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I shall say but this little more: that he refused (being offered it by Queen Elizabeth) to be Archbishop of Canterbury—(vide Hollinshed;) and that he died not rich, though he lived in that time of the dissolution of abbeys.
More might be added; but by this it may appear, that Sir Henry Wotton was a branch of such a kindred as left, a stock of reputation to their
posterity; such reputation as might kindle a generous emulation in strangers, and preserve a noble ambition in those of his name and family, to perform actions worthy of their ancestors.
And that Sir Henry Wotton did so, might appear more perfectly than my pen can express it, if of his many surviving friends, some one of higher parts and employments had been pleased to have commended his to posterity; but since some years are now past, and they have all (I know not why) forborne to do it, my gratitude to the memory of my dead friend, and the renewed request of some that still live, solicitous to see this duty performed: these have had a power to persuade me to undertake it; which truly I have not done but with some distrust of mine own abilities; and yet so far from despair, that I am modestly confident my humble language shall be accepted, because I shall present all readers with a commixture of truth, and Sir Henry Wotton's merits.
This being premised, I proceed to tell the reader, that the father of Sir Henry Wotton was twice married; first, to Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir John Rudstone, Knight; after whose death, though his inclination was averse to all contentions, yet necessitated he was to several suits in law; in the prose
1 Sir Edward Bish, Clarencieux King of Arms, Mr. Charles Cotton, and Mr. Nick Oudert, some time Sir Henry Wotton's servant.
cution whereof, (which took up much of his time, and were the occasion of many discontents,) he was by divers of his friends earnestly persuaded to a re-marriage; to whom he as often answered, “That if ever he did put on a resolution to marry, he was seriously resolved to avoid three sorts of persons, namely,
“ Those that had children;
Those that had law-suits;
And those that were of his kindred.” And yet, following his own law-suits, he met in Westminster-Hall wth Mrs. Eleonora Morton, widow to Robert Morton, of Kent, Esq., who was also engaged in several suits in law: and he, observing her comportment at the time of hearing one of her causes before the judges, could not but at the same time both compassionate her condition, and affect her person; for the tears of lovers, or beauty drest in sadness, are observed to have in them a charming eloquence, and to become very often too strong to be resisted : which I mention, because it proved so with this Thomas Wotton; for although there were in her a concurrence of all those accidents, against which he had so seriously resolved, yet his affection to her grew
then so strong, that he resolved to solicit her for a wife, and did, and obtained her.
By her (who was the daughter of Sir William Finch, of Eastwell, in Kent,) he had only Henry, his youngest son.
His mother undertook to be tutoress unto him during much of his childhood; for whose care and pains he paid her each day with such visible signs of future perfection in learning, as turned her employment into a pleasing trouble; which she was content to continue, till his father took him into his own particular care, and disposed of him to a tutor in his own house at Bocton.
And when time and diligent instruction had made him fit for a removal to a higher form, (which was
very early,) he was sent to Winchester School, a place of strict discipline and order, that so he might in his youth be moulded into a method of living by rule, which his wise father knew to be the most necessary way to make the future part of his life both happy to himself
, and useful for the discharge of all business whether public or private.
And that he might be confirmed in this regularity, he was at a fit age removed from that school, to be a commoner of New College in Oxford; both being founded by William Wickham, Bishop of Winchester.
There he continued till about the eighteenth year of his age, and was then transplanted into Queen's College; where within that year he was by the chief of that college persuasively enjoined to write a play for their private use; (it was the Tragedy of Tancredo) — which was so interwoven with sentences, and for the method and exact personating those humours, passions, and dispositions, which he proposed to represent, that the gravest of that society declared, he had in a slight employment given an early and a solid testimony of his future abilities. And though there may be some sour dispositions, which may think this not worth a memorial, yet that wise knight, Baptista Guarini, (whom learned Italy accounts one of her ornaments,) thought it neither an uncomely nor an unprofitable employment for his age.
But I pass to what will be thought more serious. About the twentieth year of his age he proceeded Master of Arts; and at that time read in Latin three lectures de Oculo; wherein he having described the form, the motion, the curious composure of the eye, and demonstrated how of those very many every humour and nerve performs its distinct office, so as the God of order hath appointed, without mixture or confusion; and all this to the advantage of man,
to whom the eye is given, not only as the body's guide, but whereas all other of his senses require time to inform the soul, this in an instant apprehends and warns him of danger; teaching him in the very eyes of others, to discover wit, folly, love, and hatred. After he had made these observations, he fell to dispute this optique question, “Whether we see by the emission of the beams from within, or reception of the species from without ?" And after that, and many other like learned disquisitions, he in the conclusion of his lectures took a fair occasion to beautify his discourse with a commendation of the blessing and benefit of “Seeing; — by which we do not only discover Nature's secrets, but with a continued content (for the eye is never weary of seeing) behold the great light of the world, and by it discover the fabric of the heavens, and both the order and motion of the celestial orbs; nay, that if the eye look but downward, it may rejoice to behold the bosom of the earth, our common mother, embroidered and adorned with numberless and various flowers, which man sees daily grow up to perfection, and then silently moralize his own condition, who in a short time (like those very flowers) decays, withers, and quickly returns again to that earth from which both had their first being."
These were so exactly debated, and so rhetorically heightened, as among other admirers, caused that learned Italian, Albericus Gentilis, then Professor of the Civil Law in Oxford, to call him 6 Henrice mi Ocelle ;" which dear expression of his was also used by divers of Sir Henry's dearest friends, and by many other persons of note during his stay in the University.
But his stay there was not long, at least not so long as his friends once intended; for the
after Sir Henry proceeded Master of Arts, his father (whom Sir Henry did never mention without this
or some like reverential expression; as, “That good man my father,” or “My father the best of men;") —about this time, this good man changed this for a better life; leaving to Sir Henry, as to his other younger sons, a rent-charge of an hundred marks a year, to be paid for ever out of some one of his manors of a much greater value.
And here, though this good man be dead, yet I wish a circumstance or two that concerns him may not be buried without a relation; which I shall undertake to do, for that I suppose they may so much concern the reader to know, that I may promise myself a pardon for a short digression.
In the year of our redemption 1553, Nicholas Wotton, Dean of Canterbury, (whom I formerly mentioned,) being then Ambassador in France, dreamed that his nephew, this Thomas Wotton, was inclined to be a party in such a project, as, if he were not suddenly prevented, would turn both to the loss of his life, and ruin of his family.
Doubtless, the good Dean did well know that common dreams are but a senseless paraphrase on our waking thoughts, or of the business of the day past, or are the result of our over-engaged affections, when we betake ourselves to rest; and knew that the observation of them may turn to silly superstitions, as they too often do. But though he might know all this, and might also believe that prophecies are ceased; yet doubtless he could not but consider, that all dreams are not to be neglected or cast away without all consideration : and did therefore rather lay this dream aside, than intend totally to lose it; and dreaming the same again the night following, when it became a double dream, like that of Pharaoh, (of which double dreams the learned have made many observations,) and considering that it had no dependence on his waking