Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
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Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
 
The White Bird
By James Howell (c. 1594–1666)
 
TO MR. E. D.

From Familiar Letters

SIR—I thank you a thousand times for the noble entertainment you gave me at Berry, and the pains you took in shewing me the antiquities of that place. In requital, I can tell you of a strange thing I saw lately here, and I believe ’tis true: as I passed by St. Dunstan’s in Fleet Street the last Saturday, I stepped into a lapidary, or stone-cutter’s shop, to treat with the master for a stone to be put upon my father’s tomb: and casting my eyes up and down, I spied a huge marble with a large inscription upon it, which was thus to my best remembrance:
  1
  “Here lies John Oxenham, a goodly young man, in whose chamber, as he was struggling with the pangs of death, a bird with a white breast was seen fluttering about his bed, and so vanished.  2
  “Here lies also Mary Oxenham, the sister of the said John, who died the next day, and the same apparition was seen in the room.”  3
  Then another sister is spoke of. Then—  4
  “Here lies hard by James Oxenham, the son of the said John, who died a child in his cradle a little after, and such a bird was seen fluttering about his head, a little before he expired, which vanished afterwards.”  5
  At the bottom of the stone there is,  6
  “Here lies Elizabeth Oxenham, the mother of the said John, who died sixteen years since, when such a bird with a white breast was seen about her bed before her death.”  7
  To all these there be divers witnesses, both Squires and ladies, whose names are engraven upon the stone: this stone is to be sent to a town hard by Exeter, where this happened.  8
  Were you here, I could raise a choice discourse with you hereupon. So hoping to see you the next term, to requite some of your favours, I rest
Your true friend to serve you,
J. H.    
  WESTMINSTER, 3 July, 1632.
  9
 
 
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