Sir Henry Wotton

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Wotton, Sir Henry (1568–1639). English diplomat, collector, and writer. As English Ambassador (1604–12, 1616–19, and 1621–4) to Venice he was in a good position to purchase works of art and become familiar with distinguished architecture. In 1624 he published The Elements of Architecture, a work indebted to Alberti and Vitruvius, and which famously identified the ‘three conditions’ for ‘well building’ as ‘Commodity, Firmness, and Delight’ (a remark itself derived from Vitruvius). Wotton also described the Roman Corinthian Order as ‘a columne lasciviously decked like a courtesan’. It was the first book devoted to architecture written in English, and may have had some influence on architects such as Jones and Pratt. His admiration for Palladio put his work in good odour with Burlington and his circle.


E. Harris (1990);
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2004);
Pearsall Smith (1907);
Jane Turner (1996)

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Sir Henry Wotton, 1568–1639, English poet and diplomat, b. Kent. He was secretary to the earl of Essex and later became a favorite of James I, who knighted him and appointed him ambassador to Venice. He was provost of Eton from 1624 until his death. His poetic fame rests largely on two poems, "Character of a Happy Life" and his tribute to Elizabeth, queen of Bohemia, beginning, "You meaner beauties of the night," which was first printed with music in East's Sixth Set of Books (1624). Wotton also wrote a number of prose tracts. His biography (1651) was written by his friend Izaak Walton.