Sir Henry Wotton

Sir Henry Wotton (1568 - 1639) was an English author and diplomat. Educated at Winchester College and at New College, Oxford, after a career in the Diplomatic Service in Italy he returned to London early in 1624 and was installed as provost of Eton College. This office did not resolve his financial problems, and he was on one occasion arrested for debt, but in 1627 he received a pension of £200, and in 1630 this was raised to £500 on the understanding that he should write a history of England.

He did not neglect the duties of his provostship, and was happy in being able to entertain his friends lavishly. His most constant associates were Izaak Walton and John Hales. A bend in the Thames below the Playing Fields, known as "Black Potts," is still pointed out as the spot where Wotton and Izaak Walton fished in company. He died at the beginning of December 1639 and was buried in the chapel of Eton College. During his lifetime he published only two works, the principal one being The Elements of Architecture (1624), which is a free translation of de Architectura by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, executed during his time in Venice. As well as discussing buildings, or 'Fabriques' he turns to consider gardens.

 

The Elements of Architecture

 

Collected by Henry Wotton Kt From the best Authors and Examples

 

By Sir Henry Wotton

 

1624

 

The II Parte

 

Now there are Ornaments also without, as Gardens, Fountaines, Groves Conservatories of rare Beasts, Birds, and Fishes. Of which ignobler kind of Creatures, Wee ought not (saith our greatest Master among the sonnes of Nature) childishly to despise the Contemplation; for in all things that are naturall, there is ever something that is admirable. Of these externall delights, a word or two. First, I must note a certain contrarietie between building & gardening: For as Fabriques should bee regular, so Gardens should bee irregular, or at least cast into a very wilde Regularitie. To exemplifie my conceit ; I have seene a Garden (for the maner perchance incomparable) into which the first Accesse was a high walk like a Tarrace, from whence might bee taken a generall view of the whole Plott below, but rather in a delightfull confusion, then with any plain distinction of the pieces. From this the Beholder descending many steps, was afterwards conveyed againe by severall mountings and valings to various entertainments of his sent and sight : which I shall not neede to describe (for that were poeticall) let me only note this, that every one of these diversties was as if hee had beene Magically transported into a new Garden. But though other Countries have more benefit of Sunne then wee, and thereby more properly tied to contemplate this delight; yet have I seen in our owne, a delicate and diligent curiosite, surely without parallell among foreigne Nations : Namely, in the Garden of Sir Henry Fanshaw at his Seat in Ware Park; where I wel remember, hee did so precisely examine the tinctures and seasons of his flowers, that in their setting, the inwardest of those which were to come up at the same time, should be always a little darker than the outmost, and so serve them for a kind of gentle shadow like a piece, not of Nature, but of Arte: which mention(incident to this place) I have willingly made of his Name, for the dear friendship that was long between us : though I must, confesse, with much wrong to his other vertues ; which deserve a more solide Memoriall, then among these vacant observations. So much of Gardens.

 


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