto the King your 
Father of most blessed Memory " (Reliquia, p. 330). 
They appear to have mutually taught one another 
Italian and English ; but Bedell seems to have also in- 
structed Father Paul in some of the niceties of Greek 
scholarship. " They had," relates Burnet in his Life 
of Bedell, a book full of interest notwithstanding its 

63 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

posing of a problem such as that of the 
personal beliefs of Father Paul or of 
Wotton's later associate, John Hales of 

characteristically discursive preface, " many and long 
discourses concerning Religion. Bedell found P. 
Paulo had read over the Greek New Testament with 
so much exactness, that having used to mark every 
word when he had fully weighed the importance of it 
as he went through it, he had by going often over it, 
and observing what he past over in a former read- 
ing grown up to that at last, that every word was 
marked of the whole New Testament ; and when 
Bedell suggested to him critical explications of some 
passages that he had not understood before, he re- 
ceived them with the transports of one that leapt for 
joy, and that valued the discovery of divine Truth 
beyond all other things" (pp. 7-9). According to 
the same authority, Bedell also communicated to 
Father Paul a thing less worth knowing, viz., that the 
name of Paul V., coupled with the satiric title Vice- 
DeuSy spelt the number 666 a discovery which on 
being imparted to the Doge and Senate was by them 
entertained as if it had come from Heaven (/., p. 12). 
It may be surmised that Bedell, an alumnus of the 
"House of pure Emmanuel," had been originally 
selected for the Venetian chaplaincy with a special 
view to the dispute with the Papacy, which had 
already begun at the time of Wotton's appointment. 
Burnet's Life illustrates his strength and sweetness of 
character, as well as his learning and energy. He 
was afterwards appointed in succession to the Master- 
ship, as Burnet calls it, of Trinity College, Dublin, 
64 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

Eton ill commend themselves to his- 
torical biography. 

The part which Wotton had played 
with so much spirit (and, on one occasion 
at least, with a judicious admixture of dis- 
cretion J ), in the celebrated struggle of 

and to the Bishopric of Kilmore and Ardagh. Find- 
ing himself unable to discharge satisfactorily the 
duties of both Sees, he exercised a self-denial rare in 
his days by resigning one of them (Ardagh). 

1 The story is told by Burnet with so characteristic 
a vivacity, that his own words must be quoted. 
After the breach with Rome had become open, seven 
ecclesiastics had been commissioned by the Venetian 
Senate to preach against the Pope's authority during 
the endurance of the Interdict. By way of promot- 
ing the expected separation of Venice " not only from 
the Court but from the Church of Rome," King 
James I. " ordered his Ambassadour to offer all pos- 
sible assistance to them, and to accuse the Pope and 
the Papacy as the chief Authors of all the mischiefs 
of Christendome. The Prince " (i.e. the Doge) " and 
Senate answered this in words full of respect to King 
fames, and said, That they knew things were not so 
bad as some endeavoured to make the World believe, 
on design to sow discord between Christian Princes ; 
and when the Pope's Nuncio objected, That King 
James was not a Catholick, and so was not to be 
relyed on, the Duke answered, The King of England 
believed in Jesus Christ, but he did not know in 
65 F 

I 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

which we have been speaking, was not 
forgotten by those whose interests had 
suffered most severely from its results. 
He states that certain distinguished mem- 

whom some others believed. Upon which P. Paulo 
and the Seven Divines pressed Mr. Bedell to move 
the Ambassadour to present King James's Premoni- 
tion to all Christian Princes and States " which was 
afterwards, in 1609, published with the re-issued 
Apology for the Oath of Allegiance " then put in 
Latine^ to the Senate, and they were confident it 
would produce a great effect. But the Ambassadour 
could not be prevailed on to do it at that time, and 
pretended that since S. James's day was not far off, it 
would be more proper to do it on that day. If this 
was only for the sake of a Speech that he had made 
on the conceit of S. Jameses Day and K. James's 
Book, with which he had intended to present it, that 
was a weakness never to be excused. But if this was 
only a pretence, and that there was a design under 
it, it was a crime not to be forgiven. All that Bedell 
could say or do to perswade him not to put off a 
thing of such importance was in vain ; and indeed I 
can hardly think that Wotton was so weak a Man, as 
to have acted sincerely in this matter." Burnet con- 
cludes : "Before S. James's day came, which I sup- 
pose was the First of May, and not the Twenty-fifth 
of July, the difference was made up, and that happy 
opportunity was lost ; so that when he had his audi- 
ence on that Day, in which he presented the Book, 
all the answer he got was, That they thanked the 
66 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

bers of the Jesuit Order, which in its cor- 
porate capacity has never been charged with 
shortness of memory, took occasion during 
his residence at Venice to reflect upon him 
in their writings ; but to these and similar 
attacks he thought it most becoming his 
dignity to turn a deaf ear. 1 Curiously 

King of England for his good will, but they were now 
reconciled to the Pope, and that therein they were 
resolved not to admit of any change in their Re- 
ligion, according to their agreement with the Court of 
Rome" (pp. 13, 14). 

1 In the Latin letter to Mark Welser of Augsburg 
(appended to the Life in Reliquiai\ which will be 
again referred to below, he writes concerning these : 
" I remember, indeed, that being at Venice, my 
family was struck with an Anathema in Baronius his 
Par&nesis " [this was the Parcenesis ad Rempublicam 
Venetam^ published at Rome in 1606 on the occasion 
of the Interdict ; Cardinal Baronius, of course, was 
not a Jesuit, but an Oratorian] ; " I remember that 
then also some things of a like sort were cast at me 
by Gomitulus, a Jesuit of Perugia, and by Anthony 
Possevin," [who, after a series of services almost with- 
out parallel in their vanity and extent, was made 
Rector of the Jesuit College at Bologna, and being 
at Venice at the time of the issue of the Interdict, 
essayed his good offices at Rome. His attack upon 
Wotton was possibly continued in his Apparatus 
Sacer, Venice, 1603-6, a sort of supplement to his 
67 




SIR HENRY WOTTON 

enough, however, very considerable in- 
convenience, including the necessity of a 
rather elaborate self-defence, was entailed 
upon him by another attack, proceeding 
from a much less respectable, but in his 
way not less redoubtable, combatant, whose 
missiles at that period came from the same 
side as the fire of the heavy artillery of 
which I have made mention. This was 
Caspar Scioppius, one of the cleverest 
and most self-reliant, and at the same time 
one of the most unprincipled and shame- 
less literary gladiators of this or any other 
age. Born a German Calvinist, 1 and 
educated in Protestant Universities of the 
south-west, Scioppius had already achieved 
a certain distinction, and engaged in 
quarrels affecting his literary character, 

Bibliotheca Sekcta, Rome, 1593, "which, although 
they flowed from galled spirits, yet, however, I bore 
in silence, for these were men of no mean repute, at 
least at home, and such eminency as they had quali- 
fied the injury. 5 ' 

1 All the authorities designate " Neagora," in the 
Upper Palatinate, as the place of his birth. Is this 
the little town of Neunburg vor dem Wald ? 
68 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

when, according to his own account in 
consequence of his perusal of a volume of 
the Annales Ecclesiastici of Baronius, he 
was converted to the Church of Rome. 
Disinterested motives (we have this on 
his own authority) prevented him from 
seeking to take the Orders of that Church, 
and, decorated with a little more than 
honorary papal title, he was for a time 
content to make himself generally useful 
at Rome by means of his prolific pen and 
his quite abnormal power of mastering 
whatever subject of discussion or con- 
troversy was proposed to it. But long 
before he came into conflict with Sir 
Henry Wotton, he had passed into a fresh 
phase of his restless activity, and in his 
tremendous attack upon the venerable 
Joseph Scaliger, the greatest scholar of 
his age whatever may be the merits 
of the genealogical pretensions on which 
it largely turned proved himself its fore- 
most libel-writer, and at the same time 
one of its most irresistible masters of 
69 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

Latin style. 1 In both capacities he now 
launched forth a series of assaults upon 
Protestantism and its leading representa- 
tives marked by a combination of brilliant 
Latin, incomparable scurrility and intimate 
connaissance de cause, which gave them 
a potency of their own that tickled the 
ears and filled the nostrils of all Europe. 

While officiously tendering his counsel to 
the young Emperor Ferdinand II. in his 
mission for the extermination of heresy and 
heretics, and sounding the tocsin of a Holy 
War, 2 Scioppius poured upon the Protestant 
crowned head of James I. vial after vial of 
derision, scorn, and contumely. The first, 
and relatively the most moderate of these, 
was the Ecclesiasticus (1611), written in 
answer to the King's cherished Apology ; 
afterwards there followed the Collyrium 
and the Corona Regia> both of them books 

1 See M. Pattison's description of the Hypobolimaus 
and its effect upon subsequent biographies of Scaliger 
in his essay on Joseph Scaliger in Essays (1889), 
vol. i. p. 192. 

2 Classicum belli Sacrl. 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

of infinite grossness, the latter leaving 
untouched none of the bodily or moral 
defects from which King James suffered 
or was supposed to suffer, and being, by 
way of an enhancement of the insult, put 
into the mouth of his illustrious proteg^ 
Isaac Casaubon. Concerning Scioppius 
and his achievements in general no more 
must be added here, save that he after- 
wards diversified his career as a contro- 
versialist by taking up arms against the 
Jesuits, and more suo seeking to confute 
their principles and confound their practice 
with his usual recklessness of invective. 
His quarrel with the Order seems to have 
sprung out of the objections taken by him 
to its methods of grammatical teaching ; 
but although he may on this score have in 
some respects had the best of the argu- 
ment, he was unable to overthrow the 
authority of the Jesuits in the schools any 
more than in other spheres of influence. 
In his old age he withdrew to Padua in 
the territories of that very Venice whose 




SIR HENRY WOTTON 

greatest citizen, Father Paul, he had once 
taken upon himself to insult with menaces 
of Papal vengeance ; now, it was the 
re viler- general of his age who had to shut 
his person up within his four walls, consol- 
ing himself with the reflexion that he 
had not laboured in vain, since he had 
made all the world hate him. And thus 
he wrote on, day and night, to the last, 
cavilling at the creed in which he had of 
old unctuously declared himself to have 
found a refuge, but friendless either out- 
side or within the Church of which he had 
posed as the champion. His death at an 
age beyond threescore and ten is said to 
have been hailed by a consensus of satis- 
faction on the part of those upon whom 
had descended the envenomed aspersions 
of his pen Catholics, Protestants, Deists. 
A later Lucian might have pictured his 
arrival on the further side of Styx, and 
Giordano Bruno, whose death in the flames 
had of old edified him so much, motioning 
him to a prominent place among the 
72 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

masters of free speech, who are the near 
neighbours rather than the true associates 
of the martyrs of free thought. 1 

In 1611, Caspar Scioppius and Sir 
Henry Wotton may have been old 
acquaintances. As it happened, they had 
alike been students at Altdorf; but 
Scioppius is not likely to have had 
tidings of the young Englishman who had 
attended that University some four years 
or so before his own appearance there. 
But they can hardly have failed to hear 
of one another during Scioppius' visit to 
Venice in 1607, when his impertinences 
to Father Paul subjected him to an arrest 
of two or three days. After this he went 

1 The best, and most readable, extant account of 
Scioppius is to be found in vol. ii. of Nisard's 
Gladiateurs de la Republique des Lettres aux XV me > 
XVI et XVII me Sticks (Paris, 1860). Bayle's article 
on him, however, is full of information. See also the 
useful notes to Sir J. S. Hawkins' edition of Ignoramus 
(1787). No scholar of the present age except Mr. 
R. C. Christie could do literary justice to a career 
covering a wide and complicated section of the liter- 
ature of the Later Renascence. Mr. Christie's library 
contains copies, some of them unique, of all the works 
of Scioppius. 

73 




SIR HENRY WOTTON 

north, and either then or later he must 
have picked up at Augsburg some in- 
formation as to the witticism which 
Wotton had written in the album of his 
friend Fleckmere, when on his way to 
his Venetian post, concerning the menda- 
city expected from ambassadors. At all 
events, when Scioppius was engaged in 
the process to which reference was made 
just now of scarifying King James I. and 
rubbing gall into the tender places when 
he was composing the Ecclesiasticus 
(1611), to be followed up with more 
drastic plaisters he threw in a playful 
reference to Wotton's facetious entry in 
the merchant's album at Augsburg. Play- 
ful after his manner that is to say, with 
an application not only ad hominem, but 
ad regem, and interlarded with quotations 
from literature both sacred and profane. 1 

1 See cap iv. of G. Scioppii Ecclesiasticus auctori- 
tati Serenissimis D. Jacobi Magnce Britannia Regis 
Oppositus (Hartberg, 161 1). " If," he says, inter alia y 
" we may put any trust in this royal ambassador (as 
we may suppose to be in accordance with the wish 

74 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

Terribly clever and utterly unscrupulous, 
and at the same time perfectly posted 
up in his field of battle, he no doubt 
calculated upon the sensitiveness of the 
king for his arrow wounding two victims 
in one flight. For James L, although 
addicted to the perpetration of jokes of 
his own, and liking to be thought appreci- 
ative of wit to his address, was not fonder 
than most kings and princes are of ridicule 
casting a reflexion on their own dignity. 
Moreover, an ambassador, as Wotton 
might have remembered from Donne's 
poem, which he must have carried with him 
on his journey from England, is in his rela- 
tion to the sovereign whom he represents 

"A taper of his torch, a copy writ 
From his original." 

And, as a matter of fact, King James did 

expressed by him in the ambassador's credentials), it 
is inevitable that the king himself should rightly be 
numbered among those * scornful men that rule this 
people which is in Jerusalem,' who said, c the scourge 
shall not come unto us ; for we have made lies our 
refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves ' ' 
(Isa. xxviii.). 

75 




SIR HENRY WOTTON 

take some umbrage at the jest which the 
sagacious Scioppius had been at the pains 
of bringing to light some eight years after 
its perpetration, and Wotton found it 
necessary to explain. This he accom- 
plished by means of a public letter 
addressed to Marcus Welser, one of the 
burgomasters of the Free Imperial City 
of Augsburg, to whom Scioppius himself 
had been under literary obligations ; 1 
taking the opportunity of falling foul of 
his wayside assailant with a wealth of 
vituperative Latinity which leaves nothing 
to be desiderated. Furthermore, accord- 
ing to his own account, he wrote a private 
letter to the king, who hereupon magna- 
nimously pronounced that Sir Henry 
Wotton had " commuted sufficiently for 
a greater offence." It is, however, notice- 
able that the Latin letter to Welser is 
superscribed "from London, 1612"; and 

1 He facetiously explains that his witticism, while 
innocent in itself, was intended to include ambassadors 
of every kind, even legati a latere. 
76 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

although we do not know at what date 
Wotton had left Venice, another English 
ambassador seems in that year to have 
been in residence there. Nor have we 
notice of any talk until the following 
year of Wotton's being again employed 
as ambassador (in France) ; and some- 
thing like a further two years ensued 
before he was actually sent on a mission 
to the United Provinces, whence he 
again returned to his Venetian post. 1 

1 I gather these data from the Letters to Sh 
Edmund Bacon^ in Reliquta^ pp. 399 seqq.^ and (as 
to Wotton's having been temporarily superseded at 
Venice) from the Legatus Latro. Sir Henry Wotton, 
we may rest assured, found no compensation in the 
indignities to which Scioppius was subjected in re- 
taliation of his invective against King James. Accord- 
ing to his own account, printed under the pseudonym 
of Oporinus Grubinius in the rare tract of Legatus 
Latro (Ingolstadt, 1615, of which Mr. R. C. Christie 
kindly lent me his copy), these included two distinct 
attempts at assassination, which proved that Sir 
Henry Wotton's aphorism as to the functions of an 
ambassador ought in the case of Calvinist ambassa- 
dors to be thus extended : " Legatus Calvinista est 
vir bonus scilicet, peregre missus ad mentiendum et 
latrocinandum Reipublicre causa." The first attempt 

77 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

To the interval spent by Wotton in 
England, and, as it would seem, mainly 
at or near the Court, belongs the origin 

was made in 1612, when "Wotoni successor et 
Anglicus apud Venetos Orator," after making some 
enquiries about Scioppius at Augsburg, caused him 
to be " shadowed " at Milan by four " sicarii satis 
lacertosi," who sent a bullet through the window of 
the college where he was lodging. Of the second 
and more effective attempt, which took place at 
Madrid in 1614, the perpetrators were persons em- 
ployed by the English ambassador there, Lord Digby; 
and of this the Legatus Latro gives a very circum- 
stantial and distressing account. The assault, how- 
ever, seems to have been merely one of those brutal 
chastisements which, unfortunately, it would be 
possible to parallel by London incidents belonging to 
the later Stuart times. In the following year (1615) 
King James was, on the occasion of his visit to the 
University of Cambridge, gratified by a different kind 
of castigation of his relentless assailant. At the 
second performance of George Ruggle's Latin comedy 
of Ignoramus before the king, which took place on 
May 6th, a new Prologue (called in the editions 
Prologus Posterior} was introduced, of which the chief 
fun consists of a burlesque trial and condemnation of 
Scioppius, whose impudence, mendacity, and para- 
sitical ways are exposed with merciless buffoonery. 
The Aristophanic sentence pronounced on him is said 
to have excited the king to boisterous merriment. 
Repeated references to this performance in the 

78 



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of what, if we so choose, we may call the 
romance of his life. For romance, in the 
proper sense of the term, is whatever 
takes us, in life or in literature, out of 
routine, whether that routine be a fashion- 
able canter or an unpretending jog-trot. 
Nor will it be denied that the romance 
of a man's life, understood in this sense, 
may come to him as late as that of Sir 
Henry Wotton's, who, so far as we can 
ascertain, was about fifty-five years of 
age perhaps was a year or two more 
when he became the "servant" of the 
Princess Elizabeth, afterwards best known 
by her twelfth-night title of Queen of 
Bohemia. To a large proportion at 
least of his fellow-countrymen and women 
of later generations he is better known 
in this than in any other character, for 
the very sufficient reason that some time 

writings of Scioppius attest the deep irritation which 
it provoked in him, and which, perhaps, may have 
been increased by the circumstance that there were 
present at it members of the family of the Fuggers, 
the great merchants and bankers of Augsburg. 
79 



me greai 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

between November, 1619, and November, 
1620 (for he could hardly have addressed 
her as Queen before her coronation or 
after her flight) he commemorated the 
beauty of his mistress in verses which are 
unforgotten in our literature. And, indeed, 
what fame could be more enviable by any 
man, whether statesman or scholar, or 
neither, than that gained by the authorship 
of an imperishable lyric ? There can be 
no need for any explanation of the nature 
of the relations between Sir Henry 
Wotton and the Princess-Queen whether 
they began at home in England, or in 
the bright days at Heidelberg, where 
she was still surrounded by fair native 
satellites who may or may not have 
acquiesced in the apostrophe : 

" You meaner beauties of the night, 

That poorly satisfy our eyes 
More by your number than your light, 
You common people of the skies, 

What are you, when the moon shall rise?" 
* * * * 

You violets that first appear, 
By your pure purple mantles known, 
80 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

Like the proud virgins of the year, 
As if the spring were all your own, 
What are you when the rose is blown ? " 

The servant ot a lady permitted to 
designate himself by this term, and her as 
his mistress, in the diction of the rococo 
chivalry and conventional "platonism" of 
the early Stuart age would in an earlier 
age have called himself her knight ; the 
tie by which he bound himself to her ser- 
vice was, however, woven out of slighter 
threads than that which had secured the 
knight's fidelity and sent him forth in 
quest of achievements to be glorified by 
being dedicated to her name. When in 
1613, amidst the acclamations of Protes- 
tant England, the Princess Elizabeth was 
wedded to the amiable Prince, who as 
Elector Palatine was, as it were, predes- 
tined to stand in the forefront of the great 
religious conflict of which Europe was 
breathlessly awaiting the outbreak, the 
national enthusiasm had found expression 
in numberless poetic tributes. If they are 
81 G 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

not to be counted, neither need they be 
individually weighed ; for it is manifest 
that the heart of old and young went up to 
the beautiful and high-spirited girl for and 
from whose future so many fond hopes 
were cherished. 1 Sir Henry Wotton was 
present at the wedding " the conjunction 
of the Thames and the Rhine, as our 
ravished spirits begin to call it " to which 
he is found inviting some country cousins, 
as a Londoner in possession of a Jubilee 
window might have done in the present year 
of grace ; and he praises the bridegroom, 

1 One of them may perhaps be singled out not 
because of any special poetic merit, but in recogni- 
tion of the author of The Maske of the Middle 
Temple and Lyncolns Inne. Chapman's historical 
and political insight forms one of his distinguishing 
characteristics as an Elizabethan dramatist, remained 
true to his enthusiasm for the cause of the Palatinate, 
and as late as 1622, when Sir Horace Vere was 
shut up at Mannheim, printed a poetic appeal for 
aid to the garrison under the title of Pro Vere 
Autumni Lachrymce. I think it just possible that 
Chapman was acquainted with, and influenced by, 
the German poet Weckherlin, who was resident in 
London from 1620, and employed in foreign affairs 
there. See below. 

82 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

the Palsgrave, as "a gentleman of very 
sweet hope." l He chronicles the belated 
departure of the newly-wedded pair, 2 
whom he seems to have met again in the 
days of their brief period of happiness at 
Heidelberg. A meeting in " a merry 
hour," he called it in a letter addressed to 
Elizabeth some twelve or thirteen years 
later ; 3 and so far as I can discern, it was 
the last ocoasion on which he beheld the 
rose the rose of his charming stanzas 
the Rose of Bohemia as she was to be 
called so soon afterwards, when her hus- 
band, and she with him, had made the 
great and fatal venture of their lives. I 
cannot think that, with all her high spirits 
and lightheartedness, Elizabeth had much 
to say to this momentous decision ; she 
was not, I take it, a heroine in the sense 
of one who conceives a great action and 
does her utmost to carry out her concep- 
tion. But she was the Queen Louise of 



i pp. 278-9. 2 /&, p. 410. 

3 From Eton, 1628. (Reliqina, p. 442.) 

83 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

the Thirty Years' War to all who had the 
cause of militant Protestantism at heart, 
in that with perfect fortitude, in the midst 
of cruel deprivations and disappointments, 
she never swerved either from the side of 
the husband of her choice and the care of 
their children, or, during the entire length 
of the War, from the cause with which she 
had become identified. Had she, among 
the many princes who were thought of or 
talked of for her hand, chosen the Swedish 
Gustavus Adolphus, we may be sure she 
would have bravely shared the dangers 
and fatigues of those campaigns which 
Wotton prayed God to "bless and cherish 
as His Own business." l As it was, after a 
brief period of royal state among her new 
self-continued and self-satisfied subjects, 
she was to see the edifice of her fortunes 
collapse with awful suddenness; and, at 
first by her husband's side and then alone 
among her children, during the better part 

1 To Sir Edmund Bacon, July 27th, 1630. (Reli- 
quia, p. 45 *) 

84 






A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

of half a century to eat that bread of exile 
which neither flattery nor chanty can al- 
together sweeten. But such consolation 
as is to be derived from loyal and un- 
changing devotion was not denied to her ; 
Christian of Halberstadt rode into battle 
with her glove in his helmet which bore 
little resemblance to a mitre, though he 
was the Administrator of a Bishopric and 
the good Lord Craven, once as wealthy a 
man as any goldsmith's son in England, 
cheerfully ruined himself for her sake. As 
for Sir Henry Wotton, whose verse is an 
enduring monument of her charms, neither 
was his fidelity to her cause one of words 
alone. It is touching to trace his admir- 
ing remembrance of her throughout his 
correspondence, down to the days of his 
cloistered retirement ; she is to him " the 
Triumph of Virtue"; 1 he addresses her 
as " Most resplendent Queen, even in the 
Darkness of Fortune" ; " that," he writes, 

1 To John Dimly (her Secretary), 1633. (Reliquicc, 
p. 569.) 

85 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

"was wont to be my style with your 
Majesty, which you see I have not for- 
gotten." l " I cannot," he exclaims at a 
rather earlier date, " but fall into some 
passionate questions with my own heart. 
Shall I die without seeing again my 
Royal Mistress myself?" 2 He sends her 
for her diversion "some of the Fancies 
of his youth," not, we must conclude, 
the famous stanzas to which repeated 
reference has been made, and which 
had been published four years earlier. 3 
In his last will, printed by Walton, he 
bequeathed, in his usual terms of devoted 
admiration, her picture a Honthorst, 
perhaps, in which full justice was done 
to her raven locks and tall, lithe form 

1 To the Queen of Bohemia, 1636 (Ib., p. 336). 

2 To the Same, 1629 (Id., p. 450). 

3 To Dinely, 1628 (Ib., p. 558). Wotton's stanzas 
were printed with music as early as 1624 in Est's 
Sixth Set of Books, etc. See Hannah's Poems, etc., 
p. 95, note, where it is observed that this lyric has 
been a favourite theme for variations and additions, 
and has in such an altered shape found its way into 
the poems of Montrose, 

86 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

to her nephew the Prince of Wales ; nor 
is there any reason for disbelieving 
Walton's story of the affront offered by 
Wotton to Ferdinand II., how, when on 
the point of quitting the Imperial Court 
to which he had been accredited, he gave 
away a jewel of great price presented to 
him by the Emperor, "because he found 
in himself an indisposition to be the better 
for any gift that came from an Enemy of his 
Royal Mistress, the Queen of Bohemia/' 

But, apart from this pardonable out- 
burst, he laboured hard in his vocation to 
mitigate what neither he nor his timorous 
master could undo, viz., the dire effects 
upon the fortunes of King James's 
daughter and her children of the battle 
of Prague and the seizure of the Pala- 
tinate. Indeed, the long-sustained en- 
deavour to bring about a settlement 
which should restore to them part at least 
of what they had lost forms so integral a 
part of the foreign policy of James I. that, 
as one of its regular agents, Wotton 
87 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

laboured incessantly for this object, stead- 
fastly refusing to accept what he bitterly 
describes to Bacon as the probable Jesuit 
interpretation of the original catastrophe : 
" Victrix causa Deo placuit" * 

The period spent at or near the Court 
by Sir Henry Wotton (1612-14) was a 
season full of turbid rumours and appre- 
hensions, of which there are to be found in 
his letters certain faint reflexions, as though 
his heart had not been very much in these 
home concerns. 2 On April 22, 1613, men- 
tion is made of the arrest of Overbury, 
but already on May 27 he is stated to 

1 To Lord Bacon (Reliquia^ p. 301). Under 
Charles I. Wotton was, as we shall see, no longer 
active as a diplomatist. But it is interesting to find 
him, in the noteworthy letter to the Queen of 
Bohemia, where he discusses the career of Bucking- 
ham, assure her that her brother King Charles had 
always cherished her interests, and that the Parlia- 
ments hitherto summoned by him had been 
assembled mainly with a view to their effecting some- 
thing on her behalf. (See Reliquia^ pp. 555-6.) 

2 See the Letters to Sir Edmund Bacon in ReliquiQ 
pp. 405-597. A separate edition of these letters was 
published in 1661. 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

be "not only at liberty but almost out of 
discussion." As yet the gossips of the 
Court were in doubt whether the Suffolk 
or the Rochester interest would in the end 
prevail, and in November, when Roches- 
ter was created Earl of Somerset, his star 
was of course still in the ascendant. It 
was not till October, 1615, that the tragic 
catastrophe of Overbury's confinement 
was in its consequences to drag down the 
favourite, whose fall Wotton moralised in 
some rather commonplace verses. 1 In 
May, 1613, reporting the imprisonment of 
the Lady Arabella Stuart in the Tower, 
he observes that his " lodging is so near 
the Star Chamber that his pen shakes 
in his hand " ; but his political sentiments 
were by no means of a nature likely to 
bring him into trouble, and the matters 
in which he took a keen interest apper- 

1 " Upon the sudden Restraint of the Earle of 
Somerset^ then falling from Favour" The last two 
lines run : 

" Vertue is the roughest way, 

But proves at night a bed of downe." 




SIR HENRY WOTTON 

tained not to domestic but to foreign 
policy. Perhaps, too, like some other men 
of action and some other men of letters, 
he cherished a prejudice against men of 
talk. Thus, in 1614, he reports with 
perfect composure the arrest of four 
Members of the House of Commons for 
license in speech, although one of the 
offenders was his old schoolfellow and 
College contemporary, John (afterwards 
Sergeant) Hoskyns, with whom in younger 
days he had composed love-poetry in 
amcebean stanzas. 1 And he comments 



1 I assume with Dyce that the verses superscribed 
Sir Henry Wotton and Sergeant Hoskyns riding on 
tJie way should be assigned to an early date in 
their respective causes. Hoskyns' offence had been 
"a desperate allusion" apropos of Scotch favourites 
" to the Sicilian Vespers " ; but on examination he 
not very magnanimously declared that he had been 
put up to the use of the phrase by Dr. Sharp, without 
being himself aware of its significance. After a 
year's restraint, during which he produced a large 
quantity of Latin verse, including an appeal to the 
king, he was set at liberty, and, though he had 
another passing trouble of a similar kind, lived to be 
serjeant-at-law, justice- itinerant of Wales, and member 
90 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

without reserve on the futility of the 
Parliament of this year (which separated 
without having passed a single Act), 
declaring that as some Parliaments had 
been called Mad, Merciless, and so forth, 
so this ought to be known as "the Parlia- 

of the Council of Marches. Hoskyns, who was two 
years older than Wotton, and like him educated at 
Winchester and New College (see the notice of him 
in vol. xxvii. of the Dictionary of National Biography > 
1891, where there is no mention of Wotton) was in 
his day a personage of considerable literary reputa- 
tion ; indeed Anthony Wood states that " he was the 
most ingenious and admired poet of his time," and 
that he "polished Ben Jon son and made him speak 
clear, whereupon he ever called our author Father 
Hoskyns." (He is not, I think, mentioned in the 
Conversations with Drummond.) Very little of his 
English verse is preserved (much Latin remains in 
MS.); but Anthony Wood possessed a volume of 
his epigrams and epitaphs. His advice To his little 
Child Benjamin from the Tower (see Reliquice, p. 398) 
is good, and still better his Epitaph on a Man for 
doing nothing : 

" Here lies the man was born and cried, 
Told threescore years, fell sick and died." 

(See Poems by Sir Henry Wotton, edited by the 
Rev. Alexander Dyce (Percy Society, 1843), and the 
article by Mr. W. P. Courtney already cited.) 

91 






SIR HENRY WOTTON 

ment of greatest diligence and of least 
resolution that ever was or will be." 1 

At last, in the summer of this year, 
1614, Sir Henry Wotton was once more 
in active employment. King James I. 
was attempting, as yet on a comparatively 
small theatre, his favourite part of a me- 
diator, and although with Wotton's aid he 
achieved a nominal success, the perfor- 
mance was in reality as ineffective as it 
was when afterwards repeated on a larger 
scene. The inheritance of the Duchies of 
Juliers, Cleves, and Berg was disputed by 

1 I pass by, as not bearing upon Wotton's 
biography, the mention in one of his letters, dated 
July 2, 1613 (Reliquiae, pp. 425-6) of the burning 
down of the Globe Theatre on the occasion of the 
performance of All is True. I have elsewhere given 
my reasons for holding the opinion that the prob- 
abilities of the case are in favour of the identity of 
this play with Henry VIII. rather than with Samuel 
Rowley's When you see me you know me. Whether 
Wotton's description of the play performed on the 
fatal June 29 as "a new play" should or should not 
be understood literally, seems a more difficult ques- 
tion ; but I am inclined to think the application of 
the epithet in substance correct. 
92 



fJtHK 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

two rival claimants, Wolfgang William 
Count Palatine of Neuburg, and the Elector 
of Brandenburg, who had of late respec- 
tively changed their confessions the one 
from Calvinism to the faith of Rome, and 
the other from Lutheranism to Calvinism. 
Thus Spain and the United Provinces, 
whose troops had, during the long wars 
between the two Powers, frequently found 
their way into these all too convenient 
border-lands, had each despatched soldiery 
thither once more ; and where Maurice of 
Orange and Spinola stood face to face, the 
conflict that seemed imminent was unlikely 
to prove a mere skirmish. I have already 
cited Wotton's humorous expression of 
wonder at finding a diplomat and scholar 
like himself immersed in the din of camps 
and armies. 1 The negotiations in which he 
and the French ambassador were engaged 

1 Cf. ante, p. 5. Wotton's stay in the Netherlands 
seems to have extended from August, 1614, to August, 
1615, very nearly the same dates, by the way, as 
Hoskyns' sojourn in the Tower. See Gardiner, 
History of England, etc., vol. ii., p. 308, note. 

93 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

extended over more than a twelvemonth. 
As early as November, 1614, they con- 
trived to bring about an arrangement on 
paper between the claimants, whereby the 
disputed territories were provisionally 
divided between them (the Treaty of 
Xanten) ; but the allies whom the " posses- 
sing " princes had brought into the Rhenish 
duchies were not to be induced to evacuate 
them, and the Juliers-Cleves-Berg ques- 
tion remained emphatically open, contri- 
buting in a very marked degree to the ulti- 
mate outbreak of the Thirty Years' War. 

By 1616 Wotton, whose diplomatic 
labours at the Hague had been enlarged 
by the task of superintending the resump- 
tion of negotiations for the amalgamation 
of the Dutch and English East India Com- 
panies, 1 was once more if the external con- 
ditions of the Hague and of Venice allow 

1 Hugo Grotius had in the previous year been sent 
to England on the same errand. He had not been 
successful, and the negotiations at the Hague were 
likewise broken off in April, 1615. (See Gardiner, 
u.s., p. 313.) 

94 






A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

of the differentiating metaphor in quiet 
waters, and settled at his old ambassadorial 
post. This time he appears to have re- 
mained at his post for three years or there- 
abouts, and unless I am mistaken, there is 
nothing in his private correspondence to in- 
dicate any occurrences of a specially trouble- 
some nature in this chapter of his Venetian 
life. Yet in its third year (1618) the very 
existence of the Republic was transitorily 
threatened by a strange conspiracy, to which 
romance and the stage have perhaps lent an 
exaggerated importance, but which proves, 
at all events, that the " fear of Spain" 
or at least of the inflated ambition of her 
representatives was no illusion on the 
part of the Council of the Ten. 1 But the 



1 See the account of the plot, of which the chiet 
agent was the Frenchman Pierre, and in which most 
of the representatives of Venetian blackguardism were 
personally interested, while its promoters were suj> 
posed to be the Viceroy of Naples, and the Spanish 
ambassador at Venice, ap. H. Brown, u.s.> pp. 403, seqq. 
The Council of the Ten did its best to keep the inci- 
dent quiet, and no literary account of it seems to have 
appeared before the romantic history published by the 
95 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

cunning which French cupidity had placed 
at the service of Spanish arrogance over- 
reached itself, and Venice was " preserved," 
as in most instances states and institutions 
are preserved, from a design of fools and 
knaves. Sir Henry Wotton can hardly 
but have been a witness of these occur- 
rences ; for it was in i6i8.that he applied 
to the king for the usual leave of absence 
in order to visit his native country, or, as 
he less roundly puts it, for the privilege 
ordinarily accorded by his Majesty to his 
foreign servants of ''the comfort of his 
gracious sight once in three years." 1 And 
in March, 1619, he was still in Venice, for 
in that month we find him writing to the 
king, thanking him for having signified to 
him the royal intention of employing him 

Abbe* St. Real (1674), a virtuoso in the treatment of 
such episodes, followed by Otway's tragedy, Venice 
Preserved (1682). Otway ingeniously mixed up with 
the story " motives " derived from that of the so-called 
Popish Plot. Thus it is that, between reticences and 
adulterations, "impressions " of historical transactions 
are at times created. 
1 Reliquice, p. 485. 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

upon the execution of a special task as 
arduous in its conditions and as serious in 
its issues as has at any time been com- 
mitted to an English diplomatist. 1 He was 
charged, in a word, with finding out the 
basis on which King James might success- 
fully mediate in a conflict of interests and 
forces which was on the point of involving 
and, as it proved, actually involved 
nearly the whole of Europe in a general 
war. In the front line stood the Bohemians 
three-fourths Protestants, supported by 
the sympathy of at least half of the subjects 
of the House of Austria who by an act 
of the grossest violence had proclaimed 
their revolt against the authority of their 
king and their rejection of the successor 
elected by themselves. Their grievances 
and pretensions were admitted neither by 
1 See his letter to the king in Gardiner, Letters^ etc., 
PP- 5i 5 1 : "I must end with mine owne most 
humble and hartie thankes unto youre ma tie about 
myselfe ; that it hath pleased you (for soe Mr. Secre- 
tarie Naunton hath given me knowledge) to designe 
mee to treate in youre royal name betweene the 
Emperor and the Bohemians." 

97 H 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

the Emperor -king, nor by his destined 
successor on the imperial as well as on 
the Bohemian throne, unlike himself a man 
who believed in his mission and had been 
trained in a school of steel to perseverance 
in accomplishing it. In uneasy expectancy 
there waited on the opposite side James' 
own son-in-law, the Elector Palatine, the 
head of the Calvinistic interest in the 
empire, the indefatigable agents of which 
were at work to remove the impediments 
to the Finger which should point his way to 
this same Bohemian throne ; and between 
them was thrust the stolid obstruction of 
the traditional chief of the Lutheran interest, 
the Imperialist and conservative Saxon 
elector. The eager ambition of Charles 
Emmanuel of Savoy, a prince whose 
policy had long been an object of special 
study to Wotton, and to whom he was in 
the course of his career accredited in two 
special missions l was urging forward the 

1 See Reliquicz, p. 416 (1613): "I, who have a 
little contemplated the Duke of Savoy's complexion." 
98 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

policy of the Elector Palatine, while en- 
deavouring to secure for its own intrigues 
a recompense equal if not superior to that 
held out to its desired ally. 1 In the imme- 
diate background the Catholic League and 
the Protestant Union were hesitatingly 
awaiting the issue ; while no reliance was 
to be placed upon the ultimate action either 
of Spain, distrustful of the future of the 
Austrian Habsburgs and urging King James 
to play the thankless part of mediator, or 
of France, whose religious sympathies had 
not yet been definitively subordinated to 
an all-absorbing policy of national aggran- 
disement. To secure peace when war was 
written in the skies, and to satisfy at once 

So far as I know, the precise purpose of Wotton's 
missions to Charles Emmanuel has not yet been ex- 
plained. 

1 The designs of Charles Emmanuel, noted by 
Gardiner in the Introduction to his Letters etc. illus- 
trating the Relations between England and Germany 
(Camden Society's Publications^ 1865), have been quite 
recently more fully discussed by Ritter in his article, 
Die pfalzische Politik und die Bohmische Konigswahl^ 
in SybeFs Historische Zeitschrift^ vol. Ixxix., Heft 2 

99 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

the mutually irreconcilable hopes and fears 
of the continental states and the manifest 
sympathies of the great body of English- 
men, such was the not ignoble but pre- 
posterous task which King James I. had 
resolved upon setting to himself and to the 
agents of his statecraft. 

At the last moment he altered his 
choice of his principal diplomatic agent, 
and in Wotton's place sent out Doncaster, 
whose irresistible social attractiveness could 
not prevent the inevitable breakdown. 
But although not allotted the part of pro- 
tagonist, Wotton was actively employed 
on a lengthy series of negotiations, partly 
preceding, partly following upon the elec- 
tion of Frederick to the Bohemian crown 
in August, 1619, and his (at first secret) 
acceptance of it a month afterwards. 1 
Sometime in 1619 apparently about the 
month of May we find Wotton at 

1 See A Report of my Negotiation in Germany and 
of some Peculiarities occurring in my Journey ', addressed 
to the King (1619), and the ensuing letters and docu- 
ments in ReKquiG) pp. 486 seqq. 
TOO 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

Munich, at the court of the sagacious 
Maximilian of Bavaria, who was then still 
full of professed doubts as to " Ferdin- 
ando's fortune," and of high-flown com- 
pliments to King James' "most virtuous 
daughter," but who early in the following 
October was, notwithstanding, to assume 
the active headship of the Catholic League, 
and to enter into a compact fatal to her 
interests with the new Emperor, Ferdi- 
nand II. For it included a secret promise 
of the transfer to Maximilian of her hus- 
band's electoral dignity, and of so much as 
should have been conquered by his adver- 
saries of his hereditary lands. From 
Munich Wotton passed on to Augsburg, 
and thence to Heilbronn, where in June 
the members of the Protestant Union were 
assembled to determine its attitude to- 
wards the impending Imperial election, 
and where Wotton opened to them a 
double commission. He was empowered 

1 See Hausser, Geschichte der rheinischen Pfalz (2nd 
ed., 1856), vol ii. p. 298. 

101 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

by the Doge and Senate of Venice to an- 
nounce their determination not to permit 
the transport across their ,gulf into Aus- 
trian territory of any succours that might 
tend to the further troubles of Germany ; 
and he was entrusted by his own Sovereign 
with a characteristic series of devices for 
counteracting the vexatious proceedings of 
Papal and Jesuit agents in England and 
other countries, including a literary propa- 
ganda against the Pope and his policy in 
Italy. But the Union, which could not 
even make up its mind to give a decisive 
answer to the Bohemian envoys at Heil- 
bronn, shrank from any such enlargement 
of the sphere of its operations, and ad- 
journed without doing anything at all, ex- 
cept decreeing the mobilisation of an army 
for purely defensive purposes. 1 

In the autumn of 1620, long after the 
die had been cast, and when the war, 
which had been carried by the Bohemians 
into the disaffected Austrian provinces, was 

1 Ritter, tt.s., p. 274. 
102 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

on the eve of coming to a decisive issue 
in Bohemia itself, while Spanish troops 
were about to flood the Palatinate, King 
James was still with pathetic obstinacy 
striving to make peace where no peace 
was. Wotton was instructed to repeat to 
the Emperor Ferdinand, the " Elector 
Palatine " (the style should be noted), and 
to the other parties concerned, the repre- 
sentations urged in vain by Doncaster, 
and to insist that the election of Frederick 
to the Bohemian crown had been neither 
approved by King James nor brought 
about by Frederick himself. In the latter 
part of the summer Wotton presented 
himself before the Dukes of Lorraine and 
Wlirtemberg, before the Archduke Leo- 
pold, and in the imperial cities of Strass- 
burg and Ulm, without, however, obtain- 
ing anything but ambiguous answers. 1 In 

1 See his despatch to the King, dated Augsburg, 
August 1 8, and cf. Gindely, Geschichte des $o-jdhrigen 
Krieges, vol. iii. (1878), p. 272. The account of 
Leopold, archduke, bishop and territorial prince, is 
an interesting sketch of character. He had been 
103 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

September he made his way to Vienna 
itself, where he was at once admitted to 
an audience by Ferdinand II., and after- 
wards conferred with Eggenberg, the Em- 
peror's most influential minister, and, says 
Wotton in his frank way, " tainted with the 
Jesuit, as most of the Court are." 1 Fer- 
dinand's difficulties still rendered it incum- 
bent upon him to accord a courteous 
reception to the proposals of King James, 
which amounted to the conclusion of a ces- 
sation of arms without the question of the 
Bohemian crown having been previously 
decided, Wotton, however, more eager 
in the interests of the King's daughter 
and her family than the King himself, 
seems to have recommended the accept- 

appointed to the government of the Tyrol in 1619, 
but Wotton seems to have visited him in his diocese 
of Strassburg ; for the archduke, who was as devoted 
to the Order as was his brother Ferdinand, turned 
back with the ambassador half a day's journey to 
" Mulzhani) the notorious nest of Jesuits." This was 
the College of Molsheim (cf. Cretineau-Joly, Histoire 
de la Compagnie de Jesus , 1844, vol. iii. p. 378). 
1 Rdiquitz, p. 504. 

104 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

ance of part at least of the proposals made 
at Ulm in the earlier part of the year, ac- 
cording to which Ferdinand would have 
had to content himself with the title of 
King of Bohemia without having any 
authority of its government, and in the 
event of his death Frederick would have 
become entitled to enjoy both. 1 More 
than this, he informed the French ambas- 
sador (the Duke of Angouleme) that he 
was prepared to press for an acceptance of 
these proposals in their entirety. Without 
entering into any negotiation on the bases 
suggested by King James and elaborated 
by his ambassador, the Emperor, still 
thinking it well to preserve an attitude of 
politeness, assented to their being made 
known at Prague ; but even here they 

1 Cf. Gindely, u.s., pp. 273-4. It may be worth 
observing that the Accord of Ulm (June 22, 1620), 
as printed in Reliquice, pp. 531 seqq.^ merely secures 
the neutrality of League and Union in the war, ex- 
cluding, however, from the operations of the treaty 
Bohemia and its Incorporated Provinces, and the 
hereditary dominions of the House of Austria. 
105 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

met with no unconditional acceptance. 
Ought we to applaud Wotton for his per- 
sistence, or to blame him for an excess of 
zeal ? The victory in diplomacy is not 
always with those who ask least ; but in 
the present instance the chances of success 
were small, and Wotton is at all events 
not chargeable with the folly of having 
formed too lofty an estimate of them. In 
October, 1620, he congratulates an "old 
friend " whom one would like to be able 
to identify, and who was probably one of 
the numerous volunteers for the cause they 
had both at heart * on having exchanged 
civil for military employment, " for no- 
body knows better than yourself how slight 
is the importance attached to ambassadors 
in troubled times." Well might he make 
this reflexion, for the fictitious rumour of 
a great Bohemian defeat which he men- 
tions in this very letter was a week or two 
later to come only too true. On Novem- 

1 See the Latin letter, Reliquia, p. 515. The old 
friend had written from Worms. 
1 06 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

her 8, the Battle of the White Hill at 
Prague had once for all settled the ques- 
tion of the Bohemian crown, and on the 
same day Frederick and Elizabeth were 
homeless fugitives. Behind them there set 
in, as Wotton picturesquely expresses it, 
" fluctuation and submission, the Ordinary 
consequences of victory." 1 The English 
negotiations at Vienna hereupon begin at 
once to turn upon the question of preserv- 
ing the possession of the Palatinate itself to 
the Electoral couple or to their children, 
and in the first instance they largely take 
the shape of protests against the pronounce- 
ment of the ban of the Empire upon the 
dethroned king. An ambassador who is 
worth his salt understands how to take 
his departure before that proceeding has 
become quite inevitable ; and Sir Henry 
Wotton had "the Honor to be much ex- 
pected and desired at Venice." 2 Of his 

1 ReliquitZ) p. 527. 

2 The chief vexations of diplomatists, I imagine, are 
for the most part of home growth ; and Wotton had 
manifestly felt much annoyed by having no sufficient 

107 






SIR HENRY WOTTON 

parting escapade at Vienna I have already 
made mention ; you may expel human 
nature by the choicest of snuff-boxes, 
but it will persist in re-asserting itself. 

Even, however, at Venice, where by 
February, 1621, Sir Henry Wotton had 
for the third time settled down at his resi- 
dential post, he continued, while, as a 
matter of course, attending to the king's 
affairs in general the Spanish marriage 
project among the rest 1 to uphold as best 
he could a cause which together with the 
large majority of Englishmen he had much 
more at heart than the furtherance of their 
Sovereign's matrimonial projects and the 
weaving of his other ropes of sand. The 
Venetian Signiory had remained anything 
but indifferent to the progress of affairs in 
the Empire. In March, 1618, Wotton had 

answer ready to the Spanish ambassador at Vienna 
(Ouate), when the latter quoted a despatch of Buck- 
ingham's as relieving the Spanish Government of any 
imputation of breach of faith in ordering the invasion 
of the Palatinate (Reliquicz, p. 526). 
1 Reliquia, p. 535 (1621). 
108 




BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 



been able to assure King James that the 
Republic was by no means disinclined to 
enter into a treaty with the Protestant 
Union, more especially (this is highly 
characteristic of Venetian policy) if she 
need not take the initiative ; * and later 
in the same year negotiations had been 
carried on between the Senate and the 
Duke of Savoy with a view to the loan by 
the former of some of its mercenaries in 
the same interest. 2 Late in 1621 or early 
in 1622, Wotton informed the Lord 
Keeper Williams that the Venetians were 
watching the progress of affairs, and look- 
ing forward to playing a part in them, but, 
if possible, without provoking Spain. 8 
And some time in 1622, as it would seem 
before the battles of Wimpfen and Hochst 
had proved fatal to the cause of the Pala- 
tine house, he, at the request of Frederick 
and with the implied or assumed sanction 
of James, made a direct appeal on its 

1 Gardiner, Letters etc.^ p. 50. 2 /., p. 167 ; cf. 
Ritter's essay, cited above, p. 275. 3 Reliquice^ p. 306. 
109 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

behalf to the Venetian Secretary of State. 1 
".His Majesty," said the ambassador, well 
acquainted as he was with the aversion 
entertained by the Signiory to overt ac- 
tion, " would be content with a silent 
contribution without noise." ,5,000 per 
mensem was the figure specified. But 
when, in reply, the Venetian official in- 
sinuated that his Government had already 
done something towards the support of the 
United Provinces, by paying subsidies for 

1 See the important despatch in Reliquiae, pp. 536 
segq. Wotton says that he was " the better enabled " 
to press his demand for some contribution to the 
support of Mansfeld's army on the part of Venice 
" by very careful instruction from Sir Dudley Carleton 
under cypher, of the whole business as it stood." It 
is possible that some particulars as to this transaction 
may be continued in the MS. notes by John Brydall, 
on affairs of State, collected from the letters of Sir 
Henry Wotton and Sir Dudley Carleton, preserved in 
the library of Queen's College, Oxford. The Provost 
mentions as likewise preserved there, a MS. book of 
state, also by Brydall, chiefly relating to questions of 
precedency among ambassadors of foreign States, 
from the relations of Sir Henry Wotton and other 
English ambassadors abroad, and a transcript of the 
Parallel between Essex and Buckingham adverted to 
below. 

110 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

Mansfeld's army, besides promising assist- 
ance to France and Savoy in the "Rhaetian 
business" (the projected invasion, I sup- 
pose, of the Tyrol), and that it expected 
to have to furnish further aid in the 
Grisons, Wotton shrugged his shoulders. 
Would the Secretary of State be good 
enough to furnish him with matter more 
substantial for report to his Sovereign ? 
" For philosophy, whose naked Principles 
I have studied more than Art of Language, 
has taught me, even in one of her most 
fundamental Maxims, that ex nihilo nihil 
fit'' He proved himself at times, we see, 
in practice, whatever he might profess to 
be in theory, a member of the plain- 
speaking school of diplomacy ; but he 
concurred with the Venetian minister in 
deeming it advisable to await in the first 
instance the " issue of this Rhaetian 
noise," which, in point of fact, by no means 
remained without tangible results. 1 

1 Viz., the Alliance of Paris between the Swiss 
Cantons, Savoy and Venice (1623), the detachment 
III 




SIR HENRY WOTTON 

But before these became manifest, Sir 
Henry Wotton's third and last embassy 
to Venice had come to an end, and Sir 
Isaac Wake, who had for some time been 
employed in negotiations with the Duke 
of Savoy, and looking out after the 
manner of even the best-natured diploma- 
tists for Sir Henry's place, had arrived 
to supersede him. 1 Of Wotton's minor 
diplomatic labours during his third am- 
bassadorial period at Venice some inci- 
dental notices have been preserved which 
show him to have continued active in 
endeavours harmonising with his religious 
tendencies. He is found exerting himself 
on behalf of an Englishman consigned to 
the prison of the Inquisition at Rome for 

of the Pratigau from the Tyrol, and the expulsion of 
the Spaniards from the Valtelline (1624). 

1 " Sir Henry Wotton," writes Wake to Bucking- 
ham in June, 1619, "is departed from Venice, without 
any purpose, as I understand, to returne thither any 
more. If he continue in the same minde," etc., etc. 
(Gardiner, Letters etc. , p. in). There is no reason 
for supposing that Wotton wished to quit his Venetian 
post, either in 161 6 or in 1622. 
112 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

circulating King James' irrepressible Apo- 
logy ;* and using his good offices at Venice, 
we do not know precisely to what end, in 
the matter of the return to Rome on his 
self-deluded mission of the ex-Archbishop 
of Spalato, with whom Wotton, like his 
friend Bedell, was unmistakably in sym- 
pathy. 2 I am not aware to what part of 



p. 314. 

2 An account of the return journey of De Dominis, his 
re-admittance into the Church of Rome by the Papal 
Nuncio at Brussels, his final difficulties at Rome with 
the Inquisition, and the posthumous proceedings against 
him there, will be found in Dalrymple's Memorials^ 
etc., pp. 140 seqq.) concluding with the not inappo- 
site comment that "too much, perhaps, has been said 
concerning a person whose fame greatly exceeded his 
literary and controversial merit." The problems 
suggested by his strange career are briefly discussed 
by Gardiner in his History of England^ etc., vol. iv., 
pp. 282 seqq. Walton, in his Life of Wotton^ refers 
to what the latter did by direction of King James 
with the Venetian State, concerning the Bishop of 
Spalato's return to the Church of Rome," but omits 
to particularise. King James, although he ultimately 
permitted, strongly objected to the ex-Archbishop's 
journey; yet Wotton must be concluded to have 
sought to smooth his way. Bedell is said to have 
corrected for De Dominis some of the blunders in 
113 i 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

Wotton's sojourn at Venice should be 
ascribed the Hymn written by him "in 
the time of a great sickness there," lines 
in which the spirit of courage finding ex- 
pression in almost every period of his 
existence is sustained by a spirit of hu- 
mility not less proper to so intrinsically 
noble a nature. " The errors of his wan- 
dering life," of which he speaks in this 
poem, never impaired his simple trustful- 
ness in a Strength that was not his own. 



his work De Republicd Ecclesiastic^ arising from his 
ignorance of Greek ; and in his curious discourse to 
the representatives of the Union at Heilbronn (ante, 
p. 101), Wotton reminds them "how greedy the 
Italians were of our Treatises in matter of controversie, 
and of divers ways that had been used both to excite 
and to satisfie that curiosity, both by the works of the 
Archbishop of Spalato, since his retirement into your 
Majestie's protection," and by a certain famous History 
of the Council of Trent (Reliquiae, p. 493). 



114 



FOR the moment, at the close of a period 
of public service which had extended 
(with intervals) over more than seventeen 
years, and had imposed upon him difficul- 
ties and responsibilities beyond the com- 
mon, Sir Henry Wotton found himself 
stranded. During these years he had been 
one of the busiest agents of a policy of 
mediation which had proved signally un- 
successful ; but so far as it had lain in him, 
he had laboured to give that policy a bias 
in better accordance with the national senti- 
ment. And, as should not be forgotten, he 
had achieved a conspicuous success at the 
post where he had been regularly accredited, 
by accomplishing what very able diploma- 
tists (including English diplomatists) have 
now and then been known to neglect, and 
making himself a persona gratissima to the 
Government whose goodwill he was in the 
first instance commissioned to gain. Al- 
115 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

though caution was the distinctive quality of 
the Venetian authorities, they had not re- 
fused to Wotton their confidence with re- 
gard to their relations with Rome and with 
Spain the importance of which relations 
to England hardly admitted of exaggera- 
tion. But now the time had come for him 
to discover what in turn we all of us have 
to discover, that no man is indispensable. 
Few diplomatists of his time had seen 
more Courts and cities ; few had negoti- 
ated more treaties ; and few had with 
greater readiness spent their all in the 
thankless service of the Crown. His Ger- 
man mission, as he wrote to one who had 
proved a friend in need, went near to 
plunging him into "a most irrecoverable 
ruine and shame." Even in Venice, as 
it would appear, he had lived "in an 
expence above his appointments." 2 Now, 
as I have said, he was stranded. " After 
seventeen years," he wrote to Buckingham, 

1 Reliquiae, pp. 353-4- 

2 Burnet's Life of Bedell, p. 30, 

116 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

upon whose patronage everything had by 
this time come to depend in the State, 
" of Foreign and continual employment, 
either ordinary or extraordinary, I am 
left utterly destitute of all possibility to 
subsist at home ; much like those Seal- 
fishes, which sometimes (as they say) over- 
sleeping themselves in Ebbing-water, feel 
nothing about them but a dry shoar when 
they awake. Which comparison I am fain 
to seek among those Creatures, not know- 
ing among men, that have so long served 
so gracious a Master, any one to whom I 
may resemble my unfortunate bareness." 
And, again, he more than once compares 
himself to the cripple in the Gospel, who 
lay so long by the Pool's side, and none 
would throw him in. 2 Scarcely any one, as 
we shall see, set a greater value than he 
did upon the blessings of rest and retire- 
ment, but though the higher life comes not 
by bread alone, bread is necessary for 
sheer subsistence. And bread, alas ! is not 

1 Reliquia^ p. 320. 2 /&, p. 318, 

117 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

earned easily when it has to be gained by 
begging and suing, as was only too well 
known to others besides Wotton, and not 
less abounding in merit than he, both in the 
days of King James, and in those of his 
great predecessor on the English throne. 

" Full little knowest thou, that hast not tride, 
What hell it is in suing long to bide : 
To lose good dayes, that might be better spent ; 
To wast long nights in pensive discontent ; 
To speed to-day, to be put back to-morrow ; 
To feed on hope, to pine with feare and sorrow ; 
To have thy Princess' grace, yet want her Peeres'; 
To have thy seeking, yet wait manie yeeres." 

Wotton, had it been of much immediate 
moment to him, might certainly have held 
himself assured of the "grace" the per- 
sonal goodwill of King James I., with 
whom nominally rested the decision of his 
suit. It has been seen how he had gained 
that goodwill by an act of daring devotion ; 
and he had retained it not only by indefatig- 
able service, but also by the intelligence 
the wit if you like which understands how 
to gratify where it serves. King James I 
do not know whether there was as much 
118 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

glass near Theobalds then as there is 
nowadays seems to have been interested 
in the cultivation of melons, and his am- 
bassador took care to send him from 
Venice selections of seeds, the fruit of 
which we have all seen so many boat-loads 
passing under the Rialto Bridge. And even 
more seasonable was Wotton's skill in 
humouring the King's belief in his own 
wit and wisdom by sallies or turns of 
phrase that seemed more or less overtly to 
appeal to them, and such as could be 
pointed out without difficulty in his letters 
and despatches designed for the royal eye, 
or again by so direct a tribute of recog- 
nition as the dedication of his projected 
Venetian history. But the King's favours 
were only to be obtained through the 
King's favourite; and it was on such kindly 
feelings as Buckingham might entertain 
towards him that Wotton's chances of a 
comfortable settlement for his declining 
years in point of fact depended. In the 
unfinished Parallel afterwards composed 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

by him between the patrons of his youthful 
and of his later fortunes, Essex and Buck- 
ingham, he declares himself " obnoxious to 
the memory " of the Duke " neque injurid 
neque beneficio " that is to say, he owed 
him neither a grudge for unkindness nor 
gratitude for benefits "saving that he 
showed me an ordinary good countenance." 
Although as a matter of course, Wotton's 
letters in the period of Buckingham's 
ascendancy show a constant mindfulness of 
the importance of conciliating the goodwill 
of the first man in the country, it would be 
utterly absurd to regard the execution of a 
commission for pictures, or even the pre- 
sentation of "two Boxes of poor things" in 
the light of prospective bribes, 1 or to 
enquire too narrowly into the literary sin- 
cerity of the high-flown compliments which 
Wotton addressed to him on his sick-bed. 2 

1 See the letters to Buckingham in Reliquia^ pp. 
315 and 304. 

2 There can, I presume, be no doubt that the 
lines To a Noble Friend in his Sickness are correctly 
superscribed in MS. Rawl. Poet, : " On the Duke of 

120 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

At a later date it fell to his lot to render a 
substantial service to Buckingham's good 
fame ; but this was performed as a plain 
piece of official work entrusted to him 
by royal command. 1 In his letters to 
Buckingham allowing for some courtly 
flourishes I can perceive no undue obse- 
quiousness or unworthy flattery ; while in 
the interesting biographical sketch which 
he afterwards put forth under the title of 

Buckingham sick of a fever." The following stanza, 
which is quite in the vein of the Fantastic School, more 
than one of whose poets shows a liking for images of 
the surgery or the sick-room, points unmistakably 
to him and his both roaming and politic ambition : 
" Had not that blood, which thrice his veins did yield, 

Been better treasured for some glorious day 
At farthest West to paint the liquid field, 

And with new worlds his Master's love to pay ? " 
1 To Wotton was committed in 1626, by order of the 
Privy Council, an enquiry into the evidence of an im- 
portant witness concerning the charges preferred against 
Buckingham in a book by Dr. George Eglesham, one 
of the King's physicians, of a design to poison the 
King and other personages of importance. See his 
letter to Buckingham (May, 1626), enclosing a copy 
of his report, in Reliquia^ pp. 545 seqq. Eglesham's 
libel seems to have helped to fire the disordered brain 
of Felton to his bloody deed (cf. Gardiner, History -, 
etc., vol. vi. p. 352). 

121 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

The Life and Death of the Duke of Buck- 
ingham his judgment of the most brilli- 
antly successful and most bitterly detested 
Englishman of his times is on the whole 
fair in spirit as well as dignified in tone. 1 
The change of Buckingham's popularity 
into its direct reverse seems to have 
affected Wotton as a philosopher rather 
than as a partisan ; nor can the pheno- 
menon have seemed other than para- 
doxical, that where two Kings in succession 
had never wavered in their trust, popular 
feeling should have chosen to prove fickle. 
When Sir Henry Wotton returned to 
England, he was promised, in addition to 
the reversion of a minor place of profit, 
the office of Master of the Rolls, so soon 
as Sir Julius Caesar's tenure of it should 
determine. Lawyers (and others) who 
chance to be sexagenarians sometimes dis- 

1 See also the Parallel between Buckingham and 
ssex, and the letter to the Queen of Bohemia cited 
ante, p. 88, note i. Wotton appears to have been 
signally impressed by the extraordinary revulsion in 
the popular sentiment towards Buckingham. 
122 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

like speculations as to the date of their 
dissolution ; and Sir Julius Caesar preferred 
to live on for an additional thirteen years. 
But Sir Henry Wotton had not in vain 
taken time by the forelock. Early in 
April, 1623, the Provost of Eton (who, 
like some other Scottish gentlemen of his 
day, had found preferment) was known to 
be sinking ; and the news of his approach- 
ing dissolution, in which Izaak Walton's 
rather unctuous phraseology seems almost 
to indicate a certain opportuneness, at once 
brought into the field many earnest and 
some important suitors for the succession. 
Pre-eminent among them was the late 
Lord Chancellor, the Viscount St. Albans, 
the half-fierce style of whose letter of appli- 
cation to the Secretary of State is under 
the circumstances half-pathetic. But the 
place had been promised beforehand to Sir 
William Becher ; and although even after 
the Provost's death there was still "some 
nibbling" at the appointment, Buckingham, 
after his return from Spain in October, 
123 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

declared himself " engaged " to the appli- 
cant in question, unless indeed some 
means could be found of giving him " satis- 
faction." We may surmise that this was 
the beginning of the really serious stage 
of the contest, in which from first to last 
quite a catalogue of competitors took part. 
Bacon was now left out of account, having, 
in the words of nis biographer, " nothing 
serious to give up." At one time or 
another it seems to have included, among 
others, Sir Robert Naunton, who had just 
resigned, or was resigning, the Secretary- 
ship of State ; Sir Dudley Carleton, a rival 
diplomatist and son-in-law to the deceased 
Provost's eminent predecessor, Sir Henry 
Savile; 1 and, oddly enough, Sir Henry 
Wotton's own favourite nephew and former 
Secretary at Venice, Sir Albertus Morton. 
Finding himself among a pleiad thus con- 
stituted, Wotton would, even apart from the 

1 Sir Dudley Carleton, like Sir Henry Wotton, 
appears to have applied for the reversion of the 
Provostship of Eton already on the occasion of Sir 
Henry Savile's illness in 1617. 
124 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

special instance of Viscount St. Albans, 
have been chargeable with affectation, had 
he, like the editor of his chief posthumous 
work, set down the vacant Provostship as 
"a place not considerable enough for a 
person of his merit." l The nodus lay in the 
means of "satisfying" Sir William Becher ; 
and these were furnished by Wotton, who 
placed at Buckingham's disposal the rever- 
sion promised to him of the Mastership of 
the Rolls, and thus enabled him to accom- 
modate Sir William by means of a further 
exchange of promises and preferments. 
In the end, Sir Henry Wotton had "his 
seeking," although he had to wait for it till 
June 24th, 1624, when he was duly elected 
Provost of Eton College, four days after 
a royal mandate had issued in his favour. 2 
Thus it befel that he entered into the 
haven destined to shelter him during the 

1 See the editorial Preface to The State of 
Christendom (1667). 

2 Cf., with Walton's Life, Spedding's Letters and 
Life of Francis Bacon, vol. vii. (1874), and Mr. Max- 
well Lyte's History of Eton College (1875). 

125 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

whole of the concluding period of his 
life, which most modern obituaries would 
promptly dismiss as fifteen years of un- 
eventful tranquillity. 

It is of these years that Izaak Walton, 
who wrote his obituaries in a rather dif- 
ferent spirit, has left us one of those pic- 
tures whose delicate tints only a very rash 
hand would attempt to retouch. What 
little therefore I have to add concerning 
this part of the life of Sir Henry Wotton, 
which was neither all idyll nor all elegy, 
but rather a more than commonplace 
conclusion of a more than commonplace 
career, must here be told with a concise- 
ness which even to natures less expansive 
than that of the friend of Wotton's old age 
will not I hope seem intentionally bald. 

Perhaps, therefore, I may be held ex- 
cused from dwelling on those little miseries 
which now and then but not,. I think, all 
things being considered, relatively very 
often or very seriously, interrupted the 
"soft running" of these years, bound 
126 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

Ocean-ward like the great English river 
on whose banks they were spent. When 
Wotton went down to Eton after being 
elected Provost, he was so ill-provided with 
money that the Fellows of the College 
were "fain to furnish his bare walls"; 
and some little time elapsed before he 
managed to obtain ^500 out of the arrears 
due to him of his official pay as an am- 
bassador. The income of the Provostship 
itself was meagre, consisting of but a fifth 
of the sum just named, in addition to 
board, lodging, and allowances ; and the 
Provost, like the Ambassador before him, 
seems never to have quite managed to 
make ends meet. On one occasion, in- 
deed, he was actually arrested for debt a 
strange vicissitude, we may think, to be- 
fall a Provost of Eton, but hardly to be 
reckoned as discreditable to him, since it 
happened to him when coming from the 
Lord Treasurer's, from whom he had been 
soliciting payment of a sum due to him 
on account of his services abroad, twenty 
127 




SIR HENRY WOTTON 

times greater than the claim which he was 
unable to answer. In that epoch incomes 
were most speedily augmented by profi- 
ciency in the art of begging a term more 
highly technical then than perhaps at any 
subsequent time ; and Wotton, as he writes 
late in his life, 1 owned himself " con- 
demned, he knew not how, by Nature to 
a kind of unfortunate bashfulness in his 
own Business." Still, he was not abso- 
lutely silent in his own behalf; and in 1628 
we find him laying before King Charles 
the whole tale of his pecuniary embarrass- 
ments, and asking for a small allowance 
reserved from the income of the Master- 
ship of the Rolls, and (he had by this time 
taken Holy Orders) " for the next good 
Deanery that shall be vacant by Death or 
Remove." 2 In the previous year the king 
had granted Wotton a pension of ^200, 
and this was in 1630 very generously 
raised to ^500, in order to enable him to 

1 To the Lord Treasurer Weston (Reliquia, p. 336). 

2 Reliquiae, pp. 562 seqq. 

128 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

write a History of England, and to obtain 
the requisite clerical assistance for the pur- 
pose. Yet to the last he was occasionally 
again obliged to resort to those pitiful 
appeals which must have been so irksome 
to his spirit of independence ; as late as 
1637 he is found making application to 
the King for the Mastership of the Savoy, 
should its present holder be promoted to 
the Deanery of Durham, and sending his 
letter through the hand of the Archbishop 
of Canterbury (Laud), " which in our 
lower Sphere is via lactea" l Fortun- 
ately for Wotton, in whose otherwise well- 
ordered career the course of his money 
affairs never seems to have run smooth, he 
possessed through the greater part of his 
life one " friend of trust," 2 upon whom 
he could depend for assistance in business 
transactions of all kinds, and who with 
that indefatigable unselfishness by which 
such good men are apt to ease the troubles 
of their so-called " betters," never failed to 

1 Reliqui<z> pp. 340-2. 2 /., p. 304. 

129 K 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

come forward in the hour of need with 
counsel or cash. The name of Nicholas 
Pey, one of the Clerks of the King's 
Kitchen, should find a place in every bio- 
graphical account of Sir Henry Wotton. 

I saw the other day in a newspaper a 
paragraph wherein the utmost astonish- 
ment was expressed that one of the most 
distinguished, as he is one of the most 
accomplished, of living English diplo- 
matists should, at the close of his period of 
active service, have retired to live the life 
of a country gentleman, looking after his 
own estates. The writer would doubtless 
have thought it more in accordance with 
the fitness of things, had this gifted man of 
action, as well as of letters, withdrawn into 
indolence and sunshine on the Riviera or 
the Bay of Naples. Not one of Sir Henry 
Wotton's fifteen years of retirement can 
have seemed long to him ; for his mind 
was one of those to which nothing is so 
intolerable as stagnation. The beginning 
of his philosophy of life was to abstain 
130 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

from looking back with unavailing regrets 
upon an era to which, when once aban- 
doned, there is, as every wise man who 
has " retired from business" knows, no 
returning. We find him, indeed, con- 
fessing to a friend : "Although I am now 
a retired and cloystered man, yet there 
still do hang upon me, I know not how, 
some reliques of a harking humor "* he 
means, a lingering fondness for political 
gossip which in his days there were no 
evening gazettes brought down to College 
to satisfy. As a matter of course, he 
shows an interest in diplomatic negotia- 
tions such as those in which Sir Thomas 
Roe a kindred spirit, and a devoted 
adherent like himself of the Queen of 
Hearts was sent to take part at Hamburg 
in 1637 or 1638, and which Wotton likens 
to "an Antiphone to the other malign 
Conjunction at Colen"'' He attentively 



p. 373. 

2 Preliminary peace-conferences were held at 
Hamburg and at Cologne between the Protestant and 
the Catholic powers respectively. 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

follows the progress of the great war, both 
in its fortunate turns, when Bernhard of 
Weimar was reported to have done miracles 
"upon the Danuby, the river sometimes of 
our merry passage," 1 and when the reviving 
prospects of the Palatine house once more 
became obscured. But "as for Novelties 
of State," he confessed himself to be little 
better than a rusticus expectans ; and as 
for hopes and fears concerning such 
things, he had come to rest in the con- 
viction : " the best philosophy is Voluntas 
tua fiat, DomineT 2 

His days at Eton were, however, very 
far from being spent, as he humorously 
pretends, in standing agape for "cold 
icesickles " of news from London. The 
College itself, to begin with, claimed no 
small share of his leisure, and he gave it 
most ungrudgingly. As a place both of 
learning and of education Eton had taken 

1 To John Dinely, December loth, 1633. (Reli- 
quicz, p. 569.) Wotton was at Linz in 1620, which 
may be the occasion referred to. 

2 Reliquia, pp. 569 (1633), 577-8 (1638). 

132 






A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 



a distinct step forward under Sir Henry 
Savile's provostship ; and everything 
tends to show that this advance was fully 
maintained under his next successor but 
one. 1 The elections of foundation scholars 
to Eton, and from Eton to King's, 
necessarily occupied the Provost and 
Fellows very largely ; and on such 
occasions they received letters and mes- 
sages enough to make them, as Wotton 
writes, " think themselves Electors of the 
Empire." 2 His own letters are full of 
references to this branch of his official 
responsibilities, although his was not the 
sort of spirit that derives inexhaustible 
gratification from the exercise of functions 
such as these. They were not made any 
the easier by the necessity of now and 
then resisting commendations from the 

1 Wotton himself in one of his letters (Reliquicc^ 
p. 451) seems to compare Westminster School with 
Eton rather to the advantage of the former ; but his 
point seems to be that the Westminster boys had a 
more certain chance of preferment to either of the 
two Universities. 2 Reliquia^ p. 567. 

133 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

Crown or from its principal ministers, or 
by the hardship of having to reject a 
protege of the Queen of Bohemia because 
he had made the mistake of being born at 
Delft. 1 In addition to the King's Scholars, 
however, Eton was already in those days 
much frequented by boys not on the 
foundation, then called " commensals," 
many of whom appear to have been the 
sons of noble families. 2 The Provost 
adopted the practice of taking from time to 
time boys out of the School to reside in 
his own Lodge, where they enjoyed the 
advantage of daily intercourse with him. 
In the School at large he showed a warm 
and continuous interest, paying frequent 
visits to it and encouraging the scholars 
with pregnant words of wisdom ; and it 
was he who was at the pains of adorning 
the wooden pillars of the Lower Chamber 
with pictures of the great classic authors, 
so as to make it a kind of House of Fame 

1 See the case at length, Rcliquia. p. 570, seqq. 

2 See Mr. Maxwell Lyte, n.s. 

134 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

in miniature. 1 Among the Fellows of the 
College we may gather that the new 
Provost was popular from the first. As 
time went on, he became intimately 
associated with the most learned scholar 
and original thinker in the Society, 
" our Bibliotheca ambulans, as I use to 
call him " 2 the " ever memorable " John 
Hales. Sir Henry Wotton, we cannot 
doubt, was attracted to this most interest- 
ing personage by something more than 
the profound resources of his learning ; 
to such as these he could not himself 
pretend, but he shared with John Hales 
an irrepressible desire for intellectual free- 
dom and an impatient abhorrence of vain 
dogmatic disputations. 

Not long after his election to the 
Provostship, Sir Henry Wotton had taken 
Deacon's Orders. Should there perchance 

1 See Walton's Life. 

2 Reliqiii<Z) p. 475 (1638). In the interesting 
notice of John Hales by Dr. W. Wallace in Sir Henry 
Craik's English Prose, vol. ii. p. 184, the authorship 
of this designation sterns to be attributed to Wood. 

135 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

seem anything strange in this proceeding 
it must be remembered, in the first place, 
that ordination was required from the 
Provost by the Statutes of the College, 
and that Wotton is therefore to be com- 
mended for not having, like some other 
Heads, left the Statutes to take care of 
themselves. He exhibited, indeed, moral 
courage in braving the comments which 
then, as now, are bestowed on any act 
that is unusual, whether or not it is in 
itself warranted ; and, in words which 
well became both his new and his old 
profession, he expressed a hope, that 
" Gentlemen and Knights' Sons, who are 
trained up with us in a Seminary of 
Church-men (which was the will of the 
Holy Founder) will, by my example 
(without vanity be it spoken), not be 
ashamed, after the sight of Courtly 
Weeds, to put on a Surplice." In the 
same very striking letter to the King, 1 
while modestly deprecating, under the 
cZ) p. 328. 

136 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

special circumstances of his ordination, 
any intention of assuming a cure of souls, 
he avows himself unwilling to "sit and 
do nothing in the Porch of God's House, 
whereinto he is entred." But his private 
study would have to be "his Theater 
rather than a Pulpit, and his Books his 
Auditors, as they were all his Treasure." 
If it should be in his power to do so, he 
would utilise both his reading and his long 
experience abroad in an exposure of the 
" arts and practices " of Rome ; and 
should he prove unable to " produce any- 
thing else for the use of Church and 
State, yet it would be comfort enough to 
the little remnant of his life to compose 
some Hymns unto His endless glory, 
Who had called him, though late, to His 
Service, yet early to the knowledge of His 
truth, and sense of His mercy." These 
passages appear to me to throw a very 
searching light upon the deeper workings 
of Sir Henry Wotton's mind; and so much 
of a piece are all its labours and their 
137 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

products, that no words could more fit- 
tingly than those which I have cited 
introduce what little remains to be added 
about his literary writings. 

It is impossible to assert that, as a 
whole, these admit of being described as 
worthy of his powers. We may attach no 
very special tributes paid to the abilities 
in question by Sir Richard Baker, the 
Chronicler, and Thomas Bastard, the Epi- 
grammatist ; we may refuse to allow our- 
selves to be overpowered either by the 
turgid panegyric of Cowley, 1 or by the 
statement almost an epitaph in itself 
that Bacon made a collection of his kins- 
man's apophthegms. But there is not much 
that Wotton has left behind him, either 
in prose or in verse, which does not bear 
the stamp of his individuality, or, in other 
words, which is without a style of its own. 

1 Cowley was always going beyond himself in one 
way or another. This elegy contains two tours de 
force of this sort : 

" lie's gone to heav'n on his fourth embassy"; 
and 

" He dy'd lest he should idle grow at last." 

138 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

Nor am I aware what else it is that makes 
a writer interesting (though many other 
things may make him instructive or 
amusing), and how else this result is to 
be achieved, than by letting your heart 
and soul flow into your pen. Wotton 
cannot in reason have at any time ex- 
pected a solid literary reputation from 
what he had actually produced ; indeed, 
on one occasion, when something that 
he had contrived to bring up to the stage 
of publication had attracted a certain 
amount of attention at Oxford and Cam- 
bridge, as well as at Brussels, he declared, 
with unfeigned astonishment, how he had 
hitherto " thought in good faith, that as 
he had lived (he thanked God) with little 
Ambition, so he could have died with as 
much Silence as any man in England. 1 
And perhaps it is not matter for much 
marvelling, that when at a time of life 
rarely coinciding with the height of a 
man's productive energy the requisite 

1 Reliquur, pp. 358-9. 
139 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

leisure came to him at last, he should have 
proved far more ready to plan and design 
in the way of authorship than to carry into 
execution. His chief politico-historical 
work, The State of Christendom, which 
has been already briefly described, 1 was 
written in the years of his prime ; and in 
this branch of composition, for which he 
was from more than one point of view 
specially qualified, he never completed 
anything worth placing by the side of his 
firstfruits. The biographical sketches of 
Buckingham and Essex, and one or two 
other attempts of the same description, 
although always readable and freely 
adorned by wise and witty passages, fall 
short even of the force of outline such as 
we might imagine to have been developed 
into portraits like Clarendon's. The 
politics of Sir Henry Wotton's later days, 
though still exciting his interest, never 
seriously occupied his pen ; and the one 
exception that might perhaps be cited, the 

1 Ante, pp. 36-40. 
140 




BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 



Panegyrick to King Charles, addressed 
to that sovereign on his return from his 
coronation in Scotland (1633), was 
written in Latin, and put into English by 
another hand after the King's death. 1 The 
piece is curious, although perhaps less 
creditable to the author's insight into the 
signs of the times at home than to a 
certain candour of soul that rises above 
flattery. He holds the King fortunate in 
not having been born to the crown ; in 
having succeeded to the hopes surround- 
ing an elder brother who was the nation's 
darling ; in having been at first himself 
weak of body. The moral discipline of 
such circumstances as these would hardly 
have been suggested by a mere courtier as 
a theme of congratulations. On the other 
hand, the panegyrist is well within the 
limits of both subjective and objective 
veracity when he sympathetically praises 
in Charles his religious mind, and the 
sincerity of his good intentions towards 

1 See the title-page in Reliquia^ p. 135. 
141 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

both Church and people. 1 When, in the 
course of the same essay or address, he 
extols the king more particularly for having 
suppressed debate on ''high points of the 
creed, which pulpits and pens might have 
overrun," we are constrained to hold our 
breath ; for what was the meaning of this 
allusion to the Declaration issued by 
Charles I. in 1628 but a plea for the view 
of Laud and of some honest men who 
have lived after Laud that the duty of 
the clergy lies in the enforcement of rules 
of conduct rather than in the discussion of 
points of dogma? 2 "In my opinion," 

1 There are some other points in this Panegyrick 
which seem to me discriminating and true, but 
which are hardly noticeable in the same degree as 
that adverted to above. The writer shows his loyalty 
to both the king and the principles of monarchical 
government in praising the constancy of Charles to- 
wards Buckingham. He little dreamt how dearly the 
king would have to pay for being driven out of his 
constancy towards Strafford. 

2 Cf. the observations on the King's Declaration 
(1628) in Gardiner's History of England, etc., vol. 
vii. pp. 20, seqq. Among Sir Henry Wotton's poems 
is an Ode to the King> written on the same occasion 
of his return from Scotland. 

142 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

exclaims Wotton, " the itch of disputation 
is the scab of the Churches." The saying, 
to which we shall find him recurring with 
complacency when thinking of his end, 
may have a harsh and unpleasant sound 
in our ears ; but St. Paul had said much 
the same thing in nobler words : " Where- 
as there is among you envying, and strife, 
and divisions, are ye not carnal ? " 

To Wotton's fragmentary contributions 
to the history of Venice, of which he had 
at one time proposed to lay a connected 
narrative at the feet of King James, I need 
not in this place return ; their quality is 
here and there of the finest, but their 
quantity is altogether disappointing. Pro- 
bably most historical students will agree 
with me in the wish that Wotton had kept 
his promise to King James, rather than 
entered into a fresh undertaking, destined 
to remain even more utterly barren, to 
write a History of England at the request 
of King Charles. Of this nothing re- 
mains but assuredly something further 
M3 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

must at least have been sketched beyond 
a brief character of William the Con- 
queror, and a few sentences apparently 
designed for the opening of a life of 
Henry VI. This latter fragment possesses 
a mournful interest ; for it seems to have 
been indited as a kind of protest against 
the numbness of hand, which in old age is 
not always dissociated from the velleities 
of activity. " There is but little difference 
between those who are silent and those 
who are dead " ; surely it argues at least 
the consciousness of a literary mind to be 
so sensitive to the irony of this last dis- 
tinction without a difference. In favour 
of this History of England, which was 
never written, Wotton had relinquished the 
project of a Life of Luther, of the ardour 
of whose very style he seemed in his 
earlier days to have caught the contagion. 1 

1 I cannot refrain from quoting a passage from one 
of Wotton's letters from Italy to Lord Zouch (1592) 
in illustration of the above remark : " I have seen her " 
her of the Apocalypse "mounted on her chair, 
gazing on the ground, reading, speaking, attir'd and dis- 
144 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

But one may be pardoned for hinting that 
one would have sacrificed even the Life of 
Luther for the Life of Donne, for which 
Wotton in his last years requested Izaak 
Walton to supply him with materials. 
They served eventually for the earliest of 
Walton's own inimitable five biographies ; 
but something has been lost in the record 
of the personal life of a man of genius, 
which was to have been written by one 
who had known and loved him before he 
underwent the refinement of affliction and 
ascesis. 

Together with the entertaining although 
intrinsically unimportant Elements of 
Architecture ', and the opening section all 
that was printed of the Survey of Educa- 
tion (much to be commended to the votaries 

rob'd by the Cardinals ... in both her Mitres, 
in her Triple-Chair, in her Lectica, on her Moyl, at 
Mass and lately in public consistory. ... Of 
Rome, in short, this is my Opinion, That her Delights 
on Earth are sweet, and her Judgments in Heaven 
heavy. " Compare Luther's memoranda of his visit to 
Rome in 1511 (Kostlin, Martin Luther (1883) II. 
Buch, 2. Kapitel). 

145 L 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

of the new branch of research known as 
Child-Study, and also to the adherents of 
the ancient theory that what a child does 
not like it must lump), as well as with a 
religious Meditation or two, dating from 
his later years, the above list comprises 
nearly all the known prose compositions, 
forming each a separate whole, executed, 
begun or planned by Sir Henry Wotton. 
It would, however, be to pass by one of 
the most characteristic products of his pen, 
were I to omit a special reference to the 
so-called Aphorisms of Education, which in 
the Reliquice Wottoniance are subjoined to 
the unfinished survey of the same endless 
theme, and which I have more than once 
put under incidental contribution in the 
course of the present sketch. Bacon, we 
remember, himself a master of gnomic 
wisdom, collected Wotton's aphorisms ; 
and there was probably no literary form 
better suited to his genius than this, 
wherein his age took so great a delight, 

unless it were the cognate form of 
146 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

characters, in which so many of his con- 
temporaries, from observers like Earle and 
Overbury to the great historical writer 
whose name has already been mentioned, 
succeeded in excelling. Both forms were 
in harmony with the sententious tendencies 
of the silver age of our English Renascence, 
and not less significant of the decay among 
us of that far mightier literary form, the 
Elizabethan drama, of which they may be 
regarded as partial reminiscences. But this 
by the way. In Wotton's case everything 
combined to perfect in him the art of pithy 
and pregnant diction : the literary tastes 
of his age to which I have just referred ; 
his personal experience of the profession 
of an ambassador, or (as the office was 
still designated from one of its chief func- 
tions) an orator ; and the leisurely habits 
of his later years at Eton, when he would 
never finish a visit to the School without, 
in Walton's words, "dropping some choice 
Greek or Latin apophthegm or sentence 
that might be worthy of a room in the 
147 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

memory of a growing scholar." The 
Aphorisms of Education are in my judg- 
ment of rare excellence, wise without un- 
called-for solemnity, shrewd without an 
unpleasant flavour of cynicism ; but the 
liking for strings of polished stones is an 
acquired one, and some of us have never 
been able to acquire it. The strong witti- 
ness of style for 'which this production is 
pre-eminently noticeable will, however, be 
found exemplified in a less provocative 
fashion in almost every page of Wotton's 
prose. It brings his set compositions 
home to us with the ease of familiar letters, 
while his letters in their turn impress their 
purpose with the force of oratorical design. 
His pen is never at a loss for simile or 
metaphor, now bold, now homely, but 
always telling, and introduced without 
effort as pearls are cast up by the sea. 
Does he press his counsels upon the im- 
movable Signiory, he calls it ''digging 
in a rock of diamonds " ; is he hopelessly 
entangled in an Eton scholarship election, 
148 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

he professes himself "as intricate as a 
Flea in a bottom of Flax " ; is he sending 
from Italy to his beloved nephew, Sir 
Edmund Bacon, a bunch of everlastings, 
they are " in Winter and Summer the 
same, and therein an excellent type of a 
Friend " ; is he watching the restless 
competition at Court for place and pay, 
" methinks we are all overclouded with 
that sleep of Jacob, when he saw some 
ascending and some descending ; but that 
those were Angels, and these are Men. 
For in both, what is it but a Dream ? " 
Of the above examples, taken almost at 
random from his correspondence, the last 
two may also serve to remind us of the 
poetic instincts which were to the last alive 
in Wotton, but for which he had found so 
few opportunities of direct expression that 
it seems difficult to claim for him any 
distinct place of his own among our 
English poets. 

Yet that he should be included in their 
band there can be no manner of doubt. 
149 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

The true touch is to be found, not only 
in the lovely stanzas dedicated to the Royal 
Mistress of his fancies, or in the pungent 
lines on the inconstancy of a lady of less 
high degree, to which I do not propose 
to return. Wherever his verse has a 
religious cast, it seems, notwithstanding 
the elaboration of phrase that was com- 
mon to all the courtly poets of the earlier 
Stuart period, to come from the heart to 
the heart. Such, for instance, is the effect 
made upon me by a poem of Wotton's 
later years, the Tears at the Grave of Sir 
Albertas Morton^ his nephew and the 

1 The death of Sir Albertas Morton appears to 
have taken place in 1625. As to the distinguished 
career of this diplomatist, who was secretary to the 
Princess Elizabeth when at Heidelberg, and, after 
filling other diplomatic posts, ultimately rose to be 
one of the Secretaries of State, see Wood, vol. ii. 
p. 253. In 1628 Wotton sent the King, through 
his friend, her secretary, John Dinely, the epitaph on 
Lady Morton, who had been married to Sir Albertas 
in 1624, and survived him for two years only : 
"He first deceased. She for a little tryed 

To live without him : liked it not, and dyed." 
Since Wotton commends the epitaph as " worth the 
Queen's hearing, for the passionate plainness," it 
150 



BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

companion of his earliest official labours 
at Venice, whom he seems to have loved 
with a peculiar tenderness, and who was 
himself an accomplished man and a writer 
of verse : 

" Dwell thou in endless light, discharged soul, 

Freed now from Nature's and from Fortune's 

trust, 

While in this fluent globe my glasse shall role, 
And run the rest of my remaining dust." 

And in the celebrated lines entitled The 
Character of a Happy Life, which may 
with certainty be assigned to Wotton, and 
which Ben Jonson told Drummond of 
Hawthornden he had by heart, 1 Wotton's 
muse may fairly be held to have soared to 
the greatest height within the reach of her 
wings. No doubt it may be said with 

cannot have been by him, and indeed it is in the 
Reliquicc (p. 560) marked as " Authoris Incerti." 

1 By a slip of the tongue or pen he is made to 
attribute it to Sir Edward Wotton. See Conversa- 
tions^ edited for the Shakespeare Society by D. Laing 
(1842). In a note reference is made to the copy 
of these verses, taken from the original in Ben Jon- 
son's handwriting in Collier's Memoirs of Edward 
Alleyn^ as varying materially from the copies as printed 
in the several editions of the Reliquice.. 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

truth that such a poem as this is in 
some sense, like the Characters and the 
Aphorisms touched upon above, a pro- 
duct of the age whose mark it bears, and 
again that neither in depth nor in fire 
can it compare with Wordsworth's Happy 
Warrior, which it can hardly fail at once 
to call to the mind of any English reader. 
Yet it is not the less a beautiful poem, 
and the genuine aspiration of a noble and 
manly soul, which among all the changes 
and chances of the world had not alien- 
ated the God-given power of possessing 
itself in quiet : 

" How happy is he born and taught 
That serveth not another's will ; 
Whose armour is his honest thought, 
And simple truth his utmost skill ; 
Whose passions not his masters are ; 

Whose soul is still prepared for death, 
Untied unto the world by care 
Of public fame or private breath. 
# # * * 

This man is freed from servile bands 

Of hope to rise or fear to fall : 
Lord of himself, though not of lands, 

And, having nothing, yet hath all." 1 

1 In a letter to Notes and Queries, vol. ix. p. 421 

152 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

While every ear recognises the true 
ring in a poetic philosophy such as this, 

(May 6th, 1854), Mr. J. Macray pointed out "the 
almost perfect identity of these verses with some in- 
cluded in the Geistliche und Weltliche Gedichte of 
George Rudolf Weckherlin, a German poet contem- 
porary with Wotton. The two men must have come 
into personal contact with one another j for after leav- 
ing Germany, possibly in the suite of the Elector Pala- 
tine, Weckherlin was in 1620 appointed Secretary of 
the so-called German Chancery a department, as we 
should say, of the Foreign Office which was in that 
year established in London ; and here, after being in 
1644 appointed Secretary for Foreign Tongues, and 
in 1649 superseded in this office by Milton, he died 
in 1653. Inasmuch as his first volume of verse was 
not published before 1616, and his Geistliche und 
Weltliche Gedichte not till 1641 (with a preface dated 
1639), the probability that Wotton's lines were the 
original, and Weckherlin's a translation, ot the Char- 
acter of a Happy Man, amounts almost to a certainty. 
Wotton's poem is said by Dr. Hannah to have been 
printed in 1614, together with Overbury's Wife, and 
to have been traced at Dulwich (I presume by Collier) 
with the date 1616. 

Weckherlin occupies a notable position in the his- 
tory of German poetic literature ; but there is much 
difficulty in determining the relative claims of Opitz 
and himself to the introduction of certain reforms in 
versification. See Koberstein's Grundriss, vol. i. 
(1847), p. 565 ; and cf. Hermann Fischer's interesting 
notice of Weckherlin in Allgemeine Deutsche Bio- 
153 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

the almost theatrical cynicism of the well- 
known lines beginning 

"The world's a bubble, and the life of man 
Less than a span," 

has to my ear no solid sound ; and the 
rather pompous rhetoric of the companion 
heroics superscribed A Farewell to the 
Vanities of the World almost conveys the 
impression of an additional vanity. But 
neither of these two pieces, nor a small 
group of others which have been carelessly 
ascribed to Wotton, possess any claim to 
be considered his ; and the question as to 
their authorship need not be pursued 
here. 1 He cannot, I fear, be relieved of 

graphic, vol. xli. (1896). I have not yet succeeded 
in seeing Conz, Nachrichten von dem Leben und den 
Schriften R. Weckherlirfs (1803). 

1 They were not printed by Dyce in his edition 
of Sir Henry Wotton's Poems (Percy Society 's Ptib- 
lications, vol. vi., 1842) ; but they find a place, not, 
however, without the necessary notes and queries, 
in the Poems of Sir Henry Wotton included by 
Dr. Hannah in a delightful volume (1891) with 
those of Sir Walter Raleigh, and of other Courtly 
Poets. Most of them were printed in the Re- 
liquice as "found among Sir Henry Wotton's 

154 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

the responsibility for one or two common- 
place ditties in honour of King Charles, 
and of the birth of his hopeful heir ; but 
we shall prefer to bid good-bye to him as a 
poet "on a Banck as he sate a-fishing." 
This pretty picture drawn to the life 
of an English country scene let us say, 
near a turn of Thames below the Eton 
Playing-fields l is said by Izaak Walton 
to have been composed by the Provost 
of Eton when beyond seventy years of 
age, and cannot in any case have been 
written more than a very few years before 

papers," some of them with the signature " Ignoto" 
which need not be taken to imply more than its 
literal meaning. The Description of the Country's 
Recreations, referred to in my text, bears this signa- 
ture ; but it is cited as " doubtless made either by Sir 
Henry Wotton, or by a lover of angling " in The 
Compleat Angler, where Piscator recites to Victor, 
at the close of their communings, in an arbour 
at Tottenham, over "a bottle of sack, and milk and 
oranges and sugar, which, put together, made a 
drink too good for anybody but anglers." 

1 Wotton and Walton were, according to Mr. Max- 
well Lyte, in the habit of fishing together at Black 
Potts, on the Thames, just below the Playing-fields, 
still a frequent resort of the fish. 
155 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

his death. These sunny lines, which have 
something about them of Marvell's most 
charming manner, are to me far more 
attractive than the more celebrated De- 
scription of the Country s Recreations, 
which may or may not have been written 
by Wotton, but which, though not devoid 
of a touch or two of genuine poetry, 
strikes me as not altogether in a vein 
characteristic of him. In the simpler 
piece we seem almost to stand face to face 
with him as on the fair spring morning he 
glances along the river bank for the com- 
panion of " his idle time, not idly spent" : 

"And now all nature seemed in love; 
The lusty sap began to move; 
New juice did stir the embracing vines, 
And birds had drawn their valentines ; 
The jealous trout that low did lie, 
Rose at a well-dissembled fly : 
There stood my friend with patient skill, 
Attending of his trembling quill." 

The friend was, of course, no other than 

Izaak Walton in proprid persona, to whom 

Wotton's verse and Wotton himself owe 

not a little of their celebrity ; who 

156 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

collected his literary remains ; who nar- 
rated his life in the monograph, full of 
both dignity and piety, which I have so 
freely used in this sketch ; and who found 
another fit place for his praise in that 
English classic, The Compleat Angler. 
Perhaps it may be reckoned as a service 
rendered by Sir Henry Wotton to our 
national literature, that he never carried 
out the intention attributed to him by 
Walton of writing a discourse of the art of 
which he was a dear lover, and in praise of 
angling; "and doubtless," adds this guile- 
less friend and admirer, " he had done so, 
if death had not prevented him." For 
had Wotton's book not proved stillborn, 
Izaak Walton might have left his own 
unwritten ; and we should have lost a 
picture-book of English life unique in the 
charm of its sweet simplicity. 

The friendship between this oddly, but 
most happily assorted pair, and the sur- 
roundings amidst which they enjoyed the 
peaceful pleasures of their intercourse, 
157 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

form one of the most attractive of the 
episodes in the life of Sir Henry Wotton. 
Izaak Walton was so richly endowed with 
the gift of reverence and of that sympa- 
thetic appreciativeness which is often only 
another word for the same thing, that it 
seems quite out of place to wonder how 
he, a simple London tradesman, could 
become the very embodiment of some of 
the most romantic elements in the spirit of 
the Caroline age. As to the author of a 
justly celebrated romance of our own days, 
in which one side of the life of those of 
Charles I. is revived with true imaginative 
power, so to Walton everything came 
directly home that was morally ennobling 
and refining in contemporary English 
churchmanship ; nor could he look other- 
wise than with repugnance upon the revolt 
which anathematised his ideals. 1 The 

1 The passage in Walton's Life of Bishop Sander- 
son^ cited in Zouch's Life of Izaak Walton, seems 
worth citing again : " When I look back upon the 
ruin of families, the bloodshed, the decay of common 
honesty, and how the former piety and plain dealing 
158 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

force of such a repugnance as this should 
be taken into account in estimating the 
sentiments which were entertained by 
many gentle-hearted and sober-minded 
men towards the revolution imminent in 
the closing period of Wotton's life, and 
which were very outspokenly shared by 
himself. It is needless to multiply 
illustrations of a feeling intelligible 
enough, at all events in its' foundations ; 
but I may quote a passage from one of the 
very last of the letters remaining from 
his hand, and written when the Scotch 
Covenanters and Charles I. were actually 
levying war upon one another, and when 
they had been openly charged by their 
Sovereign with a desire to overthrow his 
authority on the pretence of religion : 

" The Covenanters in Scotland, they say, will have 
none but Jesus Christ to reign over them. A Sacred 

of this now sinful nation is turned into cruelty and 
cunning ; when I consider that, I praise God that He 
prevented me from being of that party which helped 
to bring in the covenant, and those sad confusions 
that followed it." 

159 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

Cover of the deepest Impiety. God open their eyes, 
and soften their hearts. . . . Never was there 
such a stamping and blending of Rebellion and 
Religion together." 1 

Perfectly at one in their political opinions 
and religious convictions, this pair of 
worthies equally agreed in that calm 
enjoyment of nature which descends upon 
most of us in the evening of our lives, 
whereas youth, without thinking much 
harm, skips over this and similar blessings. 
Izaak Walton, it should be remembered, 
was by some quarter of a century the 
junior of Sir Henry Wotton ; but his 
inborn gravity of disposition, through 
which his humour twinkles at moments 
like the stars through a half-veiled sky, 
must have rendered him a fit companion 
for an expansive old age like that of his 
much-experienced friend. In The Corn- 
pleat Angler, occasional testimony is 
borne to Wotton's observation of bio- 
logical facts ; but even apart from this, it 
would be difficult to doubt the truthfulness 

1 Reliquia^ p. 580 (April 21, 1639). 
160 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

of the cabinet-picture of him presented in the 
same delightful book, 1 to be subsequently 
enlarged into a full length : 

" That undervaluer of money, the late Provost of 
Eaton Colledg, Sir Henry Wotton (a man with whom 
I have often fish'd and convers'd), a man whose 
forraign employments in the service of this nation, 
and whole experience, learning, wit and cheerfulness, 
made his company to be esteemed one of the delights 
of mankind ; this man, whose very approbation of 
angling were sufficient to convince any modest 
censurer of it, 2 this man was also a most dear lover, 
and a frequent practicer of the art of angling." 

1 I quote from the reprint of the 1653 edition. 

2 It may be noted in passing that against whatever 
kind of censure Izaak Walton may have been anxious 
to defend his favourite pastime, no conception of its 
partaking in any degree of the immorality imputed 
to field-sports ever so much as entered his mind. 
Could he have supposed any "censurer" capable of 
questioning the humanity, as towards the fish, of 
one who joyed to gaze upon their very shape and 
enamell'd hues, agreeing with Solomon that every- 
thing is beautiful, just because the fish might 
chance to have a hook in his mouth, and to have 
been baited with a live frog? Or would he have 
pleaded, as to the latter, that he had taken care to 
enjoin upon the novice to tie the frog's leg above the 
upper joint to the armed wire, with the precaution : 
" Use him as though you loved him, that is, harme 
him as little as you may possibly, that he may live 
the longer " ? 

161 M 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

And he goes on to say that the descrip- 
tion of the spring morning quoted above, 
composed in the last year of the writer's 
life, warrants the earnest belief that 
" peace, and patience, and a calm content 
did cohabit in the cheerful heart of Sir 
Henry Wotton." 

According to the same unimpeachable 
authority, the aged Provost was often 
heard to say that he " would rather live 
five May months than forty Decembers." 
But after he had written the lightsome 
lines, in which an English May seems to 
blossom up before our eyes, he was but 
once again to "welcome the new-liveried 
year." When the strength of his man- 
hood had given way, he had begun to 
confess to his faithful " Nic" and others, 
how he occasionally suffered from the 
spleen and other complaints ; and, retaining 
an active mind even in such matters, he 
had tried divers remedies, both English 
and Italian. But until nearly the last he 
seems to have changed few of the ordinary 
habits of his life, continuing to pay an 
162 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

annual visit to the place of his birth in 
Kent, and another to Oxford. 1 Two 
years before his death he was still, as an 
incorrigible man of letters, reviving old 
plans of publications and projecting new ; 
he has, so he writes, "divers things in 
wild sheets" (a phrase of which few 
authors will fail to appreciate the force), 
" that think and struggle to get out, of 
several kinds, some long promised, and 
some of a newer conception." 2 At the 
same time he was carrying on his corre- 
spondence with old friends and new, 
among the former mindful as ever of the 
Queen of Bohemia and her dependants, 
and among the latter writing only in 1638 
to Mr. John Milton. This distinguished 
young scholar, who had of late resided 
at his father's house in the village of 
Horton, about five miles from Eton, was 
about to start on a continental tour, and 

1 "An Academy," he writes to the Queen of 
Bohemia before going up to the Encania in 1636, 
" will be the best Court for my Humor." 

P- 338. 

2 /*, p. 468(1637). 

163 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

had waited upon the Provost with a view 
to advice such as might still prove by no 
means supererogatory, and such as no man 
in England was better qualified to give. 
Milton had been so much gratified by 
the urbanity of his reception, that he had 
transmitted to the Provost a copy of his 
masque of Coimts, published without the 
author's name in the preceding year. 
Mention has already been made above of 
the excellent advice given to the young 
traveller by the veteran diplomatist as 
to the profitableness at Rome of discre- 
tion in speech. 1 Curiously enough, al- 
though Milton seems to have borne the 
hint in mind at Rome, he forgot it at 

1 No date is attached to Wotton's letter to Dr. 
Castle, Reliquiae^ pp. 361 seqq. ; but although it was 
probably written a year or two before the celebrated 
letter to Milton, it contains a passage illustrating the 
phenomenon (noticeable even in greater writers) of 
unintentional self-repetition. "When a Friend of 
mine, that was lately going towards your City, fell 
usually into some discourse with me, how he should 
cloath himself there, I made some sport to tell him 
(for a little beguiling of my Melancholy Fumes) that 
in my opinion the cheepest stuff in London was 
Silence. But this concern eth neither of us both, 
164 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

Naples. 1 But of far deeper interest than 
the man of the world's sagacious warning 
is the cordial recognition offered by one 
who had gained a transitory access to 
the secret of true lyric effect, to the 
youthful master-hand which held the key 
to that secret in paramount ownership. 
He would, writes Wotton, much commend 
the dialogue of Comus, but that he was 
ravished by the lyrical passages of the 
poem, "whereunto I must plainly confess 
to have seen yet nothing parallel in our 
language." Divination of this sort is the 
supreme sort of criticism ; the mere 
manner of phrasing or " putting " such a 

for we know how to speak and write safely, that 
is honestly. Always, if we touch any tender matter, 
let us remember his Motto, that wrote upon the 
Mantle of his Chimney, where he used to keep a good 
fire, Optimus Secretariorum" 

1 Manso, the friend of Tasso, who received Milton 
with signal courtesy in his villa, proffered his excuses 
to the young traveller for having failed to show him 
greater attention, on the ground that he had not 
been able to do so in Naples, " because I " (Milton) 
" would not be more close in the matter of religion." 
See Masson's Life of Milton, vol. i. (new edition),, 
p. 815. 

165 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

prompt and complete recognition is (with 
all respect to those whose professional 
duty obliges them to catch the eye before 
finding their way to the mind) a matter 
of very secondary importance. 1 And the 
praise was not the less honourable to him 
who accorded it, because the Puritan spirit 
I might say, the Puritan moral of 
Comus could remain no secret to Sir 
Henry Wotton, who, as he says in so 
many words in a letter of this very year, 
1638, had no desire to be thought a 
Puritan. 2 In literature, as in divinity, the 

1 It is touching to find one of the finest, as he was 
one of the most fearless, of English poetical critics of 
our own age, in his last book, the Second Series of his 
Golden Treasury^ apply Wotton's praise of Milton's 
lyric verse Ipsa mollilies to a poet (O'Shaughnessy) 
whom as yet there have been but " few to praise." 

2 The passage, in a letter to Sir Edmund Bacon, 
dated December 5, 1638, concerning a contem- 
porary Women's Question in the University of Cam- 
bridge, of which the incidents had been communicated 
to him by the Provost of King's, may be worth 
extracting : (I know nothing about the Christopher 
Goad here referred to ; possibly he was a kinsman of 
Dr. Thomas Goad, of King's, who appears to have 
died in the previous August.) It concerns " a weekly 

166 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

soul of Wotton turned instinctively to- 
wards 

" those happy climes that lie 
Where day never shuts his eye 
Up in in the broad fields of the sky." 1 

In the summer of the last year of his life 
1639 Sir Henry Wotton, instead of 
paying his annual visit to Oxford, betook 

lecture" at Cambridge, "performed heretofore by the 
Person of Mr. Christopher Goad> and lately deposed 
with severe commandment (as it would seem) from 
above ; whereupon the women especially, by way of 
revenge for that restraint, do flock to St. Marie's in 
such troops, and so early, that the Masters of Arts 
have no room to sit ; so as the Vice-Chancellor and 
Heads of Houses were in deliberation to repress their 
shoaling thither. Methinks it is a good thing when 
Zeal in a Land " (vide Bartholomew Fair) grows so 
thick and so warm. But soft ; if I launch any farther, 
I may perchance run (which yet were a great mistake) 
into the name of a Puritan. For that very Lecturer 
which is now deposed^ did live heretofore with me at my 
Table 'upon especial choice " (he must have been an 
Eton boy; cf. ante^ p. 134) : "being in truth a man of 
sweet conversation, and of sober solidity." (Reliquice^ 
pp. 472, 473). 

1 Wotton's letter, with its eulogy on Comus, was 
much cherished by Milton, and was prefixed by him 
to the masque in the First or Miscellaneous Edition 
of his Minor Poems (16). See Masson's Life of 
Milton^ vol. iii. p. 454. 

167 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

himself once more to his old school at 
Winchester. On his return to Eton, he 
seems to have felt much enfeebled, and to 
have had a presentiment that the end was 
not far distant. He was prostrated by an 
asthmatic fever, and in consequence for- 
swore the use of tobacco, which, says 
Walton, he had, " as many thoughtful men 
do, taken somewhat immoderately." He 
was much in the company of John Hales, 
to whom he expressed his contentment 
with the life he had been permitted to 
enjoy, and his humble hopes of a better 
hereafter. About a month before the last, 
he was seized by a fever of which he could 
not mistake the significance. During an 
interval of partial recovery he was able 
once more to busy himself with his papers 
and letters, and in a last letter to the faith- 
ful Izaak Walton he enclosed a copy of a 
Hymn, which he had composed in one of 
his nights of sickness, and which bears an 
unfaltering testimony to the simple faith 
that had sustained him through all the 
troubles great and petty of a long life of 
168 



A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 

endeavour. 1 Early in December the fever 
returned, and he died. 2 

Wotton, who had not much to leave 
behind him in the shape of earthly goods 
or gear, left a rather elaborate will, which 
Walton transcribes at length. For my part, 
resting but little faith on last words, I am 
still less disposed to dwell with reverential 
awe on last words that may be, or that 
might have been, revoked ; and Wotton's 
were set down two years or more before 
the date of his death. Still, the references 
to the Queen of Bohemia, to whom he had 
proved so true, and who was to survive 
him for nearly a quarter of a century, and 
to the good Nicholas Pey who had 

1 The distinctness of Wotton's personal tenets is 
quite unmistakably asserted in this utterance : 

" No hallowed oyle, no grains I need, 
No rags of saints, no purging fire ; 
One rosie drop from David's seed 

Was worlds of seas to quench Thine ire. 
* * * * 

Thou then, That hast dispurg'd my score, 
And dying wast the death of Death," etc. 

J The precise date of Wotton's death is not men- 
tioned by Walton, or in the dictionaries. It might 
erhaps be ascertainable at Eton. 

169 N 




SIR HENRY WOTTON 

watched so faithfully over his own " rugged 
estate," must interest us as gathering up 
two long strands in the texture of his bio- 
graphy. The one testamentary direction, 
however, which Sir Henry Wotton left 
behind him, and of which any thought has 
been taken by posterity, concerned the 
epitaph directed by him to be inscribed 
upon his grave, and intended, no doubt, in 
some sort as a summary of the principles 
that had actuated him in the general con- 
duct of his life. " Here lies," so ran the 
English version of the Latin words, " the 
first author of the sentence : The Itch of 
Disputation will prove the Scab," or, in 
a later translation, more grandiloquently, 
" the Leprosy " " of the Churches. 1 
Inquire his name elsewhere." Now, it 
would be the reverse of fair to quote a 
man of letters and in Wotton's age, as 
may be said without captiousness, a man 
of letters was a man of phrases, against 
himself ; or one might recall his description, 
in a memorable connexion, of an epitaph 

1 Cf. ante, p. 
170 






A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 



as " the last of miserable remedies." l But 
in his own case at least, there was no 
prejudice to set right, no misinterpretation 
of a life of honest intentions to remove. 
If it might seem as though in the suc- 
cessive stages of his career a desire to 
avoid religious controversy had not always 
been the leading motion of his activity, 
we should remember that in such matters 
no man's heart can be quite accurately 
read by the most considerate of human 
judges. There were differences concern- 
ing religion which to him, and there are 
differences which to most high-spirited 
men, it is intolerable to ignore or cover 
with silence. What I take it he meant 
to imply by his farewell aphorism was the 
principle that in the controversies about 
non-essentials is to be found the bane of 
the religious life which it is the one Divine 

1 See Reliquia, p. 310, as to the attempt of the Fos- 
carini family at Venice to redeem by means of a post- 
humous appeal the fearful miscarriage of justice 
towards one of its members of which the State had 
been guilty. Cf. for an account of the case, Horatio 
E. Brown, u.s., pp. 406-8. 
171 



SIR HENRY WOTTON 

purpose of the Churches to advance. And 
with this interpretation of his epitaph we 
must leave it, and may say Amen to it, 
in our own generation as in that of Sir 
Henry Wotton. 

Throughout the course of this imperfect 
sketch no attempt has been made to re- 
present the story of Sir Henry Wotton's 
life and labours in the light of a record 
of achievement. When we meet with such 
a record, or with one approaching to the 
character of such, we feel that we are in 
contact with greatness, with genius, with 
what Wotton calls the " felicity " which is 
the basis of success. His own life and 
work consisted not so much of achieve- 
ment as of endeavour. But if the con- 
clusion be warranted that this endeavour 
was honest, high-minded, and " persever- 
ing to the last," then not many of us will 
merit a larger meed of praise. 



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391 Sir Henry Wotton 
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