John Donne

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

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33. To Sir Toby Mathew[September 1619]2


At Ratisbone I had your Letter from Brussel's; and, in it, you. For, my former knowledge of your ingenuitie, and mine own conscience pg 153of having demerited in nothing toward you, are assurances to me, that your professions are in earnest. I dare put my selfe upon the testimony of very many very good Companies in England, where your Person, and your Historie, have been the discourse, that I have never forsaken your honour and reputation. And you may be pleased to make this some argument of my disposition toward you, that when I have been told, that you have not been so carefull of me abroad, I have not been easie in beleeving it; and when at sometimes, the authoritie of the reporter, hath brought me to a half-belief of it, I have found other excuses in your behalfe, than a meer dis-affection to me: and now I am safelie returned to my first station again, not to beleeve it. If it could be possible that any occasion of doing you a reall service, might be presented me, you should see, that that Tree which was rooted in love, and alwaies bore leaves, readie to shadow and defend from others malice, would bear fruit also. You know, we say in the Schools, that Grace destroys not Nature: we may say too, that forms of Religion destroy not moralitie, nor civill offices. That which I add, I am farre from applying to you, but it is true, That we are fallen into so slack and negligent times, that I have been sometimes glad to hear, that some of my friends have differed from me in Religion. It is some degree of an union to be united in a serious meditation of God, and to make any Religion the rule of our actions. Our sweet and blessed Saviour bring us by his way, to his end! And be you pleased to be assured, that no man desires to renew, or continue, or encrease a friendship with you more than

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Editor’s Note
2 The Letter is headed 'A Letter of much kindnesse from Doctor Donne, to Sir Toby Mathew, from Colleyn'. The Doncaster embassy was at Cologne in mid-September 1619. Toby Mathew, the recusant son of Tobias Matthew, Archbishop of York, was abroad from 1608 and was the subject of many rumours. He was forgiven by King James and knighted in 1623 on his return to England.
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