COLLECTION OF LETTERS,
WRITTEN TO SEVERAL PERSONS OF HONOUR.
To my good Friend G. H*.
The little business which you left in my hands is now dispatched; if it have hung longer than you thought, it might serve for just excuse, that these small things make as many steps to their end, and need as many motions for the warrant, as much writing of the clerks, as long expectation of a seal, as greater. It comes now to you sealed, and with it as strong and assured seals of my service and love to you, if it be good enough for you. I owe you a continual tribute of letters. But, sir, even in princes and parents, and all states that have in them a natural sovereignty, there is a sort of reciprocation, and a descent to do some offices due to them that serve them: which makes me look for letters from you, because I have another as valuable a pawn therefor, as your friendship, which is your promise; lest by the gaoler's fault this letter stick long, I must tell you, that I wrote and sent it 12th December, 1600.
Your friend and servant and lover, 12th December, 1600. J. Donne.
To the Honourable Knight, Sir H. Gooderef.
Though you escape my lifting up of my latch by removing, you cannot my letters; yet of this letter I do not much ac
• George Herbert: written during his imprisonment after his marriage.—Ed. T Probably from Mich am; this son may have been George, who was baptized at Camberwell, Hay 9, 1605.—Ed.
cuse myself, for I serve your commandment in it, for it is only to convey to you this paper opposed to those, with which you trusted me. It is, I cannot say the weightiest, but truly the saddest lucubration and night's passage that ever I had. For it exercised those hours, which, with extreme danger of her, whom I should hardly have abstained from recompensing for her company in this world, with accompanying her out of it, increased my poor family with a son. Though her anguish, and my fears, and hopes, seem divers and wild distractions from this small business of your papers, yet because they all narrowed themselves, and met in via regia, which is the consideration of ourselves, and God, I thought it time not unfit for this dispatch. Thus much more than needed I have told you, whilst my fire was lighting at Tricombs, 10 o'clock. Yours ever entirely,
To Sir Henry Goodyere*.
Though my friendship be good for nothing else, it may give you the profit of a tentation, or of an affliction: it may excuse your patience; and though it cannot allure, it shall importune you. Though I know you have many worthy friends of all ranks, yet I add something, since I which am of none, would fain be your friend too. There is some of the honour and some of the degrees of a creation, to make a friendship of nothing. Yet, not to annihilate myself utterly (for though it seem humbleness, yet it is a work of as much almightiness, to bring a thing to nothing, as from nothing), though I be not of the best stuff for friendship, which men of warm and durable fortunes only are, I cannot say, that I am not of the best fashion, if truth and honesty be that; which I must ever exercise, towards you, because I learned it of you: for the conversation with worthy men, and of good example, though it sow not virtue in us, yet produceth and ripeneth it. Your miins haste, and mine to Micham, cuts off this letter here, yet, as in little patterns torn from a whole piece, this may tell
• Of Polesworth, Gentleman of his Majesty's Privy Chamber.—Ed.
you what all I am. Though by taking me before my day (which I accounted Tuesday) I make short payment of this duty of letters, yet I have a little comfort in this, that you see me hereby, willing to pay those debts which I can, before my time.
Your affectionate friend,
First Saturday in March, 1607. J. Donne.
You forgot to send me the apology; and many times, I think it an injury to remember one of a promise, lest it confess a distrust. But of the book, by occasion of reading the Dean's answer to it, I have sometimes some want.
To Sir Henry Goodyere.
It should be no interruption to your pleasures, to hear me often say that I love you, and that you are as much my meditations as myself. I often compare not you and me, but the sphere in which your resolutions are, and my wheel; both I hope concentric to God: for methinks the new astronomy is thus appliable well, that we which are a little earth, should rather move towards God, than that he which is fulfilness and can come no whither, should move towards us. To your life full of variety, nothing is old, nor new to mine; and as to that life, all stickings and hesitations seem stupid and stony, so to this, all fluid slipperinesses, and transitory migrations seem giddy and feathery. In that life one is ever in the porch or postern, going in or out, never within his house himself: it is a garment made of remnants, a life ravelled out into ends, a line discontinued, and a number of small wretched points, useless, because they concur not: a life built of past and future, not proposing any constant present; they have more pleasures than we, but not more pleasure; they joy oftener, we longer; and no man but of so much understanding as may deliver him from being a fool, would change with a madman, which had a better proportion of wit in his often lucidis. You know, they which dwell farthest from the sun, if in any convenient distance, have longer days, better appetites, better digestion, better growth, and longer life; and all these advantages have their minds who are well removed from the scorchings, and dazzlings, and exhalings of the world's glory: but neither of our lives are in such extremes; for you living at court without ambition, which would burn you, or envy, which would devest others, live in the sun, not in the fire: and I which live in the country without stupifying, am not in darkness, but in shadow, which is not no light, but a pallid, waterish, and diluted one. As all shadows are of one colour, if you respect the body from which they are cast, (for our shadows upon clay will be dirty, and in a garden green and flowery) so all retirings into a shadowy life are alike from all causes, and alike subject to the barbarousness and insipid dullness of the country: only the employments, and that upon which you cast and bestow your pleasure, business, or books, give it the tincture, and beauty. But truly wheresoever we are, if we can but tell ourselves truly what and where we would be, we may make any state and place such; for we are so composed, that if abundance, or glory scorch and melt us, we have an earthly cave, our bodies, to go into by consideration, and cool ourselves: and if we be frozen, and contracted with lower and dark fortunes, we have within us a torch, a soul, lighter and warmer than any without: we are therefore our own umbrellas and our own suns. These, sir, are the sallads and onions of Micham, sent to you with as wholesome affection as your other friends send melons arid quelque-choses from court and London. If I present you not as good diet as they, I would yet say grace to theirs, and bid much good do it you. I send you, with this, a letter which I sent to the countess. It is not my use nor duty to do so, but for your having of it, there were but two consents, and I am sure you have mine, and you are sure you have hers. I also wrote to her ladyship for the verses she showed in the garden, which I did not only to extort them, nor only to keep my promise of writing, for that I had done in the other letter, and perchance she hath forgotten the promise; nor only because I think my letters just good enough for a progress, but because I would write apace to her, whilst it is possible to express that which I yet know of her, for by this growth I see how soon she will be ineffable.
To the Countess of Bedford.
Happiest and worthiest Lady,
I do not remember that ever I have seen a petition in verse; I would not therefore be singular, nor add these to your other papers. I have yet adventured so near as to make a petition for verse, it is for those your ladyship did me the honour to see in Twickenham garden, except you repent your making, and having mended your judgment by thinking worse, that is, better, because juster, of their subject. They must needs be an excellent exercise of your wit, which speak so well of so ill: I humbly beg them of your ladyship, with two such promises, as to any other of your compositions were threatenings: that I will not show them, and that I will not believe them; and nothing shall be so used that comes from your brain or breast. If I should confess a fault in the boldness of asking them, or make a fault by doing it in a longer letter, your ladyship might use your style and old fashion of the court towards me, and pay me with a pardon. Here therefore I humbly kiss your ladyship's fair learned hands, and wish you good wishes and speedy grants.
Your ladyship's servant,
To Sir H. Goodyere*.
It is in our state ever held for a good sign to change prison, and nella signoria de mi, I will think it so, that my sickness hath given me leave to come to my London prison. I made do doubt but my entrance-pain (for it was so rather than a sickness, but that my sadness putrefied and corrupted it to that name) affected you also; for nearer contracts than general Christianity, had made us so much towards one, that one part cannot escape the distemper of the other. I was, therefore, very careful, as well to slack any sorrow which my danger might occasion in you; as to
• About 1607.—Ed.
give you the comfort of having been heard in your prayers for me, to tell you as soon as my pain remitted what steps I made towards health, which I did last week. This Tuesday morning your man brought me a letter, which (if he had not found me at London) I see he had a hasty commandment to have brought to Micham. Sir, though my fortune hath made me such as I am, rather a sickness and disease of the world than any part of it, yet I esteemed myself so far from being so to you, as I esteemed you to be far from being so of the world, as to measure men by fortune or events. I am now gone so far towards health, as there is not infirmity enough left in me for an assurance of so much nobleness and truth, as your last letter is to work upon, that might cure a greater indisposition than I am now in: and though if I had died, I had not gone without testimonies of such a disposition in you towards the reparation of my fortune, or preservation of my poor reputation; yet I would live, and be some such thing as you might not be ashamed to love. Your man must send away this hour in which he visits me; and I have not yet (for I came last night) offered to visit my Lady Bedford, and therefore have nothing to say which should make me grudge this straitness of time. He tells me he sends again upon Thursday, and therefore I will make an end of this letter, and perfect it then. I doubt my letters have not come duly to your hand, and that writing in my dungeon of Micham without dating, have made the chronology and sequence of my letters perplexed to you; howsoever you shall not be rid of this ague of my letters, though perchance the fit change days. I have received in a narrow compass three of yours, one with the catalogue of your books, another I found here left last Saturday by your man, and this which he brought me this morning. Sir, I dare sit no longer in my waistcoat, nor have anything worth the danger of a relapse to write. I owe you so much of my health, as I would not mingle you in any occasion of impairing it, and therefore here ask leave to kiss your hands, and bid you good morrow and farewell.
Your very true friend and servant,
To the best Knight, Sir H. Wootton.
When I saw your good countess last, she let me think that her message by her footman would hasten you up. And it furthered that opinion in me, when I knew how near Mr. Mathew's day of departing this kingdom was. To counterpoise both these, I ,have a little letter from you brought to me to Micham yesterday, but left at my lodging two days sooner: and because that speaks nothing of your return, I am content to be perplexed in it; and as in all other, so in this perplexity to do that which is safest. To me it is safest to write, because it performs a duty, and leaves my conscience well: and though it seem not safest for the letter, which may perish, yet I remember, that in the crociate for the wars in the Holy Land, and so in all pilgrimages enterprised in devotion, he which dies in the way, enjoys all the benefit and indulgences which the end did afford. Howsoever, all that can increase the'danger of your letter, increases my merit; for, as where they immolate men, it is a scanter devotion to sacrifice one of many slaves or of many children, or an only child, than to beget and bring up one purposely to sacrifice it, so if I ordain this letter purposely for destruction, it is the largest expressing of that kind of piety, and I am easy to believe (because I wish it) your haste hither: not that I can fear any slackness in that business which drew you down, because your fortune and honour are a pair of good spurs to it; but here also you have both true business and many quasi negotia, which go two and two to a business; which are visitations, and such, as though they be not full businesses, yet are so near them that they serve as for excuses, in omissions of the other. As when abjurations were in use in this land, the state and law were satisfied if the abjuror came to the sea-side, and waded into the sea, when winds and tides resisted, so we think ourselves justly excusable to our friends and ourselves, if when we should do business, we come to the place of business, as courts and the houses of great princes and officers. I do not so much intimate your infirmity
VOL. VI. x
in this, as frankly confess mine own. The master of Latin language says, Oculi et aures aliorum te speculantur et cuetodiunt, So those two words are synonymous, and only the observation of others upon me, is my preservation from extreme idleness, else I profess, that I hate business so much, as I am sometimes glad to remember, that the Roman church reads that verse A negotio perambulante in tenebris, which we read, From the pestilence walking by night, so equal to me do the plague and business deserve avoiding, but you will neither believe that I abhor business, if I enlarge this letter, nor that I would afford you that ease which I affect; therefore return to your pleasures.
Your unprofitablest friend, March 14, 1607. Jo. Donne.
To the Honourable Knight, Sir II. Goodyere, one of the Gentlemen of his Majesty's Privy Chamber.
You may remember that long since you delivered Mr. Fowler possession of me, but the wide distance in which I have lived from court, makes me reasonably fear, that now he knows not his right and power in me, though he must of necessity have all, to whom you and I join in a gift of me, as we did to him, so that perchance he hath a servant of me, which might be passed in a book of concealment. If your leisure suffer it, I pray find whether I be in him still, and conserve me in his love; and so perfect your own work, or do it over again, and restore me to the place, which by your favour I had in him. For Mr. Powell, who serves her majesty as clerk of her council, hath told me that Mr. Fowler hath some purpose to retire himself; and therefore I would fain for all my love, have so much of his, as to find him willing, when I shall seek him at court, to let me understand hia pupose therein; for if my means may make me acceptable to the queen and him, I should be very sorry, he should make so far steps therein with any other, that I should fail in it, only for not having spoken to him soon enough. It were an injury to the forwardness of your love to add more; here therefore I kiss your hands, and commend to you the truth of my love.
Your very affectionate servant and lover,
From my lodging in the Strand, whither I shall return on Monday, 13th June, 1607.
I send you here a translation; but it is not only to believe me, it is a great invention to have understood any piece of this book, whether the gravity of the matter, or the poetical form, give it his inclination, and principium motus; you are his centre, or his sphere, and to you as to his proper place he addresses himself. Besides that all my things, not only by obligation, but by custom, know that that is the way they should go. I spake of this to my Lady of Bedford, thinking then I had had a copy which I made long since, at sea, but because I find it not, I have done that again; when you find it not unseasonable, let her see it; and if you can think it fit, that a thing that hath either wearied, or distasted you, should receive so much favour, put it amongst her papers: when you have a new stomach to it, I will provide you quickly a new copy.
Your very true friend and servant and lover,
At my Mitcham hospital, Aug. 10.
To Sir Henry Goody ere.
In the history or style of friendship, which is best written both in deeds and words, a letter which is of a mixed nature, and hath something of both, is a mixed parenthesis: it may be left
* Probably Sir Henry Goodyere.—Ed.
Out, yet it contributes, though not to the being, yet to the verdure, and freshness thereof. Letters have truly the same office, as oaths. As these amongst light and empty men, are but fillings, and pauses, and interjections; but with weightier, they are sad attestations; so are letters to some, compliment, and obligation to others. For mine, as I never authorised my servant to lie in my behalf, (for if it were officious in him, it might be worse in me) so I allow my letters much less that civil dishonesty, both because they go. from me more considerately, and because they are permanent; for in them I may speak to you in your chamber a year hence, before I know not whom, and not hear myself. They shall therefore ever keep the sincerity and intemerateness of the fountain, whence they are derived. And as wheresoever these leaves fall, the root is in my heart, so shall they, as that sucks good affections towards you there, have ever true impressions thereof. Thus much information is in very leaves, that they can tell what the tree is, and these can tell you I am a friend, and an honest man. Of what general use, the fruit should speak, and I have none: and of what particular profit to you, your application and experimenting should tell you, and you can make none of such a nothing; yet even of barren sycamores, such as I, there were use, if either any light flashings, or scorching vehemencies, or sudden showers made you need so shadowy an example or remembrancer. But (sir) your fortune and mind do you this happy injury, that they make all kind of fruits useless unto you; therefore I have placed my love wisely where I need communicate nothing. All this, though perchance you read it not till Michaelmas, was told you at Micham, 15th August, 1607.
To the Gallant Knight, Sir Thomas Lucy.
Because in your last letter, I have an invitation to come to you, though I never thought myself so fallen from my interest, which, by your favour, I prescribe in, in you, and therefore when in the spring I hoped to have strength enough, to come into those parts, upon another occasion, I always resolved to put myself into your presence too, yet now I ask you more particularly how you dispose of yourself; for though I have heard, that you purpose a journey to the Bath, and from thence hither, yet I can hope, that my service at Lincoln's Inn being ended for next term, I may have intermission enough to wait upon you at Polesworth, before the season call you to Bath. I was no easy apprehender of the fear of your departing from us; neither am I easy in the hope of seeing you entirely over suddenly. God loves your soul, if he be loth to let it go inchmeal, and not by swallowings; and he loves it too, if he build it up again stone after stone; his will is not done except his way and his leisure be observed. In my particular, I am sorry, if my ingenuity and candour in delivering myself in those points, of which you spake to me, have defaced those impressions which were in you before: if my freedom have occasioned your captivity, I am miserably sorry. I went unproStably and improvidently, to the utmost end of truth, because I would go as far as I could to meet peace; if my going so far in declaring myself, brought you where you could not stop. But I was as confident in your strength, as in mine own, so am I still, in him who strengthens all our infirmities, and will, I doubt not, bring you and me together, in all those particulars, so as we shall not part in this world, nor the next. Sir, your own soul cannot be more zealous of your peace, than I am: and God, who loves that zeal in me, will not suffer you to suspect it. I am surprised with a necessity of writing now, in a minute; for I sent to Beford-house to inform myself of means to write, and your daughter sent me word, of a present messenger, and therefore the rest of this, I shall make up in my prayers to our blessed Saviour, for all happinesses to you.
Your poor servant in Christ Jesus, Drury-house, the 22d of J. Donne.
To Sir Thomas Roe.
I have bespoke you a new-year's-gift, that is, a good new year, for I have offered your name with my soul heartily to God in my morning's best sacrifice: if for custom you will do a particular office in recompense, deliver this letter to your lady, now, or when the rage of the mask is past. If you make any haste into the country, I pray let me know it. I would kiss your hands before you go, which I do now, and continue
Your affectionate servant and lover, Mitcham, the last of 1607, as I remember. J. Donne.
To Sir I. H.
I would not omit this, not commodity, but advantage of writing to you. This emptiness in London, dignifies any letter from hence, as in the seasons, earliness and lateness, make the sourness, and after, the sweetness of fruits, acceptable and gracious. We often excuse and advance mean authors, by the age in which they lived, so will your love do this letter; and you will tell yourself, that if he which writ it knew wherein he might express his affection, or anything which might have made his letter welcomer, he would have done it. As it is, you may accept it so, as we do many china manufactures, of which when we know no use, yet we satisfy our curiosity in considering them, because we know not how, nor of what matter they were made. Near great woods and quarries it is no wonder to see fair houses, but in Holland which wants both, it is. So were it for me who am as far removed from court, and knowledge of foreign passages, as this city is now from the face and furniture of a city, to build up a long letter and to write of myself, were but to inclose a poor handful of straw for a token in a letter: yet I will tell you, that I am at London only to provide for Monday, when I shall uso that favour which my Lady Bedford hath afforded me, of giving her
* Probably Sir James Harrington.—Ed.
name to my daughter; which T mention to you, as well to show that I covet any occasion of a greatful speaking of her favours, as that, because I have thought the day is likely to bring you to London, I might tell you, that my poor house is in your way and you shall there find such company, as (I think) you will not be loth to accompany to London. Your very true friend,
August 6, 1608. J. Donne.
To Sir Henry Goodyere.
This letter hath more merit, than one of more diligence, for I wrote it in my bed, and with much pain. I have occasion to sit late some nights in my study (which your books make a pretty library), and now I find that that room hath a wholesome emblematic use: for having under it a vault, I make that promise me, that I shall die reading, since my book and a grave are so near. But it hath another as unwholesome, that by raw vapours rising from thence (for I can impute it to nothing else), I have contracted a sickness which I cannot name nor describe. For it hath so much of a continual cramp, that wrests the sinews, so much of a tetane, that it withdraws and pulls the mouth, and so much of the gout (which they whose counsel I use, say it is), that it is not like to be cured, though I am too hasty in three days to pronounce it. If it be the gout, I am miserable; for that affects dangerous parts, as my neck and breast, and (I think fearfully) my stomach, but it will not kill me yet; I shall be in this world, like a porter in a great house, ever nearest the door, but seldomest abroad: I shall have many things to make me weary, and yet not get leave to be gone. If I go, I will provide by my best means that you suffer not for me, in your bonds. The estate which I should leave behind me of any estimation, is my poor fame, in the memory of my friends, and therefore I' would be curious of it, and provide that they repent not to have loved me. Since my imprisonment in my bed, I have made a meditation in
verse, which I call a Litany*; the word you know imports no other than supplication, but all churches have one form of supplication, by that name. Amongst ancient annals, I mean some eight hundred years, I have met two Litanies in Latin verse, which gave me not the reason of my meditations, for in good faith I thought not upon them then, but they give me a defence, if any man, to a layman, and a private, impute it as a fault, to take such divine and public names, to his own little thoughts. The first of these was made by Ratpetus, a monk of Suevia; and the other by St. Notker, of whom I will give you this note by the way, that he is a private saint, for a few parishes; they were both but monks, and the Litanies poor and barbarous enough; yet Pope Nicholas V. valued their devotion so much, that he canonized both their poems, and commanded them for public service in their churches: mine is for lesser chapels, which are my friends, and though a copy of it were due to you, now, yet I am so unable to serve myself with writing it for you at this time (being some thirty staves of nine lines), that I must entreat you to take a promise that you shall have the first, for a testimony of that duty which I owe to your love, and to myself, who am bound to cherish it by my best offices. That by which it will deserve best acceptation, is, that neither the Roman church need call it defective, because it abhors not the particular mention of the blessed triumphers in heaven; nor the Reformed can discreetly accuse it, of attributing more than a rectified devotion ought to do. The day before I lay down, I was at London, where I delivered your letter for Sir Edward Conway, and received another for you, with the copy of my book, of which it is impossible for me to give you a copy so soon, for it is not of much less than three hundred pages. If I die, it shall come to you in that fashion that your letter desires it. If I warm again (as I have often seen such beggars as my indisposition is, end themselves soon, and the patient as soon), you and I shall speak together of that, before it be too late to serve you in that commandment. At this time I only assure you, that I have not appointed it upon any person, nor ever purposed to print it: which latter perchance you thought, and grounded your request
'- - * See Poems.
thereupon. A gentleman that visited me yesterday, told me that our church hath lost Mr. Hugh Broughton, who is gone to the Roman side. I have known before, that Serarius the Jesuit, was an instrument from Cardinal Baronius to draw him to Rome, to accept a stipend, only to serve the Christian churches in controversies with the Jews, without endangering himself to change of his persuasion in particular deductions between these Christian churches, or being inquired of, or tempted thereunto. And I hope he is no otherwise departed from us. If he be, we shall not escape scandal in it; because, though he be a man of many distempers, yet when he shall come to eat assured bread, and to be removed from partialities, to which want drove him, to make himself a reputation, and raise up favourers; you shall see in that course of opposing the Jews, he will produce worthy things: and our church will perchance blush to have lost a soldier fit for that great battle; and to cherish only those single duellisms, between Rome and England, or that more single, and almost self-homicide, between the unconformed ministers, and bishops. I wrote to you last week that the plague increased; by which
you may see that my letters * .
opinion of the song, not that I make such trifles for praise; but because as long as you speak comparatively of it with mine own, and not absolutely, so long I am of your opinion even at this time; when I humbly thank God, I ask and have, his comfort of sadder meditations, I do not condemn in myself, that I have given my wit such evaporations, as those, if they be free from profaneness, or obscene provocations. Sir, you would pity me if you saw me write, and therefore will pardon me if I write no more: my pain hath drawn my head so much awry, and holds it so, that mine eye cannot follow mine hand: I receive you therefore into my prayers, with mine own weary soul, and commend myself to yours. I doubt not but next week I shall be good news to you, for I have mending or dying on my side, which is two to one. If I continue thus, I shall have comfort in this, that my blessed Saviour exercising his justice upon my two worldly parts, my fortune, and body, reserves all his mercy for that which bes
* It is thus in the old edition.—Ed.
tasts it, and most needs it, my soul. I profess to you truly, that my lothness to give over now, seems to myself an ill sign, kthat I shall write no more*.
Your poor friend, and God's poor patient,
To my worthy and honoured Friend, Mr. George Garet.
I am sory, if your care of me have made you importune to anybody else; yet I cannot be very sorry because it gives new testimonies of your favour to me, of which I shall ever be very glad, and (that which is my only virtue) thankful: so desperate fortunes as mine, may well make friends loth to do courtesies, because an inability in deserving or requiting, takes from them the honour of having done a courtesy, and leaves it but the poor name of an alms; and alms may be given in easier proportions, and more meritoriously. But, sir, by what name or weight soever you esteem this kindness which you have done me, I value it so, as might alone persuade me of your care of me; in recompense of which, you must bo pleased to accept new assurances that I am Your very affectionate servant,
I pray let my service be presented by you to Mr. Roope.
To the Honourable Knight, Sir Robert Karre.\
I was loth to be the only man who should have no part in this great festival; I thought therefore to celebrate that well, by spending some part of it in your company. This made me seek you again this afternoon, though I were guilty to myself
• No date; but probably written from Mitcham, about 1008 or 1609. Tho same appears to be the case with the following letter.—Ed.
t Written probably before 1610. This Sir Robert Carre, was a favourite of King James, whose history Hume relates, chap. Xlvu.—Ed.
of having done so every day since your coming. I confess such an importunity is worthy to be punished with such a missing; yet, because it is the likeliest reparation of my fortunes to hope upon reversions, I would be glad of that title in you: that, after solemnities, and businesses, and pleasures be passed over, my time may come, and you may afford some of your last leisures to
Your affectionate and humble servant,
Nov. 4. John Donne.
To my honoured Friend, Sir T. Lucy.
I make account that this writing of letters, when it is with any seriousness, is a kind of ecstacy, and a departure and secession and suspension of the soul, which doth then communicate itself to two bodies: and as I would every day provide for my soul's last convoy, though I know not when I shall die, and perchance I 'shall never die; so for these ecstacies in letters, I oftentimes deliver myself over in writing when I know not when those letters shall be sent to you, and many times they never are, for I have a little satisfaction in seeing a letter written to you upon my table, though I meet no opportunity of sending it. Especially this summer, when either by my early retiring home, or your irresolutions of your own purposes, or some other possessions of yours you did less reveal to me your progresses, and stations, and where I might cross you by letters, than heretofore; I make shift to lay little fault upon you, because my pardon might be easier, if I transgress into a longer and busier letter than your country sports admit; but you may read it in winter: and by that time I may more clearly express myself for those things which have entered into me, concerning your soul: for as the greatest advantage which man's soul is thought to have beyond others, is that which they call actum reflexum, and iteratum, (for beasts do the same things as we do, but they do not consider nor remember the circumstances and inducements; and by what power, and faculty, it is that they do them) so of those which they call actum reflexum the noblest is that which reflects upon
the soul itself, and considers and meditates it. Into which consideration when I walk after my slow and imperfect pace, I begin to think that as litigious men, tired with suits, admit any arbitrament; and as princes, travailed with long and wasteful war, descend to such conditions of peace, as they are soon after ashamed to have embraced: so philosophers, and so all sects of Christians, after long disputations and controversies, have allowed many things for positive and dogmatical truths which are not worthy of that dignity; and so many doctrines have grown to be the ordinary diet and food of our spirits, and have place in the pap of catechisms, which were admitted but as physic in that present distemper, or accepted in a lazy weariness, when men, so they might have something to rely upon, and to excuse themselves from more painful inquisition, never examined what that was. To which indisposition of ours the casuists are so indulgent, as that they allow a conscience to adhere to any probable opinion against a more probable, and do never bind him to seek out which is the more probable, but give him leave to dissemble it and to depart from it, if by mischance he come to know it. This, as it appears in all sciences, so most manifestly in physic, which for a long time considering nothing but plain curing, and that but by example and precedent, the world at last longed for some certain canons and rules, how these cures might be accomplished; and when men are inflamed with this desire, and that such a fire breaks out that rages and consumes infinitely by heat of argument, except some of authority interpose. This produced Hippocrates's Aphorisms; and the world slumbered or took breath in his resolution divers hundreds of years. And then, in Galen's time, which was not satisfied with the effect of curing, nor with the knowledge how to cure, broke out another desire of finding out the causes why those simples wrought those effects. Then Galen, rather to stay their stomachs than that he gave them enough, taught them the qualities of the four elements, and arrested them upon this, that all differences of qualities proceeded from them. And after (not much before our time) men perceiving that all effects in physic could not be derived from these beggarly and impotent properties of the elements, and that therefore they were driven often to that miserable refuge of specific form, and of anti
pathy and sympathy, we see the world hath turned upon new principles which are attributed to Paracelsus, but indeed too much to his honour. Certainly it is also so in the physic of our sours divinity, for in the primitive church, when amongst the fathers there were so divers opinions of the state of the soul, presently after this life, they easily inclined to be content to do as much for them dead as when they were alive, and so concurred in a charitable disposition to pray for them; which manner of prayer then in use, no Christian church at this day, having received better light, will allow of. So also when in the beginning of St. Augustine's time, grace had been so much advanced, that mans nature was scarce admitted to be so much as any means or instrument (not only no kind of cause) of his own good works. And soon after, in St. Augustine's time also, man's free will (by fierce opposition and arguing against the former error) was too much overvalued, and admitted into too near degrees of fellowship with grace. Those times admitted a doctrine and form of reconciliation which, though for reverence to the time, both the Dominicans and Jesuits at this day, in their great quarrel about grace and free-will, would yet seem to maintain; yet indifferent and dispassioned men of that church see there is no possibility in it, and therefore accuse it of absurdity and almost of heresy. I think it falls out thus also in the matter of the soul: for Christian religion presuming a soul, and intending principally her happiness in the life to come, hath been content to accept any way which hath been obtruded, how this soul is begun in us. Hence it is that whole Christian churches arrest themselves upon propagation from parents; and other whole Christian churches allow only infusion from God. In both which opinions there appear such infirmities, as it is time to look for a better: for whosoever will adhere to the way of propagation, can never evict necessarily and certainly a natural immortality in the soul, if the soul result out of matter; nor shall he ever prove that all mankind hath any more than one soul: as certainly of all beasts, if they receive such souls as they have from their parents, every species can have but one soul. And they which follow the opinion of infusion from God, and of a new creation (which is now the more common opinion), as they can very hardly defend the doctrine of original sin (the soul is forced to take this infection, and comes not into the body of her own disposition), so shall they never be able to prove that all those whom we see in the shape of men, have an immortal and reasonable soul, because our parents are as able as any other species is to give us a soul of growth and of sense, and to perform all vital and animal functions. And so without infusion of such a soul may produce a creature as wise, and well disposed as any horse or elephant, of which degree many whom we see come far short; nor hath God bound or declared himself that he will always create a soul for every embryon, there is yet therefore no opinion in philosophy, nor divinity, so well established as constrains us to believe, both that the soul is immortal, and that every particular man hath such a soul: which since out of the great mercy of our God we do constantly believe, I am ashamed that we do not also know it by searching farther. But as sometimes we had rather believe a travellers lie than go to disprove him; so men rather cleave to these ways than seek new. Yet because I have meditated therein, I will shortly acquaint you with what I think; for I would not be in danger of that law of Moses, that if a man dig a pit, and cover it not, he must recompense those which are damnified by it: which is often interpreted of such as shake old opinions, and do not establish new as certain, but leave consciences in a worse danger than they found them in. I believe that law of Moses hath in it some mystery and appliableness; for by that law men arc only then bound to that indemnity and compensation, if an ox or an ass (that is, such as are of a strong constitution and accustomed to labour) fall therein; but it is not said so, if a sheep or a goat fall: no more are we, if men in a silliness or wantonness will stumble or take a scandal, bound to rectify them at all times. And therefore because I justly presume you strong aud watchful enough, I make account that I am not obnoxious to that law, since my meditations are neither too wide nor too deep for you, except only that my way of expressing them may be extended beyond your patience and pardon, which I will therefore tempt no longer at this time.
Your very affectionate friend and servant and lover, From Mitcham, my close prison ever John Donne.
since I saw you.—Oct. 9.
To the Honourable Knight, Sir Henri/ Goodyere.
As you are a great part of my business, when I come to London, so are you when I send. More than the office of a visitation brings this letter to you now; for I remember that about this time you purposed a journey to fetch, or meet the lad, Huntington. If you justly doubt any long absence, I pray send to my lodging my written books: and if you may stay very long, I pray send that letter in which I sent you certain heads which I purposed to enlarge, for I have them not in any other paper: and I may find time in your absence to do it, because I know no stronger argument to move you to love me, but because you have done so, do so still, to make my reason better, and I shall at last prescribe in you, Yours,
Mitcham, Wednesday. J. Donne.
To the Honourable Knight, Sir Robert Karre *.
Lest you should think yourself too much beholden to your fortune, and so rely too much upon her hereafter, I am bold to tell you, that it is not only your good fortune that hath preserved you from the importunity of my visits all this time. For my ill fortune, which is stronger than any man's good fortune, hath concurred in the plot to keep us asunder, by infecting one in my house with the measles. But all that is so safely overworn, that I dare, not only desire to put myself into your presence, but by your mediation, a little farther. For, esteeming myself, by so good a title, as my lord's own words, to be under his providence, and care of my fortune, I make it the best part of my studies how I might ease his lordship by finding out something for myself. Which, because I think I have done, as though I had done him a service therein, I adventure to desire to speak with him, which I beseech you to advance, in addition to your many favours
* Probably from Mitcham before 1009.—ed.
and benefits to me. And if you have occasion to send any of your servants to this town, to give me notice, what times aro fittest for me to wait, to enjoy your favour herein. My business is of that nature, that loss of time may make it much more difficult, and may give courage to the ill fortune of
Your humble servant,
To Sir H. Goodyere.
Every Tuesday I make account that I turn a great hourglass, and consider that a week's life is run out since I writ. But if I ask myself what I have done in the last watch, or would do in the next, I can say nothing; if I say that I have passed it without hurting any, so may the spider in my window. The primitive monks were excusable in their retirings and enclosures of themselves: for even of them every one cultivated his own garden and orchard, that is, his soul and body, by meditation, and manufactures; and they sought the world no more since they consumed none of her sweetness, nor begot others to burden her. But for me, if I were able to husband all my time so thriftily, as not only not to wound my soul in a minute by actual sin, but not to rob and cozen her by giving any part to pleasure or business, but bestow it all upon her in meditation, yet even in that I should wound her more, and contract another guiltiness: as the eagle were very unnatural if because she is able to do it, she should perch a whole day upon a tree, staring in contemplation of the majesty and glory of the sun, and let her young eaglets starve in the nest. Two of the most precious things which God hath afforded us here, for the agony and exercise of our sense and spirit, which are a thirst and inhiation after the next life, and a frequency of prayer and meditation in this, are often envenomed, and putrefied, and stray into a corrupt disease: for as God doth thus occasion, and positively concur to evil, that when a man is purposed to do a great sin, God infuses some good thoughts which make him chose a less sin, or leave out some circumstance which aggravated that; so the devil doth not only suffer but
provoke us to some things naturally good, upon condition that we shall omit some other more necessary and more obligatory. And this is his greatest subtlety; because herein we have the deceitful comfort of having done well, and can very hardly spy our error because it is but an insensible omission, and no accusing act. With the first of these I have often suspected myself to be overtaken, which is, with a desire of the next life: which though I know it is not merely out of a weariness of this, because I had the same desires when I went with the tide, and enjoyed fairer hopes than now: yet I doubt worldly encumbrances have increased it. I would not that death should take me asleep. I would not have him merely seize me, and only declare me to be dead, but win me, and overcome me. When I must shipwreck, I would do it in a sea, where mine impotency might have some excuse; not in a sullen weedy lake, where I could not have so much as exercise for my swimming. Therefore I would fain do something; but that I cannot tell what, is no wonder. For to choose, is to do: but to be no part of anybody, is to be nothing. At most, the greatest persons, are but great wens, and excrescences; men of wit and delightful conversation, but as moles for ornament, except they be so incorporated into the body of the world, that they contribute something to the sustentation of the whole. This I made account that I begun early, when I understood the study of our laws; but was diverted by the worst voluptuousness, which is an hydroptic immoderate desire of human learning and languages: beautiful ornaments to great fortunes; but mine needed an occupation, and a course which I thought I entered well into, when I submitted myself to such a service, as I thought might have employed those poor advantages, which I had. And there I stumbled too, yet I would try again: for to this hour I am nothing, or so little, that I am scarce subject and argument good enough for one of mine own letters: yet I fear, that doth not ever proceed from a good root, that I am so well content to be less, that is dead. You, sir, are far enough from these descents, your virtue keeps you secure, and your natural disposition to mirth will preserve you; but lose none of these holds, a slip is often as dangerous as a bruise, and though you cannot fall to my lowness, yet in a much less disVol. vi. v
traction you may meet my sadness; for he is no safer which falls from an high tower into the leads, than he which falls from thence to the ground: make therefore to yourself some mark, and go towards it allegrement. Though I be in such a planetary and erratic fortune, that I can do nothing constantly, yet you may find some constancy in my constant advising you to it.
Your hearty true friend,
I came this evening from Mr. Jones's house in Essex, where Mr. Martin hath been, and left a relation of Captain Whitcock's death, perchance it is no news to you, but it was to me; without doubt want broke him; for when Mr. Holland's company by reason of the plague broke, the captain sought to be at Mrs. Jones's house,'.who in her husband's absence declining it, he went in the night, his boy carrying his cloak-bag, on foot to the lord of Sussex, who going next day to hunt, the captain not then sick, told him he would see him no more. A chaplain came up to him, to whom he delivered an account of his understanding, and I hope, of his belief, and soon after died; and my lord hath buried him with his own ancestors. Perchance his life needed a longer sickness, but a man may go faster and safer, when he enjoys that daylight of a clear and soynd understanding, than in the night or twilight of an ague or other disease. And the grace of Almighty God doth everything suddenly and hastily, but depart from us: it enlightens us, warms us, heats us, ravishes us, at once. Such a medicine, I fear, his inconsideration needed; and I hope as confidently that he had it. As our soul is infused when it is created, and created when it is infused, so at her going out, God's mercy is had by asking, and that is asked by having. Lest your Polesworth carrier should cozen me, I send my man with this letter early to London, whither this Tuesday all the court come to a christening at Arundel-house, and stay in town; so that I will sup with the good lady, and write again tomorrow to you, if anything be occasioned there, which concerns you, and I will tell her so; next day they are to return to Hampton, and upon Friday the king to Royston *.
* No date; but probably from Mitcham during his distress and want of occupation in 1604—1609.—Ed.
To my honourable Friend, Sir Henry Goodyere*.
To you that are not easily scandalized, and in whom, I hope, neither my religion nor morality can suffer, I dare write my opinion of that book in whose bowels you left me. It hath refreshed, and given new justice to my ordinary complaint, that the divines of these times, are become mere advocates, as though religion were a temporal inheritance; they plead for it with all sophistications, and illusions, and forgeries: and herein are they likest advocates, that though they be fed by the way, with dignities, and other recompenses, yet that for which they plead is none of theirs. They write for religion, without it. In the main point in question, I think truly there is a perplexity (as far as I see yet) and both sides may be in justice, and innocence; and the wounds which they inflict upon the adverse part, are all se defendendo: for, clearly, our state cannot be safe without the oath; since they profess, that clergymen, though traitors, are no subjects, and that all the rest may be none to-morrow. And, as clearly, the supremacy which the Roman church pretend, were diminished, if it were limited; and will as ill abide that, or disputation, as the prerogative of temporal kings, who being the only judges of their prerogative, why may not Roman bishops, (so enlightened as they are presumed by them) be good witnesses of their own supremacy, which is now so much impugned? But for this particular author, I looked for more prudence, and human wisdom in him, in avoiding all miscitings, or misinterpretings, because at this time, the watch is set, and everybody's hammer is upon that anvil; and to dare offend in that kind now, is, for a thief to leave the covert, and meet a strong hue and cry in the teeth: and yet truly this man is extremely obnoxious in that kind; for, though he have answered many things fully, (as no book ever gave more advantage than that which he undertook) and abound in delicate applications, and ornaments, from the divine and profane authors, yet being chiefly conversant about
• Before 1609.—Ed.
two points, he prevaricates in both. For, for the matter, which is the first, he refers it entirely, and namely, to that which Dr. Morton hath said therein before, and so leaves it roundly: and for the person (which is the second) upon whom he amasses as many opprobries, as any other could deserve, he pronounceth, that he will account any answer from his adversary, slander, except he do (as he hath done) draw whatsoever he saith of him, from authors of the same religion, and in print: and so, he having made use of all the quodlibetaries, imputations against the other, cannot be obnoxious himself in that kind, and so hath provided safely. It were no service to you, to send you my notes upon the book, because they are sandy, and incoherent rags, for my memory, not for your judgment; and to extend them to au easiness, and perspicuity, would make them a pamphlet, not a letter. I will therefore defer them till I see you; and in the meantime, I will adventure to say to you, without inserting one unnecessary word, that the book is full of falsifications in words, and in sense, and of falsehoods in matter of fact, and of inconsequent and unscholarlike arguings, and of relinquishing the king, in many points of defence, and of contradiction of himself, and of dangerous and suspected doctrine in divinity, and of silly ridiculous triflings, and of extreme flatteries, and of neglecting better and more obvious answers, and of letting slip some enormous advantages which the other gave, and he spies not. I know (as I begun) I speak to you who cannot be scandalized, and that neither measure religion (as it is now called) by unity, nor suspect unity, for these interruptions. Sir, not only a mathematic point, which is the most indivisible and unique thing which art can present, flows into every line which is derived from the centre, but our soul which is but one, hath swallowed up a negative, and feeling soul; which was in the body before it came, and exercises those faculties yet; and God himself, who only is one, seems to have been eternally delighted, with a disunion of persons. They whose active function it is, must endeavour this unity in religion: and we at our lay altars (which are our tables, or bedside, or stools, wheresoever we dare prostrate ourselves to God in prayer) must beg it of him: but we must take heed of making misconclusions upon the want of it: for, whether the mayor and aldermen fall out, (as with us and the puritans; bishops against priests) or the commoners' voices differ who is mayor, and who aldermen, or what their jurisdiction, (as with the bishop of Rome, or whosoever) yet it is still one corporation.
Your very affectionate servant and lover,
Mitcham, Thursday, late. J. Donne.
Never leave the remembrance of my poor service unmentioned when you see the good lady.
To Sir Henry Goodyere*.
I receive this 14th, your letter of the 10th, yet I am not come to an understanding how these carriers keep days: for I would fain think that the letters which I sent upon Thursday last might bave given you such an account of the state of my family, that you needed not have asked by this. But sir, it hath pleased God to add thus much to my affliction, that my wife hath now confessed herself to be extremely sick; she hath held out thus long to assist me, but is now overturned, and here we bo in two beds, or graves; so that God hath marked out a great many of us, but taken none yet. I have passed ten days without taking anything; so that I think no man can live more thriftily. I have purged and vexed my body much since I writ to you, and this day I have missed my fit: and this is the first time, that I could discern any intermission. This is enough, the rest I will spend upon the parts of your letter: your letter at Paul's is delivered. In the history of that remove, this only perchance may be news to you, that Mr. Alabaster hath got of the king the dean's best living worth above three hundred pounds, which the dean had good hope to have held awhile. Of that which you writ concerning a book of the Nullity, I have heard no syllable any other way. If you have received it by good hands, I believe it with you: otherwise the report is naturally very incredible.
* Before 1«09.—Ed.
Though the answering of it be a work for some, both of better abilities really, and in common reputation also, yet I was like enough to have had some knowledge thereof. You mention again something which it seems you are not willing I should understand of my Lady Huntington: some of your former letters, have spoken of some other former letters, (which I never saw) which speak of the matter as of a history and thing done; and these latter letters speak of it prophetically, as of a future contingent. I am glad the often remembrance of it, gives me often occasion of thankfulness to her, for retaining me in her memory, and of professing myself in my end, and ways, her most humble servant. For your parliament business, I should be very sorry if you came not up, because I presume you had supposed many businesses to have been done at that time; but in the ways, wherein you have gone, I protest I am diffident. For first, for that lord whom you solicited by letters through me, I tell you with the whispering of a secret, but the confidence of a friend, that you will be deceived whensoever you think that he should take any delight in doing you a courtesy. And I am afraid, the true heartiness of the other noble gentleman Mr. Howard, will be of small use in this particular, if he have but solicited my lord hia father to reserve a blank for his friend, for my lord hath suffered more denials, even in places where he sent names, than could have been feared. Besides Mr. Howard hath not written to his father therein, but to Mr. Woodward, who perceiving those letters to be written, before his purpose of being knight for the shire, thinks these letters extinguished. You made me offer so long since of a place (it was when you writ into the west) yet I could think it no merit to have offered you one since, otherwise it hath been since in my power, for since the Master of the Rolls provided me one, Sir Ed. Herbert, who makes haste away, made me a present of his; and I have had a third offer. The business of your last week's letter concerning the widow, is not a subject for a feverous man's consideration. Therefore I only send you back those letters which you sent; and ask you leave to make this which I am fain to call my good day, so much truly good, as to spend the rest of it with Dr. Layfield, who is, upon my summons, at this hour como to me. My physicians have made me afraid, that this disease will work into my head, and so put me into lightnesses, therefore I am desirous that I be understood before any such danger overtake me.
Your true poor servant, 14th March. J. Donne.
To the Honourable Knight, Sir H. Goodyere*.
Because things be conserved by the same means, which established them, I nurse that friendship by letters, which you begot so: though you have since strengthened it by more solid aliment and real offices. In these letters from the country there is this merit, that I do otherwise unwillingly turn mine eye or thoughts from my books, companions in whom there is no falsehood nor frowardness: which words, I am glad to observe that the holy authors often join as expressers and relatives to one another, because else out of a natural descent to that unworthy fault of frowardness, furthered with that incommodity of a little thin house; I should have mistaken it to be a small thing, which now I see equalled with the worst. If you have laid my papers and books by, I pray let this messenger have them, I have determined upon them. If you have not, be content to do it, in the next three or four days. So, sir, I kiss your hands; and deliver to you an entire and clear heart; which shall ever when I am with you bo in my face and tongue, and when I am from you, in my letters, for I will never draw curtain between you and it.
Yours very affectionately, From your house at Mitcham, J. Donne.
Friday morning. When you are sometimes at Mr. Sackville's-f, I pray ask if ho have this book, Baldvinu s de Officio Pii Hominis in Controversiis; it was written at the conference at Poissy, where Beza was, and he answered it; I long for it.
» Probably about 1608.—Ed.
t Edward Backville, afterwards earl of Dorset. The conference at Foissy
was held in August, 1561, in hope of effecting a reconciliation between the Catholic and.Protestant churches in France.—Ed.
To my most worthy Friend, Sir Henry Goodyere.
Because evenness conduces as much to strength and firmness as greatness doth, I would not discontinue my course of writing. It is a sacrifice, which though friends need not, friendship doth; which hath in it so much divinity, that as we must be ever equally disposed inwardly so to do or suffer for it, so we must suppose some certain times for the outward service thereof, though it be but formal and testimonial: that time to me towards you is Tuesday, and my temple, the Rose in Smithfield. If I were by your appointment your referendary for news, I should write but short letters, because the times are barren. The low countries, which used to be the mart of news for this season, suffering also, or rather enjoying a vacation. Since therefore I am but mine own secretary (and what is that?) I were excusable if I writ nothing, since I am so: besides that, your much knowledge brings you this disadvantage, that as stomachs accustomed to delicacies, find nothing new or pleasing to them when they are sick; so you can hear nothing from me (though the country perchance make you hungry) which you know not. Therefore instead of a letter to you, I send you one to another, to the best lady, who did me the honour to acknowledge the receipt of one of mine, by one of hers; and who only hath power to cast the fetters of verse upon my free meditations: it should give you some delight, and some comfort, because you are the first which see it, and it is the last which you shall see of this kind from me.
Your very affectionate lover and servant, Mitcham the 14th August. J. Donne.
To the Countess of Bedford.
Amongst many other dignities which this letter hath by being received and seen by you, it is not the least, that it was prophesied of before it was born: for your brother told you in his letter, that I had written: he did me much honour both in advancing my truth so far as to call a promise an act already done; and to provide me a means of doing a service in this act, which is but doing right to myself: for by this performance of mine own word, I have also justified that part of his letter which concerned me; and it had been a double guiltiness in me, to have made him guilty towards you. It makes no difference that this came not the same day, nor bears the same date as his; for though in inheritances and worldly possessions we consider the dates of evidences, yet in letters, by which we deliver over our affections, and assurances of friendship, and the best faculties of our souls, times and days cannot have interest, nor be considerable, because that which passes by them, is eternal, and out of the measure of time. Because therefore it is the office of this letter, to convey my best wishes, and all the effects of a noble love unto you, (which are the best fruits that so poor a soil, as my poor soul is, can produce) you may be pleased to allow the letter thus much of the soul's privilege, as to exempt it from straitness of hours, or any measure of times, and so believe it came then. And for my part, I shall make it so like my soul, that as that affection, of which it. is the messenger, began in me without my knowing when, any more than I know when my soul began; so it shall continue as long as that.
Your most affectionate friend and servant,
To my good Friend, Sir Henry Goodyere*.
The messenger who brought me your letter presented me a just excuse, for I received them so late upon Thursday night, that I should have dispatched before I could begin; yet I have obeyed you drowsily, and coldly, as the night and my indisposition commanded: yet perchance those hindrances have done good, for so your letters are the less curious, in which, men of much leasure may soon exceed, when they write of business, they
* Before 1009.—Ed.
having but a little. You mention two more letters than I send. The time was not too short for me to have written them, (for I had a whole night) but it was too short to work a belief in me, that you could think it fit to go two so divers ways to one end. I see not, (for I see not the reason) how those letters could well have concurred with these, nor how those would well have been drawn from them, in a business wholly relating to this house. I was not lazy in disobeying you, but (I thought) only thrifty, and your request of those wsis not absolute, but conditioned, if I had leisure. So though that condition hinder them not, sinco another doth (and you forethought, that one might) I am not stubborn. The good countess spoke somewhat of your desire of letters; but I am afraid, she is not a proper mediatrix to those persons, but I counsel in the dark. And therefore return to that, of which I have clear light, that I am always glad, when I have any way to express my love; for in these commandments you feed my desires, and you give me means to pay some of my debts to you: the interest of which I pay in all my prayers for you, which, if it please not God to show here, I hope we shall find again together in heaven, whither they were sent. I came this morning to say thus much, and because the porter which came to Mitcham summoned me for this hour to London: from whence I am this minute returning to end a little course of physic.
Yours very truly, Friday, eight in the morning. J. Donne.
To Sir Henry Goody ere*.
I hope you are now welcome to London, and well, and well comforted in your father's health and love, and well contented that we ask you how you do, and tell you how we are, which yet I cannot of myself; if I knew that I wero ill, I were well; for we consist of threo parts, a soul, and body, and mind: which I call those thoughts and affections and passions, which
• No date; but probably from Mitcham about 1608.—Ed.
neither soul nor body hath alone, but have been begotten by their communication, as music results out of our breath and a cornet. And of all these the diseases are cures, if they be known. Of our soul's sicknesses, which are sins, the knowledge is, to acknowledge, and that is her physic, in which we are not dieted by drachms and scruples, for we cannot take too much. Of our body's infirmities, though our knowledge be partly ab extrinseco, from the opinion of the physician, and that the subject and matter be flexible, and various; yet their rules are certain, and if the matter be rightly applied to the rule, our knowledge thereof is also certain. But of the diseases of the mind, there is no criterium, no canon, no rule; for our own taste and apprehension and interpretation should be the judge, and that is the disease itself. Therefore sometimes when I find myself transported with jollity, and love of company, I hang leads at my heels; and reduco to my thoughts my fortunes, my years, the duties of a man, of a friend, of a husband, of a father, and all the incumbencies of a family: when sadness dejects me, either I countermine it with another sadness, or I kindle squibs about me again, and fly into sportfulness and company: and I find ever after all, that I am like an exorcist, which had long laboured about one, which at last appears to have the* mother, that I still mistake my disease. And I still vex myself with this, because if I know it not, nobody can know it. And I comfort myself, because I see dispassioned men are subject to the like ignorances. For divers minds out of the same thing often draw contrary conclusions, as Augustine thought devout Anthony to be therefore full of the Holy Ghost, because not being able to read, he could say the whole Bible, and interpret it; and Thyreus the Jesuit for the same reason doth think all the Anabaptists to be possessed. And as often out of contrary things men draw one conclusion. As to the Roman church, magnificence and splendour hath ever been an argument of God's favour, and poverty and affliction, to the Greek. Out of this variety of minds it proceeds, that though our
• Mother: hysterical passion, so named as being imagined peculiar to women.—Dr. Johnson.
"Oh how this mother swells up toward my heart."—Lear. It is also written moother.—Todd.
souls would go to one end, heaven, and all our bodies must go to one end, the earth: yet our third part the mind, which is our natural guide here, chooses to every man a several way: scarce any man likes what another doth, nor advisedly, that which himself. But, sir, I am beyond my purpose; I meant to write a letter, and I am fallen into a discourse, and I do not only take you from some business, but I make you a new business by drawing you into these meditations. In which let my openness be an argument of such love as I would fain express in some worthier fashion.
A.- V. Merced*.
I write not to you out of my poor library, where to cast mine eye upon good authors kindles or refreshes sometimes meditations not unfit to communicate to near friends; nor from the high way, where I am contracted, and inverted into myself; which are my two ordinary forges of letters to you. But I write from the fire-side of my parlour, and in the noise of three gamesome children; and by the side of her, whom because I have transplanted into a wretched fortune, I must labour to disguise that from her by all such honest devices, as giving her my company and discourse, therefore I steal from her, all the time which I give this letter, and it is therefore that I take so short a list, and gallop so fast over it. I have not been out of my house since I received your packet. As I have much quenched my senses, and disused my body from pleasure, and so tried how I can endure to be mine own grave, so I try now how I can suffer a prison. And since it is but to build one wall more about our soul, she is still in her own centre, how many circumferences soever fortune or our own perverseness cast about her. I would I could as well entreat her to go out, as she knows whither to go. But if I melt into a melancholy whilst I write, I shall be taken in the manner: and I sit by one too tender towards these irapres
• A vuestra merced, a Spanish compliment signifying, to your worship, or your grace. Written from Mitcham before 1609.—Ed.
sions, and it is so much our duty, to avoid all occasions of giving them sad apprehensions, as St. Hierome accuses Adam of no other fault in eating the apple, but that he did it Ne contristaretur delicias suas. I am not careful what I write, because the enclosed letters may dignify this ill-favoured bark, and they need not grudge so coarse a countenance, because they are now to accompany themselves, my man fetched them, and therefore I can say no more of them than themselves say, Mrs. Meauly entreated me by her letter to hasten hers; as I think, for by my troth I cannot read it. My lady was dispatching in so much haste for Twickenham, as she gave no word to a letter which I sent with yours; of Sir Thomas Bartlet, I can say nothing, nor of the plague, though your letter bid me: but that he diminishes, the other increases, but in what proportion I am not clear. To them at Hammersmith, and Mrs. Herbert I will do your command. If I have been good in hope, or can promise any little offices in the future, probably it is comfortable, for I am the worst present man in the world; yet the instant, though it be nothing, joins times together, and therefore this unprofitableness, since I have been, and will still endeavour to be so, shall not interrupt me now from being Your servant and lover,
To Sir G. F*.
I writ to you once this week before; yet I write again, both because it seems a kind of resisting of grace, to omit any commodity of sending into England, and because any packet from me into England should go, not only without just freight, but without ballast, if it had not a letter to you. In letters that I received from Sir H. Wootton yesterday from Amyens, I had one of the 8th of March from you, and with it one from Mrs. Danterey, of the 28th of January: which is a strange dispropor
• Written from Paris, about 1609, when Donne was there with Sir Robert Drury and Lord Hay, on the embassy to Henry IV. The vision related in Walton must have taken place soon after this letter was written.—Ed.
tion. But, sir, if our letters come not in due order, and so make not a certain and concurrent chain, yet if they come as atoms, and so meet at last, by any crooked, and casual application, they make up, and they nourish bodies of friendship; and in that fashion, I mean one way or other, first or last. I hope all the letters which have been addressed to us by one another, are safely arrived, except perchance that packet by the cook be not, of which before this time you are clear; for I received (as I told you) a letter by Mr. Nat. Rich, and if you sent none by him, then it was that letter, which the cook tells you he delivered to Mr. Rich; which, with all my criticisms, I cannot reconcile; because in your last letter, I find mention of things formerly written, which I have not found. However, I am yet in the same perplexity, which I mentioned before; which is, that I have received no syllable, neither from herself, nor by any other, how my wife hath passed her danger, nor do I know whether I be increased by a child, or diminished by the loss of a wife. I hear from England of many censures of my book, of Mrs. Drury*; if any of those censures do but pardon me my descent in printing anything in verse, (which if they do, they are more charitable than myself; for I do not pardon myself, but confess that I did it against my conscience, that is, against my own opinion, that I should not have done so) I doubt not but they will soon give over that other part of that indictment, which is that I have said so much; for nobody can imagine, that I who never saw her, could have any other purpose in that, than that when I had received so very good testimony of her worthiness, and was gone down to print verses, it became me to say, not what I was sure was just truth, but the best that I cauld conceive: for that had been a new weakness in me, to have praised anybody in printed verses, that had not been capable of the best praise that I could give. Presently after Easter we shall (I think) go to Frankfort to be there at the election, where we shall meet Sir H. Wootton and Sir R. Rich, and after that we are determined to pass somo time in the Palatinate. I go thither with a great deal of devotion; for methinks it is a new kind of piety, that as pilgrims went heretofore to places which had been holy and happy, so I go to a place
* See Poems.
now, which shall be so, and more, by the presence of the worthiest princess of the world, if that marriage proceed *.' I have no greater errand to the place than that at my return into England, I may be the fitter to stand in her presence, and that after I have seen a rich and abundant country, in his best seasons, I may see that sun which shall always keep it in that height. Howsoever we stray, if you have leisure to write at any time, adventure by no other way, than Mr. Bruer, at the Queen's Arms, a mercer, in Cheapside. I shall omit no opportunity, of which I doubt not to find more than one before we go from Paris. Therefore give mo leave to end this, in which if you did not find the remembrance of my humblest services to my Lady Bedford, your love and faith ought to try all the experiments of powders, and dryings, and waterings to discover some lines which appeared not; because it is impossible that a letter should come from me, with such an ungrateful silence.
Your very true poor friend and servant and lover,
This day begins a history, of which I doubt not but I shall write more to you before I leave this town. Monsier de Rohan, a person for birth, next heir to the kingdom of Navar, after the king's children, (if the king of Spain were weary of it) and for alliance, son-in-law to Dr. Sally, and for breeding in the wars and estate, the most remarkable man of the religion, being governor of St. Jean d'Angeli, one of the most important towns which they of the religion hold for their security, finding that some distastes between the lieutenant and the mayor of the town and him, were dangerously fomented by great persons, stole from court, rode post to the town and removed these two persons. He sent his secretary, and another dependant of his to give the queen satisfaction, who is so far from receiving it, that his messengers are committed to the Bastile, likely to be presently tortured; all his friends here commanded to their houses, and the queen's companies of light horse sent already thitherward, and foot companies preparing with troops being sent against a place, so much
I • The marriage of the Prince Palatine with the Princess Elizabeth, which took place in 1613.—Ed.
concerning those of the religion to keep, and where they abound in number and strength, cannot choose but produce effects worthy your hearing in the next letter.
To Sir B. H.
If a whole year be but Annus ab annulo, because it returns into itself, what annulus shall be diminutive enough, to express our weekly revolutions? In chains the least links have most curiosity, but that can be no emblem of us: but they have also the most strength, and that may. The first sphere only which is resisted by nothing, absolves his course every day; and so doth true friendship well placed, often iterate an act or purpose, the same offices. But as the lower spheres, subject to the violence of that, and yet naturally encouraged to a reluctation against it, have therefore many distractions, and eccentricities, and some trepidations, and so return but lamely, and lately to the same place, and office: so that friendship which is not moved primarily by the proper intelligence, discretion, and about the natural centre, virtue, doth perchance sometimes, some things, somewhat like true friendship; but hath many deviations, which are strayings into new loves, (not of other men; for that is proper to true wise friendship, which is not a marring; but of other things) and hath such trepidations as keep it from showing itself, where great persons do not love; and it returns to the true first station and place of friendship planetarily, which is uncertainly and seldom. I have ever seen in London and our court, as some colours, and habits, and continuances, and motions, and phrases, and accents, and songs, so friends in fashion and in season; and I have seen them as suddenly abandoned altogether, though I see no change in them, nor know moro why they were left, than why they were chosen. To do things by example, and upon confidence of another's judgment may be some kind of a second wisdom; but it is but writing by a copy: or indeed it is the hardest of all, and the issue of the first wisdom, for I cannot know that this example should be followed, except I knew that it is good, and so I judge my Judge. Our assent therefore, and
arrest, must be upon things, not persons. And when we are sure we are in the right way, for great persons, we may be glad of their company, if they go our way; we may for them change our place, but not our end, nor our way, if there be but one, us in religion. In persevering in it, it concerns as much what our companions be, but very much what our friends. In which I know I speak not dangerously nor misappliably to you, as though I averted you from any of those friends, who are of other impressions than you or I in some great circumstances of religion. You know I never fettered nor imprisoned the word religion; not straightening it friarly, Ad religiones factitias, (as the Romans call well their orders of religion) not immuring it in a Rome, or a Wittemberg, or a Geneva; they are all virtual beams of one sun, and wheresoever they find clay hearts, they harden them, and moulder them into dust; and they entender and mollify waxen. They are not so contrary as the north and south poles; and that they are connatural pieces of one circle. Religion is Christianity, which being too spiritual to be seen by us, doth therefore take an apparent body of good life and works, so salvation requires an honest Christian. These are the two elements, and ho which is elemented from these hath the complexion of a good man, and a fit friend. The diseases are, too much intention into indiscreet zeal, and too much remissness and negligence by giving scandal: for our condition and state in this, is as infirm as in our bodies; where physicians consider only two degrees; sickness, and neutrality; for there is no health in us. This, sir, I use to say to you, rather to have so good a witness and corrector of my meditations, than to advise; and yet to do that too, since it is pardonable in a friend: not to slack you towards those friends which are religious in other clothes than we; (for amic i vitia si feras facis tua, is true of such faults) but to keep you awake against such as the place where you must live will often obtrude, which are not only naked, without any fashion of such garments, but have neither the body of religion, which is moral honesty, and sociable faithfulness, nor the soul, Christianity. I know not how this paper escaped last week which I send now; I was so sure that I enwrapped it then, that I should be so still, but that I had but VOL. vi. z
one copy; forgive it as you use to do. From Mitcham in as much haste, and with as ill pen and ink, as the letter can accuse me of; but with the last and the next week's heart and affection.
Yours very truly and affectionately,
To Sir Thomas Roe *.
Tt is an ease to your friends abroad, that you are more a man of business than heretofore; for now it were an injury to trouble you with a busy letter. But by the same reason I were excusable if I should not write at all, since the less, the more acceptable; therefore, sir, though I have no more to say, but to renew the obligations I have towards you, and to continue my place in your love, I would not forbear to tell you so. If I shall also tell you, that when this place affords anything worth your hearing, I will be your relator, I think I take so long a day, as you would forget the debt, it appears yet to be so barren. Howsoever with every commodity, I shall say something, though it be but a descant upon this plain song, that I am
Your affectionate servant,
It is one ill affection of a desperate debtor, that he dares not come to an account, nor take knowledge how much he owes; this makes me that I dare not tell you how many letters I have received from you since I came to this town; I had three, the first by the cook, who brought none but yours, nor ever came to me, to let me know what became of the rest: the two others of the seventh and eighth of March, came in a letter which Sir H.Wootton writ to me from Amiens; there is not a size of paper in the
* Probably written in 1009 or 1610.—Ed.
t Probably to Sir H. Goodyere, and written about 1609.—Ed.
palace, largo enough to tell you how much I esteem myself honoured in your remembrances; nor strong enough to wrap up a heart so full of good affections towards you, as mine is. When anything passes between Sir Thomas Roe and you, tell him I am not the less his servant, for not saying so by often letters: for by my troth, I am that so much as he could desire I should be, when he began to love me. Sir Thomas Lucy's business, and perchance sadness forbid me writing now. I have written to him (whilst 1 lived in darkness, whether my letters came to you or no) by another way; and if my poor letters were any degree of service, I should do it often, and rather be mine own post, than leave anything undone, to which he would give such an interpretation, as that it were an argument of my devotion to him. For my purposo of proceeding in the profession of the law, so far as to a title, you may be pleased to correct that imagination where you find it. I over thought the study of it my best entertainment and pastime, but I have no ambition, nor design upon the style. Of my anniversaries the fault which I acknowledge in myself, is to have descended to print anything in verse, which though it have excuse, even in our times, by example of men, which one would think should as little have done it, as I; yet I confess I wonder how I declined to it, and do not pardon myself. But for the other part of the imputation, of having said so much, my defence is, that my purpose was to siiy as well as I could: for since I never saw the gentlewoman, I cannot be understood to have bound myself to have spoken just truth: but I would not be thought to have gone about to praise any body in rhyme, except I took such a person, as might be capable of all that I could say. If any of those ladies think that Mrs. Drury was not so, let that lady make herself fit for all those praises in the book, and it shall be hers. Nothing is further from colour or ground of truth, than that which you write of Sir Robert Dairy's going to mass. No man of our nation hath been more forward to apply himself to the church of the religion where he hath come, nor to relieve their wants, where that demonstration hath been needful. I know not yet whether Sir John Brooke's purpose of being very shortly here, be not a just reason to make mo forbear writing to him. I am sure that I would fainest do, that in writing or abstaining which should be most acceptable to him. It were in vain to put into this letter any relation of the magnificence which has been here at publication of these marriages; for at this time there come into England so many Frenchmen, as I am sure you shall hear all at least. If they speak not of above eight hundred horse well caparisoned, you may believe it: and you may believe, that no court in Christendom had been able to have appeared so brave in that kind. But if they tell you of any other stuff than copper, or any other exercise of arms than running at the quintain, and the ring, you may be bold to say Pardone moy. Sir, this messenger makes so much haste that I cry your mercy for spending any time of this letter, in other employment, than thanking you for yours, and promising you more before my removal from hence. I pray venture no letter to me by any other way than Mr. John Bruer at the Queen's Arms a mercer in Cheapside, who is always like to know where we are; and make me by loving me still, worthy to be your friend and servant,
To my honoured Friend, Mr. George Garrat*.
I would I were so good an alchemist to persuade you that all the virtue of the best affections, that one could express in a sheet, were in this rag of paper. It becomes my fortune to deal thus in single money; and I may hit better with this hailshot of httle letters (because they may come thick) than with great bullets; and trouble my friends less. I confess it were not long enough if it came to present my thanks for all the favours you have done me; but since it comes to beg more, perchance it may be long enough, because I know not how short you will be with an absent friend. If you will but write that you give me leave to keep that name still, it shall be the gold of your letter: and for allay, put in as much news as you will. We are in a place where scarce any money appears, but base: as, I confess, all
* From Amiens, 1609.—Ed.
matters of letters is in respect of the testimonies of friendship; but obey the corruption of this place, and fill your letters with worse stuff than your own. Present my service to all those gentlemen whom I had the honour to serve at our lodging. I cannot fly an higher pitch, than to say, that I am so much their servant as you can say I am. At the Queen's Arms in Cheapside, which is a mercer's, you may hear of one Mr. John Brewer, who will convey any letter directed to me at Sir Rob. Drury's at Amiens, though he know not me: and I should be glad to hear that this first that I sent into England had the fortune to find you. Yours,
To Sir Henry Goodyere*.
Because I am in a place and season where I see everything bud forth, I must do so too, and vent some of my meditations to you; the rather because all other buds being yet without taste or virtue, my letters may be like them. The pleasantness of tho season displeases me. Everything refreshes, and I wither, and I grow older and not better, my strength diminishes, and my load grows, and being to pass more and more storms, I find that I have not only cast out all my ballast which naturo and time gives, reason and discretion, and so am as empty and light as vanity can make me; but I have over-fraught myself with vice, and so am riddingly subject to two contrary wrecks, sinking and oversetting, and under the iniquity of such a disease as enforces the patient when he is almost starved, not only to fast, but to purge. For I have much to take in, and much to cast out; sometimes I think it easier to discharge myself of vice than of vanity, as one may sooner carry the fire out of a room than the smoke: and then I see it was a new vanity to think so. And when I think sometimes that vanity, because it is thin and airy, may be expelled with virtue or business, or substantial vice; I find that I give entrance thereby to new vices. Certainly as the
• Probably from abroad, in 1609.—Ed.
earth and water, one sad, the other fluid, make but one body: Bo to air and vanity, there is but one centrum morbi. And that which later physicians say of our bodies, is fitter for our minds: for that which they call destruction, which is a corruption and want of those fundamental parts whereof we consist, is vice: and that collectio stercorum, which is but the excrement of that corruption, is our vanity and indiscretion: both these have but one root in me, and must be pulled out at once, or never. But I am so far from digging to it, that I know not where it is, for it is not in mine eyes only, but in every sense, nor in my concupiscence only, but in every power and affection. Sir, I was willing to let you see how impotent a man you love, not to dishearten you from doing so still (for my vices are not infectious, nor wandering, they came not yesterday, nor mean to go away to-day: they inn not, but dwell in me, and see themselves so welcome, and find in me so good bad company of one another, that they will not change, especially to one not apprehensive, nor easily accessible) but I do it, that your counsel might cure me, and if you deny that, your example shall, for I will as much strive to be like you as I will wish you to continue good.
To my Lord G. H*
I am near the execution of that purpose for France; though I may have other ends, yet if it do but keep mo awake, it recompenses me well. I am now in the afternoon of my life, and then it is unwholesome to sleep. It is ill to look back, or give over in a course; but worse never to set out. I speak to you at this time of departing, as I should do at my last upon my deathbed; and I desire to deliver into your hands a heart and affections, as innocent towards you, as I shall to deliver my soul into God's hands then. I say not this out of diffidence, as though you doubted it, or that this should look like an excuse, as implied an
• This superscription seems to ha an error, for To Sir IT. G. i. e. Sir Henry Goodycre, as it was through him that Donne's letters to Lady Bedford were sent; written 1C09.—Ed.
Recusation; but because my fortune hath burdened you so, as I could not rectify it before my going, my conscience and interpretation (severer I hope than yours towards myself) calls that a kind of demerit; but God who hath not only afforded us a way to be delivered from our great many debts, contracted by our executorship to Adam, but also another for our particular debts after, hath not left poor men unprovided, for discharge of moral and civil debts; in which, acknowledgement, and thankfulness is tho same, as repentance and contrition is in spiritual debts: and though the value and dignity of all these be not perchance in the things, but in the acceptation, yet I cannot doubt of it, either in God, or you. But sir, because there is some degree of thankfulness in asking more (for that confesses all former obligations, and a desire to be still in the same dependency) I must entreat you to continue that wherein you have most expressed your love to me, which is, to maintain me in the same room in my Lady Bedford's opinion, in the which you placed me. I profess to you that I am too much bound to her, for expressing every way her care of my fortune, that I am weary before she is; and out of a lothness, that so good works should be bestowed upon so ill stuff, or that so much ill fortune should be mingled with hers, as that she should miss anything that she desired, though it were but for me; I am willing to depart from further exercising her endeavours in that kind. I shall be bold to deliver my poor letters to her ladyship's hands, through yours, whilst I am abroad, though I shall ever account myself at home, whilst I am in your memory. Your affectionate servant and lover,
To Sir Henry Goody ere*.
This 14th of November last I received yours of the 9th, as I was in the street going to sup with my Lady Bedford, I found all that company forepossessed with a wonder why you came not
* Before 1610.—Ed.