Luther, but never began it, and he promised, shortly after Donne's death in 1631, to write a life of the dean as introduction to ‘Eighty Sermons’ by Donne. The publication was delayed until Wotton's life should be ready. Wotton applied to Izaak Walton, whose acquaintance he had made through Donne, to collect materials, and Walton says that he ‘did but prepare them in a readiness to be augmented, and rectified by Wotton's powerful pen’ (1640), but Wotton never worked upon Walton's draft, and Walton's biography of Donne alone survives (Gosse, Life of John Donne, ii. 315). Wotton was one of the few close friends to whom Donne gave one of his bloodstone seals a few months before he died.
Science also engaged some of Wotton's attention at Eton. He had never ceased to interest himself in it since he had been an undergraduate at Oxford. In 1620 he sent Bacon, who was then working at his ‘Novum Organon,’ an account of experiments witnessed by him in Kepler's house at Linz (Reliquiæ, pp. 298 sq.). In 1622 he had written from Venice to Charles, prince of Wales, promising to communicate such philosophical experiments as might come in his way; ‘for mere speculations have ever seemed to my conceit.’ At Eton he was consulted by Walton on the ingredients of certain strong-smelling oils which proved seductive to fish (Compleat Angler, reprint of 1653 edit. p. 98), and he discussed with Sir Edmund Bacon, who married a half-niece, certain distillings from vegetables for medical purposes (Reliquiæ, pp. 454–5). He also experimented on the measurement of small divisions of time by the descent of drops of water through a filter (ib. p. 475).
Wotton maintained to the end a highly valuable correspondence. Among his most interesting letters was one to the great Francis Bacon, thanking him for a gift of three copies of his ‘Organum,’ and promising to send one of them to Kepler. Wotton wrote the epitaph on Bacon's monument at St. Michael's Church, St. Albans (Aubrey, Lives, i. 493). Milton came over from Horton to visit him, and on 10 April 1638 Wotton acknowledged a gift of ‘Comus’ from a friend, John Rouse [q. v.], in a very complimentary letter to the poet, which was printed with Milton's ‘Poems’ in 1643. With this letter Wotton sent the poet, who was leaving England to travel on the continent, an introduction to Michael Branthwait, formerly British agent in Venice. Branthwait was at the moment in Paris, ‘attending the young Lord S[cudamore] as his governor.’ Milton gratefully mentions Wotton's ‘elegant epistle’ to him in his account of his visit to Paris (‘Defensio Secunda,’ Works, vi. 287).
Wotton practised at Eton a lavish hospitality, and delighted in the society of his friends, chief among whom in his last years were Izaak Walton and John Hales, a fellow of Eton. Wotton was almost as enthusiastic an angler as Walton. Angling occupied, he said, ‘his idle time not idly spent,’ and he designed an account of the sport in anticipation of Walton. Wotton and Walton were at seasons accustomed to angle in company close to the college at a bend in the Thames known as ‘Black Pots.’ ‘When he was beyond seventy years of age,’ Walton tells us, ‘he described in a poem a part of the pleasure of angling as he sat quietly in a summer's evening on a bank a-fishing.’ Walton quotes in his ‘Compleat Angler’ Wotton's verses, which begin:
This day Dame Nature seemed to love;
they reappear with some verbal changes in the ‘Reliquiæ.’
Once a year Wotton left Eton to visit his native place, Boughton Hall, and Oxford. In the summer of 1638 he revisited his old school at Winchester; but on his return to Eton he was seized with ‘feverish distemper,’ which proved incurable. He died at the beginning of December 1639, and was buried in the college chapel. He wrote the epitaph for his grave: ‘Hic jacet hujus sententiæ primus author disputandi pruritus, ecclesiarum scabies. Nomen alias quære’ (cf. Reliquiæ Wotton. 1672, p. 124). The tombstone is now one of the stones leading into the choir.
In 1637 he made a will, his executors being his grand-nephews Albert Morton and Thomas Bargrave, and the supervisors Dean Isaac Bargrave [q. v.], Nicholas Pey, and John Harrison, fellow of Eton (cf. Walton, who prints the will in full). Several pictures and Sir Nicholas Throckmorton's papers, which Sir Nicholas's son, Sir Arthur, had bequeathed to him, were left to the king; the Throckmorton papers are now in the Public Record Office. To the library of Eton College he left ‘all manuscripts not before disposed,’ and to each fellow a plain gold ring, enamelled black, with the motto ‘Amor vincit omnia’ engraved inside.
There is an interesting half-length portrait in oils in the provost's lodge at Eton; this is reproduced in Cust's ‘History of Eton.’ Another portrait, by Cornelius Janssen, is in the picture gallery at the Bodleian Library; it is reproduced in Lodge's ‘Portraits,’ vol. iv. 27.
Wotton had published in his lifetime two