John Donne

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

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pg 15737. To the Queen of Bohemia[1624]1

Your Majesty hath had the patience heretofore to hear me deliver the messages of God to your self. In the hearing of me deliver my messages to God, I can hope for the continuance of your Majestie's patience. He is a very diffident man, that can doubt of that vertue in your Majestie; for of your great measure of that vertue, the World hath had more proofe than it needed. But I consider alwayes, that it had been in me a disloyall thing (I afford no milder a word to that fault) to have any way conjured to the exercising of your Majestie's patience; Therefore I have forborn, to thrust into your Majestie's presence my name, or any thing which hath proceeded from me, though alwayes the dignity of the subject, and sometimes the expresse commandment, sometimes the gracious alarum of your most royall Father, might have gon far in my excuse, in such a boldnesse to your Majestie. Now (for since I am doing a bold action, I may speak words that sound of boldnesse too) I surprise your Majestie, I take you at an advantage, I lay an obligation upon you, because that which your Brother's Highnesse hath received, your Majestie cannot refuse. By your own example you can suffer, by his example you may be pleased to accept this testimony of the zeal of your, &c.

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Editor’s Note
1 Princess Elizabeth, daughter of James I, married Frederick, Count Palatine, on 14 February 1613, and Donne celebrated their marriage by an Epithalamium. The Prince Palatine's acceptance of the Crown of Bohemia in 1619 was the spark that touched off the Thirty Years War. He was driven from his kingdom in 1620 and dubbed 'The Winter King', as his wife was called 'The Queen of Hearts'. Donne had preached before the Prince and Princess Palatine at Heidelberg on 16 June 1619, while on the Doncaster mission. Her reply to this letter sending her a copy of the Devotions (whose dedication her brother, the Prince of Wales, had accepted) is given below. In the following year Donne sent her a copy of the first sermon he preached before her brother, the new king, Charles I.
A Letter from the Queen of Bohemia, in answer to the former. Good Doctor.
None should have cause to pitty me, nor my selfe to complain, had I met with no other exercise of my patience, than the hearing of you deliver (as you call them) the messages of God, unto me: which truly I never did, but with delight, and I hope some measure of edification. No doubt then but I shall read yours to him with pleasure, and I trust by his assistance, to whom they are directed, not without profit. For what I have already read, I give you hearty thanks; and if my better fortunes make progression with my reading (whereof I now begin to have good hope) I will not faile upon any good occasion to acknowledge this courtesie at your hands; and in the mean time I remaine yours, &c.
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