Henry Wotton

English writer, poet, politician and ambassador (1568-1639)

Sir Henry Wotton (March 30, 1568 – December 1639) was an English author and diplomat.

Sir Henry Wotton

Quotes edit

  • How happy is he born and taught,
    That serveth not another's will;
    Whose armor is his honest thought,
    And simple truth his utmost skill!
    • The Character of a Happy Life (1614), stanza 1.
  • Who God doth late and early pray,
    More of his grace than gifts to send,
    And entertains the harmless day
    With a well-chosen book or friend.
    • The Character of a Happy Life (1614), stanza 5.
  • Lord of himself, though not of lands;
    And having nothing, yet hath all.
    • The Character of a Happy Life (1614), stanza 6. Compare: "As having nothing, and yet possessing all things", 2 Corinthians vi. 10.
  • You meaner beauties of the night,
    That poorly satisfy our eyes
    More by your number than your light;
    You common people of the skies,
    What are you when the sun shall rise?
    • On His Mistress, the Queen of Bohemia, stanza 1 (1624). In some versions "moon" replaces "sun". This was printed with music as early as 1624, in Est's "Sixth Set of Books", for example.
  • I am but a gatherer and disposer of other men's stuff.
    • Preface to the Elements of Architecture (1624).
  • Love lodged in a woman's breast
    Is but a guest.
    • A Woman's Heart (1651).
  • He first deceased; she for a little tried
    To live without him, liked it not, and died.
    • Upon the Death of Sir Albert Morton's Wife (1651).
  • Hanging was the worst use a man could be put to.
    • The Disparity Between Buckingham and Essex (1651).
  • An ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the commonwealth.
    • Reliquiae Wottonainae (1651). In a letter to Velserus, 1612, Wotton says, "This merry definition of an ambassador I had chanced to set down at my friend's, Mr. Christopher Fleckamore, in his Album".
  • The itch of disputing will prove the scab of churches.
    • A Panegyric to King Charles (1651).
  • Hic jacet hujus sententiæ primus author:
    Nomen alias quære.
    • Translation: Here lies the author of this phrase: "The itch for disputing is the sore of churches." Seek his name elsewhere.
    • Inscription on Wotton's gravestone, so placed at his direction.
  • Advised a young diplomat "to tell the truth, and so puzzle and confound his enemies."
    • Attributed. E.g., Vol 24, Encyclopedia Britannica of Arts, Sciences, and General Literature, page 721 (9th Ed. 1894).
    • Compare Mark Twain who, in Following the Equator, said "When in doubt, tell the truth" (which is often mis-quoted as containing an additional clause providing "it will confound your enemies and astound your friends").

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