The Life of Sir Thomas Bodley written by himself/Chapter 1
SIR THOMAS BODLEY'S
THE LIFE OF
SIR THOMAS BODLEY
WRITTEN BY HIMSELF
I WAS born at Exeter in Devonshire, the 2d of March, in the Year 1544; descended, both by Father and Mother, of Worshipful Parentage. By my Father's side, from an ancient Family of Bodley, or Bodleigh, of Dunscombe by Crediton; and by my Mother from Robert Hone Esq; of Offerey Saint Mary, nine Miles from Exeter. My Father in the time of Queen Mary, being noted and known to be an Enemy to Popery, was so cruelly threatned, and so narrowly observed by those that maliced his Religion, that for the Safeguard of himself, and my Mother, who was wholly affected as my Father, he knew no way so secure, as to fly into Germany: Where after a while he found means to call over my Mother, with all his Children and Family; whom he settled for a time at Wesel in Cleveland: (For there as then were many English, which had left their Country, for their Conscience, and with Quietness enjoyed their Meetings, and Preachings) and from thence we removed to the Town of Franckford, where was in like sort another English Congregation. Howbeit we made no long tarriance in either of those two Towns, for that my Father had resolved to fix his Abode in the City of Geneva: Where, (as far as I remember) the English Church consisted of some hundred Persons. I was at that time of 12 Years of Age; but through my Father's Cost and Care, sufficiently instructed to become an Auditor of Chevalerius in Hebrew, of Beroaldus in Greek, of Calvin and Beza in Divinity, and of some other Professors in that University; (which was newly then erected) besides my domestical Teachers, in the House of Philibertus Saracenus a famous Physician in that City, with whom I was boarded: where Robertus Constantinus that made the Greek Lexicon, read Homer unto me. Thus I remained there two Years and more, until such time as our Nation was advertised of the Death of Queen Mary, and Succession of Elizabeth, with the Change of Religion; which caused my Father to hasten into England: Where he came with my Mother, and with all their Family, within the first of the Queen, and settled their Dwelling in the City of London, It was not long after, that I was sent away from thence to the University of Oxon, recommended to the Teaching and Tuition of Dr. Humphrey, who was shortly after chosen the chief Reader in Divinity, and President of Magdalen-College. There I followed my Studies, till I took the Degree of Batchelor of Arts, which was in the Year 1563, within which Year I was also chosen Probationer of Merton-College, and the next year ensuing admitted Fellow. Afterwards, to wit, in the Year 1565, by special Perswasion of some of my Fellows, and for my private Exercise, I undertook the publick reading of a Greek Lecture, in the same College-Hall, without requiring, or expecting any Stipend for it. Nevertheless, it pleased the Fellowship, of their own Accord, to allow me soon after four Marks by the Year, and ever since to continue that Lecture to the College. In the Year of our Lord 1566, I proceeded Master of Arts; and read for that Year in the School-Streets, Natural Philosophy: After which time, within less than three Years space, I was won by intreaty of my best affected Friends, to stand for the Proctorship, to which I and my Collegue Mr. Bearblock of Exeter-College were quietly Elected in the Year 1569, without any Competition, or Counter suit of any other. After this for a long time, I supplied the Place of the University-Orator, and bestowed my time in the Study of sundry Faculties, without any Inclination to profess any one above the rest; insomuch as at last, I waxed desirous to Travel beyond the Seas, for attaining to the Knowledge of some special Modern Tongues, and for the Increase of my Experience in the Managing of Affairs: being wholly then addicted to employ my self, and all my Cares, in the publick Service of the State. My Resolution fully taken, I departed out of England, Anno 1576, and continued very near four Years abroad: and that in sundry Parts of Italy, France and Germany. A good while after my return, to wit, in the Year 1585, I was employed by the Queen, to Frederick, Father to the present King of Denmark, to Julius Duke of Brunswick, to William Landgrave of Hesse, and other German Princes. The effect of my Message was, to draw them to joyn their Forces with hers, for giving Assistance to the King of Navarre, now Henry the IVth of France. My next Imployment was to Henry the Third at such time as he was forced by the Duke of Guise to fly out of Paris: Which I performed in such sort as I had in Charge, with Secrecy, not being accompanied with any one Servant, (for so I was commanded) nor with any other Letters, than such as were written with the Queen's own Hand to the King, and some selected Persons about Him. The effect of that Message it is fit I should conceal, but it tended greatly to the Advantage, not only of the King, but of all the Protestants in France, and to the Duke's apparent overthrow; which also followed soon upon it. It so befel after this, in the Year Eighty Eight, that for the better Conduct of her Highness's Affairs in the Provinces United, I was thought a fit Person to reside in those Parts, and was sent thereupon to the Hague in Holland; where according to the Contract that had formerly past between her Highness and the States, I was admitted for one of their Counsel of State, takeing Place in their Assemblies next to Count Maurice, and yielding my Suffrage in all that was proposed: During all that time, what Approbation was given of my painful Endeavours by the Queen, Lords in England, by the States of the Country there, and by all the English Soldiery, I refer it to be notified by some other's Relation; Sith it was not unknown to any of any Calling, that then were acquainted with the State of that Government. For at my first coming thither, the People of that Country stood in dangerous Terms of discontentment; partly for some Courses that were held in England, as they thought to their singular Prejudice, but most of all in respect of the insolent Demeanour of some of her Highness's Ministers, which only respected their private Emolument; little weighing in their Dealing, what the Queen had contracted with the States of the Country: Whereupon was conceived a mighty Fear on every side, that both a present Dissolution of the Covenant would ensue, and a downright Breach of Amity, between us and them. Now what means I set afoot for redress of these Perils, and by what Degrees the state of things was reduced into order, it would require a long Treatise to report it exactly. But this I may aver with Modesty and Truth, and the Country did always acknowledge it with Gratitude, that had I not of my self without any Direction from my Superiours, proceeded in my Charge with extreme Circumspection, as well in all my Speeches and Proposals to the States, as in the Tenour of my Letters, that I writ into England, some sudden Alarm had been given, to the utter Subversion, and Ruin of the State of those Provinces: Which in process of time, must needs have wrought in all Probability, the self same effect in the State of this Realm. Of this my Diligence and Care in the managing of my Business, there was, as I have signified, very special Notice taken by the Queen, and State at Home, for which I received from her Majesty, many comfortable Letters of her gracious Acceptance: As withall from that time forward, I did never almost receive any Sett Instructions, how to govern my Proceedings in her Majesty's Occasions: but the Carriage in a manner of all her Affairs, was left to me and my Discretion. Through this my long Absence out of England, which wanted very little of five whole Years, my private Estate did greatly require my speedy Return; which when I had obtained by Intercession of Friends, and a tedious Suit, I could enjoy but a while, being shortly after enjoyned to repair to the Hague again. Nevertheless, upon a certain occasion to deliver unto her some secret Overtures, and of performing thereupon an extroardinary Service, I came again Home, within less than a twelve Month; and I was no sooner come, but her Highness embracing the Fruit of my Discoveries, I was presently commanded to return to the States, with Charge to pursue those Affairs to Performance, which I had secretly proposed; and according to the Project which I had conceived and imparted unto her, all things were concluded, and brought to that Issue, that was instantly desired: Whereupon I procured my last Revocation. Now here I cannot chuse, in making Report of the principal Accidents, that have befallen unto me in the Course of my Life, but record among the rest, that from the very first day, I had no man more to Friend, among the Lords of the Council, than was the Lord Treasurer Burleigh; for when occasion had been offered of declaring his Conceit, as touching my Service, he would always tell the Queen, (which I received from her self, and some other Ear- Witnesses ) that there was not any Man in England, so meet as myself, to undergo the Office of the Secretary: And since, his Son the present Lord Treasurer hath signified unto me in private Conference, that when his Father first intended to advance him to that Place, his purpose was withal to make me his Collegue. But the Case stood thus in my behalf: Before such time as I returned from the Provinces United, which was in the Year 1597, and likewise after my return. The Earl of Essex did use me so kindly both by Letters and Messages, and other great Tokens of his inward Favour to me, that although I had no meaning, but to settle in my Mind my chiefest Dependance upon the Lord Burleigh, as one that I reputed to be both the best able, and therewithal the most willing to work my Advancement with the Queen; Yet I know not how the Earl, who sought by all Devices to divert her Love and Liking both from the Father and the Son, (but from the Son in special) to withdraw my Affection from the One, and the Other, and to win me altogether to depend upon himself, did so often take occasion to entertain the Queen. with some prodigal Speeches of my Sufficiency for a Secretary, which were ever accompanied with Words of Disgrace against the present Lord Treasurer, as neither She her self, (of whose Favour before I was thoroughly assured) took any great Pleasure to prefer me the sooner; (for she hated his Ambition, and would give little Countenance to any of his Followers) and both the Lord Burleigh, and his Son waxed jealous of my Courses, as if underhand I had been induced by the Cunning and Kindness of the Earl of Essex, to oppose my self against their Dealings. And though in very Truth, they had no solid Ground at all, of the least Alteration in my Disposition towards either of them both (for I did greatly respect their Persons and Places, with a settled Resolution to do them any Service, as also in my Heart I detested to be of any Faction whatsoever) yet the now Lord Treasurer, upon occasion of some talk, that I have since had with him, of the Earl and his Actions, hath freely confessed of his own accord to me, that his daily Provocations were so bitter and sharp against him, and his Comparisons so odious, when he put us in a Ballance, as he thought thereupon, he had very great reason to use his best means, to put any Man out of Love of raising his Fortune, whom the Earl with such Violence, to his extreme Prejudice, had endeavoured to dignifie. And this, as he affirmed, was all the Motive he had, to set himself against me, in whatsoever might redound to the bettering my State, or encreasing my Credit, and countenance with the Queen: When I had thoroughly now bethought me first in the Earl, of the slender Hold-fast he had in the Queen; of an endless Opposition of the chiefest of our Statesmen, like still to wait upon him; of his perilous, and feeble, and uncertain Advice, as well in his own, as in all the Causes of his Friends; and when moreover, for my self I had fully considered, how very untowardly these two Counsellors were affected unto me, (upon whom before in Cogitation I had framed all the Fabrick of my Future Prosperity) how ill it did concur with my natural Disposition, to become, or to be counted either a Stickler or Partaker in any publick Faction; how well I was able by God's good Blessing to live of my self. If I could be content with a competent Livelihood; how short a time of farther Life, I was then to expect by the common Course of Nature; when I had, I say, in this manner represented to my Thoughts my particular Estate, together with the Earl's; I resolved thereupon to possess my Soul in Peace, all the Residue of my Days; to take my full farewell of State-Imployments; to satisfie my Mind with that Mediocrity of worldly living, that I had of mine own; and so to retire me from the Court, which was the Epilogue, and End of all my Actions, and Endeavours of any important Note, till I came to the Age of Sixty Three. Now although after this, by her Majesty's Directions, I was often called to the Court, by the now Lord Treasurer, then Secretary, and required by him, as also divers times since, by order from the King, to serve as Ambassador in France, to go a Commissioner from his Highness, for concluding the Truce between Spain and the Provinces, and to negotiate in other very honourable Imployments, yet I would not be removed from my former final Resolution; insomuch as at length to reduce me the sooner to return to the Court, I had an offer made me by the present Lord Treasurer (for in process of time he saw, as he himself was pleased to tell me more than once, that all my dealing was upright, fair, and direct) that in case I my self were willing unto it, he would make me his Associate in the Secretary's Office: And to the Intent I might believe that he intended it bona fide, he would get me out of hand to be sworn of the Council. And for the better enabling of my State, to maintain such a Dignity, whatsoever I would ask, that might be fit for him to deal in, and for me to enjoy, he would presently solicite the King to give it Passage. All which Perswasions notwithstanding, albeit I was often assaulted by him, in regard of my Years, and for that I felt my self subject to many Indispositions, besides some other private Reasons, which I reserve unto my self, I have continued still at home, my retired course of Life, which is now methinks to me, as the greatest Preferment that the State can afford. Only this, I must truly confess of my self, that though I did never yet repent me of those, and some other my often refusals of Honourable Offers, in respect of enriching my private Estate; yet somewhat more of late, I have blamed myself and my Nicety that way, for the love that I bear to my Reverend Mother the University of Oxon, and to the Advancement of her Good, by such kind of means, as I have since undertaken. For thus I fell to Discourse, and debate in my Mind, That altho' I might find it fittest for me, to keep out of the Throng of Court Contentions, and address my Thoughts and Deeds to such Ends altogether, as I my self could best affect; yet withal I was to think, that my Duty towards God, the Expectation of the World, and my natural Inclination, and very Morality did require, that I should not wholly so hide those little Abilities that I had, but that in some measure, in one kind or other, I should do the true part of a profitable Member of the State; whereupon examining exactly for the rest of my Life, what course I might take, and having sought (as I thought) all the ways to the Wood, to select the most proper, I concluded at the last, to set up my Staff at the Library-Door in Oxon; being thoroughly perswaded, that in my Solitude, and Surcease from the Common-Wealth Affairs, I could not busy my self to better purpose, than by reducing that Place (which then in every Part lay ruined and wast) to the publick use of Students. For the effecting whereof, I found my self furnished in a competent Proportion, of such four kinds of Aids, as unless I had them all, there was no hope of good Success: For Without some kind of Knowledge, as well in the Learned and Modern Tongues, as in sundry other sorts of scholastical Literature, without some Purse-ability to go through with the Charge, without great store of Honourable Friends, to further the Design, and without special good Leisure to follow such a Work, it could but have proved a vain Attempt and inconsiderate. But how well I have sped in all my Endeavours, and how full Provision I have made for the Benefit and Ease of all Frequenters of the Library, that which I have already performed in Sight, that which besides I have given for the Maintenance of it, and that which hereafter I purpose to add, by way of Enlargement of that Place, (for the Project is cast, and whether I live or die, it shall be, God willing, put in full Execution) will testify so truly and abundantly for me, as I need not be the Publisher of the Dignity and Worth of mine own Institution.
Written with mine own Hand, Anno 1609. December 11th.