The Folger Shakespeare Library

L.b.526: Letter from John Donne, The Savoy, London, to Sir George More, 1601/1602 February 2: autograph manuscript signed

Catalog record:
Collection:Papers of the More family of Loseley Park, Surrey
Preferred Citation:Letter from John Donne, The Savoy, London, to Sir George More, 1601/1602 February 2: autograph manuscript signed, Papers of the More family of Loseley Park, Surrey. Transcription by Early Modern Manuscripts Online (EMMO). MS L.b.526, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, DC.
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leaf 1 recto

If a very respective fear of your displeasure, and a
doubt, that my Lordship whom I know out of your worthiness to love you much,
would be so compassionate with you, as to add his anger to yours, did not
so much increase my sickness, as that I cannot stir I had taken the
boldness, to have done the Office of this letter, by waiting upon you
myself To have given you truth, and clearness of this Matter
between your Daughter and me; and to show to you plainly the limits
of our fault, by which I know your wisdom will proportion the punishment.
So long since, as at her being at York House, this had foundation and so
much then of promise and Contract built upon it, as without violence
to Conscience might not be shaken. At her lying in town this last
parliament, I found means to see her twice or thrice we both knew
the obligations that lay upon us, and we adventured equally, and about
three weeks before Christmas we married. And as at the doing, there
were not used above five persons, of which I protest to you by my salvation,
there was not one that had any dependence or relation to you, so in all the
passage of it, did I forbear to use any such person, who by furthering
of it might violate any trust or duty towards you. The reasons, why
I did not foreacquaint you with it, (to deal with the same plainness that I
have used) were these. I knew my present estate less then fit for her; I
knew, (yet I knew not why) that I stood not right in your Opinion; I
knew that to have given any intimation of it had been to impossibilitate
the whole Matter. And then having those honest purposes in our hearts, and those
fetters in our Consciences, me thinks we should be pardoned, if our fault be but
this, that we did not by fore-revealing of it, consent to our hindrance
and torment. Sir, I acknowledge my fault to be so great, as I dare scarce
offer any other prayer to you in mine own behalf, than this, to believe this
truth, that I neither had dishonest end nor means. But for her
whom I tender much more, than my fortunes, or life (else I would I might
neither joy in this life, nor enjoy the next) I humbly beg of you, that she
may not, to her danger, feel the terror of your sudden anger. I know
this letter shall find you full of passion but I know no passion can
alter your reason and wisdom; to which I adventure to commend these
particulars; That it is irremediably done; That if you incense
my lordship, you Destroy her and me; That it is easy to give us happiness; And
that my Endeavours and industry, if it please you to prosper them, may
soon make me somewhat worthier of her. If any take the

leaf 1 verso

advantage of your displeasure against me, and fill you with ill
thoughts of me, my Comfort is that you know, that faith and
thanks are due to them only, that speak when their informations
might do good which now it cannot work towards any party.
For my Excuse I can say nothing except I knew, what were
said to you. Sir, I have truly told you this Matter; and
I humbly beseech you, so to deal in it, as the persuasions of
Nature, reason, wisdom, and Christianity shall inform you;
And to accept the vows, of one whom you may now raise or
scatter, which are, that as all my love is directed unchangeably
upon her, so all my labours shall concur to her contentment,
and to show my humble Obedience to yourself.

From my lodging by the
Savoy. 2nd February 1601
Yours in all Duty and
John Donne

leaf 2 recto

leaf 2 verso

To the right worshipful Sir
George More knight