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*SIR FRANCIS BACON TO SIR GEORGE VILLIERS, Touching the examination of Sir Robert Cotton upon some information of Sir John Digby. (a)
• From an old manu
script in my
book of Letters of Sir
I RECEIVED your letter yesterday towards the even-
(a) Secretary Winwood, in a private letter to Sir Thomas Edmondes, printed in the Historical View of the Negotiations between the Courts of England, France, and Brussels, p. 392, mentions, that there was great expectation, that Sir John Digby, just then returned from Spain, where he had been ambassador, could charge the earl of Somerset with some treasons and plots with Spain. "To the king," adds Sir Ralph, "as yet he hath used no other language, but that, "having served in a place of honour, it would ill become him to "be an accuser. Legally or criminally he can say nothing: yet "this he says and hath written, that all his private dispatches, "wherein he most discovered the practices of Spain, and their intelligences, were presently sent into Spain; which could not be "but by the treachery of Somerset."
in receiving the precedent examinations of Sir Robert Cotton from my lord chief justice, and perusing of them; and accordingly attended my lord chancellor at the hour appointed, where I found Sir John Digby.
At this meeting it was the endeavour of my lord chancellor and myself to take such light from Sir John Digby, as might evidence first the examination of Sir Robert Cotton; and then to the many examinations of Somerset; wherein we found Sir John Digby ready and willing to discover unto us what he knew; and he had also, by the lord chancellor's direction, prepared some heads of examination in writing for Sir Robert Cotton; of all which use shall be made for his majesty's service, as is fit. Howbeit, for so much as did concern the practice of conveying the prince into Spain, or the Spanish pensions, he was somewhat reserved upon this ground, that they were things his majesty knew, and things, which by some former commandment from his majesty he was restrained to keep in silence, and that he conceived they could be no ways applied to Somerset. Wherefore it was not fit to press him beyond that, which he conceived to be his warrant, before we had known his majesty's farther pleasure; which I pray you return unto us with all convenient speed. I for my part am in no appetite for secrets; but nevertheless seeing his majesty's great trust towards me, wherein I shall never deceive him; and that I find the chancellor of the same opinion, I do think it were good my lord chancellor chiefly and myself were made acquainted with the persons and the particulars; not only because it may import his majesty's service otherwise, but also because to my understanding, for therein I do not much rely upon Sir John Digby's judgment, it may have a great connection with the examination of Somerset, considering his mercenary nature, his great undertaking for Spain in the match, and his favour with his majesty; and therefore the circumstances of other pensions given cannot but tend to discover whether he were pensioner or no.
But herein no time is lost; for my lord chancellor,
who is willing, even beyond his strength, to lose no moment for his majesty's service, hath appointed me to attend him Thursday morning for the examination of Sir Robert Cotton, leaving to-morrow for councilbusiness to my lord, and to me for considering of fit articles for Sir Robert Cotton.
10 April, 1616.
MR. TOBIE MATTHEW (a) TO SIR FRANCIS BACON,
May it please you, Sir,
THE notice I have from my lord Roos, Sir Henry Goodere, and other friends, of the extreme obligation, wherein I continue towards you, together with the conscience I have of the knowledge, how dearly and truly I honour and love you, and daily pray, that you may rise to that height, which the state, wherein you live, can give you, hath taken away the wings of fear, whereby I was almost carried away from daring to importune you in this kind. But I know how good you have always been, and are still, towards me; or rather because I am not able to comprehend how much it is, I will presume there is enough for any use, whereupon an honest humble servant may employ it.
It imports the business of my poor estate, that I be restored to my country for some time; and I have divers friends in that court, who will further my desire thereof, and particularly Mr. secretary Lake and
(a) Son of Dr. Tobie Matthew, archbishop of York. He was born at Oxford in 1578, while his father was dean of Christ-church, and educated there. During his travels abroad, he was seduced to the Romish religion by father Parsons. This occasioned his living out of his own country from the year 1607 to 1617, when he had leave to return to England. He was again ordered to leave it in October, 1618; but in 1622 was recalled to assist in the match with Spain: and on account of his endeavours to promote it, was knighted by king James I. at Royston, on the 10th of October, 1623. He translated into Italian Sir Francis Bacon's Essays, and died at Ghent in Flanders, October 13th, 1655. N. S.
my lord Roos, whom I have desired to confer with you about it. But nothing can be done therein, unless my lord of Canterbury (b) may be made propitious, or at least not averse; nor do I know in the world how to charm him but by the music of your tongue. I beseech you, Sir, lose some minutes upon me, which I shall be glad to pay by whole years of service; and call to mind, if it please you, the last speech you made me, that if I should continue as I then was, and neither prove ill-affected to the state, nor become otherwise than a mere secular man in my religion, you would be pleased to negotiate for my return. On my part the conditions are performed; and it remains, that you do the like: nor can I doubt but that the nobleness of your nature, which loves nothing in the world so well as to be doing of good, can descend from being the attorney-general to a great king, to be solicitor for one of the meanest subjects that he hath.
I send my letter to my lord's grace open, that before you seal it, if you shall think fit to seal it, and rather not to deliver it open, you may see the reasons that I have; which, if I be not partial, are very pregnant. Although I confess, that till it was now very lately mentioned to me by some honourable friends, who have already procured to disimpression his majesty of some hard conceit he had me in, I did not greatly think thereof; and now I am full of hope, that I shall prevail. For supposing, that my lord of Canterbury's mind is but made of iron, the adamant of your persuasion will have power to draw it. It may please you either to send a present answer hereunto; or, since I am not worthy of so much favour, to tell either of those honourable persons aforenamed what the answer is, that accordingly they may co-operate.
This letter goes by Sir Edward Parham, a gentleman, whom I have been much beholding to. I know him to be a perfect honest man; and since, I protest, I had rather die than deceive you, I will humbly
(b) Dr. George Abbot.
pray, that he may rather receive favour from you, than otherwise, when he shall come in your way, which at one time or other all the world there must do. And I shall acknowledge myself much bound to you, as being enabled by this means to pay many of my debts to him.
I presume to send you the copy of a piece of a letter, which Galileo, of whom, I am sure, you have heard, wrote to a monk of my acquaintance in Italy, about the answering of that place in Joshua, which concerns the sun's standing still, and approving thereby the pretended falshood of Copernicus's opinion. The letter was written by occasion of the opposition, which some few in Italy did make against Galileo, as if he went about to establish that by experiments, which appears to be contrary to holy Scripture. But he makes it appear the while by this piece of a letter, which I send you, that if that passage of Scripture doth expressly favour either side, it is for the affirmative of Copernicus's opinion, and for the negative of Aristotle's. To an attorney-general in the midst of a town, and such a one, as is employed in the weightiest affairs of the kingdom, it might seem unseasonable for me to interrupt you with matter of this nature. But I know well enough in how high account you have the truth of things; and that no day can pass, wherein you give not liberty to your wise thoughts of looking upon the works of nature. It may please you to pardon the so much trouble which I give you in this kind; though yet, I confess, I do not deserve a pardon, because I find not in myself a purpose of forbearing to do the like hereafter. I most humbly kiss your hand.
Your most faithful and affectionate servant,
Brussels, this 21st of April, 1616.