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afflict her too extremely, but that the sickness of all her other children stupifies her; of one of which, in good faith, I have not much hope: and these meet with a fortune so ill provided for physic, and such relief, that if God should ease us with burials, I know not how to perform even that: but I flatter myself with this hope, that I am dying too; for I cannot waste faster than by such griefs. As for,
“ From my hospital at Mitcham, Aug. 10.
Thus he did bemoan himself; and thus in other letters.
- For we hardly discover a sin, when it is but an omission of some good, and no accusing act: with this or the former, I have often suspected myself to be overtaken; which is, with an over-earnest desire of the next life. And though I know it is not merely a weariness of this, because I had the same desire when I went with the tide, and enjoyed fairer hopes than I now do; yet I doubt worldly troubles have increased it. It is now spring, and all the pleasures of it displease me; every other tree blossoms, and I wither: I grow older, and not better; my strength diminisheth, and my load
grows heavier; and yet I would fain be or do something; but that I cannot tell what, is no wonder in this time of my sadness; for to choose is to do; but to be no part of any body is as to be nothing: and so I am, and shall so judge myself, unless I could be so incorporated into a part of the world, as by business to contribute some sustentation to the whole. This I made account; I began early, when I understood the study of our laws; but was diverted by leaving that, and embracing the worst voluptuousness, an hydroptique immoderate desire of human learning and languages : beautiful ornaments indeed
to men of great fortunes: but mine was grown so low as to need an occupation; which I thought I entered well into, when I subjected myself to such a service as I thought might exercise my poor abilities; and there I stumbled, and fell too, and now I am become so little, or such a nothing, that I am not a subject good enough for one of my own letters. ---Sir, I fear my present discontent does not proceed from a good root, that I am so well content to be nothing, that is, dead. But, Sir, though my fortune hath made me such, as that I am rather a sickness or a disease of the world than
any part of it, and, therefore, neither love it, nor life; yet I would gladly live to become some such thing you should not repent loving me. Sir,
your own soul cannot be more zealous for your good than I am; and God, who loves that zeal in me, will not suffer you to doubt it. You would pity me now,
you saw me write, for my pain hath drawn my head so much awry, and holds it so,
my pen. I therefore receive you into my prayers with my own weary soul, and commend myself to yours. I doubt not but next week will bring you good news, for I have either mending or dying on my side; but if I do continue longer thus, I shall have comfort in this, that my blessed Saviour, in exercising his justice upon my two worldly parts, my fortune and my body, reserves all his mercy for that which most needs it, my soul; which is, I doubt, too like a porter, that is, very often near the gate, and yet goes not out. Sir, I profess to you truly, that my loathness to give over writing now seems to myself a sign that I shall write no more.
“ Your poor friend, and
« God's poor patient, “ Sept. 7.
you have seen a part of the picture of his
narrow fortune, and the perplexities of his generous mind; and thus it continued with him for about two years, all which time his family remained constantly at Mitcham; and to which place he often retired himself, and destined some days to a constant study of some points of controversy betwixt the English and Romish Church, and especially those of supremacy and allegiance: and to that place, and such studies, he could willingly have wedded himself during his life; but the earnest persuasion of friends became at last to be so powerful, as to cause the removal of himself and family to London, where Sir Robert Drewry, a gentleman of a very noble estate, and a more liberal mind, assigned him and his wife an useful apartment in his own large house in Drury Lane, and not only rent free, but was also a cherisher of his studies, and such a friend as sympathized with him and his in all their joy and sor
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
66 I have seen a dreadful vision since I saw you: I have seen my dear wife
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 imme
diately sent a servant to Drewry-house, with a charge to hasten back, and bring him word, whether Mrs. Donne were 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 labour, 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 of 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 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 Cæsar 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', 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, says these words ;
11 Sam. xxviii.