« PreviousContinue »
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 sometime look back upon my education and mean abilities, it is not without some little 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'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-ho noured friend, sir Henry Wotton.
And having writ these two Lives, I lay quiet twenty years, without a thought of either troubling myself 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 a 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 had twice 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 free-will offering, that it was writ chiefly 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 reason which that excellent casuist, doctor 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.
THE COPY OF A LETTER WRIT TO
MR. IZAAK WALTON,
LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER.
HONEST IZAAK, THOUGH
a familiarity of more than forty years continuance, and the constant experience of your love, even in the worst of the late sad times, be sufficient to endear our friendship; yet I must confess my affection much improved, not only by evidences of private respect to many that know and love you, but by your new demonstration of a public spirit, testified in a diligent, true, and useful collection of so many material passages as you have now afforded me in the Life of venerable Mr. Hooker; of which, since desired by such a friend as yourself, I shall not deny to give the testimony of what I know concerning him and his learned books: but shall first here take a fair occasion to tell you, that you have been happy in choosing to write the Lives of three such persons, as posterity hath just cause to honour; which they will do the more for the true relation of them by your happy pen: of all which I shall give you my unfeigned
I shall begin with my most dear and incomparable friend Dr. Donne, late dean of St. Paul's church, who not only trusted me as his executor, but three days before his death delivered into my hands those excellent sermons of his, now made public; professing before Dr. Winniff, Dr. Monford, and, I think, yourself then present at his bed-side, that it was by my restless importunity, that he had prepared them for the press : together with which (as his best legacy) he