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respects, I should requite it with such scorn and calumny as this libellous pamphlet seems to insinuate.
Sir, my conceit of it is, that in this time of too much liberty (if not licentiousness) of the press, many balladmakers and necessitous persons (it may be, set on work by some printers themselves, to promote their trade) distil their barren brains to make provision for their empty bellies, by publishing such novelties and fictions as they think will vent best; and, when they have spent their own little wit, borrow of others to eke it out; and so, enterlacing some shreds of their own, they patch up a penny pamphlet, to serve for their morning draught.
Of this strain I take this book to be. The ground whereof (you doubt, but I doubt not) was the letter I writ to sir Thomas Hetley many years since, upon his request that in my passage from him to my lord Montague's, being by your house, I would see and certify what I could in so short a stay, touching the various reports divulged in most places of your religious rites and ceremonies.
To which my true relation (which I am sorry and marvel how it should light in such hucksters' hands) the pamphleteer, by his additions and subtractions, interweaving truth with falsehood to purchase some credit to his untruths, hath drawn conclusions and accusations of Arminianism and other fopperies, not once mentioned in my letter ; but, as wisely as that atheist, who, to prove there was no God, vouched one end of a verse where David in his psalms1 saith, There is no God; and left out the beginning of the verse, That the fool hath said it in his heart.
By this time, sir, I hope you see I am so far from being the author, infuser, abetter or countenancer of this fable, that, by it I take myself to be as much abused, and that there is as much aspersion cast upon me as upon your family, by a sly and cunning intimation (my letter being his groundwork) to make me thought (by such as know me not well) to be the author and divulger of his lies and scandals, which (by God's mercy) my soul abhors.
1 xiv. I.
Had he shewed his dislike of some of the ceremonies, &c. (as I myself did, by way of argument) I should not (nor, I think, you) so much have kindled at it. But so to add to, subtract, pervert, and falsify my letter ;-I think the author (if haply he may be found out) deserves to be censured as a counterfeiter of false letters and tokens, and as a contriver and publisher of false news, according to the law of the land and the statutes in like case provided.
His ignorance (which yet excuseth not a toto, if a tanto) I think will be his best plea. For, it should seem, he is no great clerk. Which I observe even almost at the beginning of his story, where he tells a tale as of a third person, and in the same clause, within two or three lines after, ineptly changeth it into the first person, without any apt transition. A solecism which a mean scholar would hardly have fallen into.
To have put the true copy of my letter in print, without my privity, had been a great inhumanity. But to pervert it with so many falsifications, and laying his inhumanities on me, I think, none but a licentious libeller, or a beggarly balladmaker, would have offered.
I was so conscious to myself of intending no wrong to your family in my relation, that I thought to have sent your brother [N. F.] a copy thereof; and had done it, if want of opportunity in his lifetime, and his death afterwards, had not prevented me. And I would now send you a true copy thereof, if you had not wrote to me, that you
had it presently after my writing it. And sith I have been at your house long since (for it is about seven years past, as I take it, that I writ the relation) I presume you would have expostulated the matter with me, if you had taken any just exception or distaste at it. But therein you might well perceive, that I endeavoured not to detract any thing from you, or to conceal even the civility or humility I found, or what I had heard or believed of your works of charity.
Thus, sir, even the very same day I received your's (for there needs no long time to answer a matter of fact with matter of truth; and being full of indignation to be thus traduced, whereof I longed instantly to discharge myself) I scribbled over this candid and ingenuous answer. And I am now troubled that you gave me no direction for the address thereof to you ; which, when haply you shall receive, I leave to your own discretion, to make what use thereof you please ; presuming that you will therein have the like respects to me which herein I have had to you. So leaving us to the guidance of our good God, I subscribe, as you to me, your friend and servant,
friend John Ferrar, esq. at his house
The copy of my letter to sir Thomas Hetley, kt. and ser
jeant at law, upon his request to certify as I found. “Good Mr. Serjeant?.
I can give you but a short account of my not two hours stay at the reputed (at least reported) nunnery at Gidding; and yet must leave out three parts of our passages, as fitter for a relation than a letter,
I came thither after ten; and found a fair house, fairly seated;
to which I passed through a fine grove and sweet walks, letticed and gardened on both sides.
Their livelihood £500 per annum, as my lord Montague told me; one of his mansion houses being within two or three miles of them.
3 At Coppingford ?
A man-servant brought me into a fair spacious parlour. Whither, soon after, came to me the old gentlewoman's second son [Nicholas Ferrar;] a bachelor, of a plain presence, but of able speech and parts. Who, after I had (as well as in such case I could) deprecated any ill conceit of me, for so unusual and bold a visit, entertained me very civilly and with much humility. Yet said, I was the first who ever came to them in that kind; though not the first whom they had heard of, who determined to come. After deprecations and some compliments, he said, I should see his mother, if I pleased. I shewing my desire, he went up into a chamber, and presently returned with these ; namely, his mother, a tall, straight, clear-complexioned, grave matron, of eighty years of age: his elder brother, married (but whether a widower, I asked not), a short, black-complexioned man: his apparel and hair so fashioned as made him shew priestlike: and his sister, married to one Mr. Collett, by whom she hath 14 or 15 children: all which are in the house (which I saw not yet). And of these, and two or three maid-servants, the family consists.
I saluted the mother and daughter, not like nuns, but as we use to salute other women. And (after we were all seated circular-wise, and my deprecations renewed to the other three?) I desired that, to their favour of entertaining me, they would add the giving of me a free liberty to speak ingenuously what I conceived of any thing I should see or have heard of, without any distaste to them.
Which being granted ; I first told them, what I had heard of the nuns of Gidding ; of two, watching and praying all night, of their canonical hours, of their crosses on the outside and inside of their chapel, of an altar there, richly decked with plate, tapestry, and tapers, of their adorations and
1 Mr. John Ferrar, Mr. Nicholas Ferrar, and Mr. John Collet.
geniculations at their entering therein. Which, I objected, might savour of superstition and popery.
Here the younger son, the mouth for them all, cut me off ; and, to this last answered first with a protestation, that he did as verily believe the pope to be antichrist as any article of his faith. Wherewith I was satisfied and silenced, touching that point.
For the nunnery; he said, That the name of nuns was odious. But the truth (from whence that untrue report might arise) was, that two of his nieces had lived, one, thirty, the other, thirty-two years, virgins; and so resolved to continue (as he hoped they would) the better to give themselves to fasting and prayer : but had made no vows.
For the canonical hours, he said, they usually prayed six times a day. As I remember, twice a day publicly in the chapel ; and four times more privately in the house. In the chapel, after the order of the book of common-prayer : in their house, particular prayers for a private family.
I said, if they spent so much time in praying, they would leave little for preaching or for their weekly callings. For the one I vouched the text, He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination? For the other, Six days shalt thou labour, &c.
To the one he answered, that a neighbour minister of another parish came on Sunday-mornings, and preached ; and sometimes they went to his parish. To the other, that their calling was to serve God; which he took to be the best.
I replied, that, for men in health and of active bodies and parts, it were a tempting of God to quit our callings, and wholly to betake ourselves to fasting, prayer, and a contemplative life, which by some is thought little better than a serious kind of idleness ; not to term it (as St. Austin terms moral virtues without Christ) splendida peccata.
1 Prov. xxviii. 9.
2 I have not met with these words in Augustine ; but the thought often recurs ; e.g. Contra Julianum, iv. § 18 seq.