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THE LIFE OF DR. JOHN DONNE,
LATE DEAN OF ST. PAUL'S CHURCH, LONDON.
MASTER JOHN DONNE was born in London, in the year 1573, of good and virtuous parents: and, though his own learning and other multiplied merits may justly appear sufficient to dignify both himself and his posterity; yet the reader may be pleased to know, that his father was masculinely and lineally descended from a very ancient family in Wales, where many of his name now live, that deserve, and have great reputation in that country.
By his mother he was descended of the family of the famous and learned Sir Thomas More,* sometime Lord Chancellor of England: as also, from that worthy and laborious Judge Rastall,t who left posterity the vast Statutes of the Law of this nation most exactly abridged.
* Fuller, in his Church History, b. x. p. 112, mentions these circumstances most probably from the present work; since he concludes his notice of Donne by saying, that his “ life is no less truly than elegantly written, by my worthily respected friend Mr. Izaak Walton, whence the Reader may store himself with further information." In the first two editions of the life of Donne, there is no separation between the Introduction and Memoir ; and no year mentioned for his time of birth.
+ William Rastall, or Rastell, was an eminent Printer of London, and the son of John Rastall and Elizabeth, the sister of Sir Thomas More. He was born and educated in London, and about 1525, at the age of 17, was sent to Oxford, after which he entered of Lincoln's Inn, and became an excellent lawyer. On the change of religion in England he went to Louvain, being a zealous Catholic ; but on the accession of Mary he returned and filled several offices of great repute, of which one was Justice of the Common Pleas. In the reign of Elizabeth he again returned to Louvain, and died there August 27th, 1565. There are several works ascribed to him, of which it is doubtful if he were the author ; but the “ abregement of the Statutys," alluded to in the text, was first published by him in 8vo. in 1533.
He had his first breeding in his father's house, where a private tutor had the care of him, until the tenth year of his age ; and, in his eleventh year, was sent to the university of Oxford; hav. ing at that time a good command both of the French and Latin tongue.* This, and some other of his remarkable abilities, made one then give this censure of him ; That this age
had brought forth another Picus Mirandula ; † of whom story says, that he was rather born, than made wise by study.
There 'he remained for some years in Hart-Hall, having, for the advancement of his studies, tutors of several sciences to at. tend and instruct him, till time made him capable, and his learn. ing expressed in public exercises, declared him worthy to receive his first degree in the schools, which he forbore by advice from his friends, who, being for their religion of the Romish persuasion, were conscionably averse to some parts of the oath that is always tendered at those times, and not to be refused by those that expect the titulary honour of their studies.
About the fourteenth year of his age, he was transplanted from Oxford to Cambridge; where, that he might receive nourishment from both soils, he staid till his seventeenth year; all which time he was a most laborious student, often changing his studies, but endeavouring to take no degree, for the reasons formerly mentioned.
About the seventeenth year of his age he was removed to Lon. don, and then admitted into Lincoln's Inn, with an intent to study the Law; where he gave great testimonies of his wit, his learn. ing, and of his improvement in that profession; which never served him for other use than an ornament and self-satisfaction.
His father died before his admission into this society ;; and, be.
* It is quaintly said in the first edition that he had “a command of the French and Latine tongues, when others can scarce speak their owne.”.
+ John Picus, Prince of Mirandula, a Duchy in Italy, now the property of the Dukes of Modena, was born Feb. 24th, 1463. He is said to have under. stood twenty-two languages at the age of 18; and at 24 he discoursed on every branch of knowledge. The death of his friend Lorenzo de' Medicis, so much affected him, that he resigned his sovereignty to his nephew, and died in retirement at Florence, Nov. 17th, 1494. His works were chiefly Controversial Theology, with some familiar Epistles. His name does not occur in Walton's first edition.
ing a merchant, left him his portion in money. (It was £3,000.) His mother, and those to whose care he was committed, were watchful to improve his knowledge, and to that end appointed him tutors both in the mathematics, and in all the other liberal sciences, to attend him. But with these arts, they were advised to instil into him particular principles of the Romish Church ; of which those tutors professed, though secretly, themselves to be members.
They had almost obliged him to their faith ; having for their advantage, besides many opportunities, the example of his dear and pious parents, which was a most powerful persuasion, and did work much upon him, as he professeth in his preface to his Pseudo-Martyr,* a book of which the reader shall have some account in what follows.
He was now entered into the eighteenth year of his at that time had betrothed himself to no religion, that might give him any
other denomination than a Christian. And reason and piety had both persuaded him, that there could be no such sin as Schism, if an adherence to some visible Church were not necessary.
About the nineteenth year of his age, he, being then unresolved what religion to adhere to, and considering how much it concerned his soul to choose the most orthodox, did therefore, though his youth and health promised him a long life—to rectify all scruples that might concern that, presently lay aside all study of the Law, and of all other sciences that might give him a de. nomination; and began seriously to survey and consider the body of Divinity, as it was then controverted betwixt the Reformed and the Roman Church. And, as God's blessed Spirit did then awaken him to the search, and in that industry did never forsake him—they be his own wordst—so he calls the same Holy Spirit
*“I had a longer work to do than many other men: for I was first to blot out certaine impressions of the Romane religion and to wrestle both against the examples and against the reasons, by which some hold was taken, and some anticipations early layde upon my conscience, both by persons who by nature had a power and superiority over my will, and others who by their learning and good life seemed to me justly to claime an interest for the guiding and rectifying of mine understanding in these matters."
+ In his Preface to Pseudo-Martyr.
to witness this protestation; that in that disquisition and search, he proceeded with humility and diffidence in himself; and by that which he took to be the safest way ; namely, frequent prayers, and an indifferent affection to both parties; and indeed, Truth had too much light about her to be hid from so sharp an enqui. rer; and he had too much ingenuity, not to acknowledge he had found her.
Being to undertake this search, he believed the Cardinal Bel. larmine* to be the best defender of the Roman cause, and there. fore betook himself to the examination of his reasons. was weighty, and wilful delays had been inexcusable bctb 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 Gloucestert-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.
* One of the most celebrated controversial writers of his time; he was born in Tuscany in 1542, and became a Jesuit in 1560. Until 1576, he was a teacher of Divinity in the Low Countries, but he then commenced reading controversial Lectures at Rome ; and with such success, that Sixtus V. sent him with his Legate into France, to assist in the event of any religious dispute. In 1599, Clement VIII. created him a Cardinal, and he resided in the Vatican from 1605 till 1621, when he left it in declining health, and died in the House of the Jesuits, Sept. 17th. His work alluded to, is entitled “ Disputationes de Controversiis Christiane Fidei, adversus sui temporis Hæreticos,” Cologne, 1610, 4 vol. fol.
† Dr. Anthony Rudde, a native of Yorkshire, and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge ; died Bishop of St. David's in 1613–14.
* This was an expedition consisting of a fleet of 150 sail, with twenty-two Dutch ships, and seven thousand soldiers ; Charles Howard, Earl of Nottingham, being Lord High Admiral, and the Earl of Essex, General of the Land forces. On June 21st, the Spanish squadron was destroyed, and Cadiz taken, with an immense treasure and stores ; in addition to which the inhabitants redeemed their lives at the price of 520,000 ducats. The Island voyage was also an expedition to oppose the King of Spain invading Ireland, in 1597; and it consisted of 120 sail, and 6,000 land forces under the Earl of Essex. It was his intention first to have destroyed the ships preparing, and then sailing to the Azores, or Western Islands, to have waited for, and captured the Spanish India Fleet. This scheme, however, failed, through contrary winds, storms, and a dispute between the Earl of Essex and Sir Walter Raleigh.
But he returned not back into England, till he had staid 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 Ellesmere,* then Keeper of the Great Seal, the 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
* Sir Thomas Ellesmere of Tatton in the County of Chester, Knight, the natural son of Sir Richard Egerton of Ridley, was born about 1540, and was entered of Brazen Nose College, Oxford, at the age of 17, whence he removed to Lincoln's Inn. On June 28th, 1581, he was made Solicitor-General, and was soon afterwards knighted; in April, 1594, he was appointed Master of the Rolls: and in 1596, he received the Great Seal, and was sworn of the Privy Council. In 1604, James I. created him Baron of Ellesmere ard Lord Chancellor, which office he held till the age of 76, when he addressed two pathetic letters to the King for his dismissal. The Sovereign first created him Viscount Brackley, and then received the Seals from him in person upon his death-bed. He died at York House in the Strand, March 15th, 1617.