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John Donne

John Donne

John Donne (1572-1631), English metaphysical poet, Anglican divine, and pulpit orator, is ranked with Milton as one of the greatest English poets. He is also a supreme artist in sermons and devotional prose.

John Donne's masculine, ingenious style is characterized by abrupt openings, paradoxes, dislocations, argumentative structure, and "conceits"—images which yoke things seemingly unlike. These features in combination with his frequent dramatic or everyday speech rhythms, his tense syntax, and his tough eloquence were both a reaction against the smoothness of conventional Elizabethan poetry and an adaptation into English of European baroque and mannerist techniques. Since Donne's times such poetry has been unaptly called "metaphysical"—a term more appropriate for the philosophical verse of Lucretius.

Son of a prosperous ironmonger of Welsh ancestry, Donne was born between Jan. 4 and June 19, 1572, and was bred a Londoner and a Roman Catholic. His mother, a great niece of Sir (later St.) Thomas More, came from a cultured, devout family: her father, John Heywood, wrote interludes; her brother Jasper was a Jesuit; and her son Henry, John's brother, died in 1593 of a fever caught in Newgate Prison, where he was incarcerated for harboring a Roman Catholic priest. Donne's father died when John was 4, and his mother married a prominent physician.

His Poetry

After some years at Oxford (from 1584) and possibly Cambridge, Donne studied law at Lincoln's Inn (1592-1594) and became one of the first to write in English formal verse satires in the classical mode. It was also in the 1590s that he wrote many of his amatory poems. Most of them are dramatic monologues expressive of attitudes toward love, ranging from cynical fleshly realism to platonic idealism. It is sounder to see them not as autobiographical but as exposing the extremes of carnal and spiritual love and as putting in a favorable light love in which they are complementary. He also composed verse letters, elegies, epithalamia, and epigrams; they were published after his death as Songs and Sonnets.

Donne partook in the Earl of Essex's expeditions against the Spanish in Cadiz and the Azores in 1596-1597 and reflected this military experience in his poems "The Storm" and "The Calm." By 1597-1598, when he became secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton, the lord keeper, he had dissociated himself from Roman Catholicism. In 1601 he blasted the promise of a successful career by secretly marrying Lady Egerton's niece, Ann More. He was dismissed from his post and temporarily imprisoned, and for about a decade he and his ever-increasing family were largely dependent on relatives and patrons.

During this middle period Donne wrote Biathanatos, a treatise on instances of justifiable suicide which may have been intended as a satire on casuistry; it was published by his son in 1646. His Pseudo-Martyr (1610) accused Roman Catholics of fostering false martyrdom for secular ends. Ignatius His Conclave (1611) was popular in both English and Latin versions: it brilliantly satirized the Jesuits but is interesting today because it reflects the then new astronomy of Galileo and toys with the notion of colonizing the moon.

Donne continued to write secular poems and, about 1609-1610, a powerful series of "Holy Sonnets," in which he meditated on sickness, death, sin, and the love of God. In 1611 he composed two companion poems, The Anniversaries, on the Idea of woman, the decay of the physical universe, the vanity of this world, and, in contrast, the permanence of God and spiritual values. These commemorated the death of little Elizabeth Drury and won him the patronage of her father, with whom Donne traveled to France and Germany. He briefly served as a member of Parliament in 1601 and again in 1614.

Church Career

About 1606 Thomas Morton offered Donne a benefice if he would take Anglican orders. But it was not until 1615, after long pious and practical hesitations, that he was ordained a priest. Appointed a royal chaplain in the same year, he also received a doctor of divinity degree from Cambridge. In 1616-1622 he was reader in divinity at Lincoln's Inn, where he preached regularly. He was desolated in 1617 by the death of his wife: she had borne him 12 children, 5 of whom died. He preached frequently at court and in 1619 was an embassy chaplain in Germany. In 1621, on James I's nomination, he became dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, attracting huge congregations with his brilliant oratory. A serious illness in 1623 gave rise to his Devotions, those moving meditations on sickness, death, and salvation from which Ernest Hemingway derived the title For Whom the Bell Tolls.

On Feb. 25, 1631, Donne left his sickbed to preach his last and most famous sermon, "Death's Duel." On March 31 he died. An effigy of him wrapped in funeral shrouds which survived the burning of St. Paul's in the Great Fire of 1666 is preserved in the present cathedral, built by Sir Christopher Wren. The effigy is that of an old, seasoned man who has thought and suffered greatly but has achieved some peace of soul. His youthful portraits show black hair, clear skin, intense eyes, an ample brow, and a pointed, bearded chin. His later pictures reveal the same intensity and alertness.

His Character

Donne's was a complex personality, an unusual blend of passion, zeal, and brilliance; God and women were his favorite themes, but his subject matter otherwise ranged over the pagan and the pious, the familiar and the esoteric, the cynical and the sincere, the wittily bright and the theologically profound.

Largely because of Izaak Walton's charming but somewhat unreliable Life of Dr. John Donne (1681) and because of the risqué elements in Donne's secular poetry, a myth grew up contrasting a youthful Jack Donne the rake with a pious and repentant Dr. John Donne, Dean of St. Paul's. That in his younger days he was an attractive conversationalist, socialite, and courtier is undeniable, but his works reveal that he was always a serious student and a seeker after truth; and there is no sound evidence to support the myth. Certainly after his ordination he dedicated his remarkable genius wholeheartedly to the service of God and thus became one of the most brilliant stars in that hierarchy of extraordinary Anglican priests—among them, Robert Herrick, George Herbert, and Robert Burton—whose exceptional literary genius was dedicated to the glory of God and the welfare of man.

Further Reading

Biographies of Donne written before 1960 are unreliable. Robert C. Bald's definitive John Donne: A Life (1970) supersedes all previous biographies. The frequently reprinted work by Izaak Walton, Life of Dr. John Donne (many editions) should be read as great literature, more imaginative than accurate. Edward LeComte, Grace to a Witty Sinner: A Life of Donne (1964), is written for the general reader.

Among the studies of Donne's work, K. W. Gransden's concise John Donne (1954; rev. ed. 1969) and Frank Kermode, John Donne (1957), are introductions for beginners. James B. Leishman, The Monarch of Wit (1951; 6th ed. 1962), and Clay Hunt, Donne's Poetry (1954), provide solid foundations for interpreting the poems. Arnold Stein, John Donne's Lyrics (1962), emphasizes Donne's style and wit. Varied approaches are collected in Helen Gardner, ed., John Donne (1962), and Leonard Unger further illuminates such approaches in Donne's Poetry and Modern Criticism (1950). Judah Stampfer, John Donne and the Metaphysical Gesture (1970), is impressionistic but stimulating. Far more reliable is Donald L. Guss, John Donne, Petrarchist (1966), which relates Songs and Sonnets to their Italian influences; N. J. C. Andreasen, John Donne, Conservative Revolutionary (1967), also relates the poetry to tradition. Evelyn M. Simpson, A Study of the Prose Works (1924; 2d ed. 1948), is fundamental. Also excellent are William R. Mueller, John Donne, Preacher (1962), and Joan Webber, Contrary Music: The Prose Style of John Donne (1963). For the scientific background, Charles M. Coffin, John Donne and the New Philosophy (1937), and Marjorie Hope Nicolson, The Breaking of the Circle (1950; rev. ed. 1960), still have value. Wilbur Sanders, John Donne's Poetry (1971), is a judicious survey. Among the more general works relating to Donne are George Williamson, The Donne Tradition (1930); Helen C. White, The Metaphysical Poets (1936); Joseph E. Duncan, The Revival of Metaphysical Poetry (1959); and, of outstanding importance, Douglas Bush, English Literature in the Earlier Seventeenth Century (1945; rev. ed. 1962), and Louis L. Martz, The Poetry of Meditation (1954; rev. ed. 1962). □

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Donne, John (1572–1631)

DONNE, JOHN (15721631)

DONNE, JOHN (15721631), English poet and divine. Donne was born in London sometime between 24 January and 19 June 1572, the son of John Donne, an ironmonger, and Elizabeth, daughter of the epigrammatist and playwright John Heywood and the great-niece of Sir Thomas More. Donne's mother's family were staunch Roman Catholics: his maternal uncle Jasper headed a Jesuit mission to England in 15811583, and was imprisoned and later exiled; Donne's younger brother Henry died from the plague in 1593 while being held in Newgate Prison, accused of harboring a seminary priest.

Donne entered Hart Hall, Oxford, in October 1584, and according to some accounts, also studied at Cambridge. He may have spent time on the Continent with Jasper Heywood. In May 1592 he entered Lincoln's Inn after a period of preliminary study at Thavies Inn. He took part in the English expeditions to Cádiz and the Azores in 1596 and 1597 and worked as secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton, lord keeper of England. Most of his Satires and a number of other poems, including the Elegies, are thought to have been written in the 1590s, although the dating of most of Donne's poetry is extremely slippery. The Satires and Elegies play with the image of a young man in a glittering but seedy London and present Donne's poetic personae in a variety of social and sexual situations.

Donne served as M.P. for Brackley in the Parliament of OctoberDecember 1601, but his public career was irrevocably damaged by his secret marriage in December 1601 to Anne More, daughter of Egerton's brother-in-law, Sir George More. More seems to have objected to his new son-in-law's Catholic background, to his presumptuous behavior, and possibly to Donne's own rakish reputation. When the marriage became publicly known, Donne and the friends who had helped him were briefly imprisoned, and Donne lost his employment with Egerton. His subsequent attempts to find state employment were consistently unsuccessful, although he accompanied Sir Robert Drury to the Continent in 16111612, and served as M.P. for Taunton in 1614. He had earlier converted from Catholicism to Anglicanism, avowedly as a result of sustained intellectual consideration, but the prohibitions against Catholics in English society may also have had a contributory effect. The majority of his verse letters, occasional poems, and holy sonnets date from these years of frustration, and he also produced a series of religious tracts: The Pseudo-Martyr (published 1610), in which he urged English Catholics to submit to the oath of allegiance, Ignatius His Conclave (1611), and the study of suicide, Biathanatos (not published until 1647). Two of his poems, the disjunctive and often disturbing Anniversaries, written to commemorate the life of Drury's daughter Elizabeth, were printed in 16111612.

On 23 January 1615 Donne was ordained in the Church of England. This decision clearly met with favor from the king, and he was appointed as a royal chaplain only a few weeks after his ordination. He was presented with a series of lucrative livings, and held the divinity readership at Lincoln's Inn from October 1616. Anne Donne died in August 1617, and in May 1619 Donne went to Germany as chaplain to Viscount Doncaster, returning in January 1620. On 22 November 1621 he was elected dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, an office that he held until his death. He was widely regarded as the most eloquent and learned of preachers. Reflecting this fame, his sermons were printed from 1622, and in 1624 he published Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, inspired by a recent illness. Although his prose works are not today as familiar to readers as his poems, the Devotions and Sermons display a similar controlled power, stylistic experimentation, and intellectual focus.

Donne's best-known sermon is his last, "Death's Duel," preached at court only a month before his death. "Death's Duel" is a typically brilliant piece, drawing its power from its combination of biblical exegesis, linguistic control, and the quasi-theatrical display of the dying preacher's body. Donne died on 31 March 1631, and was buried in St. Paul's Cathedral. His tomb, for whichaccording to his early biographer Izaak Waltonhe posed in the months prior to his death, wearing his shroud and standing on a funeral urn, survived the fire of 1666 and can be seen in Christopher Wren's cathedral, completed in 1710.

Donne's public reputation during his lifetime was based mainly on his church career and the wide circulation of his prose works, especially his sermons. He began to be reconfigured as a poet, however, after his son John collected his poems in print for the first time in 1633. The volume was prefaced with elegies on the author; these elegies and Walton's biography, published with LXXX Sermons (1640), disseminated two images of Donne, the youthful, rakish poet "Jack Donne" and the older and wiser Reverend Dr. Donne, dean of St. Paul's. Close examination of his career and writing does not fully sustain these starkly divided personae. Donne was already publishing religious polemic before his ordination, and he continued to compose poetry until at least 1625. His career in fact demonstrates the impossibility of maintaining clear divisions between the secular and the sacred in early modern England.

See also Church of England ; Clergy: Protestant ; English Literature and Language ; Herbert, George ; Puritanism .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Primary Sources

Donne, John. Biathanatos. Edited by Ernest W. Sullivan. Newark, N.J., and London, 1984.

. Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions. Edited by Anthony Raspa. Montreal, 1975.

. The Divine Poems. Edited by Helen Gardner. Oxford, 1952.

. The Elegies and The Songs and Sonnets. Edited by Helen Gardner. Oxford, 1965.

. The Epithalamions, Anniversaries and Epicedes. Edited by W. Milgate. Oxford, 1978.

. Ignatius His Conclave. Edited by T. S. Healy. Oxford, 1969.

. Paradoxes and Problems. Edited by Helen Peters. Oxford, 1980.

. Pseudo-Martyr. Edited by Anthony Raspa. Rev. ed. Montreal, 1993.

. The Satires, Epigrams and Verse Letters. Edited by W. Milage. Oxford, 1967.

. Selections. Edited by John Carey. Oxford, 1990. Complete poems and selected prose.

. The Sermons of John Donne. Edited by George R. Potter and Evelyn Simpson. 10 vols. Berkeley, 19531962.

. The Variorum Edition of the Poetry of John Donne. Edited by Gary A. Stringer. Bloomington, Ind., 1995. Vols. 2, 7, and 8 published by 2002.

Secondary Sources

Bald, R. C. John Donne: A Life. Oxford, 1970.

Carey, John. John Donne: Life, Mind and Art. Oxford, 1981.

Davies, Stevie. John Donne. Plymouth, U.K., 1994. An introductory account of Donne's poetry with a helpful annotated bibliography.

Docherty, Thomas. John Donne, Undone. London and New York, 1986.

Flynn, Dennis. John Donne and the Ancient Catholic Nobility. Bloomington, Ind., 1995.

Marotti, Arthur F. John Donne, Coterie Poet. Madison, Wis., 1986.

Lucy Munro

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Donne, John

John Donne

Born: 1572
London, England
Died: March 31, 1631
London, England

English poet and priest

John DonneEnglish poet, Anglican (Church of England) minister, and public speakeris ranked with John Milton (16081674) as one of the greatest English poets. He was also a gifted artist in sermons and devotional writing.

Donne's youth

The son of a prosperous ironmonger (a person who sells iron or objects made from iron) of Welsh ancestry, John Donne was born in London, England, between January 4 and June 19 (the exact day is unknown), 1572, and was raised a Londoner and a Roman Catholic. His mother, Elizabeth, a great niece of Sir (later Saint) Thomas More (14771535), came from a cultured, devout family: her father, John Heywood, wrote interludes (short plays that are put on during breaks in other entertainment); her brother Jasper was a Jesuit (a person who belongs to a Roman Catholic religious group called the Society of Jesus whose members are concerned with spreading their religious message and teaching); and her son Henry, John's brother, died in 1593 of a fever caught in Newgate Prison, where he was imprisoned for sheltering a Roman Catholic priest. Donne's father died when John was four, and his mother married a well-known physician. Donne was educated at home by Roman Catholic tutors until he was twelve years old. John and his brother Henry were then admitted to Oxford University, where he spent approximately three years.

Donne's poetry

After some years at Oxford (from 1584) and possibly Cambridge, Donne studied law at Lincoln's Inn from 1592 to 1594. It was also in the 1590s that he wrote many of his love poems. He also composed poetic letters, funeral songs, and witty remarks, which were published after his death as Songs and Sonnets.

Donne took part in the Earl of Essex's crusades against the Spanish in Cadiz, Spain, and the Azores in 1596 and 1597 and wrote about this military experience in his poems "The Storm" and "The Calm." By 1598, when he became secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton, he left the Roman Catholic Church. In 1601 he ruined the promise of a successful career by secretly marrying Lady Egerton's niece, Ann More, a union not approved by More's father. He was dismissed from his post and temporarily imprisoned, and for about a decade he and his growing family were largely dependent on relatives and patrons.

During this middle period Donne wrote Biathanatos, which was published after his death by his son in 1646. His Pseudo-Martyr (1610) accused Roman Catholics of promoting false martyrdom (when a person or a group of people suffer or are killed for the sake of their religion) for financial gain. Ignatius His Conclave (1611) was popular in both English and Latin versions: it brilliantly mocks the Jesuits but is interesting today because it reflects the new astronomy of Galileo (15641642) and toys with the notion of colonizing the moon.

Donne continued to write worldly poems and, about 1609 or 1610, he produced a powerful series of "Holy Sonnets," in which he reflected on sickness, death, sin, and the love of God. In 1611 he composed two companion poems, which honored the death of little Elizabeth Drury and won him the support of her father, with whom Donne traveled to France and Germany. He briefly served as a member of Parliament in 1601 and again in 1614.

Church career

In 1615 Donne was ordained (to be officially installed as a member of the clergy in the church) a priest. Selected a royal chaplain (a member of the clergy who is chosen to carry out religious duties and services for the royal court) in the same year, he also received a doctor of divinity (the study of religion) degree from Cambridge. From 1616 to 1622 he was reader in divinity at Lincoln's Inn, where he preached regularly. He was widowed in 1617 by the death of his wife: she had borne him twelve children, five of whom died. He preached frequently at court and in 1619 was an embassy chaplain in Germany. In 1621, on James I's (15661625) selection, he became dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, attracting huge congregations with his brilliant public speaking. A serious illness in 1623 inspired his Devotions, which are moving meditations on sickness, death, and salvation.

On February 25, 1631, Donne left his sickbed to preach his last and most famous sermon, "Death's Duel." On March 31, 1631, he died. A statue of him wrapped in funeral shrouds is preserved at St. Paul's Cathedral. The figure is that of an old, seasoned man who has thought and suffered greatly but has achieved some peace of mind.

Donne's character

Donne's was a complex personality, an unusual blend of passion, zeal, and brilliance; God and women were his favorite themes, but his subject otherwise ranged over the pagan (people who do not worship the Christian God) and the religious, the familiar and the unclear, the sarcastic and the sincere, the wittily bright and the religiously wise.

Largely because of Izaak Walton's (15931683) charming but somewhat unreliable Life of Dr. John Donne (1681) and because of the risqué elements in Donne's worldly poetry, a myth grew up contrasting his younger days as an attractive conversationalist and socialite with his older, more religious and devout self. His works reveal that he was always a serious student and a seeker after truth; and there is no sound evidence to support the myth. Certainly after his ordination he dedicated his remarkable genius wholeheartedly to the service of God and thus became one of the most brilliant stars of the Anglican priests, whose exceptional literary genius was dedicated to the glory of God and the welfare of man.

For More Information

Bald, Robert C. John Donne: A Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 1970. Reprint, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986.

Carey, John. John Donne: Life, Mind, and Art. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981, 1980.

Donne, John. Selections From Divine Poems, Sermons, Devotions, and Prayers. Edited by John Booty. New York: Paulist Press, 1990.

Kermode, Frank. John Donne. London; New York: Longmans, Green, 1957.

LeComte, Edward. Grace to a Witty Sinner: A Life of Donne. New York: Walker, 1965.

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Donne, John

John Donne (dŭn, dŏn), 1572–1631, English poet and divine. He is considered the greatest of the metaphysical poets.

Life and Works

Reared a Roman Catholic, Donne was educated at Oxford, Cambridge, and Lincoln's Inn. He traveled on the Continent and in 1596–97 accompanied the earl of Essex on his expeditions to Cádiz and the Azores. On his return he became secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton (later Baron Ellesmere), lord keeper of the great seal, and achieved a reputation as a poet and public personage. His writing of this period, including some of his Songs and Sonnets (others were written as late as 1617) and Problems and Paradoxes, consist of cynical, realistic, often sensual lyrics, essays, and verse satires.

Donne's court career was ruined by the discovery of his marriage in 1601 to Anne More, niece to Sir Thomas Egerton's second wife, and he was imprisoned for a short time. After 1601 his poetry became more serious. The two Anniversaries—An Anatomy of the World (1611) and Of the Progress of the Soul (1612)—reveal that his faith in the medieval order of things had been disrupted by the growing political, scientific, and philosophic doubt of the times. He wrote prose on religious and moral subjects; a polemic against the Jesuits; Biathanatos (not published until 1644), a qualified apology for suicide; and the Pseudo-Martyr (1610), an argument for Anglicanism.

After a long period of financial uncertainty and desperation, during which he was twice a member of Parliament (1601, 1614), Donne yielded to the wishes of King James I and took orders in 1615. Two years later his wife died. The tone of his poetry, especially the Holy Sonnets, deepened after her death. After his ordination, Donne wrote more religious works, such as his Devotions (1624) and sermons. Several of his sermons were published during his lifetime. Donne was one of the most eloquent preachers of his day. He was made reader in divinity at Lincoln's Inn, a royal chaplain, and in 1621, dean of St. Paul's, a position he held until his death.

Poetry

All of Donne's verse—his love sonnets and his religious and philosophical poems—is distinguished by a remarkable blend of passion and reason. His love poetry treats the breadth of the experience of loving, emphasizing, in such poems as "The Ecstasie," the root of spiritual love in physical love. The devotional poems and sermons reveal a profound concern with death, decay, damnation, and the possibility of the soul's transcendent union with God.

Original, witty, erudite, and often obscure, Donne's style is characterized by a brilliant use of paradox, hyperbole, and imagery. His most famous poems include "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning," "Go and catch a falling star," "Hymn to God the Father," and the sonnet to death ( "Death be not proud" ). Neglected for 200 years, Donne was rediscovered by 20th-century critics. His work has had a profound influence on a number of poets Including W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot, and W. H. Auden.

Bibliography

See biographies by R. C. Bald (1970, repr. 1986) and J. Stubbs (2007); studies by R. E. Hughes (1968), R. S. Jackson (1970), W. Sanders (1971), M. Roston (1974), T. Spencer, ed. (2d ed. 1986), C. J. Summers and T.-L. Pebworth, ed. (1986), F. J. Wamke (1987), D. A. Larson (1989), J. Carey (1981, rev. ed. 1991), A. L. Clements, ed. (2d ed., 1991), E. W. Tayler (1991), A. F. Marotti (1986 and as ed. 1994), A. J. Smith (2 vol., 1975, repr. 1996), P. M. Oliver (1997), J. Johnson (1999), A Mousley, ed. (1999), D. L. Edwards (2002), B. Saunders (2006), D. R. Dickson, ed. (2007), and R. Targoff (2009); centenary volumes edited by P. A. Fiore (1972) and A. J. Smith (1972).

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Donne, John (1572–1631)

Donne, John (15721631)

English poet, essayist, and Anglican priest, Donne was born in London to a well to-do ironmonger. His mother was the daughter of playwright John Heywood and a great niece of Sir Thomas More. Donne was educated by members of the Catholic Jesuit order and began attending the University of Oxford in England at the age of eleven. After three years, he entered the University of Cambridge. He failed to attain a university degree, as he refused to take the required Oath of Supremacy that recognized the monarch of England as supreme head of the Anglican church. After his university career, Donne entered Lincoln's Inn in London to train as a lawyer. He was often tormented by questions of religious faith and dogma, and his religious doubt intensified when his brother Henry died in 1593 while in prison, where he had been sent for harboring a priest. In this period he was also writing poetry that explored the physical and emotional intensity of love.

Donne took part in an expedition led by the Earl of Essex in 1596 against the Spanish at Cadiz and the Azores. After this adventure he was appointed secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton, the Queen's Lord Keeper of the Seal. However, Donne's public career was ended by his secret marriage in 1601 to Ann More, the niece of Egerton's wife. For this Donne was sacked from his position, arrested, and briefly imprisoned. After his release he moved to Surrey, where he eked out a bare living as a lawyer and depended on friends and family to support his growing family.

Donne wrote satires of English manners and also meditations on suicide (Biathanatos ) and religion, including Pseudo-Martyr, a criticism of the Catholic tradition of martyrdom. A series of Holy Sonnets expressed his views on death and sin. In 1601 Donne was elected a member of parliament. He had gained a wealthy patron in Sir Robert Drury, for whom he wrote Anniversaries, An Anatomy of the World, a work that memorialized Sir Drury's daughter, Elizabeth, and Of the Progress of the Soul in 1612. Another satire of Catholicism, Ignatius His Conclave, reflected the new astronomy of Galileo Galilei and proposed sending a colony of settlers to the moon. Although he petitioned the king to return to public service, he was refused. On the king's recommendation, however, he was ordained a priest in the Church of England in 1615. By this time Donne had become a deeply religious man, attaining the post of reader in divinity at Lincoln's Inn, and was changing his focus to religion. Donne became the royal chaplain in 1615, and finally earned a doctor of divinity degree from Cambridge in 1618. His rising status in the Church of England did not relieve a deep grief felt at the death of his wife in childbirth in 1617. In 1621 he was appointed the dean of Saint Paul's, where his eloquent sermons drew large audiences to the cathedral. After falling ill in 1623, he wrote the Devotions, essays on death and salvation. His most famous speech, the Death's Duel sermon, was delivered before King Charles I in 1631, at a time when Donne was already on his own deathbed.

Donne's poetry is inventive, eloquent, often paradoxical, and filled with surprising, vivid metaphors and conceits, which combine radically different ideas and imagery. His poetic rhythms discarded the measured, traditional style in favor of abrupt and jarring rhythms that were meant to remind the reader of everyday speech. His elegies, epigrams, and letters in verse were published after his death in Songs and Sonnets.

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Donne, John

Donne, John (1572–1631). Metaphysical poet and churchman. Of catholic stock, his education at Oxford and Lincoln's Inn was directed towards a future state office. Having been a volunteer on the 1596 Cadiz expedition, he became secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton, but marriage to Anne More without parental consent (1601) led to dismissal and a long period of unemployment. By then he had written much of his passionate, witty poetry and begun to reject catholicism. Even as an Anglican, though, his deep, personal religious struggle continued, but since James I refused to appoint him to any position outside the church, he was eventually ordained (1615); preferment was then rapid and he became famous for his powerful and eloquent sermons. Despite uncertain health, he was installed as dean of St Paul's cathedral (1621), where he was conscientious in his duties and subsequently buried.

A. S. Hargreaves

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Donne, John

Donne, John (1572–1631) English poet and cleric. Donne's metaphysical poetry is among the greatest work in English literature. His early poetry, mostly written in the 1590s, consists mainly of love poems, elegies and satires while later work, such as An Anatomy of the World (1611) and Of the Progress of the Soul (1612), became more philosophical. Donne's rejection of Catholicism and conversion to Anglicanism is evident in the prose-work Pseudo-Martyr (1610). He was ordained in 1615 and became Dean (1621) of St Paul's Cathedral, London.

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Donne, John

Donne, John (1571/2–1631). Christian Metaphysical poet and priest. Brought up a Roman Catholic, he became an Anglican in the 1590s, after studying at Oxford and possibly Cambridge. He was ordained in 1615, becoming Dean of St Paul's in 1621. He wrote both love poetry and religious verse: the ingenious love poet becomes an explorer of the paradoxes of God's mercy and grace.

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