« VorigeDoorgaan »
talk till the first blow be given: all these, my who perused them, copied, registered them, made lords, without scruple, are abettors to this murder, though none of them give the blow, nor assist to give the blow.
My lords, he is not the hunter alone that lets slip the dog upon the deer, but he that lodges the deer, or raises him, or puts him out, or he that sets a toil that he cannot escape, or the like.
tables of them as he thought good: so that, I will undertake, the time was when Overbury knew more of the secrets of state than the council-table did. Nay, they were grown to such an inwardness, as they made a play of all the world besides themselves: so as they had ciphers and jargons for the king, the queen, and all the great men; things seldom used, but either by princes and their ambassadors and ministers, or by such as work and practise against, or at least upon,
But this, my lords, little needeth in this present case, where there is such a chain of acts of impoisonment as hath been seldom seen, and could hardly have been expected, but that great-princes. ness of fortune maketh commonly grossness in offending.
To descend to the proofs themselves, I shall keep this course:
But, understand me, my lord, I shall not charge you this day with any disloyalty; only I say this for a foundation, that there was a great communication of secrets between you and Overbury, and
First, I will make a narrative or declaration of that it had relation to matters of estate, and the the fact itself. greatest causes of this kingdom.
Secondly, I will break and distribute the proofs as they concern the prisoner.
And, thirdly, according to that distribution, I will produce them, and read them, or use them.
So that there is nothing that I shall say, but your lordship, my Lord of Somerset, shall have three thoughts or cogitations to answer it: First, when I open it, you may take your aim. Secondly, when I distribute it, you may prepare your answers without confusion. And, lastly, when I produce the witnesses or examinations themselves, you may again ruminate and re-advise how to make your defence. And this I do the rather, because your memory or understanding may not be oppressed or overladen with the length of evidence, or with confusion of order. Nay, more, when your lordship shall make your answers in your time, I will put you in mind, when cause shall be, of your omissions.
First, therefore, for the simple narrative of the fact. Sir Thomas Overbury for a time was known to have had great interest and great friendship with my Lord of Somerset, both in his meaner fortunes, and after; insomuch as he was a kind of oracle of direction unto him; and, if you will believe his own vaunts, being of an insolent Thrasonical disposition, he took upon him, that the fortune, reputation, and understanding of this gentleman, who is well known to have had a better teacher, proceeded from his company and counsel.
And this friendship rested not only in conversation and business of court, but likewise in communication of secrets of estate. For my Lord of Somerset, at that time exercising, by his majesty's special favour and trust, the office of the secretary provisionally, did not forbear to acquaint Overbury with the king's packets of despatches from all parts, Spain, France, the Low Countries, &c. And this not by glimpses, or now and then rounding in the ear for a favour, but in a settled manner: packets were sent, sometimes opened by my lord, sometimes unbroken, unto Overbury,
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 fell it 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 vainglory, was loath 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 hands.
[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 encouraged 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 mean time 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 impoisonment: again, to displace Cary, that was the underkeeper in Waade's time, and to place Weston, who was the principal actor in the impoisonment: 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 Mrs. Turner be the say-mistress of the piosons, to try upon poor beasts, what is 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 sweatmeats, poison in medicines and vomits, until at last his body was almost come, by use of poisons, to the state that Mithridates's body was by the use of treacle and preservatives, that the force of the poisons were blunted upon him: Weston confessing, when he was chid for not despatching 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, and partly of hopes and projects for his delivery, and partly of other fables and negotiation; somewhat like some kind of persons, which I will not name, which keep men in talk of fortunetelling, when they have a felonious meaning.
And this is the true narrative of this act of impoisonment, which I have summarily recited.
Now, for the distribution of the proofs, there are four heads of proofs to prove you guilty, my Lord of Somerset, of this impoisonment; whereof two are precedent to the imprisonment, the third is present, and the fourth is following or subsequent. For it is in proofs as it is in lights, there is a direct light, and there is a reflexion of light, or back light.
The first head or proof thereof is, That there was a root of bitterness, a mortal malice or hatred, mixed with deep and bottomless fears, that you had towards Sir Thomas Overbury.
The second is, That you were the principal actor, and had your hands in all those acts, which did conduce to the impoisonment, and which gave opportunity and means to effect it.
and without which the impoisonment could never have been, and which could serve or tend to no other end but to the impoisonment.
The third is, That your hand was in the very impoisonment itself, which is more than needs to be proved; that you did direct poison; that you did deliver poison; that you did continually hearken to the success of the impoisonment; and that you spurred it on, and called for despatch when you thought it lingered.
And, lastly, That you did all the things after the impoisonment, which may detect a guilty conscience, for the smothering of it, and avoiding punishment for it: which can be but of three kinds; That you suppressed, as much as in you was, testimony: That you did deface, and destroy, and clip, and misdate all writings that might give light to the impoisonment; and that you did fly to the altar of guiltiness, which is a pardon, and a pardon of murder, and a pardon for yourself, and not for your lady.
In this, my lord, I convert my speech to you, because I would have you attend the points of your charge, and so of your defence the better. And two of these heads I have taken to myself, and left the other two to the king's two serjeants. For the first main part, which is the mortal hatred, coupled with fear, that was in my Lord of Somerset towards Overbury, although he did palliate it with a great deal of hypocrisy and dissimulation, even to the end; I shall prove it, my lord steward, and you, my lords and peers, manifestly, by matter both of oath and writing. The root of this hatred was that that hath cost many a man's life, that is, fear of discovering secrets: secrets, I say, of a high and dangerous nature: Wherein the course that I will hold, shall be this:
First, I will show that such a breach and malice was between my lord and Overbury, and that it burst forth into violent menaces and threats on both sides.
Secondly, That these secrets were not light, but of a high nature; for I will give you the elevation of the pole. They were such as my Lord of Somerset for his part had made a vow, that Overbury should neither live in court nor country. That he had likewise opened himself and his own fears so far, that if Overbury ever came forth of the Tower, either Overbury or himself must die for it. And of Overbury's part, he had threatened my lord, that whether he did live or die, my lord's shame should never die, but he would leave him the most odious man of the world. And, farther, that my lord was like enough to repent it, in the place where Overbury wrote, which was the Tower of London. He was a true prophet in that: so here is the height of the
Thirdly, I will show you, that all the king's business was by my lord put into Overbury's
hands; so as there is work enough for secrets, whatsoever they were: and, like princes' confederates, they had their ciphers and jargons.
And, lastly, I will show you that it is but a toy to say that the malice was only in respect he spake dishonourably of the lady; or for doubt of breaking the marriage: for that Overbury was a coadjutor to that love, and the Lord of Somerset was as deep in speaking ill of the lady as Overbury. And, again, it was too late for that matter, for the bargain of the match was then made and past. And if it had been no more but to remove Overbury from disturbing of the match, it had been an easy matter to have banded over Overbury beyond seas, for which they had a fair way; but that would not serve their turn.
And, lastly, "periculum periculo vincitur," to go so far as an impoisonment, must have a deeper malice than flashes: for the cause must bear a proportion to the effect.
For the next general head of proofs, which consists in acts preparatory to the middle acts, they are in eight several points of the compass, as I may term it.
First, That there were devices and projects to despatch Overbury, or to overthrow him, plotted between the Countess of Somerset, the Earl of Somerset, and the Earl of Northampton, before they fell upon the impoisonment: for always before men fix upon a course of mischief, there be some rejections: but die he must, one way or other.
Secondly, That my Lord of Somerset was a principal practiser, I must speak it, in a most perfidious manner, to set a train or trap for Overbury, to get him into the Tower; without which they never durst have attempted the impoisonment.
Thirdly, That the placing of the lieutenant Helwisse, one of the impoisoners, and the displacing of Waade, was by the means of my Lord of Somerset.
Fourthly, That the placing of Weston, the under-keeper, who was the principal impoisoner, and the displacing of Cary, and the doing of all this within fifteen days after Overbury's commitment, was by the means and countenance of my Lord of Somerset. And these two were the active instruments of the impoisonment: and this was a busi. ness that the lady's power could not reach unto.
Fifthly, That, because there must be a time for the tragedy to be acted, and chiefly because they would not have the poisons work upon the sudden and for that the strength of Overbury's nature, or the very custom of receiving poison into his body, did overcome the poisons, that they wrought not so fast; therefore Overbury must be held in the Tower. And as my Lord of Somerset got him into the trap, so he kept him in, and abused him with continual hopes of liberty; and diverted all the true and effectual means of his liberty, and made light of his sickness and extremities.
Sixthly, That not only the plot of getting Overbury into the Tower, and the devices to hold him and keep him there; but the strange manner of his close keeping, being in but for a contempt, was by the device and means of my Lord of Somerset, who denied his father to see him, denied his servants that offered to be shut up close prisoners with him; and in effect handled it so, that he was close prisoner to all his friends, and open and exposed to all his enemies.
Seventhly, That the advertisements which my lady received from time to time from the lieutenant or Weston, touching Overbury's state of body or health, were ever sent up to the court, though it were in progress, and that from my lady: such a thirst and listening this lord had to hear that he was despatched.
Lastly, There was a continual negotiation to set Overbury's head on work, that he should make some recognition to clear the honour of the lady; and that he should become a good instrument towards her and her friends: all which was but entertainment; for your lordships shall plainly see divers of my Lord of Northampton's letters, whose hand was deep in this business, written, I must say it, in dark words and clauses; that there was one thing pretended and another intended; that there was a real charge, and there was somewhat not real; a main drift, and a dissimulation. Nay, farther, there be some passages which the peers in their wisdom will discern to point directly at the impoisonment.
Londoners, and another to deal with the peers; whose objects, perhaps, will not be so much what is before them in the present case, which I think is as odious to them as to the vulgar, but what may be hereafter. Besides, there be two disadvantages, we that shall give in evidence shall meet with, somewhat considerable; the one, that the same things often opened, lose their freshness, except there be an aspersion of some what that is new; the other is, the expectation raised, which makes things seem less than they are, because they are less than opinion. There fore, I were not your attorney, nor myself, if 1 should not be very careful, that in this last part, which is the pinnacle of your former justice, all things may pass "sine offendiculo, sine scru pulo." Hereupon I did move two things, which, having now more fully explained myself, I do, in all humbleness, renew. First, that your majesty will be careful to choose a steward of judgment, that may be able to moderate the evidence, and cut off digressions; for I may interrupt, but I cannot silence: the other, that there may be special care taken for the ordering the evidence, not only for the knitting, but for the list, and, to use your majesty's own words, the confining of it. This to do, if your majesty vouchsafe to direct it yourself, that is the best; if not, I humbly pray you to require my lord chancellor, that he, together with my lord chief justice, will confer with myself, and my fellows, that shall be used for the marshalling and bounding of the
[After this inducement followed the evidence evidence, that we may have the help of his 'tself.]
TO HIS MAJESTY, ABOUT THE EARL OF SOMERSET.
IT MAY PLEASE YOUR MOST EXCELLENT MAJESTY, At my last access to your majesty, it was fit for me to consider the time and your journey, which maketh me now trouble your majesty with a remnant of that I thought then to have said: besides your old warrant and commission to me, to advertise your majesty when you are "aux champs," of any thing that concerned your service, and my place. I know your majesty is "nunquam minus solus, quam cum solus;" and I confess, in regard of your great judgment, under which nothing ought to be presented but well weighed, I could almost wish that the manner of Tiberius were in use again, of whom Tacitus saith, "Mos erat quamvis præsentem scripto adire;" much more in absence. I said to your majesty that which I do now repeat, that the evidence upon which my Lord of Somerset standeth indicted, is of a good strong thread, considering impoisoning is the darkest of offences; but that the thread must be well spun and woven together; for, your majesty knoweth, it is one thing to deal with a jury of Middlesex and
opinion, as well as that of my lord chief justice; whose great travels, as I much commend, yet that same "plerophoria," or over-confidence, doth always subject things to a great deal of chance.
There is another business proper for me to crave of your majesty at this time, as one that have, in my eye, a great deal of service to be done concerning your casual revenue; but considering times and persons, I desire to be strengthened by some such form of commandment under your royal hand, as I send you here enclosed. I most humbly pray your majesty to think, I understand myself right well in this which I desire, and that it tendeth greatly to the good of your service. The warrant I mean not to impart, but upon just occasion; thus, thirsty to hear of your majesty's good health, I rest
22 Jan. 1615.
My lord chancellor and myself spent Thursday majesty's pleasure that my lord chancellor and I and yesterday, the whole forenoons of both days, shall proceed to the examination of him, for that in the examination of Sir Robert Cotton; whom of the Duke of Lenox differs, in that there is not we find hitherto but empty, save only in the the like cause as in that of Somerset, then his great point of the treaty with Spain. majesty may be pleased to direct his commandThis examination was taken before his ma- ment and warrant to my lord chief justice, to jesty's warrant came to Mr. Vice-Chamberlain, deliver unto me the examination he took of Sir for communicating unto us the secrets of the William Mounson, that those, joined to the pensions; which warrant I received yesterday information which we have received from Mr. morning, being Friday, and a meeting was ap- Vice-Chamberlain, may be full instructions unto pointed at my lord chancellor's in the evening, us for his examination. Farther, I pray let his after council; upon which conference we find majesty know, that on Thursday in the evening, matter of farther examination for Sir Robert Cot- my lord chief justice and myself attended my ton, of some new articles whereupon to examine | lord chancellor at his house, for the settling that Somerset, and of entering into examination of Sir William Mounson.
Wherefore, first for Somerset, being now ready to proceed to examine him, we stay only upon the Duke of Lenox, who it seemeth is fallen sick and keepeth in; without whom, we neither think it warranted by his majesty's direction, nor agreeable to his intention, that we should proceed; for that will want, which should sweeten the cup of medicine, he being his countryman and friend Herein, then, we humbly crave his majesty's direction with all convenient speed, whether we shall expect the duke's recovery, or proceed by ourselves; or that his majesty will think of some other person, qualified, according to his majesty's just intention, to be joined with us. I remember we had speech with his majesty of my Lord Hay; and I, for my part, can think of no other, except it should be my Lord Chancellor of Scotland, for my Lord Binning may be thought too near allied.
I am farther to know his majesty's pleasure concerning the day; for my lord chancellor and I conceived his majesty to have designed the Monday and Tuesday after St. George's feast; and, nevertheless, we conceived also, that his majesty understood that the examinations of Somerset about this, and otherwise touching the Spanish practices, should first be put to a point; which will not be possible, as time cometh on, by reason of this accident of the duke's sickness, and the cause we find of Sir William Mounson's examination, and that divers of the peers are to be sent for from remote places.
It may please his majesty, therefore, to take into consideration, whether the days may not well be put off till Wednesday and Thursday after the term, which endeth on the Monday, being the Wednesday and Thursday before Whitsuntide; or, if that please not his majesty, in respect, it may be, his majesty will be then in town, whereas these arraignments have been still in his majesty's absence from town, then to take Monday and Tuesday after Trinity Sunday, being the Monday and Tuesday before Trinity
Now, for Sir William Mounson, if it be his
scruple which his majesty most justly conceived in the examination of the Lady Somerset; at which time, resting on his majesty's opinion, that that evidence, as it standeth now uncleared, must, "secundum leges sanæ conscientiæ" be laid aside; the question was, whether we should leave it out, or try what a re-examination of my Lady Somerset would produce? Whereupon we agreed upon a re-examination of my Lady Somerset, which my lord chief justice and I have appointed for Monday morning. I was bold at that meeting to put my lord chief justice a posing question; which was, Whether that opinion which his brethren had given upon the whole evidence, and he had reported to his majesty, namely, that it was good evidence, in their opinions, to convict my Lord of Somerset, was not grounded upon this part of the evidence now to be omitted, as well as upon the rest: who answered positively, No; and they never saw the exposition of the letter, but the letter only.
The same Thursday evening, before we entered into this last matter, and in the presence of Mr. Secretary Winwood, who left us when we went to the former business, we had conference concerning the frauds and abusive grants passed to the prejudice of his majesty's state of revenue; where my lord chief justice made some relation of his collections which he had made of that kind; of which I will only say this, that I heard nothing that was new to me, and I found my lord chancellor, in divers particulars, more ready than I had found him. We grew to a distribution both of times and of matters, for we agreed what to begin with presently, and what should follow, and also we had consideration what was to be holpen by law, what by equity, and what by parliament; wherein I must confess, that in the last of these, of which my lord chief justice made most account, I make most doubt. But the conclusion was, that, upon this entrance, I should advise and confer at large with my lord chief justice, and set things in work. The particulars I refer till his majesty's coming.
The learned counsel have now attended me twice at my chamber, to confer upon that which his majesty gave us in commandment for our opi