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Home » John Dowland to Sir Robert Cecil, November 10, 1595

John Dowland to Sir Robert Cecil, November 10, 1595

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John Dowland’s letter to Sir Robert Cecil, November 10, 1595, now in the Library of Hatfield House. (click to enlarge)


The Lute Appendix iv a

Ryght honorable: as I have bin most bounde unto your honor, so I most humblie desire your honor to pardon my boldnes, and mak my choic of your honor to let you understand my bounden duty and desire of Gods preservation of my most dear soveraigne Quene and contry: whom I besech God ever to bless and to confounde all their enemies what and whomsoever. Fiften yeares since I was in France Servant to Sir Henry Cobham who was Imbassador for the Quenes majestie, and lay in Parys, wher I fell aquainted with on Smith a preist, and on Morgan somtims of her majesties chapell, on Verstigan who brake out of Englande beinge aprehended, and on Moris a Welchman that was our porter, who is at Rome, these men thrust many idle toies into my hed of relygion, sainge that the papists was the truthe and ours in England all falce, and I being but yonge their faire words overecht me and I beleved with them. Within ij years after I cam into Englande wher I saw men of that faction condemde and executed, which I thought was great injustice taking relygion for the only cause, and when my best frends wold perswade me I wold not beleve them. Then in time passing on Mr. Johnson died, and I becam an humble sutor for his place (thincking my selfe most worthiest), wherin I found many goode and honorable frends that spake for me, but I saw that I was like to goe without it, and that any mygt have preferment but I. Wherby I began to sounde the cause, and gest that my relygion was my hinderance. Whearupon, my mynde beinge trobled, I desired to get beyond the seas, which I durst not attempt without lycence from som of the Privie Counsell, for fear of being taken and so my hav extreame punishment. And accordinge as I desired ther cam a letter to me out of Germany from the Duke of Brunswicke, wherupon I spake to your honor and to my Lord of Essex, who willingly gav me both your hands (for which I wold be glad if ther wear any service in me that yor honors coulde comande). When I cam to the Duke of Brunswicke he usde me kindly, and gave me a ritch chaine of golde, xxiij £ in mony with velvet and saten and gold lace to make me aparell, with promyse that if I wolde serv him he wolde gev me as mutch as any prince in the worlde. From thenc I went to the Landgrave of Hessen, (who gav me the gretest welcome that myght be for on of my qualyty) who sent a ringe into England to my wiff valued at xx £ sterlinge, and gave me a great standing cupe with a cover gilt, full of dolers with many great offers for my service. And from thence I had great desire to see Italy and cam to Venyce and from thence to Florence whear I plaid befor the Duke and got great favors. And on evenynge I was walkinge upon the piazzo in Florence a jentle man tolde me that he espied a English preist and that his name was Skidmore and sonne and heir to Sir John Skidmore of the Courte, so I being intended to go unto Rome to study with a famous musicion named Luca Marenzio, stept to this Mr. Skidmor the preist and asked him if he was an Englysh man, and he told me yea: and whose sonne he was, and I telling him my name he was very glad to se me, so I tolde him I wold goe to Rome and desired his help for my saffty. For said I, “if they shold mystake ther, my fortune wear hard, for I hav bin thrust off of all good fortunes because I am a Catholicke at home. For I hard that Her Majestie beinge spake to for me, saied, I was a man to serve any princ in the world, but I was an obstinat papist.” Whearunto he answered, “Mr. Dowlande, if it be

not so, make her words true.” So in farther talke we spake of preists, and I told him that I did not thinck thinck it true that any preists (as we said in England) wolde kill the Quen, or onc goe about to touche her finger, and said I whatsoever my Relygion be will neither medle nor mak with any thyng thear done, so that they do not any thing against the Quen. Whearunto he answered that I spake as a good Subiect to her majestie, but said he in Rome you shall Englyshmen your own Contrymen speak most hardly of her and wholy to overthrow her and all Englande, and those be the Jesuits, said he, who are of the Spanyshe faction: moreover said he we hav many Jares with them, and withall wished to God the Quen wear a Catholycke. And said he, “to defend my Contry against the Spanyards I wold com into England and bear a pike on my sholders.” Amonge our talk he tolde me that he had order to atache div dyvers Inglish Jentlemen, and that he had bine iij years from Englande. So I brought him to his lodging dore, whear he told me that thear was ix prests com from Rome to go for Englande. He cam but the day before to Florenc, and I thinck they cam altogether. He told me that he wold stay ther in the town and study in an abby caled Sancta Maria Nouella, and that he must kep in for on monethe, and that he wold writ letters of me to Rome, which I shold receve very shortly. But I heard not of him in a moneth after, and then there came two English friers to my lodging the on was an Englishman named Balye, a Yorksheirman. The next day after my spech with Skydmore, I dyned with my Lord Gray and dyvers other jentlemen, whom I told of my speach with Skidmor, gevinge them warnynge. Wherupon my Lord Gray went to Siena, and the rest dispersed them selves. More over I tolde my Lord Gray howsoever I was for relygion, if I did perceve anything in Rome that ether toucht her majestie of the state of England I wold gev nottice of it thoughe it wer the loss of my liff. Which he liked well and bade me kepe that secret. This Frier Baylie before named delivered me a letter which I hav hear sent unto your honor, which letter I brake open befor Mr. bodlyJosias Bodly, and shewed what was written in it to him and divers other, after this, this frier Bayly tolde he had Receved letters From Rom to hasten me forward, and tolde me that my discontentment was knowne at Rom, and that I sholde hav a large pention of the Pope, and that His Holynes and all the Cardinales woulde make wonder full mutch of me. Therupon I tolde him of my wiff and children how to get them to me, wherunto he tolde me that I shold have acquaintance with sutche as sholde bringe them over if she had any wilingnes, or elce they wolde lose ther lives. For ther cam those into Englande for sutch purposes. “For,” quothe he “Mr. Skidmor brought out of Englande at his last being ther xvij persons both men and women, for which the Bishope wepes when he sees him for Joy.” After my departure I caled to mynde our conference and got me by my self and wept hartely, to

se my fortun so harde that I sholde becom sarvant to the gretest enemye of my prince, contry, wiff, children, and frends, for wante, and to make me like them selves. God He knoweth I never loved treason nor trechery nor never knew any, nor never heard any Mass in Englande, which I finde is great abuse of the peple for on my soule I understande it not, wherfor I have reformed my self to lyve acording to Her Majesties lawes as I was borne under Her Highnes, and that most humbly I doe crave pardon, protestinge if ther wer any abylitie in me, I wold be most redy to make amends. At Bolona I met with ij men the on named pierce an Iryshman, the other named Dracot, they are gon both to Rome, In Venice I hard an Italyan say, that he marveled that king Phillip had never a good frend in Inglande that with his dager wolde dispatch the Quens Majestie, but said he, God suffers her, in the end to gev her the greter overthrowe. Right honorable, this hav I written that Her Majestie may knowe the vilany of thes most wicked prests and Jesuits, and to bewar of them. I thanck God I hav both forsaken them and their relygion which tendeth to nothing but distruction. Thus I beseche God nyght and day to blesse and defend the Quens Majestie, and to confonde all her enemies and to preserve your honor and all the rest of her majesties most honorable Privie Counsell. I thinck that Skidmore and the other preists ar all in England, for he staid not at Florenc as he said he wolde to me, and Frier Baylie tolde me that he was gon into France to study the lawe. At Venyce and all along as I com in Germany men say that the Kinge of Spain is making gret preparation to com for England this next somer, wher if it pleasde your honor to advise me by my poore wyff I wolde most wilingly lose my lyffe against them, most humbly besechinge your honor to pardon my ill writinge, and worse inditinge, and to thinke that I desir to serve my contry, and hope to hear of your good opinyon of me. From Nurnberge, this xth of November 1595

Your honors most bounden
for ever
John Doulande


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For a deeper exploration of this text:
see David Pinto’s excellent critical hypertext edition here.

return to Appendix iv John Dowland In His Own Words

go to The Lute: Table of Contents

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