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by some previous meditations, and to take the whole service along with me; nor do I love to mingle speech with any in the interim about news or worldly negotiations in God's holy house. I prostrate myself in the humblest and decentest way of genuflection I can imagine; nor do I believe there can be any excess of exterior humility in that place; therefore, I do not like those squatting unseemly bold postures upon one's tail, or muffling the face in the hat, or thrusting it in some hole, or covering it with one's hand; but with bended knee, and in open confident face, I fix my eyes on the east part of the church and heaven. I endeavour to apply every tittle of the service to my own conscience and occasions; and I believe the want of this, with the huddling up and careless reading of some ministers, with the commonness of it, is the greatest cause that many do undervalue and take a surfeit of our public service.
For the reading and singing psalms, whereas most of them are either petitions or Eucharistical ejaculations, I listen to them more attentively and make them my own. When I stand at the Creed, I think upon the custom they have in Poland and elsewhere, for gentlemen to draw their swords all the while, intimating thereby that they will defend it with their lives and blood. And for the Decalogue, whereas others use to rise and sit, I ever kneel at it in the humblest and trembling'st posture of all, to crave remission for the breaches passed of any of God's holy commandments, (especially the week before) and future grace to observe them.
I love a holy devout sermon, that first checks, and then cheers the conscience, that begins with the law and ends with the gospel: but I never prejudicate or censure any preacher, taking him as I find him.
And now that we are not only adulted but ancient Christians, I believe the most acceptable sacrifice we can send up to Heaven is prayer and praise; and that sermons are not so essential as either of them to the true practice of devotion. The rest of the holy Sabbath I sequester my body and mind as much as I can from worldly affairs.
Upon Monday morn, as soon as the Cinque-Ports are open, I have a particular prayer of thanks, that I am reprieved to the beginning of that week; and every day following I knock thrice at Heaven's gate, in the morning, in the evening, and at night; besides prayers at meals and some other occasional ejaculations, as upon the putting on a clean shirt, washing my hands, and at lighting of candles; which, because they are sudden, I do in the third person. Tuesday morning I rise winter and summer as soon as I awake, and send up a more particular sacrifice for some reasons; and as I am disposed, or have business, I go to bed again. Upon Wednesday night I always fast and perform also some extraordinary acts of devotion, as also upon Friday night; and Saturday morning, as soon as my senses are unlocked, I get up. And in the summer time, I am oftentimes abroad in some private field, to attend the sun-rising: and as I pray thrice every day, so I fast thrice every week; at least I eat but one meal upon Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, in regard I am jealous with myself to have more infirmities to answer for than others.
Before I go to bed, I make a scrutiny what peccant humors have reigned in me that day; and so I reconcile myself to my Creator, and strike a tally in the Exchequer of Heaven for my quietus est, ere I close my eyes, and leave no burden upon my conscience. Before I presume to take the holy sacrament, I use some extraordinary acts of humiliation to prepare myself some days before, and by doing some deeds of charity; and commonly I compose some new prayers, and divers of them written in my own blood. I use not to rush rashly into prayer, without a trembling precedent meditation; and if any odd thoughts intervene and grow upon me, I check myself, and re-commence: and this is incident to long prayers, which are more subject to man's weakness and the Devil's malice. I thank God I have this fruit of my foreign travels, that I can pray to him every day in the week in several languages, and upon Sunday in seven, which, in oraisons of my own, I punctually perform in my private post-meridian devotions.
Et sic æternam contendo attingere vitam.
By these steps I strive to climb up to Heaven, and my soul prompts me I shall go thither; for there is no object in the world delights me more than to cast up my eyes that way, especially in a star-light night; and if my mind be overcast with any odd clouds of melancholy, when I look up and behold that glorious fabric, which I hope shall be my country hereafter, there are new spirits begot in me presently, which make me scorn the world and the pleasures thereof, considering the vanity of the one and the inanity of the other.
Thus my soul still moves eastward, as all the heavenly bodies do; but I must tell you, as those bodies are overmastered and snatched away to the west, raptu primi mobilis, by the general motion of the tenth sphere, so by those epidemical infirmities which are incident to man, I am often snatched away a clean contrary course, yet my soul persists still in her own proper motion. I am often at variance and angry with myself (nor do I hold this anger to be any breach of charity) when I consider, that whereas my Creator intended this body of mine, though a lump of clay, to be a temple of his Holy Spirit, my affections should turn it often to a brothel-house, my passions to a bedlam, and my excesses to a hospital. Being of a lay profession, I humbly conform to the constitutions of the church and my spiritual superiors; and I hold this obedience to be an acceptable sacrifice to God.
Difference in opinion may work a disaffection in me, but not a detestation; I rather pity than hate a Turk and Infidel, for they are of the same metal and bear the same stamp as I do, though the inscriptions differ: if I hate any, it is those schismatics that puzzle the sweet peace of our church, so that I could be content to see an Anabaptist go to hell on a Brownist's back.
Noble knight, now that I have thus eviscerated myself and dealt so clearly with you, I desire, by way of correspondence, that you would tell me what way you take in your journey to Heaven: for if my breast lie so open to you, it is not fitting yours should be shut up to me; therefore, I pray let me hear from you when it may stand with your
convenience. So I wish you your heart's desire here and Heaven hereafter, because I am,
In no vulgar way of friendship,
Lond. 25 July, 1635.
Amongst the various personages incidentally introduced to our acquaintance, is Ben Jonson, of whom there are occasional notices, which only make us wish for more. Howell seems to have been upon terms of great intimacy with the venerable laureate, whom he addresses as his "Honoured friend and father."
A supper scene is thus described in a letter to Sir Thomas Hawk.
"I was invited yesternight to a solemn supper by B. J., where you were deeply remembered; there was good company, excellent cheer, choice wines, and jovial welcome: one thing intervened which almost spoiled the relish of the rest, that B. began to engross all the discourse, to vapour extremely of himself, and by vilifying others to magnify his own muse. T. Ca: buzzed me in the ear, that though Ben had barrelled up a great deal of knowledge, yet it seems he had not read the ethics, which, among other precepts of morality, forbid self commendation, declaring it to be an ill-favored solecism in good manners. For my part I am content to dispense with this Roman infirmity of B., now that time hath snowed upon his pericranium. You know Ovid and Horace were subject to this humour; the one bursting out into
Jamque opus exegi, quod nec Jovis ira, nec ignis, &c.
Exegi monumentum ære perennius."
Ben Jonson, it seems, had written a severe satire upon Inigo Jones, which had given offence at court, upon which occasion Howell thus writes to him.
The fangs of a bear and the tusks of a wild boar do not bite worse and make deeper gashes than a goose quill sometimes; no, not the badger himself, who is said to be so tenacious of his bite, that he will not give over his hold till he feels his teeth meet and the bone crack. Your quill hath proved so to Mr. Jones; but the pen, with which you have so gashed him, it seems, was made rather of a porcupine than a goose-quill, it is so keen and firm. You know
—Anser, apis, vitulus, populos et regna gubernant—
The goose, the bee, and the calf, (meaning wax, parchment, and pen,) rule the world; but of the three, the pen is the most predominant. I know you have a commanding one, but you must not let it tyrranise in
that manner as you have done lately. Some give out there was a hair in it, or that your ink was too thick with gall, else it would not have so bespattered and shaken the reputation of a royal architect; for reputation, you know, is like a fair structure, long time a rearing, but quickly ruined. If your spirit will not let you retract, you shall do well to repress any more copies of the satire; for, to deal plainly with you, you have lost some ground at court by it, and, as I hear from a good hand, the king, who hath so great a judgement in poetry, (as in all other things else) is not well pleased therewith.
Dispense with this freedom of
Your respectful Son and Servitor,
Westminster, July, 1635.
It does not appear that Howell took any decided part in the political divisions of the time. He was elected to serve in parliament, for the borough of Richmond, in the year 1627; but though his connections led him to lean to the side of the King, and though he served under Strafford in Ireland, and was, after Strafford's death, appointed Clerk of the Council, it does not appear that he was at all an ultra royalist. In 1643 he writes, "I was lately come to London upon some occasions of my own, and I had been divers times in Westminster Hall, when I conversed with many parliament men of my acquaintance; but one morning betimes there rushed into my chamber five men, armed with swords, pistols, and bills, and told me, they had a warrant from the parliament for me: I desired to see their warrant, they denied it: I desired to see the date of it, they denied it: I desired to see my name in the warrant, they denied all. At last one of them pulled a greasy paper out of his pocket and shewed me three or four names subscribed and no more." He was carried to the Fleet, where he remained till after the King's death; and it was here that he was obliged to have recourse to his pen as a means of support, and in the course of a few years he wrote and translated a variety of works. He does not seem to have much liked the latter of these occupations.
"I must confess my genius hath often prompted me that I never was cut out for a translator, there being a kind of servility therein: for it must needs be somewhat tedious to one that hath any free born thoughts within him, and genuine conceptions of his own, (whereof I have some, though shallow ones) to enchain himself to a verbal servitude, and the sense of another. Moreover, translations are but as turncoated things at best, especially among languages that have advantages one of the other, as the Italian hath of the English, which may be said to differ one from the other as silk doth from cloth; the common wear of both.countries where they are spoken. And as cloth is the more substantial, so the English tongue, by reason 'tis so knotted
with consonants, is the stronger and more sinewy of the two. But silk is more smooth and slick, and so is the Italian tongue compared to the English: or, I may say, translations are like the wrong side of a Turkey carpet, which useth to be full of thrums and knots, and nothing so even as the right side: or, one may say, (as I spake elsewhere) that translations are like wines taken off the lees and poured into other vessels, that must lose somewhat of their first strength and briskness, which, in the pouring, or passage rather, evaporates into air.
Moreover, touching transactions, it is to be observed, that every language hath certain idioms, proverbs, and peculiar expressions of its own, which are not rendible any other way but paraphrastically; therefore he overacts the office of an interpreter who doth enslave himself too strictly to words and phrases. I have heard of an excess among limners, called too much of the life, which happens when one aims at similitude more than skill: so in version of languages, one may be so overpunctual in words that he may mar the matter."
Though Howell was not an ultra royalist, yet he was too much a man of sense not to be disgusted with the outrageous pitch of extravagance to which the opposite party carried their principles.
"Who would have thought poor England had been brought to this pass ? Could it ever have entered into the imagination of man, that the scheme and whole frame of so ancient and well moulded a government should be so suddenly struck off the hinges, quite out of joint, and tumbled into such horrid confusion? Who would have held it possible, that to fly from Babylon we should fall into such a Babel? That to avoid superstition some people should be brought to belch out such a horrid profaneness, as to call the temples of God the tabernacles of Satan; the Lord's supper a twopenny ordinary; to make the communion-table a manger, and the font a trough to water their horses in; to term the white decent robe of the presbyter the whore's smock; the pipes through which nothing came but anthems and holy hymns the devil's bagpipes; the Liturgy of the church, though extracted most of it out of the sacred text, called by some another kind of Alcoran, by others raw porridge, by some, a piece forged in hell? Who would have thought to have seen in England the churches shut and the shops open on Christmas day? Who would have dreamt ten years since, when Archbishop Laud did ride in state through London street, accompanying my Lord of London to be sworn Lord High Treasurer of England, that the mitre should have now come to such a scorn, to such a national kind of hatred, as to put the whole island into a combustion? Which makes me call to memory a saying of the Earl of Kildare, in Ireland, in the reign of Henry the Eighth; which earl, having a deadly feud with the Bishop of Cassilis, burnt a church belonging to that diocese; and being asked, upon his examination before the Lord Deputy, at the Castle of Dublin, why he had committed such a horrid sacrilege as to burn God's church, he answered, I had never burnt the church, unless I had thought the bishop had been in't.