« AnteriorContinuar »
Dr. Donne to Sir J. H
Aug. 6, 1608.
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 enclose 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 use that favour which my Lady Bedford hath afforded me of giving her name to my daughter; which I mention to you, as well to shew that I covet any occasion of a grateful 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,
The Countess of Bedford patronised both Jonson and Daniel, a circumstance that roused the jealousy of the latter. Donne wrote to Jonson begging him to refrain from openly noticing some false charge made in this connection, and the great dramatist replied as follows.
✓ Ben Jonson to John Donne.
Sir,-You cannot but believe how dear and reverend your Iriendship is to me, (though all testimony on my part hath been too short to express me) and therefore would I meet it with all obedience. My mind is not yet so deafened by injuries, but it hath an car for counsel. Yet in this point that you presently dissuade, I wonder how I am misunderstood; or that you should call that an imaginary right, which is the proper justice that every clear man owes to his innocency. Exasperations I intend none, for truth cannot be sharp but to ill natures, or such weak ones whom ill spirits, suspicion or credulity, still possess. My lady may believe whisperings, receive tales, suspect and condemn my honesty, and I may not answer on the pain of losing her! as if she who had this prejudice of me were not already lost! Oh! no, she will do me no hurt, she will think and speak well of my faculties. She cannot thus judge me; or, if she could, I would exchange all glory, (if I had all men's abilities) which could come that way, for honest simplicity. But there is a greater penalty threatened, the loss of you, my true friend; for others I reckon not, who were never had' have so subscribed myself. Alas! how easy is a man accused that is forsaken of defence! Well, my modesty shall sit down, and (let the world call it guilt or what it will) I will yet thank you that counsel me to a silence in these oppressures, when confidence in my right, and friends, may abandon me. And lest yourself may undergo some hazard, for my questioned reputation, and draw jealousies or hatred upon you, I desire to be left to mine own innocence, which shall acquit me, or heaven shall be guilty.
This and the following outburst of devotional resignation are the last letters written by Eliot before his death in the Tower on Nov. 27, 1632. The King, knowing well that he was suffering from a mortal disease, obstinately refused to allow him the needful care and treatment.
These are the words of Jonson's letter. He seems to mean, 'I reckon not (friends) whom I never really possessed.'
Sir John Eliot to John Hampden.
The Tower: March 22, 1632.
Dear friend,-Quit you as speedily as you can, for without it you are faulty. I thank God lately my business has been much with doctors and physicians, so that but by them I have had little trouble with myself. These three weeks I have had a full leisure to do nothing, and strictly tied unto it either by their direction or my weakness. The cause originally was a cold, but the symptoms that did follow it spake more sickness, and a general indisposition it begot in all the faculties of the body. The learned said a consumption did attend it, but I thank God I did not feel or credit it. What they advise, as the ordinance that's appointed, I was content to use; and in the true show of patient, suffered whatever they imposed. Great is the authority of princes, but greater much is theirs who both command our persons and our wills. What the success of their government will be must be referred to Him that is master of their power. I find myself bettered, but not well, which makes me the more ready to observe them. The divine blessing must effectuate their wit, which authors all the happiness we receive. It is that mercy that has hitherto protected me, and, if I may seem useful in his wisdom, will continue me, amongst other offices, to remain,
Your faithful Friend and Servant,
Sir John Eliot to John Hampden.
The Tower: 1632.
Besides the acknowledgment of your favour, that have so much compassion on your friend I have little to return you from him that has nothing worthy of your acceptance, but the contestation that I have between an ill body and the air, that quarrel, and are friends, as the summer winds affect them. I have these three days been abroad, and as often brought in new impressions of the colds, yet, body and strength and appetite I find myself bettered by the motion. Cold at first was the occasion of my sickness, heat and tenderness by close keeping in my chamber has since
increased my weakness. Air and exercise are thought most proper to repair it, which are the prescription of my doctors, though no physic. I thank God other medicines I now take not, but those catholicons, and do hope I shall not need them. As children learn to go, I shall get acquainted with the air, practice and use will compass it, and now and then a fall is an instruction for the future. These varieties He does try us with, that will have us perfect at all parts, and as he gives the trial he likewise gives the ability that shall be necessary for the work. He has the Philistine at the disposition of his will, and those that trust him, under his protection and defence. O infinite mercy of our Master, dear friend, how it abounds to us, that are unworthy of his service! How broken! how imperfect! how perverse and crooked are our ways in obedience to him! How exactly straight is the line of his providence to us! drawn out through all occurrents and particulars to the whole length and measure of our time! How perfect is his hand that has given his son unto us, and through him has promised likewise to give us all things-relieving our wants, sanctifying our necessities, preventing our dangers, freeing us from all extremities, and dying himself for us! What can we render? What retribution can we make worthy so great a majesty ? worthy such love and favour? We have nothing but ourselves who are unworthy above all and yet that, as all other things, is his. For us to offer up that, is but to give him of his own, and that in far worse condition than we at first received it, which yet (for infinite is his goodness for the merits of his son) he is contented to accept. This, dear friend, must be the comfort of his children; this is the physic we must use in all our sickness and extremities; this is the strengthening of the weak, the nourishing of the poor, the liberty of the captive, the health of the diseased, the life of those that die, the death of the wretched life of sin! And this happiness have his saints. The contemplation of this happiness has led me almost beyond the compass of a letter; but the haste I use unto my friends, and the affection that does move it, will I hope excuse me. Friends should communicate their joys this as the greatest, therefore, I could not but impart unto my friend, being therein moved by the present expectation of your letters, which always have the grace of much intelligence, and are happiness to him that is truly yours.
'Money makes the mirth
When all birds els do of their musick faile
Money's the still-sweet-singing nightingale.'
Thus sang, long after his impecunious days at Cambridge, the Royalist Vicar of Dean Prior, Robert Herrick. By a strange irony of fortune the only letters we possess from the genial and glowing pen of the great poet of the Hesperides are a series of plaintive notes to his rich uncle, Sir William Herrick; and we may gather from them that this amiable relative's money paid for the piping of some of the most graceful lyrics in the English language.
Robert Herrick to Sir William Herrick.
Are the minds of men immutable? and will they rest in only one opinion without the least perspicuous shew of change? O no, they cannot, for Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis: it is an old but yet young saying in our age, as times change, so men's minds are altered. O would . . . were seen, for then some pitying Planet would with a drop of dew refresh my withered hopes, and give a life to that which is about to die; the body is preserved by food, and life by hope, which (but wanting either of these conservers) faint, fear, fall, freeze, and die. 'Tis in your power to cure all, to infuse by a profusion a double life into a single body. Homo homini Deus: man should be so, and he is commanded so; but, frail and glass-like, man proves brittle in many things. How kind Arcisilaus the philosopher was unto Apelles the painter Plutarc in his Morals will tell you; which should I here depaint, the length of my letter would hide the sight of my Labour, which that it may not, I bridle in my Quill and mildly, and yet I fear to rashly and to boldly make known and discover which my modesty would conceal; and this is all my study craves but your assistance to furnish her with books, wherein she is most desirous to labour: blame not her modest boldness, but suffer the aspersions of your love to distill upon her, and next to Heaven she will consecrate her labours unto you, and because that Time hath devoured some years, I am the more importunate in the craving; suffer not the distance to hinder that which I know your disposition will not deny. And now is the time (that florida ætas) which promises fruitfulness for her former barren