Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
To Sir Edmund Bacon
By Sir Henry Wotton (15681639)
From Reliquiæ Wottonianæ
O (MY most dear nephew, for so I still glory to call you, while Heaven possesseth her who bound us in that relation) how have I of late after many vexations of a fastidious1 infirmity, been at once rent in pieces by hearing that you were at London: what? said I, and must it be at a time when I cannot fly thither to have my wonted part of that conversation; wherein all that know him enjoy such infinite contentment? Thus much did suddenly break loose from the heart that doth truly honour you. And now (Sir) let me tell you both how it hath gone with me, and how I stand at the present. There is a triple health. Health of body, of mind, and of fortune; you shall have a short account of all three.
For the first: it is now almost an whole cycle of the sun, since after certain fits of a quotidian fever, I was assailed by that splenetic passion, which a country good fellow that had been a piece of a grammarian meant, when he said he was sick of the flatus, and the other hard word, for hypocondriacus stuck in his teeth; it is the very Proteus of all maladies; shifting into sundry shapes, almost every night a new, and yet still the same; neither can I hope that it will end in a solar period; being such a saturnine humour; but though the core and root of it be remaining, yet the symptoms (I thank my God) are well allayed, and in general I have found it of more contumacy than malignity; only since the late cold weather, there is complicated with it a more asthmatical straightness of respiration than heretofore; yet those about me say I bear it well, as perchance custom hath taught me, being now familiarised and domesticated evils, in the tragedians expression: Jam mansueta mala. And thus much of the habit of my body. On the other side: my mind is in a right philosophical state of health; that is, at an equal distance both from desire and hope; and ambitious of nothing, but of doing nothing and of being nothing; yet I have some employment of my thoughts to keep them from mouldering, as you shall know before I close this letter. But first, touching the third kind of health. My condition or fortune was never better, than in this good Lord Treasurers time; the very reverse of his proud predecessor, that made a scorn of my poverty, and a sport of my modesty; leaving me in a bad case; and the world, so as though we now know by what arts he lived, yet are we ignorant to this hour by what religion he died, save only that it could not be good, which was not worthy the professing. This free passage let me commit to your noble breast, remembering that in confidence of the receiver, I have transgressed a late counsel of mine own which I gave to a young friend, who asking me casually of what he should make him a suit, as he was passing this way towards London; I told him that in my opinion, he could not buy a cheaper nor a more lasting stuff there than silence. For I loved him well, and was afraid of a little freedom that I spied in him. And now, Sir, I must needs conclude (or I shall burst) with letting you know, that I have divers things in wild sheets that think and struggle to get out of several kinds, some long promised, and some of a newer conception; but a poor exercise of my pen (wherewith I shall only honour myself by the dedication thereof unto your own person) is that which shall lead the way by mine and your good leave, intending (if God yield me his favour) to print it before it be long in Oxford, and to send you thence, or bring you a copy to our Redgrave. What the subject is you must not know beforehand, for I fear it will want all other grace, if it lose virginity. And so the Lord of all abundant joy keep you long, con quella buona Ciera, which this my servant did relate unto me,