The Life of Mr. George Herbert, Prebendary of Salisbury Cathedral, by Izaac Walton

Introduction to the Life of George Herbert.

[A box of ointment]

In a late retreat from the business of this world, and those many little cares with which I have too often cumbered myself, I fell into a contemplation of some of those historical passages that are recorded in Sacred Story: and more particularly of what had passed betwixt our blessed Saviour and that wonder of Women, and Sinners, and Mourners, St. Mary Magdalen. I call her Saint, because I did not then, nor do now consider her, as when she was possessed with seven devils; not as when her wanton eyes and dishevelled hair were designed and managed to charm and ensnare amorous beholders. But I did then, and do now consider her, as after she had expressed a visible and sacred sorrow for her sensualities; as after those eyes had wept such a flood of penitential tears as did wash, and that hair had wiped, and she most passionately kissed the feet of her’s and our blessed Jesus. And I do now consider, that because she loved much, not only much was forgiven her: but that beside that blessed blessing of having her sins pardoned, and the joy of knowing her happy condition, she also had from him a testimony, that her alabaster box of precious ointment poured on his head and feet, and that spikenard, and those spices that were by her dedicated to embalm and preserve his sacred body from putrefaction, should so far preserve her own memory, that these demonstrations of her sanctified love, and of her officious and generous gratitude, should be recorded and mentioned wheresoever his Gospel should be read; intending thereby, that as his, so her name, should also live to succeeding generations, even till time itself shall be no more.

[Reasons for this Life]

Upon occasion of which fair example, I did lately look back, and not without some content — at least to myself — that I have endeavoured to deserve the love, and preserve the memory, of my two deceased friends, Dr. Donne, and Sir Henry Wotton, by declaring the several employments and various accidents of their lives. And though Mr. George Herbert — whose Life I now intend to write — were to me a stranger as to his person, for I have only seen him; yet since he was, and was worthy to be, their friend, and very many of his have been mine, I judge it may not be unacceptable to those that knew any of them in their lives, or do now know them by mine, or their own writings, to see this conjunction of them after their deaths; without which, many things that concerned them, and some things that concerned the age in which they lived, would be less perfect, and lost to posterity.

For these reasons I have undertaken it; and if I have prevented any abler person, I beg pardon of him and my Reader.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01