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THE LIFE OF GEORGE HERBERT.
In a late retreat from the business of this world, and those many little cares with which I have too often cumbered myself, I fell into a contemplation of some of those historical passages that are recorded in Sacred Story: and more particularly of what had passed betwixt our blessed Saviour and that wonder of Women, and Sinners, and Mourners, Saint Mary Magdalen. I call her Saint, because I did not then, nor do now consider her, as when she was possessed with seven devils; not as when her wanton eyes and dishevelled hair, were designed and managed to charm and ensnare amorous beholders. But I did then, and do now consider her, as after she had expressed a visible and sacred sorrow for her sensualities; as after those eyes had wept such a flood of penitential tears as did wash, and that hair had wiped, and she most passionately kissed the feet of her’s and our blessed Jesus. And I do now consider, that because she loved much, not only much was forgiven her: but that beside that blessed blessing of having her sins pardoned, and the joy of knowing her happy condition, she also had from him a testimony, that her alabaster box of precious ointment poured on his head and feet, and that spikenard, and those spices that were by her dedicated to embalm and preserve his sacred body from putrefaction, should so far preserve her own memory, that these demonstrations of her sanctified love, and of her officious and generous gratitude, should be recorded and mentioned wheresoever his Gospel should be read; intending thereby, that as his, so her name, should also live to succeeding generations even till time itself shall be no more.
Upon occasion of which fair example, I did lately look back, and not without some content,--at least to myself,—that I have endeavoured to deserve the love, and preserve the memory, of my two deceased friends, Dr. Donne, and Sir Henry Wotton, by declaring the several employments and various accidents of their lives. And though Mr. George Herbert—whose Life I now intend to write-were to me a stranger as to his person, for I have only seen him; yet since he was, and was worthy to be, their friend, and very many of his have been mine, I judge it may not be unacceptable to those that knew any of them in their lives, or do now know them by mine, or their own writings, to see this conjunction of them after their deaths; without which, many things that concerned them, and some things that concerned the age in which they lived, would be less perfect, and lost to posterity.
For these reasons I have undertaken it; and if I have prevented any abler person, I beg pardon of him and my Reader.
THE LIFE OF MR. GEORGE HERBERT.
GEORGE HERBERT was born the Third day of April, in the Year of our Redemption 1593. The place of his birth was near to the Town of Montgomery, and in that Castle* that did then bear the name of that Town and County : that Castle was then a place of state and strength, and had been successively happy in the Family of the Herberts, who had long possessed it ; and with it, a plentiful estate, and hearts as liberal to their poor neighbours. A family, that hath been blessed with men of remarkable wisdom, and a willingness to serve their country, and, indeed, to do good to all mankind; for which they are eminent: But alas ! this family did in the late rebellion suffer extremely in their estates; and the heirs of that Castle saw it laid level with that earth, that was too good to bury those wretches that were the cause of it.
The Father of our George was Richard Herbert, the son of Edward Herbert, Knight, the son of Richard Herbert, Knight, the son of the famous Sir Richard Herbert of Colebrook, in the County of Monmouth, Banneret, who was the youngest brother of that memorable William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, that lived in the reign of our King Edward the Fourth.
His Mother was Magdalen Newport, the youngest daughter of Sir Richard, and sister to Sir Francis Newport of High-Arkall, in the County of Salop, Knight, and grandfather of Francis Lord New. port, now Controller of his Majesty's Household. A family that
* A fortress first erected by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury, under William I. to secure his conquests in Wales, though it was twice partly destroyed by the Welsh. It stands near the Severn, on a gentle ascent, hav. ing a fair prospect over the plain beneath. The order of Parliament for its destruction was made June 11th, 1649.