Tag Archives: John Donne

On losing a child

Tender words and comfort from John Donne. Written to his sister in 1629 after the death of her son.

We do but borrow our children of God, to lend them to the world. And when I lend the world a daughter in marriage, or lend the world a son in profession, the world does not always pay me well again: my hopes are not always answered in that daughter or that son.  But of all that I lend to, the grave is my best paymaster. The grave shall restore me my child where he and I shall have but one Father, and pay me my earth when that earth shall be amber, a sweet perfume, in the nostrils of his and my Saviour.



If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter

The above heading is a famous quotation from Blaise Pascal. It is regularly invoked as an appeal to write better, not longer. This well-written page looks at the origin of this quotation, and similar statements over the years.

The attribution to Pascal dates to 1657.

I recently came across a very similar statement by John Donne.

Sir, you are used to my hand and, I think, have leisure to spend some time picking out sense in rags; else I had written less, and in longer time.

This is from a letter to Sir Henry Goodyer, in October 1622. (Source.)

I don’t know how or when this letter became public, so do not claim Donne influenced Pascal. But it’s interesting that Donne was earlier.