Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wotton, Henry
WOTTON, Sir HENRY (1568–1639) diplomatist and poet, was born in 1568 at Boughton Hall, in the parish of Boughton Malherbe, in Kent. He was grandson of Sir Edward Wotton (1489–1551) [q. v.], and fourth son of Thomas Wotton (1521–1587), being only son of bis father's second marriage with Eleanor, daughter of Sir William Finch, and widow of Robert Morton of Kent. Edward Wotton, first baron Wotton [q. v.], was his eldest half-brother, After receiving some instruction at home from his mother and a tutor, Henry was sent to Winchester school, and at the age of sixteen proceeded as a commoner to New College, Oxford, matriculating on 5 June 1584, Two years later he migrated to Queen's College, and while an undergraduate there he wrote a play called 'Tancredo,' which was apparently based on Tasso's recently published 'Gerusalemme Liberate.' Wotton's effort is lost. Science also attracted him, and he is said when in his twentieth year to have 'read in Latin three lectures "do oculo," wherein he described the form, the motion, and the curious composure of the eye' (Walton), At Oxford, despite Wolton's five years' seniority, he began a friendship with John Donne [q. v.], which was only terminated by the latter's death. Alberico Gentili [q. v.], professor of civil law, also became warmly attached to him. Wotton's father died in 1587, leaving him a beggarly annuity of a hundred marks. He supplicated for the degree of B.A. on 6 June 1588, and then left the country for a long tour on the continent of Europe, which seems to have occupied him nearly seven years.
He first proceeded to the university of Altdorf, where he met Edward, lord Zouche [q.v.], a regular correspondent of his in later years. From Altdorf Wotton passed to Linx, where be witnessed some experiments carried out by Kepler. He also visited Ingolstadt and Vienna, and early in 1592 pushed on to Rome, where he was introduced to Cardinals Deltarmine and Allen. After a few months, which be divided among Naples, Genoa, Venice, and Florence, he arrived at Geneva on 22 June 1593; he lodged with the scholar Casaubon, and left owing his host much money, which Casaubon recovered with difficulty after inconvenient delay (Pattison, Casaubon, pp. 44–6). Subsequently Wotton spent some time in France. He was ambitious of diplomatic employment, and while on the continent he seems to have forwarded foreign news to Robert Devereux, second earl of Essex, who appreciated his services. During 1594 he wrote abroad his longest and most important prose work, ‘The State of Christendom,’ an outspoken survey of current politics, displaying both information and insight; it remained unpublished till 1657, eighteen years after its author's death. At the opening of the work he meditates the possibility of securing a safe return home by ‘murdering some notable traitor to his prince and country,’ but he thought better of the plan owing to ‘the great difficulty to remain unpunished’ and to ‘the continual terror that such an offence might breed into his conscience.’ Again in England in 1595, he was admitted a student to the Middle Temple, but he never was called to the bar. Towards the close of the year he became one of Essex's agents and secretaries.
By October 1595 he was fully in his master's confidence, and visited the margrave of Baden at the earl's instance to win his friendship for Queen Elizabeth (Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. Hatfield MSS.) In December 1595 he was sent by Essex to Paris to warn Essex's Portuguese protégé, Antonio Perez, of the treachery of his English attendant Aleyn. Aleyn returned with Wotton and was arrested (Birch, Queen Elizabeth, i. 346). Essex, who made it his object to collect foreign intelligence from all parts of Europe, entrusted Wotton in 1596 with the department dealing with the affairs of Transylvania, Poland, Italy, and Germany (ib. ii. 243). Although Wotton was an active correspondent, his judgment and fidelity to his master were questioned by a fellow secretary, Anthony Bacon [q. v.], and continual bickerings between Wotton and Bacon disturbed the harmony of Essex's household. While in London in Essex's employment, Wotton made the acquaintance of many men of letters, to whom probably his friend Donne introduced him. As soon as Essex fell out of favour with his sovereign, Wotton hastily left England on a second visit to Italy. Unlike his fellow secretary, Henry Cuffe, he seems to have been in no way involved in Essex's futile conspiracy, but he was not free from a suspicion of complicity, and, so long as Queen Elizabeth lived, England was closed to him. He appears to have settled at Venice, where he occupied himself in literary work. From Venice he passed to Florence, where he obtained an introduction to the court of Ferdinand, the great duke of Tuscany. In 1602 the duke's ministers intercepted letters disclosing a design against the life of James, the Scottish king. At the suggestion of his secretary Vietta, the duke sent Wotton to warn James of the conspiracy, entrusting him not merely ‘with letters to the king’ but with ‘such Italian antidotes against poison as the Scots till then had been strangers to.’ Travelling as an Italian under the assumed name of Octavio Baldi, Wotton reached Sweden, whence he crossed to Scotland and was received by King James at Stirling. After three months' stay in Scotland he returned to Florence, and was there at the time of Queen Elizabeth's death.
Wotton at once returned to England and was accorded a kindly reception by the new sovereign, James I. He received the honour of knighthood and a choice of posts as ambassador at the courts of Spain, France, or Venice. Wotton's means were small, and he accepted the post at Venice as pecuniarily the least onerous of the three. He left London in July 1604. His half-nephew (son of a half-brother), Sir Albertus Morton [q. v.], went with him as secretary, and William Bedell [q. v.] joined him as chaplain in 1607 (cf. Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. vii. 281). His friend Donne sent him a letter in verse on his departure (Donne, Poems, ed. Chambers, ii. 7–9, 41–2; cf. Walton, Life, ed. Bullen, p. 119).
Wotton was engaged in diplomatic duties at Venice for nearly twenty years, but he did not hold office continuously. His first term covered eight years, 1604 to 1612; his second four years, 1616 to 1619, and his third four years, 1621 to 1624.
During Wotton's first period he was chiefly occupied in supporting the republic in its long resistance to the authority of the pope. By his exertions, too, many English soldiers who had been brought over to serve the Venetian republic against the Turks were relieved from extreme poverty and sent back to England. He made the acquaintance of Paolo Sarpi, and caused a portrait to be painted of him, which he sent to Dr. Collins, provost of King's College, Cambridge (Burnet, Life of Bedell, p. 194; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. vii. 350–1), and he showed attention to James Howell, Thomas Coryate, and other English travellers (cf. Coryate, Crudities, 1776, ii. 7). Donne, writing in 1607, complained that Wotton, ‘under the oppression of business or the necessity of seeming so,’ was an infrequent correspondent (Gosse, Donne, i. 170). Wotton contrived to offend Gasper Scioppius, a Roman catholic controversialist who had been a fellow student at Altdorf. Scioppius visited Venice in 1607, and was then preparing a confutation of James I's theology. In 1611 he issued a volume of scurrilous abuse of the king, entitled ‘Ecclesiasticus.’ Incidentally he alluded to an anecdote respecting Wotton which involved the English envoy in disaster. It appears that on his journey to Italy in 1604 Wotton stayed at Augsburg, where Christopher Flecamore or Fleckmore, a merchant, invited him to inscribe his name in his album. Wotton complied by writing the sentence ‘Legatus est vir bonus peregre missus ad mentiendum Reipublicæ causâ,’ ‘which he would have been content should have been thus englished: An ambassador is an honest man, sent to lie abroad for the good of his country’ (Walton). Scioppius, in noticing this episode, charged James I in his printed diatribe with sending a confessed liar to represent him abroad (Ecclesiasticus, cap. iv.)
About the same date as Scioppius's attack on James I was published (1611), Wotton obtained leave to revisit England. He desired a change of employment. He had already received a grant of the second vacancy among the six clerks (18 March 1610–11; Cal. State Papers, 1617–18, p. 17). While at home at leisure in the following autumn, he paid much court to Prince Henry and to the Princess Elizabeth; the princess inspired him with an enthusiastic esteem, and he celebrated her charms in beautiful verse. Early in 1612 he went to France on diplomatic business, and wrote to Donne from Amiens. On Lord Salisbury's death on 24 May 1612 he was a candidate for the vacant post of secretary to the king. The queen and Prince Henry encouraged his pretensions; but Wotton had at court many enemies who doubted his sincerity. Chamberlain, who usually called him in his correspondence ‘Signor Fabritio,’ declared in October 1612 ‘my good old friend Fabritio will never leave his old trade of being fabler, or, as the devil is, father of lies.’
Finally, Wotton's chances of preferment were ruined by the king's discovery of the contemptuous definition of an ambassador's function which was assigned him in Scioppius's book. James invited explanations of the indiscreet jest. Wotton told the king that the affair was ‘a merriment,’ but he was warned to take it seriously (cf. Nichols, Progresses, ii. 468–70; Cal. State Papers, 1611–18, pp. 154, 157, 162), and he deemed it prudent to prepare two apologies. One, privately addressed to the king, is not extant, but James admitted that it ‘sufficiently commuted for a greater offence.’ The other in Latin was inscribed to Marcus Walser, a burgomaster of Augsburg and patron of Scioppius; it was dated from London 1612, and is said to have been published then, although it is now only accessible in the ‘Reliquiæ Wottonianæ.’ It was a vituperative assault on Scioppius, who retorted in a tract which was entitled ‘Legatus Latro’ (published under the pseudonym of Oporinus Gravinius at Ingolstadt in 1615). A burlesque trial of Scioppius for his insolence was introduced into the prologue of Ruggles's ‘Ignoramus,’ when that piece was performed in the king's presence at Cambridge on 6 May 1616.
Through 1613 Wotton persistently sought official employment in vain, and his obsequious bearing diminished his reputation (cf. Nichols, Progresses, ii. 66; cf. Winwood, Memoirs, iii. 468). In the spring of 1614, still disappointed of office, he entered the House of Commons as M.P. for Appleby. He stoutly supported the king's claim to lay impositions on merchandise without appeal to parliament. The right belonged, he argued, to hereditary, although not to elective, monarchs. In the autumn his subservience was rewarded by an invitation to resume diplomatic work abroad. In August 1614 he was sent to The Hague to negotiate with the French ambassador in the Netherlands concerning the inheritance of the duchies of Juliers, Cleves, and Berg, which was disputed by Wolfgang William, count palatine of Neuberg, and the elector of Brandenburg. By November 1614 the envoys contrived to bring about an arrangement on paper (the treaty of Xanten) between the claimants, whereby the disputed territories were provisionally divided between them; but the question was not settled, and the dispute contributed largely to the outbreak of the thirty years' war. Wotton also superintended the resumption of negotiations for the amalgamation of the Dutch and English East India companies, and for the settlement of disputes with Holland in regard to the Greenland fisheries; but the discussion on these points also proved abortive, and was broken off in April 1615. In the following autumn Wotton was at home, but he was sent again to Venice early next year, and he completed there a second uneventful term of three years' service. He mainly occupied himself in purchasing pictures and works of art for the king and Buckingham.
Wotton travelled home slowly through Germany in the spring of 1619. At Munich in May he learned much of the designs of the continental catholics against England. In June he visited at Heilbronn the elector palatine, who had been elected king of Bohemia, and was attending in the city a congress of the princes of the union. Distressed by the misfortunes threatening the electress palatine and her husband, Wotton deemed it the bounden duty of James I to intervene effectually in continental politics in the elector's behalf. In August 1619 he had an audience of James at Woodstock, but seems to have been coldly received. In June 1620 he was ordered to Vienna to sound the emperor as to the possibility of staying the war which was overwhelming the new king and queen of Bohemia. Wotton was unable to reach any common basis for negotiation. But although the discussions proved ineffectual the emperor gave Wotton ‘a jewel of diamonds as a testimony of his good opinion of him.’ Wotton at once handed the gift to ‘the Countess of Sabrina,’ an Italian whose house had been appointed by the emperor for his accommodation. He was indisposed, he said, ‘to be the better of any gift that came from an enemy to his royal mistress, the Queen of Bohemia.’ Unable to render her assistance, he returned to his post at Venice in 1621, and remained there until the early months of 1624. Then he came home for good.
Absolutely penniless, Wotton bent all his energies anew to the task of obtaining lucrative employment. In the spring he published his short and jejune tract on architecture, a paraphrase of Vitruvius, which Chamberlain described as ‘well spoken of, though his own castles have been in the air’ (Cal. State Papers, 10 April 1624). James I suggested that he might in course of time succeed Sir Julius Cæsar as master of the rolls, and gave him the reversion. Happily a more suitable office was found for him. In April 1623 Thomas Murray's death had vacated the provostship of Eton. Many candidates had entered the field, among them Wotton's friend Bacon, the disgraced chancellor, and his nephew, Sir Albertus Morton; but Wotton's importunate appeals to secretary Conway were well received, and he was duly instituted to the provostship on 26 July 1624. He had to borrow money to provide for his settlement at Eton. In 1625 he carried a banneret at James I's funeral, and was elected to Charles I's first parliament as member for Sandwich. James I had granted him a dispensation to enable him to hold the Eton provostship without entering holy orders, but Wotton on his own initiative received deacon's orders in 1627, doubtless with a view to preferment in the church. He was still embarrassed pecuniarily. The income of the provostship was no more than 100l. with board, lodging, and allowances. On one occasion he was arrested for debt. In 1627 the king granted him a pension of 200l. In 1628 he laid his continued difficulties before Charles I; he applied for a small allowance reserved from the income of the master of the rolls, the reversion to which he had resigned, and ‘for the next good deanery that shall be vacant by death or remove’ (Reliquiæ, pp. 562 sqq.). In 1630 Wotton's pension was raised to 500l. in order to enable him to write a history of England and to obtain the requisite clerical assistance. In 1637 he applied for the mastership of the Savoy, should its present holder be promoted to the deanery of Durham (ib. pp. 340–2).
Wotton was an amiable dilettante or literary amateur, with a growing inclination to idleness in his later years. He did not neglect his educational duties, and wrote, after long years of cogitation, a suggestive ‘survey of education’ or ‘moral architecture,’ as he termed it, which he dedicated to the king (it was printed posthumously in his ‘Reliquiæ,’ ed. 1672, pp. 73–99); but he found the boys more interesting than their work. ‘He was a constant cherisher,’ says Walton, ‘of all those youths in that school, in whom he found either a constant diligence or a genius that prompted them to learning’—‘one or more hopeful youths’ being ‘taken and boarded in his own house.’ The provost was a familiar figure in the schoolroom, and he gave practical trial of the dictum that learning can be taught through the eye as well as through the ear, ‘for he caused to be choicely drawn the pictures of divers of the most famous Greek and Latin historians, poets, and orators.’ These he fixed to wooden pillars in the schoolroom (lower school) which seem to have been erected about this time. In the Election Hall he placed a picture of Venice which still hangs there. ‘He could never leave the school,’ adds Walton, ‘without dropping some choyce Greek or Latin apophthegme or sentence such as were worthy of a room in the memory of a growing scholar’ (cf. Maxwell Lyte, History of Eton, 1889, pp. 208 sqq.; Cust, History of Eton, p. 81).
Wotton's literary occupations at Eton led to little practical result. His history of England did not progress beyond the accumulation of a few notes on the characters of William I and Henry VI (Reliquiæ, pp. 100–110). He contemplated a life of Martin 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 slender volumes. The first was ‘The Elements of Architecture, collected by Henry Wotton, Knight, from the best Authors and Examples,’ London (printed by John Bill, 1624, 4to); a copy in the British Museum Library has the dedication to Prince Charles inserted in Wotton's autograph (C. 45, c. 6). The second volume, a panegyrical congratulation in Latin prose to the king on his return from Scotland in 1633, was entitled ‘Ad Regem è Scotia reducem Henrici Wottonij Plavsvs et Vota. Londini excusum typis Augusti Mathusii Anno ciɔiɔcxxxiii’ . The dedication was addressed to Prince Charles; a copy of this rare volume is in the Grenville Library at the British Museum (cf. Knowler, Strafford Papers, i. 167). The work reappeared in an English translation in 1649.
Immediately after Wotton's death there were issued ‘A Parallell betweene Robert, late Earle of Essex, and George, late Duke of Buckingham, written by Sir Henry Wotton, Knight,’ London, 1641; and ‘A Short View of the Life and Death of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, written by Sir Henry Wotton, Knight, late Provost of Eaton Colledge’ (London, printed for William Sheares, no date; another edition, 1642). In 1651 there appeared the main collection of Wotton's works, ‘Reliquiæ Wottonianæ.’ This was prefaced by an elegy by Abraham Cowley and by a memoir from the pen of Izaak Walton, who apparently had a chief hand in preparing the whole work for the press. The title ran: ‘Reliquiæ Wottonianæ, or a Collection of Lives, Letters, Poems, with Characters of Sundry Personages and other Incomparable Pieces of Language and Art. By the Curious Pensil of the Ever Memorable Sr Henry Wotton, Kt., late Provost of Eton Colledg,’ London (printed by Thomas Maxey for R. Marriot, G. Bedel, and T. Garthwait), 1651; other editions are dated 1654, 1672, 1685. The volume includes Lord Clarendon's ‘Difference and Disparity between the Estates and Conditions of George, Duke of Buckingham, and Robert, Earl of Essex, in reply to Wotton's “Parallell.”’ Wotton's chief contributions are (besides the ‘Parallel,’ the ‘Life of the Duke of Buckingham,’ the ‘Elements of Architecture,’ and an English translation of the already published Latin ‘Panegyrick to King Charls’) the following previously unpublished essays: ‘A Philosophicall Surveigh of Education or Moral Architecture, by Henry Wotton, Kt., Provost of Eton Colledg;’ ‘A Meditation upon the XXIIth Chapter of Genesis, by H. W.;’ letters to several persons, including James I, Charles I, Buckingham, Bacon, Lord Keeper Williams, Weston, Laud, Izaak Walton, and Dr. Edmund Castle [q. v.]; and many poems.
In 1661 some further letters, dated 1611–1638, were issued as ‘Letters of Sir Henry Wotton to Sir Edmund Bacon,’ London, printed by R. W. for F. T. at the Three Daggers in Fleet Street, 1661.
A third and enlarged edition of the ‘Reliquiæ’ (1672) contains a few new historical essays on Italian topics, the letters to Sir Edmund Bacon, and others ‘to and from several persons,’ mainly on foreign politics. A fourth edition appeared in 1685 with an important appendix of Wotton's letters to Edward, lord Zouche.
Finally there appeared ‘The State of Christendom, or A most Exact and Curious Discovery of many Secret Passages and Hidden Mysteries of the Times. Written by the Renowned Sr Henry Wotton, Kt., Ambassadour in Ordinary to the Most Serene Republique of Venice, and late Provost of Eaton Colledg,’ London, printed for Humphrey Moseley, 1657, with portrait (another edit. 1679, fol.).
‘Letters and Despatches from Sir Henry Wotton to James I and his Ministers in the years 1617–20,’ were printed from the originals in the library of Eton College for the Roxburghe Club in 1850. The letters dated from Venice begin on 1 Aug. 1617; the last letter of Wotton, dated 15 Nov. 1620, is addressed to Sir Robert Naunton. Many are in Italian and bear Wotton's pseudonym of Gregorio de' Monti. Wotton's complete correspondence was collected in Mr. Pearsall Smith's ‘Life and Letters’ (Oxford, 1907, 2 vols.).
Wotton's poems are the most valuable of his literary remains. Of the twenty-five poems included in the ‘Reliquiæ’ only fifteen are attributed to Wotton. The ten which are assigned to other pens include the well-known poem, beginning ‘The World is a bubble,’ which is assigned in the ‘Reliquiæ’ to Francis Bacon; in some contemporary manuscripts it is associated with the names of other writers, including Wotton himself. Wotton's fully authenticated verse includes an elegy on the death of his nephew, Sir Albertus Morton (November 1625), and a very happy epigram on Lady Morton's death. ‘An Elegy of a Woman's Heart’ was first printed in Davison's ‘Poetical Rhapsody,’ 1602. A short hymn upon the birth of Prince Charles was clearly written in the spring of 1630, and the ode to the king on Charles I's return from Scotland in 1633. Two of Wotton's poems rank with the finest in the language. These are entitled respectively ‘The Character of a Happy Life,’ and verses ‘On his Mistress, the Queen of Bohemia;’ both are justly included in Palgrave's ‘Golden Treasury of Songs and Lyrics.’ The poem on the queen of Bohemia was probably written at the end of 1619. It was first printed (with music) in 1624 in Est's sixth set of books, and again in ‘Wit's Recreations,’ 1640, in ‘Wit's Interpreter,’ 1671, and with the second part of ‘Cantus Songs and Fancies,’ 1682. It has been constantly imitated and new stanzas have been written to it. It appears with some variations among Montrose's poems (Napier, Life of Montrose, 1858, Appendix, p. xl). The ‘Character of a Happy Life’ was printed in 1614 with the fifth edition of Overbury's ‘Wife.’ At Dulwich a manuscript copy in the hand of Ben Jonson may be dated 1616; this was printed somewhat inaccurately by Collier in his ‘Memoirs of Alleyn,’ p. 53 (Warner, Dulwich Manuscripts, pp. 59–60). According to the poet Drummond, Jonson had by heart Wotton's ‘Verses of a Happie Lyfe’ (Jonson, Conversations, p. 8). The resemblance between this poem of Wotton and a similar poem in ‘Geistliche und weltliche Geschichte’ by a German resident in England, Georg Rudolph Weckerlin [q. v.], does not justify a charge of plagiarism against Wotton, whose poem seems to have been in circulation before Weckerlin wrote (cf. Notes and Queries, 1st ser. ix. 420). ‘A Dialogue’ in verse on a topic of love ‘between Sir Henry Wotton and Mr. Donne’ is given in Donne's ‘Poems’ (1635), but the poem is ascribed to other pens in other collections of the period (cf. Donne, Poems, ed. Chambers, i. 79, 232). Dyce edited Wotton's poems for the Percy Society in 1843, and they were included in Hannah's ‘Poems of Sir Walter Raleigh and other Courtly Poets,’ 1870, new ed. 1885, pp. 87 seq.
Sir Henry Wotton should be distinguished from Henry Wotton, son of Edward Wotton [q. v.], and also from Henry Wotton or Wooton, son of John Wooton of North Tudenham, and brother of one Wooton of Tudenham, Norfolk, whose second wife was Mary or Anne, daughter of George Nevill, lord Bergavenny, and widow of Thomas Fiennes, lord Dacre of the South (Blomfield, Norfolk, i. 205). This Henry Wotton was responsible for the collection of stories from Italian romances, interspersed with verse, entitled: ‘A Courtlie Controversie of Cupids Cautels containing five Tragicall Historyes by three Gentlemen and two Gentlewomen, translated out of French by Hen. Wotton,’ London, 1578, 4to. It was dedicated to the translator's sister-in-law, the Lady Dacre of the South. Two copies, both imperfect, are known—one is in the Bodleian Library, and the other, formerly belonging successively to George Steevens and to Corser, is now in the British Museum (cf. Brydges, Censuraa Lit., i. 158).[The main authority is Izaak Walton's Life, which was originally prefixed to Reliquiæ Wottonianæ, 1651, and was included in Walton's collected ‘Lives,’ 1670, and all subsequent editions. The antiquary, William Fulman, prepared a sketch of Wotton's life, which is now in the library of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, with some of Wotton's letters. Bliss seems to have used Fulman's work in his edition of Wood's Athenæ Oxon. ii. 644. See also Dr. A. W. Ward's Biographical Sketch of the Life of Wotton, 1899; Donne's Letters, 1651; Gosse's Life of Donne, 1899; Masson's Milton; Harwood's Alumni Etonienses, pp. 14 seq.; Maxwell Lyte's History of Eton; Cust's History of Eton, 1899; Spedding's Bacon's Life and Letters, iii. 10; Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1603–1639.]