Page images

Italian civility. Here I kept my Easter, occasioned by change of the wind from full east to full south , which otherwise I determined to have done at Ostia ; for on Easter-day I meant not to accompany the Pope to St. Lateran. When the Easter was for the chiefest part past, occasion wanting by sea, I returned to Rome on the Tuesday by land, and there continued three weeks ; and my purpose was to have made longer abode there, notwithstanding the rumour of the solemn day to be ' celebrated here by the great Duke on the 26th of April, because I found very profitable points to be learnt of the Pope's court, and was grown somewhat cunning in the prattick of Rome; but fortune hath her part to play in all human actions, and I was driven away by the intervent of that gentleman that only hath seen your honour's license; I desire pardon to describe him no farther. This man was by chance invited by a Scottish gentleman unto supper in the place where I had my table, calling me into a sadden and dangerous deliberation, standing upon these two doubts,-first, whether it were best for me to sup there, or no, that night; secondly, it to change my lodging, or leave Rome; were the discreetest part. The first I had drawn into no question, but that the circumstances stood perillously. The table was covered, the sallad, our first dish, served in, all the gentlemen in the chamber save the Scot, and amongst them myself, every man ready to take his place, and in that instant came the Scottish gentleman in with his guest, whom belike, after the manner of his country, he first sent into his chamber, giving me so much time to resolve the first doubt, as till he came forth again. In short, I supped not with him, making the best excuse of departure that.

I could 'accommodate unto the time. For determination of the second doubt I had a night's respite; that the man was dangerous, I set down for certain. His conversation in Venice with persons suspected, practice and familiarity heretofore with the old Earl of Northumberland, which I had received from his own mouth, travelling to Rome without language, discovery of himself there to the English and Scottish nation, were points that pleased me not.

“ Not to hold your honour long, I resolved to leave Rome as secretly, and with as great expedition as might be; which I performed; my state seeming unto me not unlike a bad game at mawe, wherein the first vye being seen, the cards are given up before the second. And now, most honourable, having advertised the generality of this my journey, before I come to matter of public use, I crave pardon to say something of myself. No Englishman containing himself within his allegiance to her Majesty, hath seen more concerning the points of Rome than I have done ; which I speak absolutely without exception : I have been present at three solemnities of the Roman church the Consecration of the Rose, Marriage, and Distribution of Dowries unto the Virgin, and the taking of Possession ; which is accounted the principal sight that may be seen in these parts. The Whore of Babylon I have seen mounted on her chair, going on the ground, reading, speaking, attired and disrobed by the Cardinals, or rather by Montalto alone, in both her mitres, in her triple crown, in her lettica, on her moyl, at mass, and lastly, in public consistory. Certain other private points, which are not to be committed unto letter, because I kno y not the event of a piece of paper, I will

defer until the rendering of myself unto your honour's -sight and service. Of Rome in short, this is my opinion, or rather indeed, my most assured knowledge. That her delights on earth are sweet, and her judgments in heaven heavy.”

* * * * * * * * *

About the year 1596, being then 28 years of age he returned to England. The elegance of bis person and manners, the accomplishments of his mind, and the ample fund of political information he had obtained during his travels, recommended him to the notice of the most eminent of his countrymen, and almost immediately after his return, procured him the appointment of Secretary to the Earl of Essex, then in the zenith of his power. With this unfortunate nobleman he continued until his arrest and commitment to the tower, upon the charge of treason which cost bim his life : when f earing to be involved in the impending fate of his patron, he secretly left the kingdom and retired into Italy. This happened in the year 1599.

During his second residence abroad, he passed the greater portion of his time at Florence, and it was in that city he composed his principal work, which was not however printed until several years after his death. "This work is entitled, “ The state of Christendom, or a most exact and curious discovery of many secret passages and hidden mysteries of the times.” His chief aim in this composition, was to obtain favour with Queen Elizabeth, and facilitate his return home; why it was not published does not appear. Of the state of Florence at this time he had previously given the following account in one of his letters to Lord Zouch.--" I

live here in a paradise inhabited by devils. Venice hath scarce heard of those vices which are here practiced. My best commodity is the conversation of certain gentlemen, and their vulgar very pure and correct; so that here we have good means to learn to speak well and to do ill."

During his residence at Florence the following adventure happened to him, and laid the foundation of bis future fortune.

The zeal which Queen Elizabeth, and her presumed successor the king of Scotland, had shewn for the reformed religion, procured them the hatred and enmity of all violent Catholics, and many plans were devised to destroy both one and the other by assassination.. In the instance of the queen this was deemed a lawful and praiseworthy deed, she having been formally excommunicated by the Pope in 1576. In 1602 Ferdinand, Grand Duke of Florence, had discovered by intercepted letters, a design of this nature upon the life of the Scottish king. Having consulted with his secretary Vietta respecting the best means of conveying this information to the party threatened, he advised him to dispatch Sir Henry Wotton, who was his personal friend, to Scotland. Accordingly, charged with letters from the Duke, and with antidotes, he took his departure in the garb, and with the assumed name of an Italian ; found the king at Stirling, and immediately procured admission to his presence by means of Bernard Lindsay his chamberlain.

“ When Octavio Baldi," for that was his assumed name, came to the presence-chamber door, be was requested to lay aside his long rapier which Italian like he then wore, and being entered the chamber, he found

there with the king three or four Scotch lords standing distant in several corners of the chamber, at the sight of whom he made a stand; which the king observing, bade him be bold and deliver his message; for he would undertake for the secrecy of all that were present. Then did Octavio Baldi deliver his letters and his message to the king in Italian; which when the king had graciously received, after a little pause, Octavio Baldi steps to the table, and whispers to the king, in his own language, that he was an Englishman, beseeching him for a more private conference with his majesty, and that he might be concealed during his stay in that nation; which was promised, and really performed by the King du ing all his abode there which was about three months; all which time was spent with much pleasantness to the King, and with as much to Octavio Baldi himself, as that country could afford ; from which he departed as true an Italian as he came thither.”

Upon the accession of James to the English crown he returned home, and was immediately afterwards introduced to the king, at his especial desire, by his elder brother Lord Wotton. James received him with open arms, hailed bim as bis friend by the name of Octavio Baldi, and conferred upon him the order of knighthood.

James, whatever may be said of the weakness of his general character, shewed no want of discernment in his selection of political agents. He very justly appreciated the talents and acquirements of Sir Henry Wotton, proposed to employ him as a resident at some foreign court, and offered him his choice of France, Spain, or. Venice. This was highly honourable to

* Walton's Life of Wotton.


« PreviousContinue »