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EPISTLE TO THE READER.
THOUGH the several Introductions to these several Lives have partly declared the reasons how and why I undertook them, yet since they are come to be reviewed, and augmented, and reprinted, and the four are now become one book, I desire leave to inform you that shall become my reader, that when I sometimes look back upon my education and mean abilities, it is not without some wonder at myself that I am come to be publicly in print. And though I have in those Introductions declared some of the accidental reasons that occasioned me to be so, yet let me add this to what is there said, that by my undertaking to collect some notes for Sir Henry Wotton's writing the Life of Dr. Donne, and by Sir Henry Wotton's dying before he performed it, I became like those men that enter easily into a lawsuit or a quarrel, and having begun, cannot make a fair retreat and be quiet when they desire it. And really, after such a manner, I became engaged into a necessity of writing the Life of Dr. Donne, contrary to my first intentions; and that begot a like necessity of writing the Life of his and my ever-honoured friend, Sir Henry Wotton.
And having writ these two Lives, I lay quiet twenty years, without a thought of either troubling myself or others, by any new engagement in this kind; for I thought I knew my unfitness. But about that time, Dr. Gauden (then Lord Bishop of Exeter), published the Life
of Mr. Richard Hooker (so he called it), with so many dangerous mistakes, both of him and his books, that discoursing of them with his Grace, Gilbert, that now is Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, he enjoined me to examine some circumstances, and then rectify the Bishop's mistakes, by giving the world a fuller and truer account of Mr. Hooker and his books than that Bishop had done; and I know I have done so. And let me tell the reader, that till his Grace had laid this injunction upon me, I could not admit a thought of any fitness in me to undertake it; but when he twice had enjoined me to it, I then declined my own and trusted his judgment, and submitted to his commands, concluding that if I did not, I could not forbear accusing myself of disobedience, and indeed of ingratitude, for his many favours. Thus I became engaged into the third Life.
For the Life of that great example of holiness, Mr. George Herbert, I profess it to be so far a freewill offering, that it was writ chiefty to please myself, but yet not without some respect to posterity. For though he was not a man that the next age can forget, yet many of his particular acts and virtues might have been neglected or lost, if I had not collected and presented them to the imitation of those that shall succeed us; for I humbly conceive writing to be both a safer and truer preserver of men's virtuous actions than tradition, especially as it is managed in this age. And I am also to tell the reader, that though this Life of Mr. Herbert was not by me writ in haste, yet I intended it a review before it should be made public ; but that was not allowed me, by reason of my absence from London when it was printing, so that the reader may find in it some mistakes, some double expressions, and some not very proper, and some that might have been contracted, and some faults that are not justly chargeable upon me, but the printer ; and yet I hope none so great as may not by this confession purchase pardon from a good-natured reader.
And now I wish that, as that learned Jew, Josephus, and others, so these men had also writ their own lives; but since it is not the fashion of these times, I wish their relations or friends would do it for them, before delays make it too difficult. And I desire this the more, because it is an honour due to the dead, and a generous debt due to those that shall live and succeed us, and would to them prove both a content and satisfaction. For when the next age shall (as this does) admire the learning and clear reascn which that excellent casuist Dr. Sanderson (the late Bishop of Lincoln) hath demonstrated in his sermons and other writings, who, if they love virtue, would not rejoice to know that this good man was as remarkable for the meekness and innocence of his life as for his great and useful learning; and indeed as remarkable for his fortitude in his long and patient suffering (under them that then called themselves the godly party) for that doctrine which he had preached and printed in the happy days of the nation's and the Church's peace? And who would not be content to have the like account of Dr. Field, that great schoolman, and others of noted learning? And though I cannot hope that my example or reason can persuade to this undertaking, yet I please myself that I shall conclude my Preface with wishing that it were so.
LIFE OF DR. JOHN DONNE.
PREFIXED TO THE FIRST COLLECTION OF HIS SERMONS.
IF that great master of language and art, Sir Henry Wotton, the late Provost of Eton College, had lived to see the publication of these sermons, he had presented the world with the author's life exactly written; and 'twas pity he did not, for it was a work worthy his undertaking, and he
to undertake it: betwixt whom and the author there was so mutual a knowledge, and such a friendship contracted in their youth, as nothing but death could force a separation. And, though their bodies were divided, their affections were not ; for that learned knight's love followed his friend's fame beyond death and the forgetful grave, which he testified by entreating me, whom he acquainted with his design, to inquire of some particulars that concerned it, not doubting but my knowledge of the author, and love to his memory, might make my diligence useful. I did most gladly undertake the employment, and continued it with great content, till I had made my collection ready to be augmented and completed by his matchless pen; but then death prevented his intentions.