網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

nounced generally devoid of harmony of numbers, or beauty of versification. Involved in the language of metaphysical obscurity, they cannot be read but with fastidiousness. They abound in false thoughts, affected phrases, and unnatural conceits. His sermons, though not without that pedantry which debases the wri. tings of almost all the divines of those times, are often written with energy, elegance, and copiousness of style. Yet it must be confessed, that all the wit and eloquence of the author have been unable to secure them from neglect.

An instance of filial gratitude and affection occurs in a letter from Mr. John Donne, junior, to Mr. Izaak Walton, thanking him for writing his father the Dean's Life.

“Sir, “ I send this book rather to witness my debt, than to make any payment. For it would be incivil in me to offer any satisfaction for that that all my father's friends, and indeed all good men, are so equally engaged. Courtesies that are done to the dead being examples of so much piety, that they cannot have their reward in this life, because lasting as long, and still (by awakening the like charity in others) propagating the debt, they must expect a retri. bution from him, who gave the first inclination.

“2. And by this circle, Sir, I have set you in my place, and instead of making you a payment, I have made you a debtor; but 'tis to Almighty God, to whom I know you will be so willingly committed, that I may safely take leave to write myself,

6. Your thankful servant,

- JO. DONNE. ** From malhoudenog 1 Gavent-Garden,

It is difficult to discover what correspondence subsisted between our biographer and the writer of the preceding letter, who, having been admitted to the degree of doctor of law's in the university of Padua, was incorporated in that degree at Oxford, in 1638. In a will which was printed in 1662, Dr. John Donne, junior, bequeathed all his father's writings, with his “ Common-Place Book,' to Izaak Walton, for the use of his son, if he should be brought

up a scholar. That he was a clergyman, and had some prefer. ment in the diocese of Peterborough, we learn from a letter writ. ten to him by Dr. John Towers, Bishop of Peterborough, his dio. cesan ; wherein his lordship thanks him for the first volume of his father's sermons, telling him, that his parishioners may pardon his silence to them for a while, since by it he hath preached to them and to their children's children, and to all our English par. ishes, for ever. Anthony Wood, although he describes him as a man of sense and parts, is unfavourable to his

mernory.

He

represents him as no better than an atheistical buffoon, a banterer, and a person of over-free thoughts, yet valued by Charles the Second.” With a sarcasm not unusual to him, he informs his reader, that Dr. Walter Pope “ leads an epicurean and heathenish life, much like to that of Dr. Donne, the son.” Bishop Kennet, in his “ Register,” p. 318, calling him, by mistake, Dr. John Downe, names him as the editor of “ A Collection of Letters made by Sir Toby Matthews, knight,” with a character of the most excellent lady, Lucy, Countess of Carlisle, by the same author ; to which are added several letters of his own to several persons of honour, who were contemporary with him, London, 1660, 8vo. I cannot bui observe, that he neither consulted the reputation of his father, nor the public good, when he caused the “ Biathanatos” to be printed. If he was determined, at all events, to disregard the injunctions of parental authority, would it not have been more ex. pedient to have committed the manuscript to the flames, rather than to have encountered the hazard of diffusing certain novel opinions, from which no good consequences could possibly arise ? For though those effects did not actually follow, which are mentioned by an industrious foreign writer, who tells us, that on the first publication of this work, many persons laid violent hands on themselves; yet the most remote probability of danger accruing from it should have induced him entirely to have suppressed it. But to return from this digression.

The narrative of the vision in this Life of Dr. Donne hath subjected the author to some severe animadversions. Let it how. ever be remembered, that he probably related the matter with cautious and discreet fidelity, as it was really represented to him. The account is not inserted in the earlier editions of Dr. Donne's

Life. Hence we may presume, that the strictest and most severe inquiry was made before its introduction. Plutarch is not es. teemed a credulous writer; yet he has given a full and circum. stantial history of the appearances that presented themselves to Dion and to Brutus. And in modern times Dr. Doddridge, a most sed. ulous examiner of facts, and of all men the least liable to credu. lity and weakness of understanding, published a relation of an extraordinary vision. Let it be remarked that, according to the opinion of a medical writer of great eminence, a discriminating symptom of human insanity is “the rising up in the mind of images not distinguishable by the patient from impressions upon the senses.” To a momentary delusion, originating from some bodily disorder, we may safely attribute the visions or false perceptions, of which many authentic descriptions have been transmitted to us; and we may easily suppose that Dr. Donne, separated from his beloved wife and family, whom he had left in a very distressful situation, must have suffered the most poignant anxiety of mind, and of course much indisposition of body.

When the first years of man have been devoted to “ the dili. gence of trades and noiseful gain,” we have no reason to hope that his mind will be replenished by study, or enriched with literature. In the lucrative, as well as in the political life, men are tempted to assume some of those habits or dispositions, which are not entirely consistent with the principles of justice or honour. An eagerness to amass wealth, not seldom extinguishes every other affection. But it was not thus with Izaak Walton. Firm and uncorrupted in his integrity, he no sooner bade farewell to his commercial concerns, than he gave the most convincing proofs of his attention to the most laudable pursuits. He had already written the Life of one friend. He now undertook to exhibit a testimony of respect to the memory of another. In 1651, he was the editor of “Reliquiæ Wottonianæ, or a Collection of Lives, Letters, Poems, with Characters of sundry Personages, and other incomparable Pieces of Language and Art, by the curious pencil of the ever-memorable Sir Henry Wotton, Knt., late Provost of Eaton College.” This collection is dedicated “ to Lady Mary Wotton, relict of the last Lord Wotton, and to her three noble daughters.” These ladies communicated to him

many original letters, written by their illustrious relation. After the Dedication follows “ The Life of Sir Henry Wotton.” In the succeeding editions, the volume is inscribed to the Right Honour. able Philip, Earl of Chesterfield, Lord Stanhope of Shelford, and great nephew to Sir Henry Wotton. This nobleman, accompanying his mother, the Lady Catharine Stanhope, into Holland, where she attended the Princess of Orange, daughter to Charles the First, had his education along with William, P-ince of Orange, afterward advanced to the throne of England, and became very serviceable in promoting the restoration of the royal family. He loved the memory, and imitated the virtues of his generous uncle. By a life of strict temperance he attained to a great age. He died, January 28, 1713. It is proper to observe, that a later edition of the “ Reliquiæ Wottonianæ," namely, that of 1685, is enriched with Sir Henry Wotton's Letters to Lord Zouch, who was eminent among his contemporaries as an able statesman and an accomplished scholar.*

“ The Church History of Great Britain," compiled by Dr. Thomas Fuller, whose writings, though far from being without blemish, are of inestimable value, was first published in 1655. A conversation, seasoned with much pleasantness and innocent jocularity, is said to have passed between the author and his

* A contemporary writer has thus delineated the characters of Dr. Donne and Sir Henry Wotton.—“To speak it in a word, the Trojan Horse was not fuller of heroic Grecians, than King James's reign was full of men excellent in all kinds of learning. And here I desire the reader's leave to remember two of my old acquaintance: the one was Mr. John Donne, who, leaving Oxford, lived at the Inns of Court, not dissolute, but very neat; a great visitor of ladies, a great writer of conceited verses, until such time as King James, taking notice of the pregnancy of his wit, was a means that he took him to the study of divinity, and, thereupon proceeding Doctor, was made Dean of St. Paul's, and became so rare a preacher, that he was not only commended, but even admired by all that heard him. The other was Henry Wotton (mine old acquaintance also, as having been fellow pupils and chamber-fellows in Oxford divers years together.) This gentleman was employed by King James in embassage to Venice: and indeed the kingdom afforded not a fitter man for matching the capaciousness of the Italian wits; a man of so able dexterity with his pen, that he hath done himself much wrong, and the kingdom more, in leaving no more of nis writings behind him.”—(Sir Richard Baker's Chronicle of the Kings of England, London, 1684.)

ever cheerful and friendly acquaintance, Mr. Izaak Walton, upon the general character of this work. Walton having paid him a visit, it was asked by Fuller, who knew how intimate he was with several of the bishops and ancient clergy, first, What he thought of the History himself, and then, what reception it had met with among them. Walton answered, that he thought "it should be acceptable to all tempers; because there were shades in it for the warm, and sunshine for those of a cold constitution ; that with youthful readers the facetious parts would be profitable to make the serious more palatable ; while some reverend old readers might fancy themselves in his History of the Church, as in a flower garden, or one full of evergreens.'

“ And why not,” said Fuller, “the Church History so decked as well as the Church itself at a most holy season, or the tabernacle of old at the Feast of Boughs ?” “ That was but for a season,” said Walton ; “in your Feast of Boughs, they may conceive, we are so overshadowed throughout, that the parson is more seen than his congregation, and this sometimes invisible to its old acquaintance, who may wander in the search, till they are lost in the labyrinth.” “Oh!" says Fuller, “the very children of our Israel may find their way out of this wilderness." “ True,” returned Walton, “

as indeed they have here such a Moses to conduct them.”

His next work was “ The Life of Mr. Richard Hooker,” which first appeared in 1662. It was composed at the earnest request of Dr. Sheldon, then Bishop of London ; and with the express purpose of correcting some errors committed by Dr. Gauden, from mere inadvertency and haste, in his account of “that immortal man,” as he has been emphatically styled, “who spoke no language but that of truth dictated by conscience.” Gauden seems to have been extremely deficient in his information, and, dying soon afterward, had no opportunity of revising and amending his very imperfect and inaccurate memoir. This was followed by The Life of Mr. George Herbert,” usually called “the Divine Herbert," in 1670. In 1678, he concluded his biographical labours with “ The Life of Dr. Robert Sanderson.” Previous to the publication of this last work he received the following interesting letter from Dr. Thomas Barlow, then Bishop of Lincoln, who had been for many years the intimate friend of Dr. Sanderson du.

« 上一頁繼續 »