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dice, whether it were a true accusation of the one part, or a practice and factious device of the other: which writing, because I am not able to express according to the worth thereof, I will desire your lordship anon to hear read.
This excellent foundation of justice being laid by his majesty's own hand, it was referred unto some counsellors to examine farther, who gained some degrees of light from Weston, but yet left it imperfect.
After it was referred to Sir Edward Coke, chief justice of the King's Bench, as a person best practised in legal examinations, who took a great deal of indefatigable pains in it, without intermission, having, as I have heard him say, taken at least three hundred examinations in this business.
But these things were not done in a corner. need not speak of them. It is true, that my lord chief justice, in the dawning and opening of the light, finding that the matter touched upon these great persons, very discreetly became suitor to the king to have greater persons than his own rank joined with him. Whereupon, your lordship, my lord high Steward of England, to whom the king commonly resorteth in arduis, and my lord Steward of the king's house, and my lord Zouch, were joined with him.
Neither wanted there this while practice to suppress testimony, to deface writings, to weaken the king's resolution, to slander the justice, and the like. Nay, when it came to the first solemn act of justice, which was the arraignment of Weston, he had his lesson to stand mute; which had arrested the wheel of justice. But this dumb devil, by the means of some discreet divines, and the potent charm of justice, together, was cast out. Neither did this poisonous adder stop his ear to those charms, but relented, and yielded to his trial.
Then follow the proceedings of justice against the other offenders, Turner, Helwisse, Franklin.
But all these being but the organs and instruments of this fact, the actors and not the authors, justice could not have been crowned without this last act
against these great persons. Else Weston's censure or prediction might have been verified, when he said, he hoped the small flies should not be caught, and the great escape. Wherein the king being in great straits, between the defacing of his honour and of his creature, hath, according as he useth to do, chosen the better part, reserving always mercy to himself.
The time also of this justice hath had its true motions. The time until this lady's deliverance was due unto honour, Christianity, and humanity, in respect of her great belly. The time since was due to another kind of deliverance too; which was, that some causes of estate, that were in the womb, might likewise be brought forth, not for matter of justice, but for reason of state. Likewise this last procrastination of days had the like weighty grounds and causes. And this is the true and brief representation of this extreme work of the king's justice.
Now for the evidence against this lady, I am sorry I must rip it up. I shall first shew you the purveyance or provisions of the poisons; that they were seven in number brought to this lady, and by her billetted and laid up till they might be used; and this done with an oath or vow of secrecy, which is like the Egyptian darkness, a gross and palpable darkness, that may be felt.
Secondly, I shall shew you the exhibiting and sorting of this same number or volley of poisons: white arsenic was fit for salt, because it is of like body and colour. The poison of great spiders, and of the venomous fly cantharides, was fit for pigs sauce, or partridge sauce, because it resembled pepper. As for mercury-water and other poisons, they might be fit for tarts, which is a kind of hotch-pot, wherein no one colour is so proper: and some of these were delivered by the hands of this lady, and some by her direction.
Thirdly, I shall prove and observe unto you the cautions of these poisons; that they might not be too swift, lest the world should startle at it by the suddenness of the dispatch: but they must abide long in the
body, and work by degrees: and for this purpose there must be essays of them upon poor beasts, &c.
And lastly, I shall shew you the rewards of this impoisonment, first demanded by Weston, and denied, because the deed was not done; but after the deed done and perpetrated, that Overbury was dead, then performed and paid to the value of 1801.
And so without farther aggravation of that, which in itself bears its own tragedy, I will conclude with the confessions of this lady herself, which is the strongest support of justice; and yet is the foot-stool of mercy. For, as the Scripture says, mercy and truth have kissed each other; there is no meeting or greeting of mercy, till there be a confession, or trial of truth. For these read,
Franklin, November 16,
The Countess's letter without date,
SIR FRANCIS BACON TO THE KING.*
From the collections of the late Robert Stephens,
It may please your excellent Majesty, ACCORDING to your Majesty's reference signified by Esq. Sir Roger Wilbraham, I have considered of the petition of Sir Gilbert Houghton, your majesty's servant, for a licence of sole transportation of tallow, butter, and hides, &c. out of your realm of Ireland; and have had conference with the lord Chichester, late lord deputy of Ireland, and likewise with Sir John Davies, your majesty's attorney there: And this is that which I find:
First, that hides and skins may not be meddled withal, being a staple commodity of the kingdom, wherein the towns are principally interested.
That for tallow, butter, beef, not understanding it of live cattle, and pipe-staves, for upon these things we fell, although they were not all contained in the petition, but in respect hides were more worth than all the rest, they were thought of by way of some supply; these commodities are such, as the kingdom may well spare, and in that respect fit to be transported; wherein nevertheless some consideration may be had of the profit, that shall be taken upon the licence. Neither do I find, that the farmers of the customs there, of which some of them were before me, did much stand upon it, but seemed rather to give way to it.
I find also, that at this time all these commodities are free to be transported by proclamation, so as no profit can be made of it, except there be first a restraint; which restraint I think fitter to be by some prohibition in the letters patents, than by any new proclamation; and the said letters patents to pass rather here, than there, as it was in the licence of wines granted to the lady Arbella; but then those letters patents to be inrolled in the chancery of Ireland, whereby exemplifications of them may be taken to be sent to the ports.
All which nevertheless I submit to your majesty's better judgment.
Your Majesty's most humble
bounden subject and servant,
5 June, 1616.
MR. TOBIE MATTHEW TO SIR FRANCIS BACON,
May it please your Honour,
SUCH, as know your honour, may congratulate with you the favour, which you have lately received from his majesty, of being made a counsellor of state; (a) but as for me, I must have leave to con
(a) Sir Francis Bacon was sworn at Greenwich of the privy council, June 9, 1616.
gratulate with the council-table, in being so happy as to have you for an assessor. I hope these are but beginnings, and that the marriage, which now I perceive that fortune is about to make with virtue, will be consummate in your person. I cannot dissemble, though, I am ashamed to mention, the excessive honour, which you have vouchsafed to do unto my picture. But shame ought not to be so hateful as sin; and without sin I know not how to conceal the extreme obligation into which I am entered thereby, which is incomparably more than I can express, and no less than as much as I am able to conceive. And as the copy is more fortunate than the original, because it hath the honour to be under your eye; so the original being much more truly yours than the copy can be, aspires, by having the happiness to see you, to put the picture out of countenance.
I understand by Sir George Petre, (a) who is arrived here at the Spa, and is so wise as to honour you extremely, though he have not the fortune to be known to your honour, that he had heard how my lord of Canterbury had been moved in my behalf; and that he gave way unto my return. This, if it be true, cannot have happened without some endeavour of your honour; and therefore, howsoever I have not been particularly advertised that your honour had delivered my letter to his grace; yet now methinks I do as good as know it, and dare adventure to present you with my humblest thanks for the favour. But the main point is, how his majesty should be moved; wherein my friends are straining courtesy; and unless I have your honour for a master of the ceremonies, to take order, who shall begin, all the benefit that I can reap by this negotiation, will be to have the reputation of little judgment in attempting that which I was not able to obtain; and that, howsoever I have shot fair, I know not how to hit the mark. I have been directed by my lord Roos, who was the
(a) Grandson of John, the first lord Petre, and son of William, second baron of that name.