Reference > Cambridge History > Cavalier and Puritan > Historical and Political Writings > Sir Henry Wotton
  Sir Dudley Digges; The Compleat Ambassador “Intelligencers”; Private letters  


The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume VII. Cavalier and Puritan.

VIII. Historical and Political Writings.

§ 5. Sir Henry Wotton.

Sir Henry Wotton, of whose writings some general account has been given in a previous volume,  15  was one of the most accomplished, as he was one of the most voluminous, letterwriters of his age. Many of his letters are printed in the successive editions of Reliquiae Wottonianae; but a very large number have been added by the zeal of his most recent biographer.  16  In the case of a considerable portion of these letters, it is useless to seek to distinguish between what is of the nature of private or of public information. Intended primarily for the eye of his royal master, Wotton’s semi-official letters blend the report of high affairs of state and the offer of grave political advice with table-talk. Of this he was a master; he practised it to perfection with the members of his embassy at Venice, and he seasoned it with a great deal of wit. The genial humour of his later years, when, in his Eton provostship, he had found such mental repose as is possible to an active spirit, was, necessarily, of slower growth.   11
  While, as a diplomatist, Wotton exercised, at least at Venice, a stronger influence than quite suited his master’s policy, his literary ambition, except in a poetic gem by which it would have surprised him to find himself most widely remembered, never carried him far in the direction of achievement. His authorship of The State of Christendom, a survey of the political world in 1594, still remains doubtful, and, as a historian, he never accomplished more than the Characters of Essex and Buckingham, with Some Observations by way of Parallel; a short Life and Death of the former favourite; a Latin Panegyrick of King Charles, written at Eton not long before his death, and, among a few other fragments or incidental pieces, a page of an intended History of Venice, which no man could have seemed either by experience or by insight more competent to write. The history of England from Henry VIII, which it was the wish of Charles I that Wotton should execute, he never seems to have taken in hand. In the world of letters, he was a man of projects, as in that of politics he was a man of designs—and it is this perennial freshness of mind which, added to the nobility of his aims and the grace of his style, makes him a delightful letter-writer.   12

Note 15. See Vol. IV, pp. 188, 189, ibid. bibliography, pp. 551, 552. [ back ]
Note 16The Life and Letters of Sir Henry Wotton (1907) by Logan Pearsall Smith. [ back ]

  Sir Dudley Digges; The Compleat Ambassador “Intelligencers”; Private letters  

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