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great and foreign princes,’ he at once accepted the offer. At first he had no ground to complain of the trust reposed in him. He went to France in April 1576 to watch events. In his despatches home he gave disparaging accounts of the beauty of the ladies of the French court when compared with that of Queen Elizabeth. He was knighted in the same year, apparently on revisiting London (Metcalfe, Knights, p. 130). In the spring of 1577 he was entrusted with a diplomatic mission of high importance to Madrid. He was directed to explain to Philip II Elizabeth's conduct in the Netherlands, to renew her offer of mediation between Spain and the revolted provinces of the Netherlands, and to demand for English traders off the coast of Spain and elsewhere protection from the assaults of Spanish ships (Froude, History, x. 389–91). Philip and Alva received him complacently, but Quiroga, archbishop of Toledo, the inquisitor-general, haughtily scorned his advances. At the end of ten months, however, Smith returned home with friendly assurances from Philip, and the diplomatic relations between the two countries seemed to be placed on a permanently amicable footing (cf. Leycester Correspondence, p. 93). Smith's ‘Collections and Observations relating to the condition of Spain during his residence there in 1577,’ chiefly in Spanish, are preserved in manuscript at Lambeth (No. 271).

Thenceforth Smith's life was a long series of disappointments. He sought further official employment in vain. A querulous temper and defective judgment doubtless accounted for the neglect. His importunate appeals to the queen and her ministers did not improve his prospects. He had borrowed money of the queen and was hopelessly involved in pecuniary difficulties. On 21 Sept. 1578 the queen released ‘unto him the mortgage of his lands upon the debt which he oweth her’ on condition that he gave a bond for the payment of 2,000l. at Michaelmas twelvemonth (Nicolas, Life of Hatton, p. 93; cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1547–80, p. 646).

In view of the threatened armada, Smith, whose reputation as a soldier remained high, was directed to train the regiments of foot soldiers raised in his own county of Essex. He boasted that he admitted to his troops only men of proved respectability, but otherwise evinced little discretion. When in July 1588 he brought his detachment to the camp at Tilbury, he pointed out to Leicester, the commander-in-chief, the defective training of the rest of the army. Leicester, though he privately held much the same view, resented Smith's severe criticisms, and Smith inopportunely asked for leave of absence on the ground of ill-health, which necessitated a visit to ‘the baths.’ The request was refused, and he continued to give voice to what Leicester denounced as ‘foolish and vainglorious paradoxes.’ After a review by Smith of the Essex contingent, ‘he entered again (according to Leicester) into such strange cries for ordering of men and for fight with the weapon as made me think he was not well’ (Motley, United Netherlands, ii. 492–3). The armada was soon dispersed at sea, and Smith's services were not put to further test.

On 28 Jan. 1589–90 he wrote to Burghley from Baddow, sensibly warning him of the danger of permitting the formation of regiments for foreign service from men of ‘the baser sort.’ He complained of his long neglect at the hands of the queen, and vainly begged permission to visit the spas and foreign countries for a year or two, and to assign his lands so as to pay off his debts to the queen and others, and to maintain his wife and family (Cal. Hatfield MSS. iv. 4, 5). To distract his mind from his grievances he composed between 1589 and 1591 ‘four or five little books’ treating of ‘matters of arms,’ and in 1590 he published one of them, consisting of a series of discourses on the uses of military weapons. He strongly favoured the continued use of the bow in warfare, and drew from his foreign experience much interesting detail respecting the equipment of armies at home and abroad. The work was entitled ‘Certain Discourses written by Sir John Smythe, knight, concerning the formes and effects of diuers sorts of Weapons, and other verie important matters Militarie greatlie mistaken by diuers of our men of warre in these daies, and chiefly of the Mosquet, the Caliuer, and the Long-bow; as also of the great sufficiencie, excellencie, and wonderful effects of Archers; with many notable examples and other particularities by him presented to the Nobilitie of this Realme, and published for the benefite of this his native Countrie of England,’ 4to, London (by Richard Johnes), 1590. In the dedication, which he addressed to the English nobility, and in other sections of the work Smith gave vent to his resentment at failing to obtain regular military employment, and charged Leicester and others of the queen's advisers with incompetence and corruption. These charges were brought to the queen's notice, and she directed that all copies of the book be ‘called in, both because they be printed without privilege, and that they may breed much question and quarrell’ (Sir Thomas Heneage to Burghley, 14 May 1590). In a long letter to Burghley, 20 May 1590, Smith hotly pro-