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and wilful delays had been inexcusable both towards God and his own conscience: he therefore proceeded in this search with all moderate haste, and about the twentieth year of his age did show the then Dean of Gloucester (whose name my memory hath now lost) all the Cardinal's works marked with many weighty observations under his own hand; which works were bequeathed by him, at his death, as a legacy to a most dear friend.
About a year following he resolved to travel; and the Earl of Essex going first the Cales, and after the Island voyages, the first anno 1596, the second 1597, he took the advantage of those opportunities, waited upon his Lordship, and was an eyewitness of those happy and unhappy employments.
But he returned not back into England, till he had stayed some years first in Italy, and then in Spain, where he made many useful observations of those countries, their laws and manner of government, and returned perfect in their languages.
The time that he spent in Spain was, at his first going into Italy, designed for travelling to the Holy Land, and for viewing Jerusalem and the sepulchre of our Saviour. But at his being in the furthest parts of Italy, the disappointment of company, or of a safe convoy, or the uncertainty of returns of money into those remote parts, denied him that happiness, which he did often occasionally mention with a deploration.
Not long after his return into England, that exemplary pattern of gravity and wisdom, the Lord Elsemore, then Keeper of the Great Seal, and Lord Chancellor of England, taking notice of his learning, languages, and other abilities, and much affecting his person and behaviour, took him to be his chief secretary; supposing and intending it to be an introduction to some more weighty employment in the state: for which his Lordship did often protest he thought him very fit.
Nor did his Lordship in this time of Master Donne's attendance upon him, account him to be so much his servant, as to forget he was his friend; and, to testify it, did always use him with much courtesy, appointing him a place at his own table, to which he esteemed his company and discourse to be a great ornament.
He continued that employment for the space of five years, being daily useful, and not mercenary to his friends. During which time he (I dare not say unhappily) fell into such a liking, as, with her approbation, increased into a love with a young gentlewoman that lived in that family, who was niece to the Lady Elsemore, and daughter to Sir George More, then Chancellor of the Garter and Lieutenant of the Tower.
Sir George had some intimation of it, and knowing prevention to be a great part of wisdom, did therefore remove her with much haste from that to his own house at Lothesley, in the county of Surrey; but too late, by reason of some faithful promises which were so interchangeably passed, as never to be violated by either party.
These promises were only known to themselves; and the friends of both parties used much diligence, and many arguments, to kill or cool their affections to each other: but in vain; for love is a flattering mischief, that hath denied aged and wise men a foresight of those evils that too often prove to be the children of that blind father; a passion, that carries us to commit errors with as much ease as whirlwinds remove feathers, and begets in us an unwearied industry to the attainment of what we desire. And such an industry did, notwithstanding much watchfulness against it, bring them secretly together, (I forbear to tell the manner how,) and at last to a marriage too, without the allowance of those friends, whose approbation always was, and ever will be,
necessary, to make even a virtuous love become lawful.
And that the knowledge of their marriage might not fall, like an unexpected tempest, on those that were unwilling to have it so, and that pre-apprehensions might make it the less enormous when it was known, it was purposely whispered into the
many that it was so, yet by none that could affirm it. But, to put a period to the jealousies of Sir George, (doubt often begetting more restless thoughts than the certain knowledge of what we fear, the news was, in favour to Mr. Donne, and with his allowance, made known to Sir George, by his honourable friend and neighbour Henry, Earl of Northumberland: but it was to Sir George so immeasurably unwelcome, and so transported him, that, as though his passion of anger and inconsideration might exceed theirs of love and error, he presently engaged his sister, the Lady Elsemore, to join with him to procure her lord to discharge Mr. Donne of the place he held under his Lordship. This request was followed with violence; and though Sir George were remembered, that errors might be over punished, and desired therefore to forbear till second considerations might clear some scruples; yet he became restless until his suit was granted, and the punishment executed. And though the Lord Chancellor did not, at Mr. Donne's dismission, give him such a commendation as the great Emperor Charles the Fifth did of his secretary Eraso, when he presented him to his son and successor, Philip the Second, saying, “ That in his Eraso he gave to him a greater gift than all his estate, and all the kingdoms which he then resigned to him;" yet the Lord Chancellor said, “ He parted with a friend, and such a secretary as was fitter to serve a king than a subject.”
Immediately after his dismission from his service,
he sent a sad letter to his wife, to acquaint her with it; and after the subscription of his name, writ,
John Donne, Anne Donne, Un-done :
And God knows it proved too true: for this bitter physic of Mr. Donne's dismission was not strong enough to purge out all Sir George's choler; for he was not satisfied till Mr. Donne and his sometime compupil in Cambridge, that married him, namely, Samuel Brook (who was after Doctor in Divinity and Master of Trinity College) and his brother Mr. Christopher Brook, sometime Mr. Donne's chamber-fellow in Lincoln's Inn, who gave Mr. Donne his wife, and witnessed the marriage, were all committed to three several prisons.
Mr. Donne was first enlarged, who neither gave rest to his body or brain, nor to any friend in whom he might hope to have an interest, until he had procured an enlargement for his two imprisoned friends.
He was now at liberty, but his days were still cloudy; and being past these troubles, others did still multiply upon him; for his wife was (to her extreme sorrow) detained from him; and though with Jacob he endured not an hard service for her, yet he lost a good one, and was forced to make good his title, and to get possession of her by a long and restless suit in law; which proved troublesome and sadly chargeable to him, whose youth, and travel, and needless bounty, had brought his estate into a narrow compass.
It is observed, and most truly, that silence and submission are charming qualities, and work most upon passionate men; and it proved so with Sir George, for these, and a general report of Mr. Donne's merits, together with his winning behaviour, (which, when it would entice, had a strange kind of
elegant irresistible art;) these and time had so dispassioned Sir George, that as the world had approved his daughter's choice, so he also could not but see a more than ordinary merit in his new son; and this at last melted him into so much remorse, (for love and anger
agues, as to have hot and cold fits; and love in parents, though it may be quenched, yet is easily re-kindled, and expires not till death denies mankind a natural heat,) that he laboured his son's restoration to his place; using to that end both his own and his sister's power to her lord; but with no success; for his answer was, “ That though he was unfeignedly sorry for what he had done, yet it was inconsistent with his place and credit to discharge and re-admit servants at the request of passionate petitioners.”
Sir George's endeavour for Mr. Donne's re-admission was by all means to be kept secret:— (for men do more naturally reluct for errors, than submit to put on those blemishes that attend their visible acknowledgment.) - But, however, it was not long before Sir George appeared to be so far reconciled, as to wish their happiness, and not to deny them his paternal blessing, but yet refused to contribute any means that might conduce to their livelihood.
Mr. Donne's estate was the greatest part spent in many and chargeable travels, books, and dearbought experience: he out of all employment that might yield a support for himself and wife, who had been curiously and plentifully educated; both their natures generous, and accustomed to confer, and not to receive courtesies: these and other considerations, but chiefly that his wife was to bear a part in his sufferings, surrounded him with many sad thoughts, and some apparent apprehensions of want.
But his sorrows were lessened and his wants prevented, by the seasonable courtesy of their noble