James Howell.

Familiar letters; or Epistolae Ho-Elianae (Volume 2) online

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and other human studies, they may serve you for
recreation, but let them not by any means allure
your affections from the first. I shall delight to
hear sometimes of your proceedings, for I possess a
great deal of goodwill unto you, which makes me
rest your respectful friend to serve you, J. H.

Fleet, 3 December.


To my B., the L. B. of B., in France
My Good Lord and Br.,

A LTHOUGH the sense of my own hard con-

dition be enough to make me melancholy, yet

when I contemplate yours (as I often do), and


The compare your kind of banishment with my im-
Discipline prisonment, I find the apprehension of the first,
Amic- therein so many have a share, adds a double
weight unto my sufferings, though but single.
Truly, these thoughts to me are as so many
corrosives to one already in a consumption. The
world cries you up to be an excellent divine and
philosopher. Now is the time for you to make
advantage of both. Of the first, by calling to
mind that afflictions are the portion of the best
theophiles ; of the other, by a well-weighed con-
sideration that crosses and troubles are entailed
upon mankind as much as any other inheritance.
In this respect I am no cadet, for you know I have
had a double, if not a treble share, and may be
rather called the elder brother; but oiertov xai I'Triffriov,
I hope I shall not sink under the burden, but that
we shall be both reserved for better days, especially
now that the King (with the sun and the spring)
makes his approach more and more towards us
from the north.

God Almighty (the God of our good old
father) still guard you and guide you, that after
so long a separation we may meet again with
comfort to confer notes, and recount matters
passed. For adverse fortune, among other pro-
perties, hath this for one, that her present pressures
are not so irksome as the remembrance of them
being passed are delightsome. So I remain your
most loving brother, J. H.

Fleet, 2 May 1645.



To Sir L. Dives, in the Tower

A MONG divers other properties that attend a long and the
captivity, one is, that it purgeth the humours, Lessons
especially it correcteth choler, and attempers ic with '^^"i^^"
phlegm, which you know in Spanish is taken for imprison-
patience. It hath also a chemical kind of quality ment
to refine the dross and feculency of a corrupt
nature, as fire useth to purify metals, and to destroy
that terram Adamicam in them, as the chemist calls
it ; for Demogorgon with his vegetables partook
of Adam's malediction as well as other creatures,
which makes some of them so foul and imperfect,
nature having designed them all for gold and silver
at first, and it is fire can only rectify and reduce
them towards such a perfection. This Fleet hath
been such a furnace to me, it hath been a kind of
Perillus Bull, or rather, to use the Paracelsian
phrase, I have been here in ventre equina, in the
limbec and crucible of affliction. And whereas
the chemist commonly requires but 1 50 days,
antequam corvus in columham vertatur, before the
crow turns to a dove, I have been here five times
so many days and upward. I have been here
time enough, in conscience, to pass all the degrees
and effects of fire, as distillation, sublimation, mortifi-
cation, calcination, solution, descension, dealbation,
rubifi cation, and fixation ; for I have been fastened
to the walls of this prison any time these fifty-five
months. I have been here long enough, if I
were matter capable thereof to be made the philo-
sopher's stone, to be converted from water to
powder, which is the whole magistry. I have


Patience been, besides, so long upon the anvil that methinks
during X am grown malleable and hammer-proof, I am so
P habituated to hardship. But indeed you, that are
made of choicer mould, are fitter to be turned into
the elixir than I, who have so much dross and
corruption in me that it will require more pains
and much more expense to be purged and desic-
cated. God send us both patience to bear the
brunt of this fiery trial, and grace to turn these
decoctions into aqua v'ltte, to make sovereign treacle
of this viper. The Trojan prince was forced to
pass over Phlegethon, and pay Charon his freight,
before he could get into the Elysian Fields. You
know the moral, that we must pass through hell
to heaven, and why not as well through a prison
to Paradise ? Such may the Tower prove to you,
and the Fleet to me, who am your humble and
hearty servitor, J. H.

From the Prison of the Fleet, 23 February 1645.

To the Right Honourable the Lord R.
My Lord,

CURE there is some angry planet hath lowered
long upon the Catholic King ; and though
one of his titles to pagan princes be, that he wears
the sun for his helmet, because it never sets
upon all his dominions in regard some part of them
lie on the other side of the hemisphere among the
Antipodes, yet methinks that neither that great star,
or any of the rest, are now propitious unto him.
They cast, it seems, more benign fluxes upon the
fleur-de-lys, which thrives wonderfully, but how


long these favourable aspects will last I will not Capture
presume to judge. This, among divers others of of
late, hath been a fatal year to the said king, for ^"°'^*'*^
westward he hath lost Dunkirk. Dunkirk, which
was the terror of this part of the world, the scourge
of the Occidental seas, whose name was grown to be
a bugbear for so many years, hath now changed her
master, and thrown away the ragged staff. Doubt-
less a great exploit it was to take this town. But
whether this be advantageous to Holland (as I am
sure it is not to England) time will show. It is
more than probable that it may make him careless
at sea, and in the building and arming of his ships,
having now no enemy near him. Besides, I believe
it cannot much benefit Hans to have the French so
contagious to him. The old saying was, " Ayez le
Francois pour ton ami, non pas pour ton voison "
(Have the Frenchman for thy friend, not for thy

Touching England, I believe these distractions of
ours have been one of the greatest advantages that
could befall France. And they happened in the
most favourable conjuncture of time that might be,
else I believe he would never have as much as
attempted Dunkirk, for England, in true reason of
state, had reason to prevent nothing more in regard
no one place could have added more to the naval
power of France. This will make his sails swell
bigger, and I fear make him claim in time as
much regality in these narrow seas as England

In Italy the Spaniard hath also had ill successes
at Piombino and Porto Longone. Besides, they
write that he hath lost " II prcte et il medico "
(The priest and the physician), to wit, the Pope and


Disasters the Duke of Florence (the House of Medici),
suffered ^vho appear rather for the French than for him.

by Spain js^^^ ^^ ^H ^^^^^ disasters that he hath lost within
the revolution of the same year the Prince of Spain,
his unique son, in the very flower of his age, being
but seventeen years old. These, with the falling off
of Catalonia and Portugal, with the death of his queen
not above forty, are heavy losses to the Catholic
king, and must needs much enfeeble the great bulk
of his monarchy, falling out in so short a compass of
time one upon the neck of another, and we are not
to enter into the secret councils of God Almighty
for a reason. I have read it was the sensuality of
the flesh that drove the kings out of Rome, the
French out of Sicily, and brought the Moors
into Spain, where they kept firm footing above
seven hundred years. I could tell you how, not
long before her death, the late Queen of Spain took
off one of her chapines and clowered Olivarez about
the noddle with it because he had accompanied the
king to a lady of pleasure, telling him that he
should know she was sister to a King of France
as well as wife to a King of Spain. For my part,
France and Spain is all one to me in point of affec-
tion. I am one of those indifferent men that would
have the scales of power in Europe kept even. I
am also a Philerenus, a lover of peace, and I could
wish the French were more inclinable to it now
that the common enemy hath invaded the territories
of Saint Mark. Nor can I but admire that at the
same time the French should assail Italy at one side
when the Turk was doing it on the other. But
had that great naval power of Christians which
were this summer upon the coasts of Tuscany gone
against the Mahommedan fleet, which was the same


time setting upon Candia, they might in all likeli- Peace
hood have achieved a glorious exploit and driven between
the Turk into the Hellespont. Nor is poor ^^Pf^^"
Christendom torn thus in pieces by the German, Holland
Spaniard, French and Swedes, but our three king-
doms have also most pitifully scratched her face,
wasted her spirits, and let out some of her illustrious
blood by our late horrid distractions, whereby it
may be inferred that the mufti and the Pope
seem to thrive in their devotion one way, a chief
part of the prayers of the one being that discord
should still continue betwixt Christian princes ; of
the other that division should still increase be-
tween the Protestants. This poor island is a
woeful example thereof.

I hear the peace betwixt Spain and Holland is
absolutely concluded by the plenipotentiary ministers
at Miinster, who have beat their heads so many
years about it. But they write that the French and
Swede do mainly endeavour, and set all the wheels
of policy a-going to puzzle and prevent it. If it
take effect, as I do not see how the Hollander in
common honesty can evade it, I hope it will con-
duce much to a universal peace, which God grant,
for war is a fire struck in the devil's tinder-box.
No more now, but that I am, my lord, your most
humble servitor, J. H.

Fleet, I December 1643.


To Mr E. 0., Council/or at Gray s Inn

npHE sad tidings of my dear friend Doctor

Pritchard's death sunk deep into me, and the

more I ruminate upon it the more I resent it. But



Time when I contemplate the order and those adamantine
the laws which nature put in such strict execution
eacner throughout this elementary world, when I con-
sider that up and down this frail globe of earth
we are but strangers or sojourners at best, being
designed for an infinitely better country, when I
think that our egress out of this life is as natural to
us as our ingress (all which he knew as much as
any), these thoughts in a checking way turn my
melancholy to a counter passion, they beget another
spirit within me. You know that in the disposing
of all sublunary things, nature is God's handmaid,
fate His commissioner, time His instrument, and
death His executioner. By the first we have
generation ; by the second, successes good or bad ;
and the two last bring us to our end. Time with
his vast scythe mows down all things, and death
sweeps away these mowings. Well, he was a rare
and a complete judicious scholar as any that I have
known born under our meridian. He was both
solid and acute, nor do I remember to have seen
fondness and quaintness with such sweet strains of
morality concur so in any. I should think that he
fell sick of the times, but that I knew him to be
so good a divine and philosopher, and to have
studied the theory of this world so much, that
nothing could take impression in him to hurt
himself, therefore I am content to believe that his
glass ran out without any jogging. I know you
loved him dearly well, which shall make me the
more your most affectionate servitor, J. H.

Fleet, 3 yiugust.



To J. IV. f Esq., at Gray's Inn

I VALUE at a high rate the fair respects you Praise of
show me, by the late ingenuous expressions of Howell's
your letter, but the merit you ascribe unto me in Wo^'^s
the superlative, might have very well served in the
positive, and it is well if I deserve in that degree.
You write that you have singular contentment and
profit in the perusal of some things of mine. I am
heartily glad they afforded any entertainment to a
gentleman of so choice a judgment as yourself.

I have a foolish working brain of mine own, in
labour still with something, and I can hardly keep
it from superstitions, though ofttimes it produces a
mouse in lieu of a mountain. I must confess its
best productions are but homely and hard-favoured,
yet in regard they appear handsome in your eyes,
I shall like them the better. So I am, sir, yours
most obliged to serve you, J. H.

Fleet, 3 January 1644.

To Mr Tho. H.


HOUGH the times abound with schisms more
than ever (the more is our misery), yet,
I hope, you will not suffer any to creep into our
friendship, though I apprehend some fears thereof
by your long silence, and cessation of literal corre-


The spondence. You know there is a peculiar religion
Practice attends friendship ; there is according to the
y . " etymology of the word, a ligation and solemn tie,
the rescinding whereof may be truly called a
schism, or a piac/e, which is more. There belong
to this religion of friendship certain due rights and
decent ceremonies, as visits, messages and missives.
Though I am content to believe that you are firm
in the fundamentals, yet I find under favour that
you have lately fallen short of performing these
exterior offices, as if the ceremonial law were quite
abrogated with you in all things. Friendship also
allows of merits and works of supererogation some-
times, to make her capable of eternity. You know
that pair which were taken up into the heaven, and
placed amongst the brightest stars for their rare
constancy and fidelity one to the other ; you know
also they are put among the fixed stars, not the
erratics, to show there must be no inconstancy in
love. Navigators steer their course by them, and
they are their best friends in working seas, dark
nights, and distresses of weather, whence may be
inferred that true friends should shine clearest in
adversity, in cloudy and doubtful time. On my
part this ancient friendship is still pure, orthodox
and incorrupted ; and though I have not the oppor-
tunity (as you have) to perform all the rites thereof
in regard of this recluse life, yet I shall never err
in the essentials. I am still yours xrfjGti, though I
cannot be ^prjOit, for in statu quo nunc I am grown
useless and good for nothing, yet in point of
possession I am as much as ever, your firm
unalterable servitor, J. H.

Fleet, 7 November 1643.



To Mr S. B. , Merchant, at h'ts house in the Old Jury

I RETURN you those two famous speeches of The

the late Queen Elizabeth, with the addition Glory of
of another from Baudius at an embassy here from Ehza-
Holland. It is with languages as it is with liquors j^jp-f
which by transfusion use to take wind from one
vessel to another, so things translated into another
tongue lose of their primitive vigour and strength,
unless a paraphrastical version be permitted, and then
the traduct may exceed the original, not otherwise,
though the version be ever so punctual, especially
in these orations which are framed with such art,
that like Vitruvius, his palace, there is no place
left to add one stone more without defacing, or to
take any out without hazard of destroying the
whole fabric.

Certainly she was a princess of rare endowments
for learning and languages. She was blessed with
a long life, and triumphant reign attended with
various sorts of admirable successes, which will be
taken for some romance a thousand winters hence,
if the world lasts so long. She freed the Scot from
the French, and gave her successor a royal pension
to maintain his court. She helped to settle the
crown on Henry the Great's head ; she gave
offence to the State of Holland ; she civilised
Ireland, and suppressed divers insurrections there ;
she preserved the dominion of the narrow seas in
greater glory than ever. She maintained open war
against Spain when Spain was in her highest
flourish for divers years together, yet she left a
mighty treasure behind, which shows that she was


The a notable good housewife. Yet I have read divers
Spanish censures of her abroad, that she was ungrateful to
of E^za^ her brother of Spain, who had been the chiefest

bath instrument under God to preserve her from the
block, and had left her all Queen Mary's jewels
without diminution, accusing her that afterwards
she should first infringe the peace with him by
intercepting his treasure in the narrow seas, by
suffering her Drake to swim to his Indies and rob
him there, by fomenting and supporting his Belgian
subjects against him then when he had an am-
bassador resident at her court ; but this was the
censure of a Spanish author, and Spain had little
reason to speak well of her. The French handle
her worse by terming her, among other contumelies,
/ Haquenee de ses propres vassaux.

Sir, I must much value the frequent respects you
have shown me, and am very covetous of the im-
provement of this acquaintance, for I do not
remember at home or abroad to have seen in the
person of any, a gentleman and a merchant so
equally met as in you, which makes me style my-
self your most affectionate friend to serve you,

J. H.
Fleet, 3 May 1645.


To Dr D. Featly

j RECEIVED your answer to that futilous
pamphlet, with your desire of my opinion
touching it. Truly, sir, I must tell you that
never poor cur was tossed in a blanket, as you
have tossed that poor coxcomb in the sheet you


pleased to send nie. For whereas a fillip might Carrier
have felled him, you have knocked him down Pigeons
with a kind of Herculean club sans resource.
These times (more is the pity) labour with the
same disease that France did during the Ligue, as
a famous author hath it, *' Prurigo scripturientium
erat scabies temporum " (The itching of scribblers
was the scab of the time.) It is just so now that
any triobolatry pasqiller, every tressiis agaso, any
sterquilinious rascal is licensed to throw dirt in the
faces of sovereign princes in open printed language.
But I hope the times will mend and your man also
if he hath any grace : you have so well corrected
him. So I rest yours to serve and reverence you,

J. H.
Fleet, 2 August 1644.

To Captain T. L., in Westchester

Captain L.,

I COULD wish that I had the same advantage of
speed to send unto you at this time, that they
have in Alexandretta, now called Scanderoon,
when upon the arrival of any ships into the bay or
any other important occasion they used to send their
letters by pigeons, trained up purposely for that
use, to Aleppo and other places. Such an airy
messenger, such a volatile postillion would I desire
now to acquaint you with the sickness of your
mother-in-law, who I believe will be in another
world (and I wish it may be heaven) before this
paper comes to your hands, for the physicians have
forsaken her, and Dr Burton told me it is a miracle


In if she lasts a natural day to an end, therefore you
Reverie shall do well to post up as soon as you can, to look
to your own affairs, for I believe you will be no
more sick of the mother. Master Davies in the
meantime told me he will be very careful and
circumspect that you be not wronged. I received
yours of the tenth current and return a thousand
thanks for the warm and melting sweet expressions
you make of your respects unto me. All that I can
say at present in answer is that I extremely please
myself in loving you and I like my own affections
the better, because they tell me that I am your
entirely devoted friend, J. H.

Westminster, lo December 1631.

To my Honourable Friend Sir C. C.

T WAS upon point of going abroad to steal a
solitary walk, when yours of the twelfth cur-
rent came to hand ; the high researches and choice
abstracted notions I found therein seemed to
heighten my spirits and make my fancy fitter for
my intended retirement and meditation ; add here-
unto, that the countenance of the weather invited
me, for it was a still evening, it was also a clear
open sky, not a speck or the least wrinkle appeared
in the whole face of heaven, it was such a pure deep
azure all the hemisphere over that I wondered what
was become of the tliree regions of the air with
their meteors. So having got into a close field, I
cast my face upward, and fell to consider what a
rare prerogative the optic virtue of the eye hath,
much more the intuitive virtue of the thought, that


the one in a moment can reach heaven and the The
other go beyond it. Therefore sure that philosopher Earth u.
was but a kind of frantic fool, that would have ^^ .
plucked out both his eyes because they were a
hindrance to his speculations. Moreover, I began
to contemplate as I was in this posture the vast
magnitude of the universe and what proportion this
poor globe of earth might bear with it, for if those
numberless bodies which stick in the vast roof of
heaven, though they appear to us but as spangles, be
some of them thousands of times bigger than the
earth — take the sea with it to boot, for they both
make but one sphere, surely the astronomers had
reason to term this sphere an indivisible point and a
thing of no dimension at all being compared to the
whole world. I fell then to think that at the
second general destruction, it is no more for God
Almighty to fire this earth than for us to blow up a
small squib or rather one small grain of gunpowder.
As I was musing thus, I spied a swarm of gnats
waving up and down the air about me which I
knew to be part of the universe as well as I ; and
methought it was a strange opinion of our Aristotle
to hold that the least of those small infected ephe-
merans should be more noble than the sun, because
it had a sensitive soul in it. I fell to think that the
same proportion which those animalillios bore with
me in point of bigness, the same I held with those
glorious spirits which are near the Throne of the
Almighty, what then should we think of the magni-
tude of the Creator Himself: doubtless it is beyond
the reach of any human imagination to conceive it.
In my private devotions I presume to compare Him
to a great mountain of light, and my soul seems to
discern some glorious form therein, but suddenly as


Medita- she would fix her eyes upon the object, her sight is
tions presently dazzled and disgregated with the reful-
auring a gg^^^y ^^^j coruscations thereof.

Walk Walking a little farther I espied a young boisterous
bull breaking over hedge and ditch to a herd of
kine in the next pasture, which made me think that
if that fierce strong animal with others of that kind
knew their own strength, they would never suffer
man to be their master. Then looking upon them
quietly grazing up and down, I fell to consider that
the flesh which is daily dished upon our tables is but
concocted grass, which is recarnified in our stomachs
and transmuted to another flesh. I fell also to
think what advantage those innocent animals had of
man, which, as soon as nature calfs them into the
world, find their meat dressed, the cloth laid, and
the table covered ; they find their drink brewed and
the buttery open, their beds made and their clothes
ready ; and though man hath the faculty of reason
to make him a compensation for the want of these
advantages, yet this reason brings with it a thousand
perturbations of mind and perplexities of spirit,
griping cares and anguishes of thought, which those
harmless silly creatures were exempted from.
Going on, I came to repose myself upon the trunk
of a tree, and I fell to consider further what
advantage that dull vegetable had of those feeding
animals, as not to be so troublesome and beholding
to nature, nor to be so subject to starving, to
diseases, to the inclemency of the weather, and to
be far longer lived. I then espied a great stone, and
sitting a while upon it, I fell to weigh in my thoughts
that that stone was in a happier condition in some
respects than either those sensitive creatures or
vegetables I saw before, in regard that that stone,


which propagates by assimilation, as the philosophers Over-
say, needed neither grass nor hay, or any aliment study^

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Online LibraryJames HowellFamiliar letters; or Epistolae Ho-Elianae (Volume 2) → online text (page 12 of 18)