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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Sir Henry Wotton

  • [An English diplomatist and writer; born in Kent, 1568; educated at Oxford; resided several years abroad; secretary to the Earl of Essex, whom he accompanied to Spain and Ireland; fled to the Continent on the fall of Essex; gained the favor of James I., who sent him as ambassador to Venice, and other powers; provost of Eton, 1625; died 1639.]
  • An ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the commonwealth.

  • Written in Latin in the album of his friend Fleckamore, as he was passing through Augsburg on his way to Venice (Legatus est vir bonus peregre missus ad mentiendum rei publicæ causâ). Wotton’s biographer thinks that he intended a pun in the use of the word “lie,” the other sense being, to live out of his country “for his country’s good;” which was, however, lost by the employment of Latin.—WALTON: Life.
  • When Wotton’s advice was asked by a person setting out on a foreign mission, he said, “Ever speak the truth; for, if you will do so, you shall never be believed, and ’twill put your adversaries (who will still hunt counter) to a loss in all their dispositions and undertakings.” It was a saying of Cavour’s, “I have found out the art of deceiving diplomatists: I speak the truth, and I am certain they will not believe me.”
  • To a priest, who wrote on a slip of paper during vespers in a church in Rome, “Where was your religion to be found before Luther?” he replied, in the same manner, “My religion was to be found where yours is not to be found,—in the written word of God.”—Ibid. Wilkes’s answer to a similar question was briefer: “Where were your hands before you washed them?”
  • Wotton caused to be inscribed on his tomb in Eton College: “Hic javet hujus sententiæ primus author, Disputandi pruritus ecclesiarum scabies” (The itch of disputation will prove the scab of the Church).—Ibid.
  • Milton travelled on the Continent under Wotton’s directions, “with the celebrated precept of prudence, I pensieri stretti, ed il viso sciolto (Thoughts close and looks loose).”—JOHNSON: Life of Milton.