« AnteriorContinuar »
into two books: whereof the former, which you saw, I can't but account as a page to the latter. I have now published them both; whereof I thought it a small adventure to send you a copy, who have more right to it than any man, except bishop Andrews, who was my inquisitor.
The death of the late great judge concerned not me, because the other was not removed. I write this in answer to your good wishes; which I return not as (a) flowers of Florence, but as you mean them; whom I conceive place can't alter, no more than time shall me, except it be for the better.
LXXXII. To Dr. PLAYFERE, (b) desiring him Rawley's to translate the Advancement into Latin.
Mr. Dr. Playfere,
A GREAT desire will take a small occasion to hope and put in trial that which is desired. It pleased you a good while since to express unto me the good liking which you conceived of my book of the advancement of learning; and that more significantly, as it seemed to me, than out of courtesy or civil respect. Myself, as then I took contentment in your approbation thereof, so I should esteem and acknowledge not only my contentment increased, but my labours advanced, if I might obtain your help in that nature which I desire: wherein, before I set down in plain terms my request unto you, I will open myself, what it was which I chiefly sought and propounded to myself in that work; that you may perceive that which I now desire, to be pursuant thereupon. If I do not much err, for any judgment that a man maketh of his own doings, had need be spoken with a Si nunquam fallat imago,* I have Vir. Ecl. this opinion, that if I had sought mine own commendation, it had been a much fitter course for me to have
(a) Mr. Matthew wrote an elegy on the duke of Florence's felicity. (b) Thomas Playfere, D. D. a native of Kent, educated in St. John's college in Cambridge, and appointed Margaret professor of divinity in that university about 1596, in the room of Dr. Peter Baro. He died there about January or February, 1608.
done as gardeners used to do, by taking their seed and slips, and rearing them first into plants, and so uttering them in pots, when they are in flower, and in their best state. But for as much as the end was merit of the state of learning, to my power, and not glory; and because my purpose was rather to excite other men's wits, than to magnify mine own, I was desirous to prevent the uncertainness of mine own life and times, by uttering rather seeds than plants: nay and farther, as the proverb is, by sowing with the basket rather than with the hand: wherefore, since I have only taken upon me to ring a bell to call other wits together, which is the meanest office, it cannot but be consonant to my desire, to have that bell heard as far as can be. And since they are but sparks which can work but upon matter prepared, I have the more reason to wish that those sparks may fly abroad, that they may the better find and light upon those minds and spirits which are apt to be kindled. And therefore the privateness of the language considered, wherein it is written, excluding so many readers; as, on the other side, the obscurity of the argument in many parts of it excludeth many others; I must account it a second birth of that work, if it might be translated into Latin, without manifest loss of the sense and matter. For this pur
pose I could not represent to myself any man into whose hands I do more earnestly desire that work should fall than yourself; for by that I have heard and read, I know no man a greater master in commanding words to serve matter. Nevertheless, I am not ignorant of the worth of your labours, whether such as your place and profession imposeth, or such as your own virtue may, upon your voluntary election, take in hand. But I can lay before you no other persuasions than either the work itself may affect you with; or the honour of his majesty, to whom it is dedicated; or your particular inclination to myself; who as I never took so much comfort in any labours of mine own, so I shall never acknowledge myself more obliged in any thing to the labours of another, that in that which shall assist it. Which your labour if I can by my
place, profession, means, friends, travel, work, deed, requite unto you, I shall esteem myself so straitly bound thereunto, as I shall be ever most ready both to take and seek occasion of thankfulness. So leaving it nevertheless salva amicitia, as reason is, to your good liking, I remain.
LXXXIII. To the Lord Chancellor, touching Rawley's the History of Britain.
It may please your good Lordship,
SOME late act of his majesty, referred to some former speech which I have heard from your lordship, bred in me a great desire, and the strength of desire a boldness to make an humble proposition to your lordship, such as in me can be no better than a wish: Thought. but if your lordship should apprehend it, it may take collection some good and worthy effect. The act I speak of, is of letters. the order given by his majesty for the erection of a tomb or monument for our late sovereign queen Elizabeth: (a) wherein I may note much, but only this at this time, that as her majesty did always right to his majesty's hopes, so his highness doth in all things. right to her memory; a very just and princely retribution. But from this occasion, by a very easy ascent, I passed farther, being put in mind, by this representative of her person, of the more true and more vive representation, which is of her life and government: for as statues and pictures are dumb histories, so histories are speaking pictures; wherein if my affection be not too great, or my reading too small, I am of this opinion, that if Plutarch were alive to write lives by parallels, it would trouble him both for virtue and fortune, to find for her a parallel amongst women. And though she was of the passive sex, yet her government was so active, as, in my simple opinion, it made more impression upon the several states of Europe, than it received from thence. But I confess unto your lordship I could not stay here, but went a little farther into the consideration of the times which
(a) The monument here spoken of was erected in king Henry VII's chapel at Westminster, in the year 1606.
* Vol. I. p. 83.
have passed since king Henry VIII.; wherein I find the strangest variety, that in so little number of successions of any hereditary monarchy hath ever been known. The reign of a child; the offer of an usurpation, though it was but as a diary ague; the reign of a lady married to a foreigner; and the reign of a lady solitary and unmarried; so that as it cometh to pass in massy bodies, that they have certain trepidations and wavering before they fix and settle; so it seemeth that by the providence of God this monarchy, before it was to settle in his majesty, and his generations, in which I hope it is now established for ever, hath had these prelusive changes in these barren princes. Neither could I contain myself here, as it is easier for a man to multiply than to stay a wish, but calling to remembrance the unworthiness of the history of England, (a) in the main continuance thereof; and the
(a) The unworthiness of the history of England hath been long complained of by ingenious men, both of this and other nations. Sir Francis Bacon hath expressed himself much to the same effect, though more at large, in his second book of the Advancement of Learning where he carries this period of remarkable events somewhat higher than in this letter, beginning with the union of the roses under Henry VII. and ending with the union of the kingdoms under king James. A portion of time filled with so great and variable accidents both in church and state, and since so well discovered to the view of the world, that had other parts the same performance, we should not longer lie under any reproach of this kind. The reign of king Henry VII. was written by our author soon after his retirement, with so great beauty of style, and wisdom of observation, that nothing can be more entertaining; the truth of history not being disguised with the false colours of romance. It was so acceptable a present to the P. of Wales, that when he became king, he commanded him to proceed with the reign of king Henry VIII. But my lord Bacon meditating the history of nature, which he hardly lived to publish; his ill state of health, and succeeding death, put an end to this and other noble designs: leav ing the ecclesiastical and civil affairs of those times to be related by the learned pens of Dr. Burnet, notwithstanding the objections of the avowed enemies, and seeming friends to the reformation, and the lord Herbert of Cherbury; that I think there is not much of moment to be expected from a future hand. And for the Annals of Queen Elizabeth, compiled by Mr.Camden, the esteem of them is as universal as the language in which they are written. Nor must I forget in this place to take notice of two fair and large volumes lately published in French by Monsieur de Larrey; where building upon the foundations laid by these gentlemen, and some other me
partiality and obliquity of that of Scotland, in the latest and largest author (a) that I have seen: I conceived it would be honour for his majesty, and a work very memorable, if this island of Great Britain, as it is now joined in monarchy for the ages to come, so it were joined in history for the times past: and that one just and complete history were compiled of both nations. And if any man perhaps should think it may refresh the memory of former discords, he may satisfy himself with the verse olim hæc meminisse juvabit: for the case being now altered, it is matter of comfort and gratulation to remember former troubles. Thus much, if it may please your lordship, is in the optative mood; and it is time that I did look a little into the potential; wherein the hope which I conceived was grounded upon three observations. The first, the nature of these times, which flourish in learning, both of art and language; which giveth hope not only that it may be done, but that it may be well done. Secondly, I do see that which all the world sees in his majesty, both a wonderful judgment in learning, and a singular affection towards learning, and works which are of the mind more than of the hand. For there cannot be the like honour sought and found, in building of galleries, (b) and planting of elms along highways, and in those outward ornaments, wherein France is now so busy, things rather of magnificence than of magnanimity, as there is in the uniting of states, (c) pacifying of controversies, (d) nourishing
moirs, he hath not forgotten to do much honour to the English nation: beginning his history also with Henry VII. Stephens.
(a) This I take to be meant of Buchanan's History of Scotland; a book much admired by some, though censured by many, for his partiality in favour of the lords, against Mary queen of the Scots, and the regal power. In other respects, archbishop Spotswood informs us that he penned it with such judgment and eloquence, sa no country can shew a better. Stephens.
(b) The magnificent gallery at the Louvre in Paris, built by Henry IV.
(c) The union of England and Scotland.
(d) The conference at Hampton Court held between the bishops and puritans, as they were then called, soon after the king's coming to the crown of England, and where his majesty was the moderator. Stephens.