Peck's reprint series
Copy of a Letter Written by a Master of Art of Cambridge (1584)
and reprinted from
Peck, ed., Leicester's Commonwealth (Athens and
London: Ohio University Press, 1985).
Copy of a Letter
Written by a Master of Art of Cambridge to his friend in
London, concerning some talk passed of late between two worshipful and grave men
about the present state and some proceedings of the Earl of Leicester and his
friends in England.
spoken and published with most earnest protestation of all dutiful good will and
affection towards her most excellent Majesty and the realm, for whose good only
it is made common to many.
THE QUEEN'S PROCLAMATION
after the Commonwealth's appearance, official action was taken toward its
suppression. On 12 October 1584 a royal proclamation was issued from Hampton Court,
apparently directed against Leicester's Commonwealth, Allen's Defence,
and Leslie's Treatise Touching the Right. The present text is based on
S. T. C. 8146 (Folger Library 256); see also Hughes and Larkin, Tudor
Royal Proclamations, no. 672.
The Queen's Most Excellent
Majesty, being given to understand that divers false, slanderous, wicked, seditious,
and traitorous books and libels are covertly and in secret manner dispersed through
this realm by divers seditious and traitorous persons, tending not only to the
defacing of true religion now established within these her Highness' dominions,
but also most traitorously and injuriously to slander the present most happy and
quiet government with cruelty and extraordinary manner of proceedings in the due
execution of justice, and withal most detestably and slanderously to reproach
her most renowned and dear father, the dishonor or note whereof doth and cannot
but touch herself as near as her Highness' own life, and so she taketh it. In
some of which their most shameful, infamous, and detestable libels they go about
to reproach, dishonor, and touch with abominable lies (as is well known to the
whole realm) not only many of her most trusty and faithful councillors but also
her Highness' judges and ministers of the law, greatly touching thereby her Highness'
self in her regal and kingly office, as making choice of men of want both of justice,
care, and other sufficiency to serve her Highness and the commonweal. And further,
in the said books and libels they use all the means, drifts and false persuasions
they can devise or imagine to advance such pretended titles as consequently must
be most dangerous and prejudicial to the safety of her Highness' person and state
(which the Lord long preserve).
Highness, foreseeing that the authors and dispersers of the said books and libels
do by these wicked and indirect means seek most traitorously to render and make
both her Highness and her most gracious government odious and hateful both abroad
and at home, and having of late found, by plain and manifest means and proofs,
that their purpose and chief intent to bring in obloquy and hatred her Majesty's
principal noblemen, councillors, judges, and ministers of justice is as much as
in them lieth to slander, impeach, and deface her Majesty's most happy government,
and thereupon to breed some troubles within this realm, whereby their unnatural,
devilish, and traitorous practices both against her Majesty their natural sovereign
and the realm their own native country may take their desired effect, hath therefore
thought meet that some order should be presently taken for the preventing and
suppressing of such mischiefs as otherwise through ignorance of the truth might
therefore her Highness doth by this her Majesty's proclamation straightly charge
and command that all such persons to whose hands any of the said books or libels
either hath come or shall hereafter at any time come, do presently with all convenient
speed, without showing the same to any person, deliver it to some one of her Highness'
Privy Council if any such be within twenty miles, and if it be above that distance
of miles from the Court, then to the custos rotulorum or to his deputy
of the same shire where the party shall be that hath or shall have any such book
or libel, and the same custos rotulorum or his deputy to whose hands any
such book or libel shall come shall presently and safely send the same to the
lords of her Majesty's most honorable Privy Council. And lest that any evil-disposed
and affected person should maliciously and undutifully make any wrong or sinister
construction of this her Majesty's meaning towards such as, moved with that duty
and reverence that appertaineth, shall make delivery of any the said books and
libels, her Highness' pleasure is, and so doth hereby signify to all her loving
subjects, that they nor any of them shall be molested, impeached, or troubled
for the having or receiving of any of the said books or libels, so as they do
deliver the same according to the tenor and true meaning of this present proclamation,
and so as it do appear that they have been no setters forth, dispersers, maintainers,
or authors of any of the said books or libels. And in case any of the said parties
that either hath or at any time hereafter shall have any of the said books or
libels shall not make delivery thereof in sort as is before specified, then her
Highness' further pleasure and express commandment is that the party or parties
so offending shall be committed to prison, there to remain without bail or mainprize
until order shall be taken by the lords of her Majesty's Privy Council for the
proceeding against such offenders for such their offense, according to the nature
and quality of the said offense.
her Majesty's further pleasure is that all merchants, masters of ships, officers
of ports, or any other that shall be bringer into this realm of any the said seditious
books or libels or a disperser of the same, or shall hereafter be any way privy
to the making, bringing in, or dispersing of them or any of them, and shall not
immediately discover such offender or offenders to the next justice of the peace
where such offense shall be committed (whereby the offenders may be apprehended
and brought to be forthcoming to receive such punishment as his said offense shall
deserve), that then such person or persons so offending shall be committed to
prison, there to remain without bail or mainprize as aforesaid, until he be proceeded
on according to justice.
for the better execution of the said proclamation, her Majesty is pleased that
all such persons as shall detect any of the said offenders, whereby they may be
forthcoming to receive condign punishment according to their demerits, shall have
the moiety of such forfeitures and penalties as shall be laid or inflicted upon
such offenders so by them detected for such their offenses. And in case any mayor,
justice of peace, or other public and inferior officer shall be found remiss in
the due execution of the said proclamation, that then the said party or parties
so offending shall also be produced before the said lords to receive punishment
for that contempt and remissness used in that behalf in such sort as shall appertain
to the nature and quality of the same offense.
THE SCOTTISH PROCLAMATION
is known about the process by which King James was induced to contribute his authority
to suppression of the Commonwealth, nor is there other evidence of the
book's circulation in Scotland. The proclamation of 16 February 1585 is known
only in a contemporary copy now in the British Library (Additional MS. 31,897,
fol. 9). The handwriting is extremely difficult to read, the text heavily abbreviated
and in good part in dialect, and therefore the following modernized transcript
is incomplete and not altogether reliable. Illegible words are noted by ellipses.
by the grace of God King of Scots, to our . . . messengers, our sheriffs in that
part . . . . . . and sundrily specially . . . , greeting.
as we are credibly informed that there are divers slanderous and infamous books
privily brought in and publicly dispersed in sundry hands within our realm, full
of ignominious and reproachful calumnies devised and set out by some seditious
persons of purpose to obscure so far as in them lies the honor and reputation
of our right trusty and right well-beloved cousin the Earl of Leicester and others,
counsellors of our dearest sister and cousin the Queen of England. And remembering
how in the time of our captivity at Ruthven, the very like was published and set
out upon our right trusty cousin and counsellor James, Earl of Arran, our chancellor,
only to move our subjects to insurrection and rebellion against us, howsoever
the same appeared always to respect our own person, as the . . . do the person
of our dearest sister, . . . under that prolept[?] and undoubted alteration which
they mean and wish to her estate and country[?]. And . . . understanding in what
commendation all princes ought to have the honor of all foreign princes, specially
with these with whom they are [brought?] up in mutual friendship as we are with
our dearest sister, with whom God in religion, nature in blood, and an . . . [disjoined?]
as the rest of the . . . in habitation has willingly received[?] us and . . .
united and concerned us in an inviolable[?] and steadfast amity, respecting that
with all the particular goodwill and lawful friendship borne to us and uttered
to our messengers and [shryvalties?] at all times by our said trusty cousin. .
. . . . . Therefore and we . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . by open proclamation
at the . . . . . . of East Sterling, Perth, Dundee, and various our . . . . .
. made and given all and sundry our lieges and subjects who . . . . . . or . .
. to hereafter receive any of the said reproachful books entitled A Letter of
Estate Written by a Scholar in Cambridge, that they immediately without all delay
bring . . . and deliver the same to our secretary to be cancelled and destroyed
as ignominious and infamous under the pains that are in our act of Parliament
made about the reading and concealing of slanderous and infamous libels against
us, our progenitors[?], and council[?] . . . . . . to . . . if any of the said
books may be verified to have been in any of their possessions the time of this
our proclamation and the same be not immediately and with all diligence[?] . .
. and delivered as said . . . , the said penalty shalbe executed upon them, their
lands and goods, withall . . . and . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . under
our signet and subscribed with our hand at Holyrood House, the xvi of February,
. . . . . . year 1584 [i.e., 1585].
PRIVY COUNCIL LETTER
by continued circulation of Leicester's Commonwealth, in June 1585 the
government wrote to the officials of London and various counties (perhaps all)
demanding stricter suppression of the tract and testifying in its own and the
Queen's name to Leicester's innocence and good service. The letter's astute interpretation
of the Commonwealth's implications speaks for itself. The text is from
S.P. 12/179/44 and 45, the former of which is endorsed by Lord Burghley as "a
copy of a letter written by her Majesty's commandment to the Mayor of London,
in defense of the Earl of Leicester" and dated 20 (or 26?) June 1585 (in
no. 45 the date is left blank). There are virtually identical letters to Lord
Strange, the Bishop of Chester, and the Justices of Lancashire and Cheshire, dated
20 June 1585 (printed in Peck, Desiderata Curiosa, 1: iv, 45), to
the Council in the Marches of Wales, 20 June (H.M.C. Hereford MSS., 13th report,
appendix, part 4, p. 332), and to the Justices of Surrey, 20 June (Kempe, Loseley
Manuscripts, p. 492).
our very hearty commendations. Upon intelligence given to her Majesty in October
last past of certain seditious and traitorous books and libels covertly spread
and scattered abroad in sundry parts of her realms and dominions, it pleased her
Highness to publish proclamations throughout the realm for the suppressing of
the same and due punishment of the authors, spreaders abroad, and detainers of
them, in such sort and form as in the said proclamation is more at large contained.
Sithence which time notwithstanding her Highness hath certainly known that the
very same and divers other such like most slanderous, shameful, and devilish books
and libels have been continually spread abroad and kept by disobedient persons,
to the manifest contempt of her Majesty's regal and sovereign authority, and namely
among the rest one most infamous, containing slanderous and hateful matter against
our very good lord the Earl of Leicester, one of her principal noblemen and chief
councillors of estate, of which most malicious and wicked imputations her Majesty
in her own clear knowledge doth declare and testify his innocence to all the world,
and to that effect hath written her gracious letters signed with her own hand
to the Lord Mayor, sheriffs, and aldermen of London, where it was likely these
books would chiefly be cast abroad. We therefore, to follow the course taken by
her Majesty, and knowing manifestly the wickedness and falsehood of these slanderous
devices against the said Earl, have thought good to notify her further pleasure
and our own consciences to you in this case. First that as in truth her Majesty
hath noted great negligence and remissness in the former execution of her commandment,
for as much as the said seditious libels have been suffered since that time to
be dispersed and spread abroad and kept by contemptuous persons without severe
and due punishment inflicted for the same, so now upon the second charge and admonition
given unto you, she verily looketh for the most strict and precise observation
thereof in the sharpest manner that may be devised, testifying in her conscience
before God unto you that her Highness not only knoweth in assured certainty the
libels and books against the said Earl to be most malicious, false, and slanderous,
and such as none but the devil himself could deem to be true, but also thinketh
the same to have proceeded of the fullness of malice, subtly contrived to the
note and discredit of her princely government over this realm, as though her Majesty
should have failed in good judgment and discretion in the choice of so principal
a councillor about her, or be without taste or care of all justice and conscience
in suffering such heinous and monstrous crimes (as by the said libels and books
be infamously imputed) to pass unpunished, or finally at the least to want either
good will, ability, or courage (if she knew these enormities were true) to call
any subject of hers whatsoever to render sharp accompt for them, according to
the force and effect of laws. All which defects (God be thanked) we and all good
subjects to our unspeakable comforts do know and have found to be far from the
nature and virtue of her most excellent Majesty. And of the other side, both her
Highness, of her certain knowledge, and we, to do his Lordship but right of our
sincere consciences, must needs affirm these strange and abominable crimes to
be raised of a wicked and venomous malice against the said Earl, of whose good
service, sincerity of religion, and all other faithful dealings towards her Majesty
and the realm we have had long and true experience. Which things considered, and
withal knowing it an usual trade of traitorous minds, when they would render the
princes' government odious, to detract and bring out of credit the principal persons
about them, her Highness, taking the abuse to be offered to her own self, hath
commanded us to notify the same unto you, to the end that knowing her good pleasure
you may proceed therein as in a matter highly touching her own estate and honor.
And therefore we wish and require you to have regard thereof accordingly, that
the former negligence and remissness showed in the execution of her Majesty's
commandment may be amended by the diligence and severity that shall be hereafter
used. Which amendment and carefulness in this cause chiefly her Highness assuredly
looketh for, and will call for accompt at your hands. And so bid you heartily
farewell. From the Court at Greenwich the  of June 1585. Your very loving
friends, T. Bromley, W. Burghley, Geo. Shrewsbury, H. Derby, F. Bedford, C. Howard,
J. Hunsdon, F. Knollys, H. Sidney, Chr. Hatton, Fr. Walsingham, Wal. Mildmay.
Stafford to Walsingham, Paris, 24 August 1584, reporting the appearance there
of Allen's Defence and perhaps the Commonwealth (extract; Murdin,
State Papers, pp. 418-19).
books to answer the True Execution of Justice in England, which I have long agone
written to you were adoing, are now come out. I have sent you one of them; it
is of Doctor Allen's or [Dr. William] Nicholson's doing, printed, as I hear, at
Rheims, though they say in Germany, marvellous closely kept here from selling,
not to be had for money, as this bearer can tell you. I was fain to recover them
I have by some of their own faction, of whom I have divers things. He assureth
me that at this hour there are two companies of them gone into England, two hundred
in a company, to land some of them westward, some by the long seas. There is in
my opinion no speaking to have them called in, for divers reasons, the one, because
they are very secretly sold, the other, because they will take an advantage of
it, and make men believe it is because we are touched to the quick.
b. Walsingham to Leicester,
Barnelms, 29 September 1584, reporting confiscation of copies of the Commonwealth
(in extenso; British Library, Cotton MSS., Titus B. VII, fols. 10-10v,
printed by Leslie Hotson, "Who Wrote 'Leicester's Commonwealth,'" pp.
very good lord, yesterday I received from the Lord Mayor [Osborne] enclosed in
a letter a printed libel against your Lordship, the most malicious written thing
that ever was penned sithence the beginning of the world. The author thereof is
Morgan, the Queen of Scots' agent in France, and as I gather by the course1
thereof he hath been assisted therein by the Lord Paget, Charles Arundell, and
[William] Tresham. About a three years past I had notice given unto me in secret
sort of such an intent, with a meaning also to reach higher, as appeareth by the
Italian plot found about Creighton the Scot Jesuit, and therefore if her Majesty
shall be drawn by some fautor2 of this wicked and devilish course
to allow thereof the mischief like to ensue thereby will in the end reach to herself,
when the time shall serve fit for the purpose. There is no good or honest man
(and though he were your Lordship's mortal enemy) that doth not condemn this treacherous
manner of dealing.
mean with the leave of God to be at the Court by tomorrow at noon; I would be
glad to know your Lordship's mind what course you could like I should hold with
her Majesty, as also what order you think meet to be taken with the bringer over
[Ralph Emerson] of the said books. It shall be very meet that both honest and
wise men be appointed to examine him. For the mean time I have given straight
charge to the Lord Mayor to see him kept for all conference by placing some honest
trusty person to attend on him until he be thoroughly examined. I have also sent
for the books that were found about him, which I will see strictly kept as they
may not be dispersed. It behooveth us, considering the malice of this time, to
walk very warily in our callings. And so I most humbly take my leave, at Barnelms,
the 29th of September 1584.
Stafford to Walsingham, Paris, 29 October 1584, reporting attempts to trace the
Commonwealth (in extenso; S.P. 78/12/105).
Englishman that I desired Mr. Robert Cecil to tell you that arrived at the Spanish
ambassador's out of England at the same instant that he [Cecil] departed, was
the next day dispatched to Rouen back again and is looked for here again within
eight days. He carrieth here a counterfeit name, I am sure; he calleth himself
Stinter. At his return I will hearken more after him. Besides some other matters
of importance that he brought with him (as I hear) he brought with him three or
four of those books that are made again[st] a great councillor in England, as
you know, for afore his coming I made as diligent a search as I could and could
hear of none, and I know it for certainty that the Papists in the town themselves
sought very narrowly for it, and [it] was not to be gotten, but since I know where
two of them be, but very closely kept. There goeth a bruit among them that there
were either three or four hundred of them taken in one port in England. I have
done what I can to know where they were printed, but far as I can by any means
find or hear, they themselves say in England or in Flanders, which I think to
be true, for it hardly can be done either at Rouen or here but I should know of
it, especially for this place I think I durst assure myself.
d. Robert Parsons to Alfonso
Agazzari, Rouen, 13 December 1584 (extract). This letter records Parsons's version
of the Commonwealth's arrival in England, based upon rumors he had heard
concerning it; it seems certain that in fact he knew more at first hand about
the book than he here reveals. The tale of Burghley's trick played upon Leicester
is no doubt spurious, but may be seen in light of Walsingham' s fear (above) that
there were some in the Court who might draw the Queen to "allow" of
the book. The Latin original is in the Jesuit archives in Rome; the translation
here is by Father Leo Hicks, as printed in "Growth of a Myth," pp. 98-99.
Earl of Leicester is hostile to the Treasurer, who is reputed to have written
that Justitia Britannica.3 When, then, he had received and read
the reply to it, he presented a copy to the Queen, asserting that Cecil had acted
rashly, since by his inept and inopportune pamphlet he had given occasion for
this reply which would do great harm to their cause.
action of Leicester Cecil took in very bad part, but soon had opportunity of paying
him back in his own coin. For a few days later there appeared a book in English,
written, so it seems, by a Protestant, in which in very sober style are revealed
all the vices of the Puritans, but chiefly those of Leicester: his ambition, his
tyranny, his crimes and treasons against the country and the Queen, his whole
manner of life and utter knavery. Five or six hundred copies of the book fell
into the hands of the officials whose business it is to search out such works,
and in the absence of Leicester were sent to Cecil as the leading member of the
Queen's Council. But far from suppressing the copies, Cecil immediately distributed
them to many and handed one copy to the Queen herself. She was the last person
in the world that Leicester wanted to see the book and he was nearly beside himself
with vexation at it.
is extraordinary, so it is reported, how eagerly the book is thumbed in England.
Some offer twenty pounds for a copy and twenty crowns for a loan of one for three
or four hours, so exceedingly detested by all is the Earl. Certainly, the book
has remarkable things to say about him and his partisans. I only wish you were
able to read it; you would be astounded. Copies were very hard to come by in these
parts till our friends came from England. From them I obtained a copy and have
wanted to send it to you, that you may present it to the Bishop of St. Asaph.
e. Stafford to Walsingham,
Paris,30 March 1585, reporting the appearance of the Commonwealth's French
translation, Discours de la vie abominable (in extenso; S.P. 78/13/86).
The words in italics are from cipher.
I thought it convenient having this gentleman a convenient bearer to write to
your honor of [a] thing which is here coming out and as I take it is printed at
Rheims, though it be given out to be done at Cologne, which is the book again[st]
the Earl of Leicester newly translated into French with a very villainous
addition, as I hear, both in the former part and the hinter part of it. It is
not yet come hither nor as yet looked for to be here these three or four days.
I thought good by this bearer to send you word of it in time because as you think
good you may give watch for the suppressing of them at their landing. For no doubt
of it, they will be sent over, and [it] is determined among them to have all the
means that can be and the device[?] to bring it to the sight of the Queen.
I am in a peck of troubles what to do in it, for to complain of it were to have
the matter more to be divulged abroad and to [be] more looked into and marked
when it shall be seen to stir in, and especially by me because my nearest4
have a touch in it, which though between God and Leicester's conscience
and almost in the opinion of most Englishmen her conscience be no farther touched
than an honorable intent and a weak woman deceived, yet when it cometh to French
heads' standings, who can neither speak nor think well of any, I doubt how they
will interpret anything. And therefore if by any device I could devise to have
it suppressed I would do it, but their malice to Leicester is such as all
the world together shall not have credit to do it but by [official] complaint,
which in my opinion is the worst way, and therefore for my part, though I be touched
in it, others that touch me being touched in it, till I hear your farther opinion
I do not mean at all to stir in it, but in making no accompt of it make all things
in it to be thought a jest, as the Queen Mother [Catherine de Medici] hath done
in all things touching her that have been set out, which hath made them die the
sooner and little accompt made of them. There be in this town of our good people
here that to curry favor with me have made it be told me that the matter touching
my friends [sic] is so slightly urged and in that sort and not named as
that I shall have no cause to be offended,5 but if it light in
my lot and may come to know who is the doer of it, as I shall I doubt not, I will
not leave to light upon [him] when he shall not be aware of it, perchance so that
he shall feel of it. For I am not such a baby but that I know well enough that,
though the names be either left out or the matter colored in the French, there
be enough that have read the English and know the parties, that can take pains
to gloss and interpret the text. I think the book is not put into French to be
kept under a bushel, and though they were so geason6 I doubt
not but to receive of the first that do come. And if you command me I will send
you [one] of them, for else I will not, for I cannot tell how it will be taken,
and I would be sorry to give cause to have anything evil taken. Two things have
hindered me to write to Leicester of it, the one that I have no cipher,
the other [that] I would be loth to do anything subject to bad interpretation,
and therefore I leave it to you to do in it as you shall think best. I have kept
it from the beginning that the other came out from translating here, for [Thomas]
Throgmorton was even then in hand with it, and by means that I found left it off,
and ever since it hath slept, and is but now of a sudden gushed out. I am very
certainly advertised that the matter of the addition is come out of England, and
from thence very earnestly pressed the translating and the setting out of it afresh.
I pray God my friend be not laid up again when that it shall come to her
ear, which yet is not, for I can assure you that the melancholy of the fear of
the misinterpretation of the first, contrary to the desert of her conscience,
was the cause of the last sickness that was so long and almost of life, as in
truth I was a good while greatly afraid of. Thus beseeching you to send me your
mind and what in this you will command me, and desiring you for my sake to be
as good to this bearer as you may, I commit your honor to God.
f. Stafford to Lord Burghley,
Paris, 30 March 1585 (in extenso; S.P.78/13/87).
good Lord, I have sent Mr. Secretary word that the book again[st] Leicester
is come out again translated into French, with a very filthy addition, because
there may order be given that they may be stayed at their coming over. They be
not arrived to this town, but they are looked for every day. I am in a peck of
troubles how to govern myself about the staying or complaining against the publishing
of them. For first it is a particular man's case, and whether in that being a
public person I may speak in it or no I know not, and besides whether making an
open show to make accompt of it will do rather more harm or good to the conceit
in men's judgments of it it is doubtful. For my part, though there be there touched
in it [those] that I would be sorry in men's opinion there should be conceit had
of, that of their conscience cannot accuse them of in the worst sort, yet for
my part I rather think it better to let it alone as a thing that we make no accompt
of, than by speaking of it or against it to make [them] think that a galled horse
where he is touched will wince. And so I think is the way soon to make it little
accompt to be made of and so die. It is marvellous suddenly come out, for I stayed
it once here when I knew it was adoing and by whom, but now it is suddenly gushed
out. They give out it is done at Cologne, but for my part I think it done either
at Rheims or Eu. I shall [I] think ere long know of it. If your Lordship will
command me, I will send you one as soon as any doth come, but else I will not,
for Leicester is ever subject to take not well that which cometh from me,
though I give no cause, and therefore I fear also the like in this, though for
my friend I have as much interest against this as he. Thus I [etc.].
g. Stafford to Burghley,
Paris, 10 April 1585 (in extenso; S.P. 78/13/99).
good Lord, by the copies of these two letters to Mr. Secretary your Lordship shall
see all I can write. William Waad need carry with him one of the books
against Leicester, which maketh me bold to send you one, which I have packeted
up in a box as some other token.7 I pray your Lordship let it
be kept to yourself, for though I mean no harm I know not how things coming from
me that way will be taken.
Stafford to Walsingham, Paris, 20 January 1586, defending himself and his secretary,
Lilly (in extenso; S.P. 78/15/15).
Sir, Mr. Stallings at his
arrival this morning both gave me a letter of your honor writ to me of your own
hand; by them I perceived that you took otherwise my meaning in my last about
Lilly and Michael8 than I meant it. For truly, Sir, though I
writ that I must be fain to seek some other course to make known unto her Majesty
(if you would not favor me to do it) that she had no cause to be offended with
me for keeping of Lilly after her commandment to me to put him away, because indeed
you in her name did command me the contrary, which was to keep him and to make
no show to him of anything, yet your honor doth know that as long as it since
I never writ to anybody of it but to yourself, and desired you that I might be
beholding to nobody but to you for it; if for this you had cause to be offended
with me, I leave it to you to judge. If withal I did write unto you that which
I do hear and see every day here what is said and conceived among ambassadors
and others of no small quality to my disgrace, you might think whether I had cause
to grieve, and in truth you must pardon me, Sir, if I must needs write this to
you, that it had been a greater show of some respect the more to the place I am
employed in if there had been men known for faults fit not to be kept it could
have pleased you to have written to me privately the cause why it was not fit
I should keep them, that I myself thereupon might have put them away, than to
have kept [them] away from me as though I had had neither honesty, reason, nor
discretion to have done it myself upon any just cause.
I most humbly beseech your honor to think nothing in me if I mean somewhat earnest
in this, for all the wealth I have is my desire to live in good opinion and reputation,
and anything that toucheth that truly I must confess doth gall me; if in that
case I deal plainly with those that be my honorable good friends, I pray you think
better of a man that dealeth plainly than of him that keepeth in his stomach everything
dissemblingly. The one's friendship is not worth a point when it cometh to the
touchstone, the other a man may be assured of at all assays. I pray you, Sir,
take me in the number of the last, and hold yourself as assured that where I profess
friendship I will [continue?] with it without regard of anything in the earth
but the duty to my prince, and pray you think that there is nobody I desire to
be more in that predicament with than with you, and ever have done, and ever will
do, and whensoever you will make what trial you think good of anything I can,
you shall try whether the increase of your fortune, which I pray for, or the decrease
of it, which I do not fear, shall make me alter any point of my affection when
I promise it.
my two men, if I might receive that favor at your hands that I might have them
sent over to me and withal that you advise me with reason to put them away, let
myself have that credit to do, you shall favor me greatly. For the one, truly
I will tell you I never meant to serve myself of him after his return to me for
a particularity to myself, which I grew in a great misliking with him for, and
in truth did not mean if he come to keep him long, and to look well enough to
his water while he remaineth here. For Lilly I must tell your honor truly I have
no cause that I do know to be offended with him, and truly I have sought into
as much as a man could do, and he is not so wise as not to be found halting. For
those things which you send me word of by Stallings, which I knew afore that he
was examined upon, except that matter of my Lord of Arundel's, I could answer
myself. For that of my Lord of Leicester, your honor did mistake me that I took
him for a private person but in one kind, which was that I being a public person
here for her Majesty could do no more than I did if it had been for my father,
for to complain against anybody that had written against anybody but against the
Queen I could not. And to go about to suppress it I could do no more, for as I
could get books into my hand I burnt them all, to the number of thirty-two or
three, till so great numbers of them came as I saw it was to no purpose. And for
Lilly, if he perchance saw or read a book surely that were in reason no such criminal
cause, but sure I had rather cause to think that my Lord of Leicester should be
so incensed against him for the love the poor fellow bare to me than for any cause
to avoid all causes, and that you shall see I will follow your counsel and advice
in anything, I will if you think good send of purpose to my Lord of Leicester
and write in the best manner I can to see if by craving it of him I can obtain
his good will, which yet I know no cause of why I should leese it. And the letters
and the bearer shall come by you first that you may see them, and if you will
be so good to me as to send Lilly, I will send him over to him himself, that he
may carry them to my Lord from me, and that my Lord may use him as he shall see
cause or pardon him if he find none, and send him to me again with his pleasure.
Surely, Sir, the man might stand me in some stead, and if you will favor me so
much as to send him presently I shall take it a thing that I shall be beholding
to you for. For Grimston hath very great business in England for a three weeks'
going and coming, and I would fain have him to serve me here in his absence, and
as soon as ever Grimston is returned I will presently send him back, first to
you and so to my Lord of Leicester, or if you think not good for other causes,
which I beseech you to look well into afore you condemn the poor man, he hath
had a mind to travel a great while; I will give him wherewithal to travel for
a year or such a thing into Italy, and after to place him the best I can. Mr.
Stallings told me of some unkindness between my mother and you, which I am very
sorry for; I will [ . . . ] both write and send my mind plainly to her. For the
one cause which you conceived for my man's usage, truly upon my honesty I writ
nor never sent any word to her nor to anybody else of it, and if she hath conceived
anything of that it is of opinion that everybody else hath done that heard it.
For that of my Lord of Arundel I will by him write my mind plainly and send to
her by Stallings, and so would I do to my Lord of Arundel himself if I could tell
how it would be taken. For surely, Sir, you should do me great wrong if you do
not think that I myself desire to be as much beholding to you, and to have all
my friends of the same mind, as any man in England, and I pray you, Sir, think
so and let me by this poor suit I make to you for my men have cause to think so,
and withal I pray you assure yourself that no poor gentleman in England loveth
and honoreth his friends more everlastingly than I do.
are several extant poems concerning Leicester, most derived from Leicester's
Commonwealth, but two will suffice by way of example. The "Epitaphium"
survives in several similar versions,9 but what seems to be the
most authoritative form follows.
lies the valiant soldier
that never drew his sword.
Here lies the loyal
that never kept his word.
Here lies the noble lecher
used art to provoke.
Here lies the constant husband
whose love was firm
Here lies the politician
and nut worm of the state,
lies the Earl of Leicester
that God and man did hate.l0
second example also illustrates some of the odd things that associated themselves
with the Leicester legend. The puzzling, pious little effusion headed "Notable
talk herein taught" is inscribed before a manuscript copy of Leicester's
Commonwealth that is otherwise unremarkable (Folger Shakespeare Library, MS.
talk herein taught,
In these words are many caught.
Read you but not to speak
Speak but not what thou readest here.
News for to learn all men
But wisely few that news can bear.
Ragged Staff that stay was to the state
(As some men thought) is bent another
(As here is taught), so fickle is the stay
Of those that use to
bear the greatest sway.
all take head how they aspire too high,
For when they fall, of all, they
stately Bear that at the stake would stand
'Gainst all the mastiffs stout
that would come forth
Is muzzled here and ringed with our hand,
vile reputed and of little worth.
Robin, whom before all could not take,
Is here by shepherd's curs made for
may we learn, there is no staff so strong
But may be broken into shivers
No beast so fierce the cruel beasts among
But age or cunning gins
may work his fall.
no man trust in earth to find a place
Which can preserve him from a foul
or untruths, whats'ere they be
Which here you read, yet not in vain.
Read over these and you shall see
That this doth prove the greatest gain,
To be content
and not desire,
For all do fall that do aspire.
TO APPENDIX E
Hotson reads "worst."
"Fautor": partisan, supporter (O.E.D.). Walsingham appears to fear that
someone at Court will persuade the Queen not to act to suppress the libel.
3. Burghley's Execution
of Justice in England; the reply is Dr. Allen's Defence of English Catholics.
4. That is, his wife, Douglass
Howard, Lady Sheffield.
Stafford's informants were correct: In the French translation Lady Sheffield's
name, as well as everything else that might serve to identify her, has been carefully
omitted from every place it occurs in the English original.
"Geason": rare, scarce (O.E.D.).
The calendarist misleadingly has "with some other tokens" (C.S.P.
Foreign, 1584-85, p. 412).
Michael Moody was in Stafford's service, but was suspected by him of having been
planted by Walsingham. Early in 1587, when Elizabeth would not proceed with the
sentence of death already passed against the Queen of Scots, Walsingham came up
with the "Stafford Plot," in which Des Trappes, secretary to the French
ambassador Châteauneuf, and William Stafford (1554-1612), Sir Edward's brother,
were to have employed Moody (then in Newgate prison for debt) to blow up Queen
Elizabeth with gunpowder under her bed.
Other versions: Huntington Library MS. EL 6183 (signed "Wa. Ra."); Verstegan,
Declaration of the True Causes of the Great Troubles, p. 54; Latham, Poems
of Sir Walter Ralegh, p. 172. Raleigh's authorship is not now accepted.
10. British Library, Stowe MS. 156, fol. 204v. For discussion, see Peck, "Another
Version of the Leicester Epitaphium."
do not reproduce this text in any form for commercial purposes; all other uses
are okay, with acknowledgement. This text has been scanned from the printed copy,
published by Ohio University Press, 1985 -- this is an imperfect process and if
you should want to quote something and have any doubts about you see here, please
feel free to ask. Feedback and suggestions are welcome, .
Posted 2 September 2004.