John Donne

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

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25. To Mr. George Gerrard

(14 April 1612)1

Sir,

Neither your Letters, nor silence, needs excuse; your friendship is to me an abundant possession, though you remember me but twice in a year: He that could have two harvests in that time, might justly value his land at a high rate; but, Sir, as we doe not pg 142onely then thank our land, when we gather the fruit, but acknowledge that all the year she doth many motherly offices in preparing it: so is not friendship then onely to be esteemed, when she is delivered of a Letter, or any other reall office, but in her continuall propensnesse and inclination to do it. This hath made me easie in pardoning my long silences, and in promising my self your forgivenesse for not answering your Letter sooner. For my purpose of proceeding in the profession of the law, so farre as to a title, you may be pleased to correct that imagination, wheresoever you finde it. I ever thought the study of it my best entertainment, and pastime, but I have no ambition, nor designe upon the style. Of my Anniversaries, the fault that I acknowledge in my self, is to have descended to print any thing in verse, which though it have excuse even in our times, by men who professe, and practise much gravitie; yet I confesse I wonder how I declined to it, and do not pardon my self: But for the other part of the imputation of having said too much, my defence is, that my purpose was to say as well as I could: for since I never saw the Gentlewoman, I cannot be understood to have bound my self to have spoken just truths, but I would not be thought to have gone about to praise her, or any other in rime; except I took such a person, as might be capable of all that I could say. If any of those Ladies think that Mistris Drewry was not so, let that Lady make her self fit for all those praises in the book, and they shall be hers. Sir, this messenger makes so much haste that I cry you mercy for spending any time of this letter in other imployment than thanking you for yours. I hope before Christmas to see England, and kisse your hand, which shall ever, (if it disdain not that office) hold all the keyes of the libertie and affection and all the faculties of

  • Your most affectionate servant,
  • J. DONNE

Paris the 14 of Aprill, here, 1612.

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Editor’s Note
1 George Gerrard, after Goodyer Donne's closest friend, was second son of Sir William Gerrard of Dorney, Bucks. He became Master of the Charterhouse. In his will, Donne left 'to my kind friend Mr. George Garrard the picture of Mary Magdalene in my chamber'. Donne left England with Sir Robert and Lady Drury in November 1611 and was abroad until August 1612.
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