Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 15.djvu/235

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Donne
Donne
229

down to us, admirably adapted to his audience, and they will always rank as among the noblest examples of pulpit oratory which the seventeenth century has bequeathed to posterity. The tide in Donne's fortunes had turned, but just as his prospects began to brighten he suffered a grievous sorrow in the death of his wife. She died in childbed on 15 Aug. 1617. She was little more than thirty-two years old; in her sixteen years of married life she had borne her husband twelve children, of whom seven survived her. She was buried in the church of St. Clement Danes, where a monument was erected to her memory, which at the rebuilding of the church perished with many another, though the inscription drawn up by the bereaved husband has survived in his own handwriting to our time (Kempe, Losely MSS. p. 324). Donne appears to have thrown himself with entire devotion into his work as a preacher during the year that followed his wife's death, and his health, never strong, suffered from his assiduous studies. In the spring of 1619 Lord Doncaster was sent on his abortive mission to Germany (Gardiner, Spanish Marriage, i. 277 seq.), and Donne went with him as his chaplain. His 'Sermon of Valediction at my going into Germany,' preached at Lincoln's Inn, 18 April 1619, is one of his noblest and most eloquent efforts. At Heidelberg he preached before the Princess Elizabeth, who appears to have regarded him with especial favour and admiration. On his way back from Germany, Doncaster's instructions led him to pass through Holland, and while at the Hague Donne preached 19 Dec. 1619, and the States-General presented him with the gold medal, which had been struck six months before in commemoration of the Synod of Dort. This medal he bequeathed to Dr. Henry King, one of his executors, subsequently bishop of Chichester. On 2 April 1620 we find him once more preaching at Whitehall.

Donne had now been more than five years in orders, and though his other friends had been bountiful to him and had put him above the anxieties of poverty, the king had as yet done very little in the way of redeeming the promises he had made. It was shortly after his return from Germany that he experienced another disappointment. Williams, the lord keeper, had vacated the deanery of Salisbury on being promoted to that of Westminster. Donne made sure of succeeding to the former preferment (Hist. MSS. Comm. 2nd Rep. 59), but unluckily one of the king's chaplains, Dr. John Bowle [q. v.], had established a strong claim upon the vacancy. A certain Frenchman had been found concealed behind a door where the king was about to pass; Dr. Bowle saw him and recognised him for a dangerous fellow. He was arrested and a long knife found upon him; the king had been saved from imminent peril. The chaplain could not be allowed to go unrewarded. So the deanery of Salisbury fell to Dr. Bowle, and Donne had to wait some while longer. His time came at last. In August 1621, Cotton, bishop of Exeter, died, and Dr. Valentine Cary, dean of St. Paul's, was appointed to succeed him. Donne received the vacant deanery, and was installed on 27 Nov. It was a splendid piece of preferment, with a residence fit for a bishop, covering a large space of ground, and furnished with two spacious courtyards, a gate-house, porter's lodge, and a chapel, which last the new dean lost no time in putting into complete repair. He continued to hold his preachership at Lincoln's Inn, to which office a furnished residence had been assigned by the benchers, till February 1622, and when he sent in his resignation he presented a copy of the Latin Bible in six volumes folio to the library. The books are still preserved, with a Latin inscription in Donne's handwriting on the flyleaf, in which he mentions, among other matters, that he had himself laid the foundation of the new chapel in 1617. During this year, 1622, Donne's first printed sermon appeared. It was delivered at Paul's Cross on 15 Sept. to an enormous congregation, in obedience to the king's commands, who had just issued his 'Directions to Preachers,' and had made choice of the dean of St. Paul's to explain his reasons for issuing the injunctions (Gardiner, Spanish Marriage, ii. 133). The sermon was at once printed; copies of the original edition are rarely met with. Two months later Donne preached his glorious sermon before the Virginian Company. The company had not succeeded in its trading ventures as well as the shareholders had expected it would. Such men as Lord Southampton, Sir Edward Sandys, and Nicholas Ferrar were animated by a loftier ambition than the mere lust of gain, and there were troublous times coming (Life of Nicholas Ferrar, ed. by Professor J. E. B. Mayor, 1855, p. 202 et seq.; Bancroft, Hist. of the U. S. ch. iv. and v.; Gardiner, u. S. i. 211). Donne's sermon struck a note in full sympathy with the larger views and nobler aims of the minority. His sermon may be truly described as the first missionary sermon printed in the English language. The original edition was at once absorbed. The same is true of every other sermon printed during Donne's lifetime; in their original shape they are extremely scarce. The truth is that as