Cabbala, p. 234. Birch's Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 386. Speed, p. 877. The whole letter of Essex is so curious and so spirited, that the reader may not be displeased to read it.
My very good lord; Though there is not that man this day living, whom I would sooner make judge of any question that might concern me than yourself, yet you must give me leave to tell you, that in some cases I must appeal from all earthly judges: And if any, then surely in this, when the highest judge on earth has imposed on me the heaviest punishment without trial or hearing. Since then I must either answer your lordship's argument, or else forsake mine own just defence, I will force mine aching head to do me service for an hour. I must first deny my discontent, which was forced, to be an humorous discontent; and that it was unseasonable or is of so long continuing, your lordship should rather condole with me than expostulate: Natural seasons are expected here below; but violent and unreasonable storms come from above: There is no tempest equal to the passionate indignation of a prince; nor yet at any time so unseasonable as when it lighteth on those that might expect a harvest of their careful and painful labours. He that is once wounded, must needs feel smart, till his hurt is cured, or the part hurt become senseless: But cure I expect none, her majesty's heart being obdurate against me; and be without sense I cannot, being of flesh and blood. But, say you, I may aim at the end: I do more than aim; for I see an end of all my fortunes, I have set an end to all my desires. In this course do I any thing for my enemies? When I was at court, I found them absolute; and, therefore, I had rather they should triumph alone, than have me attendant upon their chariots. Or do I leave my friends? When I was a courtier, I could yield them no fruit of my love unto them; and now, that I am a hermit, they shall bear no envy, for their love towards me. Or do I forsake myself, because I do enjoy myself? Or do I overthrow my fortunes, because I build not a fortune of paper walls, which every puff of wind bloweth down? Or do I ruinate mine honour, because I leave following the pursuit, or wearing the false badge or mark of the shadow of honour? Do I give courage or comfort to the foreign foe, because I reserve myself to encounter with him? Or because I keep my heart from business, though I cannot keep my fortune from declining? No, no, my good lord, I give every one of these considerations its due weight; and the more I weigh them, the more I find myself justified from offending in any of them. As for the two last objections, that I forsake my country, when it hath most need of me, and fail in that indissoluble duty which I owe to my sovereign; I answer, that if my country had at this time any need of my public service, her majesty that governeth it, would not have driven me to a private life. I am tied to my country by two bonds; one public, to discharge carefully and industriously that trust which is committed to me; the other private, to sacrifice for it my life and carcase, which hath been nourished in it. Of the first I am free, being dismissed, discharged, and disabled by her majesty: Of the other, nothing can free me but death; and therefore no occasion of my performance shall sooner offer itself but I shall meet it half way. The indissoluble duty which 1 owe unto her majesty, is only the duty of allegiance, which I never have, nor never can fail in: The duty of attendance, is no indissoluble duty. 1 owe her majesty the duty of an earl and of lord marshal of England. I have been content to do her majesty the service of a clerk; but I can never serve her as a villain or slave. But yet you say I must give way unto the time. So I do; for now that I see the storm come, I have put myself into the harbour. Seneca saieth, we must give way to Fortune: I know that Fortune is both blind and strong, and therefore I go as far as I can out of her way. You say the remedy is not to strive: I neither strive nor seek for remedy. But, you say, I must yield and submit: I can neither yield myself to be guilty, nor allow the imputation laid upon me to be just: I owe so much to the Author of all truth, as I can never yield truth to be falsehood, nor falsehood to be truth. Have I given cause, you ask; and yet take a scandal when I have done? No: I gave no cause, not so much as Fimbria's complaint against me; for I did totum telum corpore recipere: Receive the whole sword into my body. I patiently bear all, and sensibly feel all that I then received, when this scandal was given me. Nay more, when the vilest of all indignities are done unto me, &c. This noble letter, Bacon afterwards, in pleading against Essex, called bold and presumptuous, and derogatory to her majesty. Birch's Memoirs, vol. ii. p. 388.