Henry Peacham (1638) The Valley of Varietie, Chapter VII, pp. 54-64.

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Of the strange mixture of Vertue and Vice, in the Natures and Dispositions of manie men.

That saying of Plato is most true; Heroicall Natures, as they are renowned for manie excellent and commendable Vertues, so are they subject, for the most part, to as many, and as great Vices. And as Ægypt affordeth as deadly poisons, together with as excellent Antidotes as any place of the world beside; so, both much good, and as much evill hang over the heads of the greatest Common wealths, from these Heroicke great ones: although many heretofore have proved the same by many examples, it shall not be amisse to acquaint you with some choise ones, out of the best Historians.

Velleius Paterculus saith of Mecænas, That he was wakefull, provident and able to manage his weightiest Affairs: but againe, when hee got any leisure from businesse, hee affected his ease, and all manner of loose effeminacie, beyond any Woman.

Xiphilinus writes of Tiberius, That hee was a man indued with many and great vertues, and (as it were) overwhelmed with vice and villanies, as if alike hee had exercised himselfe to either. Againe, the same Author reporteth of the Emperour Otho, where all his life long hee had lived wickedly and dissolutely, hee died most honestly, and resigned up his Empire (which hee had gotten by Tyrannie and wicked meanes) in a most glorious and honest manner. And the Emperour Iulian, as Ammianus Marcellinus saith,1 By his vicious errors: Obnubilasse gloriæ multiplices cursus. Victor writing of Dioclesian, saith, Hee was a man greatly esteemed, but thus conditioned; for hee was the first that ever ware cloth of Gold, used to tread upon Silke and Purple, embellished with Pearle and Precious stone: which, though it were more then did become him, and argued in him a lofty and a proud Spirit; yet this was nothing in respect of his other carriage: for (next after Caligula) hee was the first that allowed himselfe to be called, (ridiculously) Lord and God, and to be adored and sued unto, as unto God himselfe: (but by and by, this followeth in the same Author) though he was so called, hee carried and bare himselfe rather like a Father, then a Lordly Tyranne.

And of Theodosius thus writes Suidas, Indeed I admire the inclinations, to bend so much either way. For when hee was void of care and businesse, hee gave himselfe up to all manner of pleasures; but when necessitie compelled him, and feare of bondage and subjection possessed him, he tooke courage, cast of sloath, and bad adieu to all delights, and underwent all manner of labour, and used his best diligence; but shortly after, when all danger was past, and hee saw himselfe free, hee followed his pleasure and dissolute living, as before. And of Tribonianus, saith Procopius, Hee was second to none in the knowledge of all Sciences and Learning, being of a most sweet and excellent disposition: which vertues, τὸ τῆς φιλοχρηματίας νόσημα, the disease of Covetousnesse very much obscured.

Guicciardine also in the life2 of Pope Leo the tenth, writes thus: There were in that great Prelate, many things, both praise-worthy, and to be condemned; for having obtained the Papacie, hee deceived mightily the expectation of a great number: for there was in him great wisedome, but hee fell farre short of that honesty which all men expected to be in him.

Of King Henrie the eight, saith Master Cambden; Fuerunt quidem in illo Rege magnæ virtutes, nec minora vitia, confuso quædam Temporamento mixta. There were in King Henry the eight, surely great and many vertues, neither fewer vices confusedly mixed each with other.

It is also reported3 of Iohn de Medicis, that hee was a good Souldier, very venturous in greatest dangers, and of great industry: but great and horrible vices overclouded those vertues, because hee was an horrible, and with unheard of Oathes, a blasphemer of God and his Saints: and being given to the dishonest and filthy love of boyes, hee was set on fire with the flames of Lust; and often hee was heard to breake into Atheisticall speeches, not fit to be named amongst Christians.

Folieta Galeazo reporteth4 in like manner of Sfortia, Duke of Millaine, that hee was a very Monster, made up and compact of Vertue and Vice: for hee was eminent and honoured for his Magnificence, Liberalitie, and Bountie, as well towards his owne people, as to Strangers: for the various and stately Furniture of his House or Court, hee exceeded all the Princes of his time: for hee had abundance of massie Plate of every fashion, and for all uses, as well of Gold as Silver, as Basons, Ewers, drinking Boules, &c. infinite store of the best Horses hee could come by out of all Nations; all provision for Hunts-men, and Hounds, which yearly stood him in six hundred thousand Crownes, a great sum at that time. For, besides his large Kennels of Dogs, there were great open Galleries, wherein, in long rankes, stood all kinds of Faulcons, and other Hawkes upon their perches: and a wonder it was to see the state and riches of his costly hangings of Gold, Silk and Silver, embroidered with the Needle, by cunning hand, with devices, and Pictures of the most cunning Masters. All men, who excelled in Learning or Eloquence, hee held in great esteeme, and procured them unto him, from all parts, by large and honorable stipends. Moreover, hee honored and loved all honest men, who were upright, and of good life; on the contrary, hee hated and punished all bad livers, oppressors, blasphemers, &c. he was easie of accesse, for any might come freely unto him, & declare their mind: he was very courteous in his speech and discourse, & a true payer to all men their stipends or wages, for they never twice demanded the same, but it was ever as sure unto them, as under locke in their chest, (saith Galeazzo.) But alas, fearfull vices disgraced and sullied the face and beautie of these excellent vertues; as beastly lusts, in deflowring of honest Maids and Matrons, afterwards causing them to be prostituted unto his friends, or followers: his inhumane Crueltie, his insatiable Covetousnesse, and Rapine, ever oppressing his people with new Levies and payments; which vices drowning his other vertues, brought him into deadly hatred and contempt among his people. But the cause of this strange distemperature in the Nature and Dispositions of men, I leave as a depth not now to be searched into.


1. Ammian. Marcell. lib. 22. [XXII.X.6]

2. Lib. 14.

3. Arnoldus Ferronus in Franc. Valesio.

4. Lib. 11. p. 247. b.

This page is by James Eason.