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The Glory Of English Prose
Jeremy Taylor
by Coleridge, Stephen


My Dear Antony,

Milton, of whom I wrote in my last letter, was five years older than Jeremy Taylor, of whom I am going to write to-day. The latter's writings differ very much from Milton's, although they were contemporaries for the whole of the former's life.

From the grave and august periods of Milton to the sweet beauty of Jeremy Taylor is as the passing from out the austere halls of Justice to lovely fields full of flowers.

Your and my great kinsman, Coleridge, pronounced Jeremy Taylor to be the most eloquent of all divines; and Coleridge was a great critic.

Indeed, there seems to dwell permanently in Jeremy Taylor's mind a compelling sweetness and serenity.

His parables, though sometimes perhaps almost of set purpose fanciful, are always full of beauty.

How can anyone withhold sympathy and affection from the writer of such a passage as this:—
"But as, when the sun approaches towards the gates of the morning, he first opens a little eye of heaven, and sends away the spirits of darkness, and gives light to a cock, and calls up the lark to matins, and by and by gilds the fringes of a cloud, and peeps over the eastern hills, thrusting out his golden horns, like those which decked the brows of Moses when he was forced to wear a veil because himself had seen the face of God; and still, while a man tells the story, the sun gets up higher, till he shows a fair face and a full light, and then he shines one whole day, under a cloud often, and sometimes weeping great and little showers, and sets quickly, so is a man's reason and his life."
Again:—
"No man can tell but he that loves his children, how many delicious accents make a man's heart dance in the pretty conversation of those dear pledges; their childishness, their stammering, their little angers, their innocence, their imperfections, their necessities, are so many little emanations of joy and comfort to him that delights in their persons and society; but he that loves not his wife and children, feeds a lioness at home, and broods a nest of sorrows; and blessing itself cannot make him happy; so that all the commandments of God enjoining a man to 'love his wife' are nothing but so many necessities and capacities of joy. 'She that is loved, is safe; and he that loves, is joyful,' Love is a union of all things excellent; it contains in it proportion and satisfaction, and rest and confidence."
Again:—
"So have I seen a lark rising from his bed of grass, and soaring upwards, singing as he rises, and hopes to get to heaven, and climb above the clouds; but the poor bird was beaten back with the loud sighings of an eastern wind, and his motion made irregular and inconstant, descending more at every breath of the tempest, than it could recover by the liberation and frequent weighing of his wings; till the little creature was forced to sit down and pant, and stay till the storm was over; and then it made a prosperous flight, and did rise and sing, as if it had learned music and motion from an angel, as he passed sometimes through the air, about his ministries here below; so is the prayer of a good man."
Again:—
"I am fallen into the hands of publicans and sequestrators, and they have taken all from me; what now? Let me look about me. They have left me the sun and moon, fire and water, a loving wife, and many friends to pity me, and some to relieve me, and I can still discourse; and unless I list, they have not taken away my merry countenance and my cheerful spirit, and a good conscience; they still have left me the Providence of God, and all the promises of the Gospel, and my religion, and my hopes of heaven, and my charity to them too; and still I sleep and digest, I eat and drink, I read and meditate; I can walk in my neighbor's pleasant fields, and see the varieties of natural beauties, and delight in all that in which God delights, that is, in virtue and wisdom, in the whole creation, and in God Himself."
Here, Antony, is true wisdom. True, indeed, is it that no one can take away from you your merry countenance, your cheerful spirit, and your good conscience unless you choose; keep all three, Antony, throughout your life, and you will be happy yourself and make everyone about you happy, and that is to make a little heaven of your earthly home.

Your loving old
G.P.

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