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Concerning Corinna
by [?]

Dr. Herrick told me that, in common with all the Enlightened or Illuminated Brothers, of which prying sect the age breeds so many, he trusted the great lines of Nature, not in the whole, but in part, as they believed Nature was in certain senses not true, and a betrayer, and that she was not wholly the benevolent power to endow, as accorded with the prevailing deceived notion of the vulgar. But he wished not to discuss more particularly than thus, as he had drawn up to himself a certain frontier of reticence; and so fell to petting a great black pig, of which he made an unseemly companion, and to talking idly.

A Gyges ring they bear about them still,
To be, and not, seen when and where they will;

They tread on clouds, and though they sometimes fall,
They fall like dew, and make no noise at all:

So silently they one to th’ other come
As colors steal into the pear or plum;

And air-like, leave no pression to be seen
Where’er they met, or parting place has been.

ROBERT HERRICK.–My Lovers how They Come and Part.

The matter hinges entirely upon whether or not Robert Herrick was insane. Sir Thomas Browne always preferred to think that he was; whereas Philip Borsdale perversely considered the answer to be optional. Perversely, Sir Thomas protested, because he said that to believe in Herrick’s sanity was not conducive to your own.

This much is certain: the old clergyman, a man of few friends and no intimates, enjoyed in Devon, thanks to his time-hallowed reputation for singularity, a certain immunity. In and about Dean Prior, for instance, it was conceded in 1674 that it was unusual for a divine of the Church of England to make a black pig–and a pig of peculiarly diabolical ugliness, at that–his ordinary associate; but Dean Prior had come long ago to accept the grisly brute as a concomitant of Dr. Herrick’s presence almost as inevitable as his shadow. It was no crime to be fond of dumb animals, not even of one so inordinately unprepossessing; and you allowed for eccentricities, in any event, in dealing with a poet.

For Totnes, Buckfastleigh, Dean Prior–all that part of Devon, in fact–complacently basked in the reflected glory of Robert Herrick. People came from a long distance, now that the Parliamentary Wars were over, in order just to see the writer of the Hesperides and the Noble Numbers. And such enthusiasts found in Robert Herrick a hideous dreamy man, who, without ever perpetrating any actual discourtesy, always managed to dismiss them, somehow, with a sense of having been rebuffed.

Sir Thomas Browne, that ardent amateur of the curious, came into Devon, however, without the risk of incurring any such fate, inasmuch as the knight traveled westward simply to discuss with Master Philip Borsdale the recent doings of Cardinal Alioneri. Now, Philip Borsdale, as Sir Thomas knew, had been employed by Herrick in various transactions here irrelevant. In consequence, Sir Thomas Browne was not greatly surprised when, on his arrival at Buckfastleigh, Borsdale’s body-servant told him that Master Borsdale had left instructions for Sir Thomas to follow him to Dean Prior. Browne complied, because his business with Borsdale was of importance.

Philip Borsdale was lounging in Dr. Herrick’s chair, intent upon a lengthy manuscript, alone and to all appearances quite at home. The state of the room Sir Thomas found extraordinary; but he had graver matters to discuss; and he explained the results of his mission without extraneous comment.

“Yes, you have managed it to admiration,” said Philip Borsdale, when the knight had made an end. Borsdale leaned back and laughed, purringly, for the outcome of this affair of the Cardinal and the Wax Image meant much to him from a pecuniary standpoint. “Yet it is odd a prince of any church which has done so much toward the discomfiture of sorcery should have entertained such ideas. It is also odd to note the series of coincidences which appears to have attended this Alioneri’s practises.”