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At this time of Mr. Donne's and his wife's living in Sir Robert's house, the Lord Hay was, by King James, sent upon a glorious embassy to the then French King, Henry the Fourth; and Sir Robert put on a sudden resolution to accompany him to the French court, and to be present at his audience there. And Sir Robert put on as sudden a resolution to subject Mr. Donne to be his companion in that journey. And this desire was suddenly made known to his wife, who was then with child, and otherwise under so dangerous a habit of body, as to her health, that she professed an unwillingness to allow him any absence from her, saying, “her divining soul boded her some ill in his absence,” and therefore desired him not to leave her. This made Mr. Donne lay aside all thoughts of the journey, and really to resolve against it. But Sir Robert became restless in his persuasions for it, and Mr. Donne was so generous as to think he had sold his liberty when he received so many charitable kindnesses from him, and told his wife so, who did therefore, with an unwilling willingness, give a faint consent to the journey, which was proposed to be but for two months; for about that time they determined their return. Within a few days after this resolve, the ambassador, Sir Robert, and Mr. Donne left London, and were the twelfth day got all safe to Paris. Two days after their arrival there,
Mr. Donne was left alone in that room, in which Sir Robert and he and some other friends had dined together. To this place Sir Robert returned within half an hour; and as he left, so he found, Mr. Donne alone, but in such an ecstasy, and so altered as to his looks, as amazed Sir Robert to behold him; insomuch that he earnestly desired Mr. Donne to declare what had befallen him in the short time of his absence. To which Mr. Donne was not able to make a present answer; but after a long and perplexed pause, did at last say, “I have seen a dreadful vision since I saw you; I have seen my dear wife pass twice by me through this room, with her hair hanging about her shoulders, and a dead child in her arms: this I have seen since I saw you.” To which Sir Robert replied, “Sure, Sir, you have slept since I saw you, and this is the result of some melancholy dream, which I desire you to forget, for you are now awake.” To which Mr. Donne's reply was, “I cannot be surer that I now live, than that I have not slept since I saw you ; and I am as sure, that, at her second appearing, she stopped and looked me in the face and vanished.” Rest and sleep had not altered Mr. Donne's opinion the next day; for he then affirmed this vision with a more deliberate and so confirmed a confidence, that he inclined Sir Robert to a faint belief that the vision was true. It is truly said, that desire and doubt have no rest; and it proved so with Sir Robert, for he immediately sent a servant to Drewry-house, with a charge to hasten back and bring him word, whether Mrs. Donne was alive, and if alive, in what condition she was as to her health. The twelfth day the messenger returned with this account; that he found and left Mrs. Donne very sad and sick in her bed, and that, after a long and dangerous labor, she had been delivered of a dead child ; and upon examination, the abortion proved to be the same day, and about the very hour, that Mr. Donne affirmed he saw her pass by him in his chamber.
This is a relation that will beget some wonder; and it well may, for most of our world are at present possessed with an opinion that visions and miracles are ceased. And though it is most certain, that two lutes being both strung and tuned to an equal pitch, and then one played upon, the other, that which is not touched, being laid upon a table at a fit distance, will (like an echo to a trumpet) warble a faint audible harmony, in answer to the same tune, yet many will not believe there is any such thing as a sympathy of souls; and I am well pleased, that every reader do enjoy his own opinion: but if the unbelieving will not allow the believing reader of this story a liberty . to believe that it may be true, then I wish him
to consider, many wise men have believed that the ghost of Julius Caesar did appear to Brutus, and that both St. Austin, and Monica his mother, had visions in order to his conversion. And though these and many others (too many to name) have but the authority of human story, yet the incredible reader may find in the sacred story (1 Sam. xxviii.), that Samuel did appear to Saul even after his death (whether really or not I undertake not to determine). And Bildad, in the book of Job (chap. iv.), says these words: “A spirit passed before my face, the hair of my head stood up, fear and trembling came upon me, and made all my bones to shake.” Upon which words I will make no comment, but leave them to be considered by the incredulous reader, to whom I will also commend this following consideration: that there be many pious and learned men that believe our merciful God hath assigned to every man a particular guardian angel, to be his constant monitor, and to attend him in all his dangers both of body and soul. And the opinion, that every man hath his particular angel, may gain some authority by the relation of St. Peter's miraculous deliverance out of prison (Acts xii.), not by many, but by one angel. And this belief may yet gain more credit by the reader's considering, that when Peter, after his enlargement, knocked at the door of Mary the mother of John, and Rhoda the maid-servant, being surprised with joy that Peter was there, did not let him in, but ran in haste and told the disciples (who were then and there met together), that Peter was at the door, and they, not believing it, said she was mad; yet when she again affirmed it, though they believed it not, yet they concluded and said, “It is his angel.” More observations of this nature, and inferences from them, might be made to gain the relation a firmer belief; but I forbear, lest I, that intended to be but a relator, may be thought to be an engaged person for the proving what was related to me; and yet I think myself bound to declare, that though it was not told me by Mr. Donne himself, it was told me (now long since) by a person of honor, and of such intimacy with him, that he knew more of the secrets of his soul than any person then living; and I think he told me the truth: for it was told with such circumstances and such asseveration, that (to say nothing of my own thoughts) I verily believe he that told it me did himself believe it to be true. I forbear the reader's farther trouble, as to the relation and what concerns it, and will conclude mine with commending to his view a copy of verses, given by Mr. Donne to his wife at the time that he then parted from her; and I beg leave to tell, that I have heard some critics, learned both in