Page:Studies of a Biographer 3.djvu/70

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58
STUDIES OF A BIOGRAPHER

Gloucester. Many years afterwards, Morton, then Bishop of Durham, reported to Walton a conversation with Donne. Morton proposed upon his preferment to resign to another benefice, in order that Donne might take orders and succeed to it. Donne refused upon the ground that according to the casuists a man ought not to take orders unless the glory of God were his first end. Though he had repented of certain 'irregularities,' men would remember them, and think that he was really moved by the desire for an income. Mr. Gosse remarks that the account is 'far too circumstantial not to be in the main correct,' and inclines to think that Morton spoke from notes taken at the time. I confess that I cannot quite follow this. The more 'circumstantial' an old gentleman of seventy-six (at least) is about events a third of a century old, the less I believe in his exactness, and, when his statement is transmitted through a third person, given to edifying embroidery, the evidence becomes exceedingly shadowy.[1] Yet Mr. Gosse, accepting the state-

  1. Morton was ninety-four when Walton published this story, but, as Mr. Beeching points out, it may have been told eighteen years earlier. The whole speech appears to me to be as obviously a bit of literary composition as one of the speeches in a classical historian. It represents a general impression.