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But (my lords) as it is a principle in nature, that the best things are in their corruption the worst, and the sweetest wine makes the sharpest vinegar; so it fell out with them, that this excess (as I may term it) of friendship ended in mortal hatred on my Lord of Somerset's part.
For it fell out, some twelve months before Overbury's imprisonment in the Tower, that my Lord of Somerset was entered into an unlawful love towards his unfortunate Lady, then Countess of Essex: which went so far, as it was then secretly projected (chiefly between my Lord Privy Seal and my Lord of Somerset) to effect a nullity in the marriage with my Lord of Essex, and so to proceed to a marriage with Somerset.
This marriage and purpose did Overbury mainly oppugn, under pretence to do the true part of a friend (for that he counted her an unworthy woman); but the truth was that Overbury, who (to speak plainly) had little that was solid for religion or moral virtue, but was a man possessed with ambition and vain-glory, was loth to have any partners in the favour of my Lord of Somerset, and especially not the house of the Howards, against whom he had always professed hatred and opposition. So all was but miserable bargains of ambition.
And (my lords) that this is no sinister construction, will well appear unto you, when you shall hear that Overbury makes his brags to my Lord of Somerset, that he had won him the love of the lady by his letters and industry ; so far was he from cases of conscience in this matter. And certainly (my lords) howsoever the tragical misery of that poor gentleman Overbury ought somewhat to obliterate his faults ; yet because we are not now upon point of civility, but to discover the face of truth to the face of justice; and that it is material to the true understanding of the state of this cause ; Overbury was naught and corrupt, the ballads must be amended for that point.
But to proceed ; when Overbury saw that he was like to be dispossessed of my lord here, whom he had possessed so long, and by whose greatness he had promised himself to do wonders ; and being a man of an unbounded and impetuous spirit, he began not only to dissuade, but to deter him from that love and marriage ; and finding him fixed, thought to try stronger remedies, supposing that he had my lord's head under his girdle, in respect of communication of secrets of estate (or, as he calls them himself in his letters, secrets of all natures); and therefore dealt violently
with him to make him desist, with menaces of discovery of secrets, and the like.
Hereupon grew two streams of hatred upon Overbury ; the one from the lady, in respect that he crossed her love and abused her name, which are furies to women; the other of a deeper and more mineral nature, from my Lord of Somerset himself; who was afraid of Overbury's nature, and that if he did break from him and fly out, he would mine into him and trouble his whole fortunes.
I might add a third stream from the Earl of Northampton's ambition, who desires to be first in favour with my Lord of Somerset; and knowing Overbury's malice to himself and his house, thought that man must be removed and cut off. So it was amongst them resolved and decreed that Overbury must die.
Hereupon they had variety of devices. To send him beyond sea, upon occasion of employment, that was too weak; and they were so far from giving way to it, as they crossed it. There rested but two ways, quarrel or assault, and poison. For that of assault, after some proposition and attempt, they passed from it; it was a thing too open and subject to more variety of chances. That of poison likewise was a hazardous thing, and subject to many preventions and cautions, especially to such a jealous and working brain as Overbury had, except he were first fast in their hand.
Therefore the way was first to get him into a trap, and lay him up, and then they could not miss the mark. Therefore in execution of this plot it was devised, that Overbury should be designed to some honourable employment in foreign parts, and should underhand by the Lord of Somerset be incouraged to refuse it ; and so upon that contempt he should be laid prisoner in the Tower, and then they would look he should be close enough, and death should be his bail. Yet were they not at their end. For they considered that if there was not a fit lieutenant of the Tower for their purpose, and likewise a fit under-keeper of Overbury: first, they should meet with many impediments in the giving and exhibiting the poison : secondly they should be exposed to note and observation, that might discover them; and thirdly, Overbury in the meantime might write clamorous and furious letters to other his friends, and so all might be disappointed. And therefore the next link of the chain was to displace the then lieutenant Waade, and to place Helwisse, a principal abettor in the imprisonment : again, to displace Cary, that was the under-keeper in Waade's time, and to place Weston, who was the principal actor in the imprisonment :
and this was done in such a while, that it may appear to be done as it were with one breath ; as there were but fifteen days between the commitment of Overbury, the displacing of Waade, the placing of Helwisse, the displacing of Cary the under-keeper, the placing of Weston, and the first poison given two days after.
Then when they had this poor gentleman in the Tower close prisoner, where he could not escape nor stir, where he could not feed but by their hands, where he could not speak nor write but through their trunks ; then was the time to execute the last act of this tragedy.
Then must Franklin be purveyor of the poisons, and procure five, six, seven several potions, to be sure to hit his complexion. Then must Mris Turner be the say-mistress of the poisons to try upon pour beasts what's present, and what works at distance of time. Then must Weston be the tormentor, and chase him with poison after poison ; poison in salts, poison in meats, poison in sweetmeats, poison in medicines and vomits, until at last his body was almost come, by use of poisons, to the state that Mithridates' body was by the use of treacle and preservatives, that the force of the poisons was blunted upon him ; Weston confessing, when he was chid for not dispatching him, that he had given him enough to poison twenty men. Lastly, because all this asked time, courses were taken by Somerset both to divert all means of Overbury's delivery, and to entertain Overbury by continual letters, partly of hopes and projects for his delivery, and partly of other fables and negotiations ; somewhat like some kind of persons (which I will not name) which keep men in talk of fortune-telling, when they have a felonious meaning.
And this is the true narrative of this act of impoisonment, which I have summarily recited.
(From the Charge against the Earl of Somerset.)
A HAVEN AFTER STORM
WE sailed from Peru (where we had continued by the space of one whole year), for China and Japan, by the South Sea ; taking with us victuals for twelve months; and had good winds from the east, though soft and weak, for five months' space and
But then the wind came about, and settled in the west for many days, so as we could make little or no way, and were
sometimes in purpose to turn back. But then again there arose strong and great winds from the south with a point east; which carried us up (for all that we could do) towards the north ; by which time our victuals failed us, though we had made good spare of them.
So that finding ourselves in the midst of the greatest wilderness of waters in the world, without victual, we gave ourselves for lost men, and prepared for death. Yet we did lift up our hearts and voices to God above, who showeth His wonders in the deep; beseeching him of His mercy, that as in the beginning He discovered the face of the deep, and brought forth dry land, so He would now discover land to us, that we might not perish. And it came to pass that the next day about evening, we saw within a kenning before us, towards the north, as it were thick clouds, which did put us in some hope of land ; knowing how that part of the South Sea was utterly unknown ; and might have islands or continents, that hitherto were not come to light. Wherefore we bent our course thither, where we saw the appearance of land, all that night ; and in the dawning of the next day, we might plainly discern that it was a land ; flat to our sight, and full of boscage ; which made it shew the more dark.
And after an hour and a half's sailing, we entered into a good haven, being the port of a fair city; not great indeed, but well built, and that gave a pleasant view from the sea ; and we, thinking every minute long till we were on land, came close to the shore, and offered to land. But straightways we saw divers of the people, with bastons in their hands, as it were forbidding us to land ; yet without any cries or fierceness, but only as warning us off by signs that they made. Whereupon, being not a little discomforted, we were advising with ourselves what we should do. During which time there made forth to us a small boat, with about eight persons in it; whereof one of them had in his hand a tipstaff of a yellow cane, tipped at both ends with blue, who came aboard our ship, without any show of distrust at all. And when he saw one of our number present himself somewhat afore the rest, he drew forth a little scroll of parchment (somewhat yellower than our parchment, and shining like the leaves of writing tables, but otherwise soft and flexible) and delivered it to our foremost man. In which scroll were written in ancient Hebrew, and in ancient Greek, and in good Latin of the school, and in Spanish, these words ; “ Land ye not none of you; and provide to be gone from this coast within
sixteen days, except you have further time given you. Meanwhile, if you want fresh water, or 'victual, or help for your sick, or that your ship needeth repair, write down your wants, and you shall have that which belongeth to mercy.”
This scroll was signed with a stamp of cherubins' wings, not spread, but hanging downwards, and by them a cross. This being delivered, the officer returned, and left only a servant with us to receive our
Consulting hereupon amongst ourselves, we were much perplexed. The denial of landing and hasty warning us away, troubled us much; on the other side, to find that the people had languages and were so full of humanity, did comfort us not a little. And above all, the sign of the cross to that instrument was to us a great rejoicing, and as it were a certain presage of good. Our answer was in the Spanish tongue; “That for our ship, it was well ; for we had rather met with calms and contrary winds than any tempests. For our sick, they were many, and in very ill case ; so that if they were not permitted to land, they ran danger of their lives.” Our other wants we set down in particular; adding, “ that we had some little store of merchandise, which, if it pleased them to deal for, it might supply our wants without being chargeable unto them.” We offered some reward in pistolets unto the servant, and a piece of crimson velvet to be presented to the officer ; but the servant took them not, nor would scarce look upon them; and so left us, and went back in another little boat which was sent for him.
About three hours after we had dispatched our answer, there came towards us a person (as it seemed) of place. He had on him a gown with wide sleeves, of a kind of water chamolet, of an excellent azure colour, far more glossy than ours; his under apparel was green; and so was his hat, being in the form of a turban, daintily made, and not so huge as the Turkish turbans ; and the locks of his hair came down below the brims of it. A reverend man was he to behold. He came in a boat gilt in some part of it, with four persons more only in that boat; and was followed by another boat, wherein were some twenty. When he was come within a flight-shot of our ship, signs were made to us that we should send forth some to meet him upon the water ; which we presently did in our ship-boat, sending the principal man amongst us save one, and four of our number with him. When we were come within six yards of their boat, they called to us to stay, and not to approach farther; which we did. And