This handwritten volume, known as the Newcastle Manuscript, is an anthology of verse and prose made for Sir William Cavendish (1592–1676), the first Duke of Newcastle. It includes 98 poems by John Donne and masques and poems by Ben Jonson. There are also 85 poems by a physician named Dr Richard Andrews, who was an acquaintance of both writers.
Although print was introduced into England in 1475, many writers still circulated their works as manuscripts in the 16th and 17th centuries. Rather than reproducing their texts for the anonymous masses, they preferred to present them to select groups of noble friends and potential patrons. These were then shared and hand-copied by other readers and scribes in private collections like this one.
John Donne in manuscript
John Donne was famously wary of print, publishing just a few works in his lifetime. But his poems were copied out by hand more than any other writer of his day. In a Latin verse addressed to Dr Andrews, Donne argued that ‘what is written out by hand is in greater reverence’ than print.
With this in mind, it is perhaps surprising that Donne’s racy ‘Elegy: To his Mistress Going to Bed’ was included in these elite manuscripts, but banned from the first print editions.
The manuscript poems digitised here include ‘Elegy:To his Mistress Going to Bed’ (ff. 95v–96r), ‘The Apparition’ (f. 112r), ‘A Valediction Forbidding Mourning’ (ff. 112v–13r), ‘The Good Morrow’ (f. 113r–v), ‘Song: Go and catch a falling star’ (f. 113v), ‘The Flea’ (f. 124r–v) and Holy Sonnets including ‘Death be not proud’ (f. 140v).
As the poems were transcribed, subtle changes crept in. For example, in this copy of ‘To His Mistress Going to Bed’, line 17 reads ‘Of with those shooes, and then softly [not ‘safely’] tred’.
Ben Jonson and Cavendish
Sir William Cavendish was a friend and patron of Ben Jonson. However, their relationship was more complex than the typical early modern association of sponsor and artist. Cavendish was an aspiring writer, and Jonson instructed and mentored him. Throughout his long life Cavendish wrote, published and produced numerous poems and plays, including elegies for Jonson after his death. Critics often compare Cavendish’s writing style to Jonson’s, and he has been associated with the Sons, or Tribe, of Ben (a group of Jonson’s followers).
Totalling 208 leaves, the inclusion of so many of Jonson’s poems and masques in the Newcastle Manuscript demonstrates Cavendish’s interest in his career and creative methods.
Digitised here is ‘My picture left in Scotland’ (f. 47v) which is based on a poem that Jonson sent to William Drummond of Hawthornden after staying with him in Scotland. In the poem Jonson provides a candid, yet comic description of his physical appearance: ‘My numbers of graye hayres’, ‘My Mountayne Belly, & my Rockey face’. The ‘Epitaph on Katherine, Lady Ogel’ (f. 55r) was written to commemorate the death of Cavendish’s mother, Lady Ogel. The pencil designs surrounding the poem are a rough sketch of a design for her memorial tablet.
 The Latin verse is not part of this manuscript, but it appears in the 1635 edition of Donne’s Poems, p. 278. The English translation is by W Garrod in ‘The Latin Poem Addressed by Donne to Dr. Andrews’, The Review of English Studies, 21(81) (Jan. 1045), pp. 38–42. There is some debate over whether this Dr Andrews is the same one whose poems appear in the Newcastle Manuscript.
I nowe thinke love is rather deafe then blynde
or els it could not bee
Whom I adore so much should so sleight mee
shoulde slight mee
And cast my suite behinde
I’me sure my Languidge to her is as sweete
And all my closes meete
In numbers of as suttle feete
As makes the yongest hee
Thatt sits in shadowe of Appolloes tree
O but my consci^ous feares that flye, my thoughts betweene
my prompt mee, Ix ^ that shee hath seene
My numbers of graye hayres
Tould six and forty yeares
Read so much = wast, as shee cannot embrace
My Mountayne Belly, & my Rockey face
And all these through her eye have stopt her eares
To Mr Ben: Johnson in his Jorney
by Mr Craven
When wise, and learninge are so hardly sett
That from their needfull meanes they must be bard
unless by going harde they mayntnance gett
Well maye Ben: Johnson say the world goes hard
This was Mr Ben: Johnsons Answer of
It may Ben Johnson slander so his feete
For when the profitt with the payne doth meete
Although the gate were hard the gayne is sweete.
Ben: Jonson: ~
O Ζέυς κατείδε χρουιος έις τάς διφθεράς:
‘Tis a Record in heaven, you that were
Her Children, and Grand=children, reed it heere!
Transmitt it to your Nephewes, Freinds, Allies,
Tenants, and Servants, have they harts, and eyes
To veiw the truth and owne it, doe but looke
with pause upon it; make this page your booke:
Your booke? your Volume! Nay, the state, and story!
Code, Digests, Pandects of all fæmale glory!
Diphthera Louis :~
Shee was the light (w[i]th out reflexe
upon herselfe) to all her sexe!
The best of Woemen! her whole life
was the example of a wife!
Or of a parent! or a freind!
All Circles had their spring and end
In her! and what could perfect bee,
Or w[i]thout angles, it was shee!
All that was solid, in the name
Of vertue, pretious in the frame:
Or else Magnetique in the force,
Or sweet, or various, in the course!
What was proportion, or could bee
By warrant call’d iust Symetry,
In number, measure, or degree
Of weight, or fashion, it was shee.
Her soule possest her fleshes state
In faire freehould, not an Inmate:
And when the flesh, here, shut up day,
Fames heate upon the grave did stay;
And howrely brooding ore the same,
Keeps warme the spice of her good name,
untill the dust retorned bee
Into a Phœnix, which xx is shee ./
For this did Katherine, Ladie Ogle, die
To gaine the Crowne of im[m]ortalitye,
Ӕternities great charter; which became
Her right, by gift, and purchase of the Lambe:
Seal’d and deliver’d to her, in the sight
Of Angells, and all witnesses of Light,
Both Saints, and Martyrs, by her Loved Lord
And this a coppie is of the Record ./
Dr. Andrewes :~
[18 lines of script deleted and unreadable]
Though Ister have put downe the Rhene,
And from his chanel thrust him cleane:
Though Prage againe repayre her losses,
And Idol-berge doth set up crosses.
yet wee a change shall shortlye feele,
When English Smiths worke Spanish steele.
Then Tage a Nimphe shall send xx Thames,
The Eagle then shall be in flames.
Then Rhene shall reigne, and Boёme burne
And Neccar shall to Nectar turne ./
The Mother in the Hungry Grave doth lay,
unto the fire these Martyres I betraye
Good soules, for you give life to everye thinge
Good Angells, for good Messages you bringe
Destin’d you might have bin to such a One,
As would have lov’d, and worshipt you alone.
One which would suffer hungar, nakednesse,
yea death, ere he would make your Number lesse.
But I am guilty of your sad decay.
May your few fellowes longer with me stay.
But oh thou wretched finder, whom I hate
So much, that I almost pittye thy state.
Gold being the heavyest mettall amongst all,
May my most heavye Curse upon thee fall;
Here fetterd, manacl’d, and hang’d in chaynes
First mayst thou bee, then chayn’d in hellish paynes
Or bee x with forraine gold, brib’d to betraye
Thy Country, and fayle both of that, and thy pay.
May the next thinge, thou stoopst to reach, contayne
Poyson, whose nimble fume rose the moyst brayne.
Or libells, or some interdicted thinge
Which negligentlye kept, thy ruine bringe.
Lust breed diseases rott Thee, and dwell with thee
Itchye desire, And no Abilitee.
May all the hurt, which ever Gold hath wrought,
All mischiefes, which all Deville ever thought.
Want after plentye; Poore & Gowty Age,
The Plagues of Travillers, love, & Mariage,
Afflict thee, and at thy lifes latest moment,
May thy swolne sinnes themselves to thee present.
But I forgive; Repent then honest man.
Gold is restorative: Restore it than.
Of yf with it, thou beest loth to depart,
Because tis Cordyall, would sweare at they hart.
Come; Madame, come, All rest my Powers defye,
untill I labor, I in labor lye.
The foe oft tymes, haveing the foe in sight
Is tyr’d with standing, though they never fight.
Of with that girdle, like heavens zone glystering,
But a farr fairer world encompassing.
Unpin that spangled Brest plate; which you weare
That the Eyes of busy fooles may be stopt there.
unlace your selfe: for that harmonious chyme,
Tells mee from you, that now ‘tis your bed tyme.
Dr. Doone :~
Of with that un happy buske; whom I envy,
That still can bee, and still can stand so nigh.
your gowne’s going of, such beauteous state reveales,
As when from flowrye meades, th’hills shadowe steales.
Of with your wirye Coronett, and showe
The Hairye Diademe, which on you doth growe.
Of with those shooes, and then softly tred,
In this loves hallowed temple; This soft bed.
In such white robes, heavens Angells us’d to bee
Receav’d by men: Thou Angell bringst with thee,
A heaven like Mahometts Paradice: And though
Ill spiritts walke in white; we easylye Knowe,
By this these Angells from an evill sp^right.
They sett our Hayres, but x these the flesh upright.
Licence my roveing hand, and lett them goe,
Behind, beefore, above, betweene, belowe.
Oh my America, my new found land.
My kingdome, safe lyest when with one man man’d.
My myne of Pretious stones; my Empiree.
Howe blest am I in this discovering thee;
To enter into these bandes, is to be free.
Then where my hand is sett, my seale shalbe.
Full Nakednes, all ioyes are due to Thee;
As soules unbodyed, bodyes uncloth’d must bee.
To tast whole ioyes. Gems which you women use,
Are as Atlantaes balls cast in mens viewes.
That when a fooles eye lighteth on a Gem.
His Earthlye soule may covett theyres not them.
Like pictures, or like bookes gay Covering made
For lay men, are all woemen thus arrayde.
Themselves are mistique Bookes, which only wee,
Whom theyre imputed grace will dignifye
Must bee revealed. Then since I may knowe,
As liberallye, as to a Midwife showe
Thy selfe; Cast all, yea this white linnen hence;
There is no Pennance, much lesse Innocence.
To teach thee, I am naked first: why than,
What needst thou have more covering then a man.
Fond woman which wouldst have thy husband dye,
And yet complayn’st of his greate Jealosye,
If swolne with Poyson, he lay in his last bed,
Hys bodye with a sere barke covered,
Drawinge his breath, as thicke, & short as can
The nimblest crocheting Musition.
When by thy skorne, Ô murdres, I am dead,
And that thou thinckst thee free,
From all sollicitation, from mee
Then shall my Ghost come to my bed,
And thee fayn’d vestall in worse Armes shall see,
Then thy sicke Taper will beginne to wincke,
And he whose Thou art then, Beeing tyred before,
Will, if Thou stirre, or pinch to make hym, Thincke
Thou callst for more;
And in false sleepe, will from thee shrincke,
Thou poore aspen wretch neglected then,
Both in a Cold quicksilver sweate wilt lye
A veryer Ghost then I.
What I will say, I will not tell thee nowe.
least that preserve Thee; And since my love ys spent,
I had rather, Thou should’st paynefully repent,
Then by thy threatnings rest still Innocent.
Hee is starke madd, who ever says
That he hath bin in love, an hower
yett not that love so soone decayes,
But that it can ten in lesse space devoure,
Who will beleave mee, If I sweare,
That I have had the plague a yeare?
Who would not laugh at mee, if I should say,
I sawe a flash of pouder burne a Day?
Ah what a Trifle is a Hart,
yf once into loves hands yt come?
All other griefes allowe a part
To other Griefes, and aske themselves but some,
They come to us, but us love drawes;
He swallowes, us, and never chawes;
By him as by chaind shott, whole ranckes doe dye,
He is the tyran Pike, our Harte the frye,
yf t’weare not soe, what w[oul]d beecome
Of my hart when I first sawe thee?
I brought a hart into the Roome,
But from the Roome, I carryed none w[i]th mee.
Yf it had gone to thee, I knowe
Myne would have taught thy hart to showe
More Pitty to mee, but love, Alas,
At one first blowe, did shiver yt as Glas.
Dr: Doone :~
yett Nothing can to Nothing fall:
Nor any Place bee empty quite;
Therfore, I thincke my brest hath all
Those Peeces still, though they bee not unite,
And nowe as broken glasses showe,
A hundred lesser faces, so,
My raggs of Hart can like, wish, and adore,
But after one such love, can love noe more ./
Stand still, and I will reade to Thee,
A lecture, love, in loves Phylosophee,
Those three houres, w[hi]ch wee have spent
In walking here, two shadowes went
A long w[i]th us, w[hi]ch wee ourselves produc’d.
But now the sunne is iust above our heads
Wee doe those shadowes tread.
And, to brave clearenes, all thinges are reduc’d,
So whyles our Infant love did growe,
Disguisis did, and shadowes flowe
From us, and our Care; But now tis not soe.
That love, hath not attain’d the least degree,
W[hi]ch ys still diligent, least others see.
Except our love at this Noone stay
Wee shall newe shadowes make the other way,
As they first weare made to blind
Others, these w[hi]ch come behind
Will worke upon our selves, and blinde our Eyes.
If once Love faynte, and westwardlye declyne.
To mee, Thou falsely thyne
And, I to thee, myne Actions shall disguise,
The morning shadowes weare away,
But these growe longer all the Day;
But, oh, loves day ys short, yf love decay:
Love is a Growinge, or full Constant light,
And his first Minute after Noone ys Night.
As virtuous men passe mildlye away,
And whisper to theyre selves to goe,
And some of theyre sad freindes doe say
The breath goes now, and some say noe
Dr: Doone :~
So lett us melt, and make no noyse,
No teare floudes, nor sigh tempests move,
T’weare Prophenation of our ioyes
To tell the layetie our love,
Moveinge of th’Earth brings harmes, and feares,
Men recken what it did, and ment,
But trepidations of the spheares:
Though greater farr is innocent.
Dull Sublunarye lovers love.
(whose soule ys sence) cannot admitt
Absence, because it doth remove,
Those thinges w[hi]ch Elemented yt.
But wee by a love so much refin’d,
Thet our selves knowe nor what it is,
Interassured of the minde
Carelesse, Eyes, lypps, and hands to misse.
Our two, soules, therefore w[hi]ch are One,
Though I must goe, endure not yett,
A Breach, but an Expansion
Like Gold to Ayerye thinnes beate.
If they be two, they are two soe
As stiffe twin Compasses are two.
Thy soule, the fixt foote, makes noe showe,
To move, but doth, if the other doe.
And though yt in the Center sitt
yett when the other far doth rome,
It leanes, and hearkens after it
And growes erect, as it comes home.
Such wilt Thou bee to mee, who must
Like th’other foote obliquelye runne,
Thy firmnes makes my Circle Just,
And makes me End, where I begunne ./
I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I
Did, till wee ley’d, weare wee noe weaned, till then?
But suck’d on Countrey Pleasures childishly?
Or snorted wee in the seaven sleepers den?
‘Twas so, but this All pleasures fancyes bee?
If ever Ange, beautye I did see,
W[hi]ch I desir’d and gott, t’was but a Dreame of Thee.
Dr: Doone :~
And nowe, Good Morrowe, to our wakeing soules,
W[hi]ch watch not one another out of Feare,
For love, All love of other sights controules;
And makes one little roome, an every where,
Lett sea discoverers to new worldes have gon,
Lett Mapps to Others, worlds on worldes have showne
Lett us possesse one world, each hath one, and is One ./
My face in thyne Eye thyne in myne appeares,
And true playne harts doe in the faces rest
Where can we fynde two better Hemispheres
W[i]thout sharpe North, w[i]thout declyning west,
What ever dyes, was not mixt equallye
If our two loves be one, or thou and I
Love so alike, that none doe slacken, none cac [sic] dye.
Goe, and catch a falling starr,
Gett w[i]th chylde a Mandracke roote
Tell me where all past yeares are,
Or who cleft the Devills foote,
Teach mee to heare Mermaydes singing,
Or to keepe of Envies stringing,
Serves to advance an honest mynde:
If thou beest borne to strange sights
Things Invisible see,
Ride ten thouzand dayes, and nights,
Till age snowe white hayres on Thee,
Thou, when thou retornest, wilt tell mee
All strange wonders that befell thee,
Lives a woman true, and fayre.
If thou fyndst One, lett mee knowe
Such a Pilgrimage weare sweete,
Yett doe not, I would not goe
Though at next doore, wee might meete,
Though she weare true, when you mett her
And last, till you write your letter,
False, ere I come, to two, or three ./
Doctor Doone :~
The Flea :~
Marke but this Flea, and marke in this
Howe little, that w[hi]ch thou denyest mee ys,
It sucks mee first, and now suckes thee
And in this flea, our two ^ bloods mingled bee,
Thou knows’t that this cannot bee sayd,
A sinne, nore shame, nor losse, of Maydenhead,
yett this enioyes, before yt woe,
And pamperd swells with one blood made of two
And this Alas, is more then wee would doe ./
Oh stay, three lives in One flea spare,
When wee allmost, yea more then Marryed are:
This Flea is you, and I, and thys
Our Maryage bedd, and Marryage Temple ys,
Though Parents grudge, and you w’are mett,
And cloystred in these liveing walls of Jett,
Though use make you apt to kill mee
Lett not to that selfe Murder added bee,
And Sacriledge, Three sinnes, in killing Three ./
Cruell and sodayne, hast thou since
Purpled thy Nayle, in blood of Innocence?
Wherein could thys Flea guiltye bee,
Except in that drop w[hi]ch it suckt from thee?
yett thou tryumphst, and sayest that thou
Fyndst not thy selfe, nor mee the weaker now,
Tis true; Thou learne howe false feares bee.
Just so much honor, when thou yieldst to mee
Will wast, as thys Fleas death tooke lyfe from thee.
Who ever guesses, Thinckes, or dreames he knowes
Who is my Mistres, wither by thys Curse ./
His only, and only his purse
May some dull hart to love dispose;
And she yeild then to All that are his foes,
May he be scorn’d by One, whom all else scorne,
Forsweare to others, what to her he hath sworne,
W[i]th feare of missing, shame of getting torne;
Madnes his sorrowe, Gowt his Grays may hee
Make, by but thinckinge, who hath made him such,
And may hee feele no touch
Of Conscience, but of fame, And bee,
Dr: Doone :~
Anguish’d, not that ‘twas sinne, but that ‘twas shee,
In Earelye and long scarcenes may bee rott
For land w[hi]ch had bin his, if he had nott
Hymselfe incestuouslye an heyre begett.
May he dreame Treason, and beleeve that hee
Ment to performe yt, and confesse, & Dye,
And not Record tell why,
His sonnes w[hi]ch none of his may bee.
Inherritt nothing, but his Infamye.
Or may so long Parasytes have feel’d
That he would fayne bee theyres, whom he hath bredd,
And at the last bee circumcis’d for bread ./
The venim of all stepdames, Gamsters Gall,
What Tyrannes, and theyre subiects interwish,
What Plants, Myne, beasts, Fowle, Fishe
Can Contribute, All ill w[hi]ch All
Prophetts, or Poetts spade, And all w[hi]ch shall
Be annexed in Schedules unto this by mee,
Fall on that Man, for yf it bee a shee;
Nature before hand, hath out cursed mee ./
When like a Pillowe on a Bed,
A Pregnant bancke swel’d up, to rest
The violetts reclyning head,
Satt wee two, One Anothers best,
Our handes weare firmelye cimented,
W[i]th a fast balme, w[hi]ch thence did spring,
Our Eye beames twisted, and did thredd
Our Eyes, upon one double stringe ./
So to intergraft our handes, as yett
Was all the meanes to make us one;
And Pictures on our Eyes to gett
Was all our Propagation ./
As twixt to equall Armyes Fate
Suspends uncertayne victoree,
Our soules, w[hi]ch to advance they’re state,
Were gon out, hangs twixt her, and mee ./
Dr Doone :~
To God in his sterne wrath, why threatens hee?
But who am I, that dare dispute with Thee?
Oh God; oh of thyne only worthye blood
And my teares make a heavenlye leathean flood,
And drowne in it my sinnes blacke memorye;
That thou remember them, some clayme as debt,
I thinck yt mercye, if thou will forgett.
Death be not Proud, though some have called Thee
Mightye, & dreadfull, for thou art not soe,
For those whom thou thinckst thou dost overthrowe
Dye not, Poore death, nor yett canst thou kill mee
From sleepe rest, & sleepe, w[hi]ch but thy Pictures bee
Much pleasure, then from thee much most flowe,
And soonest our best men, w[i]th Thee doe goe;
Rest of theyre bones, & soules deliverye,
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, Kings, & desperate men,
And dost w[i]th Poyson, warr, & sicknes dwell,
And Poppy, or Charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swellst thou then?
One short sleepe past, wee wake Eternallye,
And death shall be no more, Death thou shalt Dye ./
Spitt in my face you Jewes, & peirce my side,
Buffett, & scoffe scourge & crucifye mee,
For I have sin’d, and sin’d & only hee
Who could doe none Iniquitye, hath dyed,
Butt by my Death cannott be satisfyed.
My synnes, w[hi]ch passe the Jewes Iniquitye
They kil’d once an Inglorious man, but I,
Crucifye hym daylye, beeing now Gloryfyed.
Oh lett me then his strange love still admire,
Kings pardon, but he bore our Punishment,
And Jacob came cloth’d in vile harsh attyre,
But to supplant, & w[i]th gainfull intent
God cloth’d hymselfe in vile mans flesh, th[a]t so
He might bee weake enough to suffer woe ./
Why are wee by all Creatures wayted on?
Why doe the Prodigall Ellements supplye
Lyfe, & foode to wee; Being more pure then I!
Symple and farder from Corruption,
Why brookst thou Ignorant horse subiection
Why dost thou Bull, & bore so seely lye
Dissemble weaknes, & by one Mans stroake dye;
Whose whole kind, you might swallowe, & feed upon;
Weaker I am, who woe ys me, & worse then you.
- Full title:
- A folio volume of works in verse and prose by John Donne, Ben Jonson, Dr Richard Andrews and others. Compiled for Sir William Cavendish.
- 17th century
- Manuscript / Drawing / Illustration / Image
- John Donne, Ben Jonson, Richard Andrews, John Rolleston [scribe]
- Usage terms
The British Library has decided to make the images of pre-1800 collection items available on this website. For more information please refer to the following guidance.
- Held by
- British Library
- Harley MS 4955
- Article by:
- Polly Findlay
- Comedies, Deception, drama and misunderstanding, Renaissance writers, Magic, illusion and the supernatural
Polly Findlay discusses the challenges of directing Ben Jonson's play, The Alchemist.
- Article by:
- Toby Litt
- Renaissance writers, Poetry
Toby Litt shows how Donne creates a mischievous relationship with his readers, as the poem builds energy and plays around with time and space.
- Article by:
- Andrew Dickson
- Renaissance writers
Ben Jonson went from a classically educated schoolboy to an apprentice bricklayer and solider, before becoming one of the 17th-century's most eminent playwrights and poets. Andrew Dickson recounts Jonson's eventful life, and how his success was often marred by a difficult relationship with alcohol, with fellow playwrights and actors, and with theatre itself.
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