John Donne

Nadine Akkerman (ed.), The Correspondence of Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia, Vol. 1: 1603–1631

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403. JOHN DONNE to ELIZABETH [in The Hague?]          [c. March 1626]

Printed sources: Toby Matthew Collection 298–9 (from which the text is taken); Gosse, Life and Letters of John Donne, ii. 233, and a fragment in Green 213. Headed in Matthew: 'A Letter from the same Person to the Queen of Bohemia, upon presenting of a Sermon to her'. For Elizabeth's reply, see Letter 404.

Though your Majestie have a large patience, yet I humbly beseech you, to remember, that I have not exercised it, since the boldnesse of presenting to your Majesty, that Sermon, which was the first that was preached to the King, almost a year since.1 We read of some, that have had anniversary agues, one fit a year, and no more. If my zeal to appear in your Majestie's presence, puts me to an anniversary importunity, and to shew my self thus before you once a year, and no more; your Royall goodnesse, will be pleased to call it a modest boldness,2 and to say to your self, in my behalf, Surely this poor Soul, who comes to me every year, in these his meditations for the publique, takes me with him every morning, in his private Prayers, and Devotions, to Almightie God. And when I am defective in that sacrifice, let me lose all the effect of all my other sacrifices, which I make for the happinesse of your Majestie, &c.

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Editor’s Note
1 The First Sermon Preached to King Charles, given on 13 Apr. 1625, was on Psalm 11: 3 and enclosed in Letter 366.
Editor’s Note
2 Enclosed in his letter Donne sent Elizabeth the second sermon preached to her brother the king, given on 24 Feb. 1625 Old Style (6 Mar. 1626 New Style), which concerned Esai. 50:1 ('Thus sayth the Lord: Where is the Bill of your Mothers diuorcement, whom I haue put away?'; the sermon is newly edited by David Colclough, Esai. 50:1, OESJD, iii. 21–38). It was published in 1626 bearing the words 'And now by his Maiestes commandment Published', an honour Donne also boasted of in regard to the first sermon that he preached before the king: see Letter 366.
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