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“ I send this book rather to witness my debt, than to make any payment. For it would be incivil in me to offer any satisfaction for that that all my father's friends, and indeed all good men, are so equally engaged. Courtesies that are done to the dead being examples of so much piety, that they cannot have their reward in this life, because lasting as long, and still (by awaking the like charity in others) propagating the debt, they must expect a retribution from him, who gave the first inclination.
** 2. And by this circle, Sir, I have set you in my place, and instead of making you a payment, I have made you a debtor ; but 't is to Almighty God, to whom I know you will be so willingly committed, that I may safely take leave to write myself,
“ Your thankful servant, “ From my house in Covent-Garden, 24th June, 1640.
It is difficult to discover what correspondence subsisted between our biographer and the writer of the preceding letter, who, having been admitted to the degree of doctor of laws in the university of Padua, was incorporated in that degree at Oxford, in 1638. In a will which was printed in 1662, Dr. John Donne, junior, bequeathed all his father's writings, with his “Common-Place Book,” to Izaak Walton, for the use of his son, if he should be brought up a scholar. That he was a clergyman, and had some preferment in the diocese of Peterborough, we learn from a letter written to him by Dr. John Towers, Bishop of
Peterborough, his diocesan; wherein his lordship thanks him for the first volume of his father's sermons, telling him, that his parishioners may pardon his silence to them for a while, since by it he hath preached to them and to their children's children, and to all our English parishes, for ever. Anthony Wood, although he describes him as a man of sense and parts, is unfavorable to his memory. He represents him as no better than “an atheistical buffoon, a banterer, and a person of over-free thoughts, yet valued by Charles the Second.” With a sarcasm not unusual to him, he informs his reader, that Dr. Walter Pope “ leads an epicurean and heathenish life, much like to that of Dr. Donne, the son.” Bishop Kennet, in his “ Register,”, p. 318, calling him, by mistake, Dr. John Downe, narnes him as the editor of “A Collection of Letters made by Sir Toby Matthews, knight,” with a character of the most excellent lady, Lucy, Countess of Carlisle, by the same author ; to which are added several letters of his own to several persons of honor, who were contemporary with him, London, 1660, 8vo. I cannot but observe, that he neither consulted the reputation of his father, nor the public good, when he caused the “Biathanatos" to be printed. If he was determined, at all events, to disregard the injunctions of parental authority, would it not have been more expedient to have committed the manuscript to the flames, rather than to have encountered the hazard of diffusing certain novel opinions, from which no good consequences could possibly arise ? For though those effects did not actually follow, which are mentioned by
an industrious foreign writer, who tells us, that on the first publication of this work, many persons laid violent hands on themselves ; yet the most remote probability of danger accruing from it should have induced him entirely to have suppressed it. But to return from this digression.
The narrative of the vision in this Life of Dr. Donne hath subjected the author to some severe animadversions. Let it however be remembered, that he probably related the matter with cautious and discreet fidelity, as it was really represented to him. The account is not inserted in the earlier editions of Dr. Donne's Life. Hence we may presume, that the strictest and most severe inquiry was made before its introduction. Plutarch is not esteemed a credulous writer; yet he has given a full and circumstantial history of the appearances that presented themselves to Dion and to Brutus. And in modern times Dr. Doddridge, a most sedulous examiner of facts, and of all men the least liable to credulity and weakness of understanding, published a relation of an extraordinary vision. Let it be remarked that, according to the opinion of a medical writer of great eminence, a discriminating symptom of human insanity is “the rising up in the mind of images not distinguishable by the patient from impressions upon the senses." To a momentary delusion, originating from some bodily disorder we may safely attribute the visions or false perceptions, of which many authentic descriptions have been transmitted to us; and we may easily suppose that Dr. Donne, separated from his beloved wife and family, whom he
had left in a very distressful situation, must have suffered the most poignant anxiety of mind, and of course much indisposition of body.
When the first years of man have been devoted to “the diligence of trades and noiseful gain,” we have no reason to hope that his mind will be replenished by study, or enriched with literature. In the lucrative, as well as in the political life, men are tempted to assume some of those habits or dispositions, which are not entirely consistent with the principles of justice or honor. An eagerness to amass wealth, not seldom extinguishes every other affection. But it was not thus with Izaak Walton. Firm and uncorrupted in his integrity, he no sooner bade farewell to his commercial concerns, than he gave the most convincing proofs of his attention to the most laudable pursuits. He had already written the Life of one friend. He now undertook to exhibit a testimony of respect to the memory of another. In 1651, he was the editor of “ Reliquiæ Wottonianæ, or a Collection of Lives, Letters, Poems, with Characters of sundry Personages, and other incomparable Pieces of Language and Art, by the curious pencil of the ever-memorable Sir Henry Wotton, Knt., late Provost of Eaton College.” This collection is dedicated “ to Lady Mary Wotton, relict of the last Lord Wotton, and to her three noble daughters." These ladies communicated to him many original letters, written by their illustrious relation. After the Dedication follows “The Life of Sir Henry Wotton.” In the succeeding editions, the volume is inscribed to the Right Hon
orable Philip, Earl of Chesterfield, Lord Stanhope of Shelford, and great nephew to Sir Henry Wotton. This nobleman, accompanying his mother, the Lady Catharine Stanhope, into Holland, where she attended the Princess of Orange, daughter to Charles the First, had his education along with William, Prince of Orange, afterward advanced to the throne of England, and became very serviceable in promoting the restoration of the royal family. He loved the memory, and imitated the virtues of his generous uncle. By a life of strict temperance he attained to a great age. He died, January 28, 1713. It is proper to observe, that a later edition of the “Reliquiæ Wottonianæ," namely, that of 1685, is enriched with Sir Henry Wotton's Letters to Lord Zouch, who was eminent among his contemporaries as an able statesman and an accomplished scholar.
6 The Church History of Great Britain," compiled by Dr. Thomas Fuller, whose writings, though far from being without blemish, are of inestimable value, was first published in 1655. A conversation, seasoned with much pleasantness and innocent jocularity, is said to have passed between the author and his ever cheerful and friendly acquaintance, Mr. Izaak Walton, upon the general character of this work. Walton having paid him a visit, it was asked by Fuller, who knew how intimate he was with several of the bishops and ancient clergy, first, What he thought of the History himself, and then, what reception it had met with among them. Walton answered, that he thought “it should be acceptable to all tempers; because there were shades