John Donne

Evelyn Simpson, Helen Gardner, and T. S. Healy (eds), Selected Prose

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pg 13520. To the Countess of Bedford

[? 1608–9]1

Happiest and worthiest Lady,

I do not remember that ever I have seen a petition in verse, I would not therefore be singular, nor adde these to your other papers. I have yet adventured so near as to make a petition for verse, it is for those your Ladiship did me the honour to see in Twicknam garden, except you repent your making; and having mended your judgement by thinking worse, that is, better, because juster, of their subject. They must needs be an excellent exercise of your wit, which speake so well of so ill: I humbly beg them of your Ladiship, with two such promises, as to any other of your compositions were threatnings: that I will not shew them, and that I will not beleeve them; and nothing should be so used that comes from your brain or breast. If I should confesse a fault in the boldnesse of asking them, or make a fault by doing it in a longer Letter, your Ladiship might use your style and old fashion of the Court towards me, and pay me with a Pardon. Here therefore I humbly kisse your Ladiships fair learned hands, and wish you good wishes and speedy grants.

  • Your Ladiships servant
  • J. DONNE

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Editor’s Note
1 Lucy, Countess of Bedford, daughter of John Harington, first Baron Harington of Exton, was a great patron of poets. Donne's friendship with her dates from around 1608 when she moved to Twickenham. Goodyer, through whom she acquired Twickenham, was no doubt responsible for bringing Donne to her notice, and Ben Jonson presented to her a copy of Donne's Satires with an introductory epigram. Donne wrote many letters to her in prose and verse and commemorated the death of her brother, the second Lord Harington, in 1614 in a long elegy. See Sermon 8 for an extract from a sermon preached before her.
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