To Sir John Danvers, 18 March 1617
[Text from The Works of George Herbert, ed. F. E. Hutchinson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1941), pp. 364-65.]
I dare no longer be silent, least while I think I am modest, I wrong both my self, and also the confidence my Friends have in me; wherefore I will open my case unto you, which I think deserves the reading at the least; and it is this, I want Books extremely; You know Sir, how I am now setting foot in Divinity, to lay the platform of my future life, and shall I then be fain alwayes to borrow Books, and build on anothers foundation? What Trades-man is there who will set up without his Tools? Pardon my boldness Sir, it is a most serious Case, nor can I write coldly in that, wherein consisteth the making good of my former education, of obeying that Spirit which hath guided me hitherto, and of atchieving my (I dare say) holy ends. This also is aggravated, in that I apprehend what my Friends would have been forward to say, if I had taken ill courses, Follow your Book, and you shall want nothing: You know Sir, it is their ordinary speech, and now let them make it good; for, since, I hope, I have not deceived their expectation, let not them deceive mine: But perhaps they will say, you are sickly, you must not study too hard; it is true (God knows) I am weak, yet not so, but that every day, I may step one step towards my journies end; and I love my friends so well, as that if all things proved not well, I had rather the fault should lie on me, than on them; but they will object again, What becomes of your Annuity? Sir, if there be any truth in me, I find it little enough to keep me in health. You know I was sick last Vacation, neither am I yet recovered, so that I am fain ever and anon, to buy somewhat tending towards my health; for infirmities are both painful and costly. Now this Lent I am forbid utterly to eat any Fish, so that I am fain to dyet in my Chamber at mine own cost; for in our publick Halls, you know, is nothing but Fish and Whit-meats: Out of Lent also, twice a Week, on Fridayes and Saturdayes, I must do so, which yet sometimes I fast. Sometimes also I ride to Newmarket, and there lie a day or two for fresh Air; all which tend to avoiding of costlier matters, if I should fall absolutely sick: I protest and vow, I even study Thrift, and yet I am scarce able with much ado to make one half years allowance, shake hands with the other: And yet if a Book of four or five Shillings come in my way, I buy it, though I fast for it; yea, sometimes of Ten Shillings: But, alas Sir, what is that to those infinite Volumes of Divinity, which yet every day swell, and grow bigger. Noble Sir, pardon my boldness, and consider but these three things. First, the Bulk of Divinity. Secondly, the time when I desire this (which is now, when I must lay the foundation of my whole life). Thirdly, what I desire, and to what end, not vain pleasures, nor to a vain end. If then, Sir, there be any course, either by engaging my future Annuity, or any other way, I desire you, Sir, to be my Mediator to them in my behalf.
Now I write to you, Sir, because to you I have ever opened my heart; and have reason, by the Patents of your perpetual favour to do so still, for I am sure you love
Your faithfullest Servant,