Page images

haps, be startled at this remark, who have been accustomed to consider imagination as having no other office than to feign and to falsify. Every faculty is liable to abuse and misdirection, and imagination among the rest; but it is a mistake to suppose that it necessarily tends to pervert the truth of history, and to mislead the judgment. On the contrary, our view of any transaction, especially one that is remote in time or place, will necessarily be imperfect, generally incorrect, unless it embrace something more than the bare outline of the occurrences,-unless we have before the mind a lively idea of the scenes in which the events took place, the habits of thought and of feeling of the actors, and all the circumstances connected with the transaction; unless, in short, we can in a considerable degree transport ourselves out of our own age, and country, and persons, and imagine ourselves the agents or spectators. It is from consideration of all these circumstances that we are enabled to form a right judgment as to the facts which history records, and to derive instruction from it. What we imagine may indeed be merely imaginary, that is, unreal; but it may again be what actually does or did exist. To say that imagination, if not regulated by sound judgment and sufficient knowledge, may chance to convey to us false impressions of past events, is only to say that man is fallible. But such false impressions are even much the more likely to take possession of those whose imagination is feeble or uncultivated. They are apt to imagine the things, persons, times, countries, &c., which they read of, as much less different from what they see around them than is really the


The practical importance of such an exercise of imagination to a full, and clear, and consequently profitable view of the transactions related in history, can hardly be over-estimated. In respect of the very earliest of all human transactions, it is matter of common remark how prone many are to regard with mingled wonder, contempt, and indignation, the transgression of our first parents; as if they were not a fair sample of the human race; as if any of us would not, if he had been placed in precisely the same circumstances, have acted as they did. The Corinthians, probably, had perused with the same barren wonder the history of the backslidings of the Israelites; and needed that Paul should remind them, that these things were written for their example and admonition. And all, in almost every portion of history they read, have need of a corresponding warning, to endeavor to fancy themselves the persons they read of, that they may recognize in the accounts of past times the portraiture of our own. From not putting ourselves in the place of the persons living in past times, and entering fully into all their feelings, we are apt to forget how probable many things might appear, which we know did not take place; and to regard as perfectly chimerical, expectations which we know were not realized, but which, had we lived in those times, we should doubtless have entertained; and to imagine that there was no danger of those evils which, were, in fact, escaped. We are apt also to make too little allowances for prejudices and associations of ideas, which no longer exist precisely in the same form among ourselves, but which, perhaps, are not more at variance with right reason than others with which ourselves are infected.

"Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability.”

We should, then, cultivate, not only the cornfields of our minds, but the pleasure-grounds also. Every faculty and every study, however worthless they may be, when not employed in the service of God,-however debased and pol

luted when devoted to the service of sin,—become ennobled and sanctified when directed, by one whose constraining motive is the love of Christ, towards a good object. Let not the Christian, then, think " scorn of the pleasant land." That land is the field of ancient and modern literature-of philosophy, in almost all its departments of the arts of reasoning and persuasion. Every part of it may be cultivated with advantage, as the Land of Canaan when bestowed upon God's peculiar people. They were not commanded to let it lie waste, as incurably polluted by the abominations of its first inhabitants; but to cultivate it, and dwell in it, living in obedience to the divine laws, and dedicating its choicest fruits to the Lord their God.


[Compiled from Creasey's "Eminent Etonians."]

Eron has never seen within her walls a more accomplished gentleman, in the best sense of the word, or a more judicious ruler, than she received in 1624, when Sir Henry Wotton became her Provost. He was born in 1568, at Bocton Hall in Kent, the family mansion of his father, Sir Robert Wotton. He was the youngest of four sons, and as such was destined to receive but a moderate income from his father; but he also received from him, what is far more valuable than all pecuniary endowments, an excellent education, worthy of the talents on which it was bestowed. His boyhood was passed at Winchester, and thence he removed, first, to New College, and subsequently to Queen's College, Oxford. He was highly distinguished at Oxford for his proficiency in all academical studies; while he at the same time made himself a master of modern languages; and he also displayed, on several occasions, the elegance of his genius in the lighter departments of literature. On his father's death, in 1589, he left England, and made the tour of France, Italy, Germany, and the Low Countries; and on his return, in 1596, he was chosen as Secretary to Queen Elizabeth's favorite, the Earl of Essex. On the fall of Essex, Wotton fearing to be implicated in the ruin of his patron, fled into France, whence he again went to Italy, and took up his abode at Florence. Soon after his arrival there, the Grand Duke of Tuscany having discovered, from some intercepted letters, a plot to poison James, King of Scotland, employed Wotton to go to Scotland secretly, and apprise that prince of his danger. Wotton assumed the name and guise of an Italian; executed his commission with great skill, and returned to Florence after having left a strong impression on the Scottish King of his learning, zeal, and diplomatic ability. On James' accession to the English throne, he sent for Wotton to court, gave him the honor of knighthood, and after pronouncing a high eulogium on him, declared his intention thenceforth to employ him as an ambassador.

Accordingly, during the greater part of James' reign, Sir Henry

represented his sovereign abroad. His first mission was to Venice, where he formed a close intimacy with the celebrated Paolo Sarpi, and had peculiar advantages of watching the refinements and devices of Italian policy during the contest that was then being carried on between the Roman See and the Venetians; in which the sagacious firmness of the most subtle of Aristocracies was pitted against the craft and intrigue of the Vatican.

Wotton returned from Venice in 1610, when he suddenly found his favor at court unexpectedly clouded. This arose from the discovery of a sentence which he had written at Augsburg, in his outward journey to Venice. As we possess a biography of Sir Henry, from the pen of his friend Izaak Walton, it is best in this and other parts of Sir Henry's career to adopt the quaint but expressive language of the old king of the anglers. Walton says:—

At his [Sir Henry's] first going embassador into Italy, as he passed through Germany, he stayed some days at Augusta, where having been in his former travels well known by many of the best note for learning and ingenuousness, (those that are esteemed the vertuosi of that nation,) with whom he passing an evening in merriment, was requested by Christopher Flecamore to write some sentence in his Albo, (a book of white paper which for that purpose many of the German gentry usually carry about them,) Sir Henry Wotton consenting to the motion, took an occasion, from some accidental discourse of the present company, to write a pleasant definition of an embassador, in these very words:—

"Legatus est vir bonus peregrè missus ad mentiendum Reipublicæ causâ."

Walton tries to represent this as an unlucky Latin translation of an English pun. Walton says that Sir Henry "could have been content that his Latin could have been thus Englished :


"An ambassador is an honest man sent to LIE abroad for the good of his country." But the word lie (being the hinge upon which the conceit was to turn) was not so expressed in Latin as would admit (in the hands of an enemy especially) so fair a construction as Sir Henry thought in English. Yet as it was, it slept quietly among other sentences in this albo almost eight years, till by accident it fell into the hands of Jasper Scioppius, a Romanist, a man with a restless spirit and a malicious pen, who in his books against King James prints this as a principle of that religion professed by the King and his Embassador, Sir Henry Wotton, then at Venice; and in Venice it was presently after written in several glass windows, and spitefully declared to be Sir Henry Wotton's.

This coming to the knowledge of King James, he apprehended it to be such an oversight, such a weakness or worse in Sir Henry Wotton, as caused the King to express much wrath against him; and this caused Sir Henry Wotton to write two apologies, one to Velserus (one of the chiefs of Augusta) in the universal language, which he caused to be printed and given and scattered in the most remarkable places both of Germany and Italy, as an antidote against the venomous book of Scioppius; and another apology to King James, which were so ingenious, so clear, so choicely eloquent, that his Majesty (who was a pure judge of it) could not forbear at the receipt of it to declare publicly, That Sir Henry Wotton had commuted sufficiently for a greater offense.

And now, as broken bones well set become stronger, so Sir Henry Wotton did not only recover, but was much more confirmed in his Majesty's estimation and favor than formerly he had been.

It has been truly remarked, that old Izaak must be mistaken in

supposing that Sir Henry in this sentence only intended a poor English pun, and forgot that the Latin translation failed to convey his joke. Wotton, we may be sure, thought in Latin, when he wrote the words; and his jest was not without some sharp earnestness.

Indeed, Sir Henry's opinion of the position of an ambassador may be gathered from another anecdote which Walton relates of him :

A friend of Sir Henry Wotton's, being desirous of the employment of an ambassador, came to Eton, and requested from him some experimental rules for his prudent and safe carriage in his negotiations; to whom he willingly gave this for an infallible aphorism :

"That to be in safety to himself and serviceable to his country, he should always and on all occasions speak the truth. (It seems a State-paradox.) For, says Sir Henry Wotton, you shall never be believed; and by this means your truth will secure yourself, if you shall ever be called to any account; and 'twill also put your adversaries (who will still hunt counter) to a loss in all their disquisitions and undertakings.”

Wotton, indeed, seems to have thought that all travelers, though not diplomatists, required some degree of Machiavellian skill. Milton, when about to leave England for his travels in France and Italy, obtained an introduction to Sir Henry, and received from him, among other directions, the celebrated precept of prudence—“I pensieri stretti, ed il viso sciolto." "The thoughts reserved, but the countenance open."

After his first Venetian embassage, Wotton was employed by James in missions to the United Provinces, the Duke of Savoy, to the Emperor, and other German princes on the affairs of the unfortunate Elector Palatine. He was also twice again sent ambassador to Venice; and his final return from "that pleasant country's land” was not till James' death in 1624. Wotton thus passed nearly twenty years as a diplomatist in foreign courts, during which, as well as during his former travels

Πολλῶν ἀνθρώπων ἴδεν ἄστεα καὶ νοὸν ἔγνω.

Wotton, like Ulysses, thus gained deep insight into the human mind, and also into the varying manners and conventional standards of right and wrong, which prevail among different men, and which the Latin poet indicates, when he translates the Homeric line by—

"Qui mores hominum multorum vidit et urbes."

This knowledge produced in Wotton, not the misanthropy which it too often has generated in men of a less kindly temperament, but a charitable spirit in dealing with each individual phase of human weakness, and a truly catholic love of goodness and of honesty, wherever found, and by whomsoever displayed. The patience which he eminently possessed, was sorely tried during the first year after his final return to England. Large sums were due to him from the state,

« PreviousContinue »