AT CAMBRIDGE IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY, THE PUBLIC Orator did the work that would now be called public relations. The University depended on the good will of men in high places, and it was the duty of the Orator to combine a judicious mixture of flattery and gratitude with an alert eye for future favors, all couched in the smooth and polished Latin that was suited to the dignity of the University and the ears of the great.
Above all, the University. depended on the good will of the King, and within four months of his election the new Public Orator faced a severe test of his ability. King James, that most determined of literary men, had just had his prose works translated into Latin and he presented copies of the large volume, handsomely bound in velvet and gold, to both Oxford and Cambridge. There had been a long rivalry between the two universities for the favor of the King, and Oxford bowed before the book as though it were an honored guest. The Vice-Chancellor bore it to the library in a reverent procession headed by twenty doctors clothed in scarlet, and the keeper of the library made "a very pretty speech" expressing his gratitude for the precious object. All this was reported back to the King, who had the natural vulnerability of any author and was "exceeding well pleased."
The University of Cambridge had unfortunately failed to arrange for similar ceremonies, and it was up to the Public Orator to compose a letter of thanks effective enough to counteract the ingenuity of its sister university. George Herbert sharpened his Latin and his wits and allowed his mind to float in that Renaissance, realm where kings are gods. Then he produced a letter so drunk with exaltation, so quivering with reverence over the great