The Life and Letters of Sir Henry Wotton

Source: Sir Henry Wotton to Sir Edmund Bacon, letter dated 2 July 1613, reproduced in Logan Pearsall Smith (ed.), The Life and Letters of Sir Henry Wotton (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907), vol. II, pp. 32-33

Production: John Fletcher/William Shakespare, Henry VIII, Globe theatre, London, 29 June 1613

Text: Sir,

Whereas I wrote unto you, that I would be at Cambridge as on Saturday next, I am now cast off again till the King’s return to London, which will be about the middle of the week following. The delay grows from a desire of seeing Albertus his business settled before we come unto you, where we mean to forget all the world besides. Of this we shall bring you the account.

Now, to let matters of state sleep, I will entertain you at the present with what hath happened this week at the Bank’s side. The King’s players had a new play, called All is true, representing some principal pieces of the reign of Henry VIII, which was set forth with many extraordinary circumstances of pomp and majesty, even to the matting of the stage; the Knights of the Order with their Georges and garters, the Guards with their embroidered coats, and the like: sufficient in truth within a while to make greatness very familiar, if not ridiculous. Now, King Henry making a masque at the Cardinal Wolsey’s house, and certain chambers being shot off at his entry, some of the paper, or other stuff, wherewith one of them was stopped, did light on the thatch, where being thought at first but an idle smoke, and their eyes more attentive to the show, it kindled inwardly, and ran round like a train, consuming within less than an hour the whole house to the very grounds.

This was the fatal period of that virtuous fabric, wherein yet nothing did perish but wood and straw, and a few forsaken cloaks; only one man had his breeches set on fire, that would perhaps have broiled him, if he had not by the benefit of a provident wit put it out with bottle ale. The rest when we meet; till when, I protest every minute is the siege of Troy. God’s dear blessings till then and ever be with you.

Your poor uncle and faithful servant,

Henry Wotton

Comments: Henry Wotton (1568-1639) was an English poet and diplomat. Edmund Bacon was his nephew. The Globe theatre was built in 1599 for Shakespeare’s company, the Lord Chamberlain’s men, and burned down during a performance of Henry VIII on 29 June 1613. Wotton gives the title of the play as All is True, which was adopted as its title by the Oxford edition of the plays in 1986. The Globe was rebuilt in 1614, closed down in 1642 and pulled down around 1644-45.

Links: Copy at the Internet Archive

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