Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Donne, John (1573-1631)
DONNE, JOHN (1573–1631), poet and divine, dean of St. Paul's, born in London in the parish of St. Olave, Bread Street, in 1573, was the son of John Donne, citizen and ironmonger of London, by Elizabeth, daughter of John Heywood the epigrammatist. The family was of Welsh extraction, and used the same arms and crest as Sir Edward Dwnn or Dwynn, knight, whose father, Sir John Dwynn, was executed at Banbury after the battle of Edgecott Field in July 1469. Donne's father was a prosperous merchant and served the office of warden of his company in 1574, but he died when his career was no more than beginning, in January 1575-6, leaving behind him a widow and six children, four daughters and two sons, the elder son being the subject of this article. On his mother's side he was descended from Judge Rastall, who died in exile for conscience' sake in 1565; the judge had married a sister of Sir Thomas More, who was barbarously murdered by Henry VIII for refusing to assent to the royal supremacy in matters spiritual. Donne had two uncles, his mother's brethren, Jasper and Elias Heywood, who bravely suffered for their convictions, and also died abroad as Jesuit fathers, the one (Elias) at Louvain in 1578, the other (Jasper), after enduring much misery in the Clink and other prisons, was banished the realm, and died at Naples in 1598. All these were men of mark and conspicuous ability, and all had their strong religious convictions in entire sympathy with the doctrine and the ritual of the church of Rome. When Donne's father died the cleavage between the Anglican and the Roman party in the state and in the church had begun to be recognised among all classes; the conscientious Romanists were compelled to choose their side, pope and queen being equally resolved on forcing them to make their choice. Donne's mother was not the woman to hesitate; she had been born and bred in an atmosphere of ultramontane sentiment. In her household there should be no uncertainty; protestantism and all that it implied was hateful to her; her children should be brought up in the old creed, and in that alone. Of young Donne's early training we know nothing more than this, that he was brought up by tutors whose learning and piety he revered, and whose influence left upon him 'certain impressions of the Roman religion' which remained strong upon him through youth and manhood. On 23 Oct. 1584 he was admitted with his younger brother, Henry, at Hart Hall, Oxford. John, the elder, was in his twelfth year, Henry, the younger, in his eleventh. Although it was not usual for children of this age to be entered at the university, yet it was not so uncommon as has sometimes been assumed; three years before this very date no less than eighteen boys of eleven were matriculated, and twenty-two were in their fourteenth year (Clark, Register of the Univ. of Oxford, ii.421). There was a reason for this. When Campion and Parsons came over with their associates in 1581, as the accredited emissaries of the Society of Jesus for proselytising in England, and a great stir had been made by their exertions, and a great effect had followed from Campion's execution, among other stringent measures that were enforced to check the progress of the Romeward movement, it was made compulsory for all students admitted at Oxford to take the oath of supremacy, which was the crucial test of loyalty to the crown and to the reformed church of England. This oath was, however, not enforced on any one under sixteen (ib. p. 6), and by entering before that age an undergraduate escaped the burden which was imposed upon the conscience of all others. Hart Hall was at this time a very popular college; on the same day with the Donnes Richard Baker, the chronicler, entered there, he being then a lad of sixteen; and as sharer of his chamber he had for some time the renowned Sir Henry Wotton, between whom and Donne there thus began that friendship which lasted through life. Six months later another famous person entered at Hart Hall, Henry Fitzsimon [q. v.], whom Wood calls 'the most renowned jesuit of his time,' a testimony to his ability which is certainly exaggerated. It is not a little significant that no one of these five college friends, as they may be called, appears to have proceeded to a degree in the ordinary way, and that they all left Oxford to travel on the continent before the four years of the usual undergraduate course came to an end. Izaak Walton tells us that 'about the fourteenth year of his age' Donne 'was translated from Oxford to Cambridge.' There is no evidence whatever of this, and much to disprove it. It is more probable that he spent some years at this time in foreign travel, and so acquired a command of French, Italian, and Spanish. Assuming that he stayed at Oxford for at least three years, it is probable that his travels extended over the three years ending in 1591; for about the close of this year he appears to have occupied chambers with his brother Henry in Thavies Inn, which was then a kind of preparatory school for those who were educating for the legal profession. He was admitted at Lincoln's Inn on 6 May 1592, and for some time occupied the same chambers with Christopher Brooke [q. v.], and at once became an intimate with the remarkable band of poets and wits who were the intellectual leaders of their time (see Coryate, Letter from India, 4to, 1616). When Donne passed into Lincoln's Inn he left his brother Henry behind him at Thavies Inn, and just a year after the separation of the two a tragical event happened which cannot but have produced a profound impression upon the elder brother. The seminary priests and Jesuit fathers in and about London had of late been showing great activity, and their zeal and devotion had resulted in a very remarkable success in the way of gaining converts to the Roman creed and ritual. The government was much provoked, and a relentless persecution was organised against the proselytisers. One of these men, William Harrington, a seminary priest, a man of birth, culture, and piety, was betrayed by some associate and tracked, hunted down, and arrested in the chambers of young Henry Donne in May 1593. To harbour a seminary priest was then a capital offence. Harrington was hurried off to his trial, and ended his career at Tyburn. Young Donne, too, was taken to the Clink, and there, catching gaol fever, died after a few weeks' incarceration (Stonyhurst College MSS., Angl. A. I. No. 77; this document, together with confirmatory evidence, has been printed in one of the catholic publications). Well might Donne, six years after this event, say, as he does in the 'Pseudo-Martyr,' 'No family (which is not of far larger extent and greater branches) hath endured and suffered more in their persons and fortunes for obeying the teachers of Roman doctrine.'
Walton tells us that Donne about this time was much distressed in mind by the questions that were then being discussed so warmly between the Roman and Anglican divines, and that he gave himself up to study the subject with great care and labour. The fate of his only brother might well account for the direction which his studies took; but when Robert, earl of Essex, set out on the Cadiz voyage in June 1596, and an extraordinary gathering of young volunteers joined the celebrated expedition, Donne was one of those who took part in it. Among his associates, and not improbably on board the same ship, were the son and stepson of Sir Thomas Egerton, who had been appointed keeper of the great seal three weeks before the fleet weighed anchor. On its return in August 1596 the lord keeper appointed Donne his secretary. Donne had already won for himself a great reputation as a young man of brilliant genius and many accomplishments, and was accounted one of the most popular poets of the time. In the contemporary literature of the later years of Queen Elizabeth's reign, and the first half of that of James I, his name is constantly occurring. He seems to have had an extraordinary power of attaching others to himself; there is a vein of peculiar tendernsss which runs through the expressions in which his friends speak of him, as if he had exercised over their affection for him an unusual and indefinable witchery. During the time he was secretary to the lord keeper he necessarily lived much in public, and became familiarly known to all the chief statesmen at the queen's court. It was at this time that he wrote most of his poetry, perhaps all his satires, the larger number of his elegies and epistles, and many of the fugitive pieces which are to be found in his collected poetical works; but he printed nothing. His verses were widely circulated in manuscript, and copies of them are frequently to be met with in improbable places. Frequently, too, poems which were certainly not from his hand were attributed to him, as if his name would secure attention to inferior productions. In the autumn of 1599 Sir Thomas Egerton the younger, eldest son of the lord keeper, died. It had been through his intercession that Donne had been made secretary to the lord keeper, and when his funeral was celebrated with some pomp at Doddleston, Cheshire (27 Sept. 1599), Donne occupied a prominent position in the procession, and was the bearer of the dead man's sword before the corpse (Harl. MS. 2129, f. 44). The lord keeper had married as his second wife Elizabeth, a sister of Sir George More of Losely, Surrey, and widow of Sir John Wolley of Pyrford in the same county. By her first husband this lady had a son, Francis; by the lord keeper she had no issue. Her ladyship appears to have looked to her brother's children for companionship, and to have kept one of her nieces, Anne, in close attendance upon her own person. It was inevitable that the young lady and the handsome secretary should be thrown much together, and when Lady Egerton died, in January 1599-1600, and the supervision of the domestic arrangements in the lord keeper's house was perhaps less vigilant than it had been, the intimacy between the two developed into a passionate attachment which neither had the resolution to resist, and it ended by the pair being secretly married about Christmas 1600, Donne being then twenty-seven, and his bride sixteen years of age. The secret could not long be kept, and when it came out Sir George More was violently indignant. He procured the committal to prison of his son-in-law and the two Brookes, who were present at the marriage. Donne was soon set at liberty, but his career was spoilt. Nothing less would satisfy Sir George More than that the lord keeper should dismiss his secretary from his honourable and lucrative office, and Donne found himself a disgraced and needy man with a scanty fortune and no ostensible means of livelihood. After a while a reconciliation took place between him and his wife's family, but Sir Thomas Egerton declined to reinstate him in his office, and how the young couple lived during the next few years it is difficult now to explain. One friend came speedily to his rescue, Mr. Francis Wolley, who offered him an asylum at his house at Pyrford, near Guildford. Here he seems to have continued to live till the summer of 1604, about which time he was prevailed upon to make another attempt to obtain employment at court. He removed from Pyrford accordingly, and appears to have found his next place of refuge with his brother-in-law, Sir Thomas Grymes, at Peckham, where his second son, George, was born in May 1605 (Parish Reg. of Camberwell). Next year he removed to Miteham, where several of his warmest friends resided; and that small house which tradition declared he had occupied there was still standing, and used to be pointed out as 'Donne's house,' less than fifty years ago (1888). He continued to reside at Miteham for at least five years, and here four more children were born. During this period he was in constant attendance upon the chief personages who frequented the court of James I, and found in many of them warm friends, who were not slow in rendering him substantial help when his necessities were pressing upon him. His most generous patron and friend was Lucy, countess of Bedford [see Harrington, Lucy], at whose house at Twickenham Donne was a frequent visitor, meeting there a brilliant circle of wits and courtiers such as have rarely assembled at any great salon in England. Meanwhile Donne had obtained some footing in the court, though apparently receiving no office of emolument. He had attracted the notice of the king and was kept in occasional attendance upon his majesty. The young man's musical voice, readiness of speech, and extraordinary memory made him acceptable at the royal table, where he appears to have been called upon sometimes to read aloud and sometimes to give his opinion on questions that arose for discussion. The king became convinced that here was a man whose gifts were such as were eminently suited for the calling of a divine, and in answer to such applications as were made to him to bestow some civil appointment upon the young courtier only made one reply, that Mr. Donne should receive church preferment or none at all. As thought James I so thought one of his most favoured chaplains, Thomas Morton [q. v.], afterwards bishop of Durham. As early as 1606 Dr. Morton had entered the lists as a controversialist against Father Parsons in his 'Apologia Christiana,' a work which much irritated his opponents and provoked more than one reply. The book exhibited a very unusual familiarity with the recent theology of the ultramontane divines and an intimate knowledge of the contents of treatises then very rarely looked into by Englishmen. It has long been forgotten, as has its more elaborate successor, Morton's 'Catholic Appeal,' but no one who should be at the pains to compare it, and the long list of authorities cited and quoted in its crowded pages, with Donne's 'Pseudo-Martyr' and 'Biathanatos' could have much doubt that Morton and Donne must for years have worked in close relations with each other, or could avoid a strong suspicion that Morton owed to Donne's learning very much more than it was advisable, or at that time necessary, to acknowledge in print. Morton, however, was not ungrateful to his coadjutor and friend, and when in June 1607 James I bestowed upon him the deanery of Gloucester, he took the earliest opportunity of pressing upon Donne the advisability of taking holy orders, and then and there offered to resign in his favour the valuable living of Long Marston in Yorkshire, the income of which he said was equal to that of his deanery. But Donne could not get over his conscientious scruples to enter the ministry of the church; he firmly declined the generous offer and went on for five or six years longer, hoping and hoping in vain.
Men's minds were at this time all astir upon the question how to deal with the English Romanists and how to meet the challenge which had been thrown down by Bellarmine and other writers who, as advocates for the papal view of the situation, insisted that the oath of allegiance to the king of England could not be taken with a safe conscience by any one in communion with the church of Rome. The king threw himself into the controversy, and while Bishop Andrewes engaged Bellarmine at close quarters in his 'Tortura Torti,' James I met the great canonist from a different standpoint and produced his 'Apologie for the Oath of Allegiance' simultaneously with Andrewes's great work. Both books were published in 1609. Neither produced the effect desired. The recusants stubbornly refused to read them, refused to take the oath, accepted the consequences, and, encouraged by the praises of their party, loudly proclaimed themselves martyrs. One day at the king's table Donne threw out a new suggestion, 'There are real martyrs and sham ones: these men are shams.' James I in a moment saw the point: it was a new line to take with the recusants. Donne was ordered to work out the new idea and to put it in the form of a book. They say it took him no more than six weeks to write. The 'Pseudo-Martyr,' as he named it, was published in 4to, 1610. It is to be presumed that he obtained some substantial remuneration for his labour, but the prospect of securing any state employment was further off than ever.
Donne's muse was very active about this time. The epistles in verse addressed to the Countess of Bedford, the Countess of Huntingdon, the Countess of Salisbury, and the two daughters of Robert, lord Rich, must all be referred to this period (1608-10), as must the funeral elegies upon Lady Markham, Lady Bedford's sister, who died in May 1609, and upon Mistress Bulstrode, who died at Twickenham in Lady Bedford's house two months later. So too the beautiful poem called 'The Litany was written and sent to his friend, Sir Henry Goodere, while the 'Pseudo-Martyr' was still only in manuscript (Letters, p. 33). The 'Divine Poems' and 'Holy Sonnets' had been written earlier; they were sent to Lady Magdalen Herbert in 1607. Donne was evidently getting sadder and more earnest as he grew older.
On 10 Oct. 1610 the university of Oxford by decree of convocation bestowed upon him the degree of M.A.: 'Causa est'—ran the grace—‘quod huic academiæ maxime ornamento sit ut ejusmodi viri optime de republica et ecclesia meriti gradibus academicis insigniantur.’ Some time after this Sir Robert Drury of Hawsted, Suffolk, one of the richest men in England, lost his only child, a daughter, in her sixteenth year. The parents were in great grief and appear to have applied to Donne to write the poor girl's epitaph. He not only did so (Cullum, Hist. and Antiq. of Hawsted, 1813, p. 52), but he wrote an elegy upon her which he entitled 'An Anatomy of the World, wherein, by occasion of the untimely Death of Mistris Elizabeth Drury, the Frailty and the Decay of this whole World is represented.' The poem was printed in 1611. Only two copies of the original edition are known to exist. It was reprinted next year with the addition of a second part, which he calls 'The Second Anniversarie, or the Progress of the Soule.' A careful collation of the two editions has been made by Mr. Grosart in his collected edition of Donne's poems. This was the first time Donne had printed any verse, and he did so with some reluctance (Letters, p. 75), but the publication served his turn very well, for it procured him the friendship of a man who was eager to show his gratitude for the service rendered. In November 1611 Sir Robert and Lady Drury resolved to travel on the continent, and they took Donne with them. Sir Robert appears to have gone abroad on a kind of complimentary mission to be present at the crowning of the Emperor Matthias at Frankfort. He was prepared to spend his money freely and make a magnificent display, but when he reached Frankfort with his cortège and found that he could be received only as a private gentleman by the courtiers, he returned hastily to England after an absence of about nine months, during which the party had passed most of their time in France and Belgium. It was while they were in Paris that Donne saw the celebrated vision of his wife with a dead infant in her arms. Mrs. Donne certainly appears to have had a miscarriage during her husband's absence. She had removed with her children to Sir Robert's huge mansion, Drury House in the Strand, when her husband left England, and here the whole family continued to reside, apparently till the death of Sir Robert in 1616. The baptism of three of Donne's children and the burial of his wife are to be found in the register of the parish of St. Clement Danes, in which parish Drury House was situated.
On his return to England in August 1612 Donne found Carr, then Viscount Rochester [see Carr, Robert, Earl of Somerset], the foremost personage in England after the sovereign. Lord Salisbury had died in May, and Rochester had acquired unbounded influence over the king. Donne approached him through his friend Lord Hay, placed himself under his protection, and announced his intention of taking holy orders as he had been importuned to do (Tobie Matthew's Letters, p. 320). In November of this year Prince Henry died; he was buried on 7 Dec., and Donne was among those who wrote a funeral elegy upon his death. Three weeks after the funeral Frederick, the count Palatine, and the Princess Elizabeth were 'affianced and contracted' in Whitehall, and on 13 Feb. following they were married. On this occasion Donue wrote the 'Epithalamium,' which is to be found among his poems. These were mere exercises thrown off for the occasion, and probably written for the rewards which they were pretty sure to receive; but Izaak Walton must be giving us the substantial truth when he assures us that during the three years preceding his ordination Donne gave himself up almost exclusively to the study of theology; indeed, his own letters show that it was so. In one of them he tells his correspondent that he 'busied himself in a search into the eastern languages,' in another he mentions a collection of 'Cases of Conscience' which he had drawn up, and at this time too he wrote his 'Essays in Divinity,' which so curiously reveal to us the working of an inquiring spirit feeling after truth not according to the conventional methods of the age. It was again at this time that he must have composed what he calls his 'Paradox,' the Biathanatos, a work which is quite unique. In it he discusses with wonderful subtlety and learning the question whether under any conceivable circumstances suicide might be excusable. The earliest mention of this book occurs in a letter of 13 Feb. 1614, which has never been printed, and the impression conveyed is that the book had been composed not very long before. Six years later, when he was about to start for Germany, he sent a copy of it in manuscript to Lord Herbert of Cherbury, which is now in the Bodleian, and a second to Kerr, earl of Ancrum. Both copies were written by his own hand, and in the letter which he wrote to Lord Ancrum he speaks of the book as 'written many years since … by Jack Donne, and not by Dr. Donne' (Letters, p. 21). That up to the last he could not quite abandon all hope of escaping from the inevitable appears from a letter in Tobie Matthew's collection (p.311),in which he petitions the Earl of Somerset to procure him a diplomatic appointment to the Dutch states. He only met with another rebuff. Meanwhile his obligations to Somerset, which were very great—for in speaking of himself in the letter last referred to he says, 'Ever since I had the happiness to be in your lordship's sight I have lived upon your bread',—had compromised him as a dependent upon that worthless nobleman, and when the case of the divorce of the Countess of Essex from her husband came on, Donne took an active part as an advocate for the nullity of the first marriage [see Abbot, George, 1562-1633], and actually wrote a tractate in support of his view, which still exists in manuscript (Hist. MSS. Comm. 8th Rep. p. 22b). It has never been printed and, it is to be hoped, never will be. Somerset was married to the divorced Countess of Essex on 26 Dec. 1613. Ben Jonson addressed the earl in some fulsome verses; Bacon induced Thomas Campion to write a masque on the occasion, and himself bore the expense of bringing it out; and Donne wrote the 'Epithalamium,' which is to be found among his poems. The hideous exposure which followed some months later has made this business appear very dreadful to us, but they who are inclined to blame Donne and others for being in any way concerned in it will do well to remember Mr. Spedding's caution (Bacon's Letters and Life, iv. 392): 'It does not follow they would have done the same if they had known what we know.'
It was just a year after the marriage of Somerset, when every other avenue was closed to his advancement, that Donne at length began his new career as a divine. Writing to his friend, Sir Henry Goodere, on 21 Dec. 1614, he tells him that he was about to print 'forthwith' a collection of his poems, 'not for much public view, but at mine own cost, a few copies,' and he adds a request that Goodere would send him an old book, in which it seems he had written his 'Valediction to the World,' a poem which he meant to include in the collection. Unhappily not a single copy of this small issue of Donne's poems has come to light. It was only a few weeks after this that he was ordained by Dr. John King, bishop of London, who had been Lord Ellesmere's chaplain at the time when Donne was his secretary. There is reason to believe that his ordination took place on Sunday, 25 Jan. 1615, the feast of the conversion of St. Paul (see Letters, p. 289). James I almost immediately made him his chaplain, and commanded him to preach before the court. Walton tells us that his first sermon was preached at Paddington, then a suburb of London, in the little ruinous church which was rebuilt about sixty years afterwards. On 7 March following, James I, with Prince Charles and a splendid retinue, paid a visit to Cambridge, and signified his desire to have the degree of D.D. conferred upon his newly appointed chaplain. The Cambridge men for some reason were very averse to this, and the degree was granted him with a bad grace, no record of it being entered upon the register of the university. It is said that no fewer than fourteen country livings were offered to Donne in the single year after his ordination, but, as acceptance of them would have involved his leaving London, he declined them all. In January 1616, however, he accepted the rectory of Keyston in Huntingdonshire, and in July of the same year the much more valuable rectory of Sevenoaks. Keyston he appears to have resigned, but Sevenoaks he retained till his death, and in his will he left 20l. to the poor of the parish. Three months later we find him elected by the benchers of Lincoln's Inn to be divinity reader to the society, his predecessor being a certain Dr. Thomas Holloway, vicar of St. Lawrence Jewry (Newcourt, Rep. i. 386; Melmoth, Importance of a Religious Life, ed. C. P. Cooper, 1849, p. 219). The reader was required to preach twice every Sunday in term time, besides doing so on other specified occasions. The post, however, was an honourable one, and afforded scope for the preacher's powers. He was immediately recognised as one of the most eloquent and able preachers of the day. The sermons which he delivered at Lincoln's Inn are among the most ingenious and thoughtful of any which have come 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 a preacher at this time Donne stood almost alone. Andrewes's preaching days were over (he died in September 1626), Hall never carried with him the conviction of being much more than a consummate gladiator, and was rarely heard in London; of the rest there was hardly one who was not either ponderously learned like Sanderson, or a mere performer like the rank and file of rhetoricians who came up to London to air their eloquence at Paul's Cross. The result was that Donne's popularity was always on the increase, he rose to every occasion, and surprised his friends, as Walton tells us, by the growth of his genius and earnestness even to the end.
When convocation met in 1623, Donne was chosen prolocutor (Fuller, Ch. Hist. bk. x. vii. 15), and in November of the same year he fell ill with what seems to have been typhoid fever. He was in considerable danger, and hardly expected to recover. During all his illness his mind was incessantly at work; a feverish restlessness kept him still with the pen in his hand from day to day, and almost from hour to hour. He kept a kind of journal of his words and prayers, and hopes and yearnings during his sickness, and on his recovery he published the result in a little book, which was very widely read at the time, and went through several editions during the next few years. It was entitled 'Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, and several Steps in my Sickness;' it was printed in 12mo, and dedicated to Prince Charles. Copies of the original impression are rarities. On 3 Dec. of this year, when he must still have been suffering from the effects of his illness, his daughter Constance married Edward Alleyn [q. v.], the founder of Dulwich College. She was left a widow three years later, and then returned to her father and became his housekeeper for some time longer. When the parliament met in February 1624, Donne was again chosen prolocutor of convocation, and during the spring two more pieces of preferment fell to him, the rectory of Blunham in Bedfordshire, which had been promised him several years before by the Earl of Kent, and the vicarage of St. Dunstan's-in-the-West, which was bestowed upon him by the Earl of Dorset. Donne was most diligent in performing the duties of this last cure to the end of his life, though his deanery could have been no sinecure, and though we have his assurance that he never derived any income from the benefice (Letters, p. 317). His country living he held in commendam. In those days few were offended by a divine of eminence being a pluralist, and no one objected to such a preacher as Donne serving his rural parishes by the help of a duly qualified stipendiary curate. The few years that remained to the great dean of St. Paul's were uneventful; the passage of time is marked only by the attention which an occasional sermon or its publication aroused. He preached the first sermon which Charles I heard after his accession (3 April 1625), and was called upon to print it. The same obligation was laid upon him the next year, and at least twice afterwards. The most notable of these sermons was the one preached at the funeral of Lady Danvers on 1 July 1627 at Chelsea. This sermon Izaak Walton tells us he heard. Lady Danvers was George Herbert's mother, and it was to her, just twenty years before, that Donne had sent his 'Divine Poems,' as has been stated above. During these last years of his life Donne surrendered himself more than once to the inspiration of his muse. He wrote a hymn, which was set to music and sung by the choir of St. Paul's. He composed verses on the death of the Marquis of Hamilton in March 1625, and probably many of his devotional poems belong to this period. Once and once only he seemed in danger of losing the favour of his sovereign. In a sermon preached at Whitehall on 1 April 1628 he made use of some expressions which were misconstrued, and the king's suspicions were for a moment aroused. When a copy of the sermon was sent in and Donne's simple explanation was heard, the cloud passed, and next month he was preaching before Charles once more. In 1629 he fell ill again, but he would not give up preaching so long as he could mount the pulpit, though the exertion was more than his exhausted constitution could safely bear. In the autumn of 1630 he went down to the house of his daughter Constance (who had recently married her second husband, Mr. Samuel Harvey, an alderman of London, and who lived at Aldbrough Hatch, near Barking). With him he appears to have taken his aged mother, who had spent all her fortune, and now was wholly dependent upon her son. On 13 Dec. 1630 he made his will, writing it with his own hand. The rumour spread that he was dead, and Donne took some pains to contradict it. The truth was that his mother died in January 1631, and was buried at Burking on the 29th of the month, as the parish register testifies. He had been appointed to preach at Whitehall on the following Ash Wednesday, which that year fell upon 23 Feb. To the surprise of some he presented himself, but in so emaciated a condition that the king said he was preaching his own funeral sermon. He had chosen his text from the 68th Psalm: 'Unto God the Lord belong the issues of death.' There is a tone of almost awful solemnity throughout the discourse, but no sign of failing powers. Donne gave it the title of 'Death's Duel;' it was not printed till some time after his death, and then it appeared in the usual quarto form, with an extremely brilliant engraving by Martin of the portrait, which he caused to be painted of himself, decked in his shroud as he lay waiting for the last summons. The anonymous editor of the sermon, probably his executor, Bishop Henry King, tells us: 'It hath been observed of this reverend man that his faculty of preaching continually increased, and that as he exceeded others at first so at last he exceeded himself.' This sermon is, like the first impressions of the others, very rarely to be found. Donne lingered on, dying slowly, for some five weeks after he had preached his last sermon, and fell asleep at last on 31 March 1631. He was buried in St. Paul's; he wished that his funeral might be private, but it could not be. He was too dearly and too widely loved and honoured to allow of his being laid in his grave without some of the pomp of sorrow. The affecting testimonies of love and regret which his friends offered when he was gone, and all the touching incidents which Walton has recorded, must be read in that life which stands, and is likely to remain for ever, the masterpiece of English biography. The monument which the generosity of a friend caused to be raised to him, and which represents him, as he had been painted, in his shroud, is almost the only monument that escaped the fury of the great fire of London, and has survived to our day. It may be seen in the crypt of St. Paul's, and has been reverently set up again after having been allowed to remain for two centuries neglected and in fragments.
Donne's funeral certificate, now in the Heralds' College, sets forth that 'he had issue twelve children. Six died without issue, and six now living—two sons and four daughters. John Donne, eldest son, of the age of about twenty-six years; George Donne, second son, aged 25 [he was baptised at Camberwell 9 May 1605], captain and sergeant-major in the expedition at the isle of Rhé, and chief commander of all the forces in the isle of St. Christopher; Constance, eldest daughter, married to Samuel Harvey of Abrey Hatch in the county of Essex; Bridget, second daughter, Margaret, third, and Elizabeth, youngest daughter, all three unmarried.' Concerning John Donne the younger see infra (s.n.); George Donne married, and had a daughter, baptised at Camberwell 22 March 1637-8; Bridget married Thomas Gardiner of Burstowe, son of Sir Thomas Gardiner, knight, of Peckham; Margaret married Sir William Bowles of Camberwell, and was buried in the church porch at Chislehurst 3 Oct. 1679. Of Elizabeth nothing has been discovered.
As no attempt has yet been made to give anything like a bibliographical account of Donne's works, the following may prove useful to collectors. 1. The first work published by Donne was 'Pseudo-Martyr, wherein out of Certain Propositions and Gradations this conclusion is evicted. That those which are of the Romane Religion in this Kingdome may and ought to take the Oath of Allegeance,' London, printed by W. Stansby for Walter Burre, 1610, 4to, pp. 392, with an 'Epistle Dedicatorie to James I,' 4 pp. An 'Advertisement to the Reader,' 3pp. A table of corrections drawn up with unusual care, and 'A Preface to The Priests and Jesuits, and to their Disciples in this Kingdome,' 27 pp. The work as originally planned was to have consisted of fourteen chapters, each dealing with a distinct proposition. Only twelve of these are handled; the last two were left as if for future consideration. The book ends with chapter xii. Each chapter is divided into paragraphs. 2. 'Conclave Ignatii: sive eius in nuperis Inferni comitiis Inthronizatio; Vbi varia de Jesuitarum Indole, de novo inferno creando, de Ecclesia Lunatica instituenda, per Satyram congesta sunt. Accessit & Apologia pro Jesuitis. Omnia Duobus Angelis Adversariis qui Consistorio Papali, & Collegio Sorbonæ præsident dedicata,' 12mo. No printer's name or date. The little book was printed but a short time after the publication of the 'Pseudo-Martyr,' as appears from the address 'Typographus Lectori;' it must be assigned to the date 1610 or 1611. It was reprinted, with the errata corrected, but with one or two slight mistakes left, with some other tracts under the title 'Papismus Regiæ potestatis Eversor,' by Robert Grove, S.T.B., in 1682. Only two copies of the original Latin edition are known to exist; one of these is in the possession of the Rev. T. R. O'fflahertie. Concurrently with the appearance of the Latin original was published 'Ignatius his Conclave; or his Inthronization in a late Election in Hell.…' 12mo, 1611, printed by N. O. It was reissued with a new title in 1626, 'printed by M. F.,' and reprinted by John Marriott in 1634. It does not profess to be a translation. John Donne the younger reprinted it in 1653, pretending that it was a recently discovered work of his father's, and lately translated by Jasper Maine. This was a gratuitous falsehood. He had himself procured the suppression of the 1634 edition as far back as 1637 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1637-8). 3. 'An Anatomy of the World. Wherein by occasion of the untimely death of Mistris Elizabeth Drury, the Frailty and the Decay of this whole world is represented, London, printed for Samuel Machan, and are to be solde at his shop in Paules Churchyard, at the Signe of the Bulhead, An.Dom.1611,’18mo,16 leaves. This was reprinted next year with the same title, and with it was issued 4. ‘The Second Anniversarie of the Progress of the Soule. Wherein, by Occasion of the Religious Death of Mistris Elizabeth Drury, the incommodities of the Soule in this life and her exaltation in the next are Contemplated,’ London, printed (as before) 1612. 5. Another edition of the two Poems was published in 1621. ‘Printed by A. Mathewes for Tho. Dewe, and are to be sold at his shop in Saint Dunstans Churchyard in Fleetestreete, 1621.’ 6. Another ‘Printed by W. Stansby for Tho. Dewe.… 1625.’ 7. ‘A Sermon upon the xv. verse of the xx. chapter of the Booke of Judges.… Preached at Paul's Cross the 15th of September 1622,’ 4to, printed by W. Stansby, as before. Prefixed to this sermon is an epistle ‘To the Right Honorable George, Marquesse of Buckingham, &c.’ 8. ‘A Sermon upon the viii. verse of the i. chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, preached to the Honourable Company of the Virginian Plantation, 13 Novemb. 1622,’ A. Mat. for T. Jones, London, 1623, 4to. Prefixed is an epistle ‘To the Honourable Companie of the Virginian Plantation.’ There is a ‘Prayer at the end of the Sermon.’ This sermon was reissued with a new title-page in 1624. 9. 'Encænia. The Feast of Dedication. Celebrated At Lincolnes Inne, in a Sermon there upon Ascension Day, 1623. At the Dedication of a new Chappell there, Consecrated by the Right Reverend Father in God, the Bishop of London… ,’ 4to, 1623. There is an epistle ‘To the Masters of the Bench, and the rest of the Honourable Societie of Lincolnes Inne,’ and a ‘Prayer before the Sermon.’ 10. ‘The First Sermon Preached to King Charles, At Saint James, 3 April 1625. By John Donne, Deane of Saint Paul's, London. Printed by A. M. for Thomas Jones, … 1625,’ 4to. 11. ‘A Sermon, Preached to the King's Mtie At Whitehall, 24 Feb. 1625[-6]. By John Donne, Deane of Saint Paul's, London. And now by his Maiestes command Published. London, Printed for Thomas Jones, dwelling at the Blacke Raven in the Strand, 1625,’ 4to, with an epistle ‘To His Sacred Maiestie.’ The first four of these sermons were collected into a volume and issued under the title ‘Foure Sermons upon Speciall Occasions.… By John Donne, Deane of St. Paul's, London,’ in 1625. All five were collected next year into a volume entitled ‘Five Sermons upon Special Occasions.’ In this collection there are slight corrections indicating that one sermon at least had been kept in type. It is a curious fact that three of these sermons (9, 10, 11) have never been reprinted, either in the folios or in Alfords edition of Donne's ‘Works.’ 12. ‘A Sermon of Commemoration of the Lady Dàvers.… Together with other Commemorations of her by her sonne G. Herbert.… Printed by I. H. for P. Stephens and C. Meredith, London, 1627,’ 12mo. There is a copy in the British Museum. It is exceedingly rare. 13. ‘Death's Duell, or, A Consolation to the Soule, against the dying Life, and living Death of the Body. Delivered in a Sermon, at White-Hall, before the King's Maiestie, in the beginning of Lent, 1630. By that late Learned and Reverend Divine, John Donne, Dr. in Divinity, and Deane of S. Paul's, London. Being his last Sermon, and called by his Maiesties houshold The Doctor's Owne Funeral Sermon. London, Printed by B. Alsop and T. Fawcet, for Beniamin Fisher, and are to be sold at the Signe of the Talbot in Aldersgate Street, mdcxxxiii,’ 4to, pp. 32, with ‘An Elegie on Doctor Donne, and An Epitaph on Doctor Donne.’ Both are anonymous. 14. ‘Six Sermons upon Several Occasions, Preached before the King, and elsewhere. By that late learned and reverend Divine John Donne.… Printed by the printers to the Universitie of Cambridge.…’ 4to, 1634. These are included in the first folio. They appear to have been sold separately, as they all have separate titles. 15. ‘LXXX. Sermons.’ Commonly described as ‘the first folio,’ published by his son with an elaborate frontispiece containing a portrait of Donne in an ecclesiastical habit, ætat. 42, and an ‘Epistle Dedicatorie to Charles I, by John Donne the younger,’ together with Izaak Walton's life of Donne, then published for the first time. The license to print is dated 29 Nov. 1639, the title is dated 1640. 16. ‘Fifty Sermons, Preached by that learned and reverend Divine John Donne, Dr. in Divinity, Late Deane of the Cathedrall Church of S. Paul's, London. The Second Volume.… Folio, 1649.’ There is a dedication to Basil, earl of Denbigh, and an epistle to Whitlock, Keeble, and Leile, commissioners of the great seal, in which the younger Donne acknowledges that he had lately received ‘the reward that many years since was proposed for the publishing these sermons.’ 17. ‘Six-and-twenty Sermons never before published,’ London, 1660, folio. Issued by his son as before. The volume is printed with extraordinary carelessness. There are not twenty-six sermons; for the third and seventeenth are identical, as are the fifth and sixteenth. There is a preface ‘To the Reader’ by the younger Donne, who tells us the edition was limited to five hundred copies.
Under Miscellaneous Works may be classed the following:
- ‘Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, and several steps in my sickness.…’ 12mo, London, 1624, printed by A. M. for Thomas Jones. The edition was bought up at once, and a second—a reprint and not a mere reissue—appeared the same year. It has been frequently republished.
- ‘Poems, by J. D., with Elegies on the Author's Death. Printed by M. F. for J. Marriot.…’ 4to, 1633. At the end of this volume are eight letters to Sir Henry Goodere, and one to the Countess of Bedford, in prose. Copies of this quarto are sometimes found with the superb portrait of Donne, painted a short time before his ordination, and engraved by Lombard; the original, or a copy of the picture, is now in the Dyce and Foster library at South Kensington.
- ‘Poems, by J. D.… To which is added divers Copies under his own hand never before in print. London, printed for John Marriot.…’ 12mo, 1649. Copies may sometimes be found with his portrait taken in 1591, engraved by Marshall. This edition was issued by his son, with a dedication to Lord Craven, and was reprinted 1650, 1654, 1669, and lastly in 1719.
- ‘Juvenilia, or certain Paradoxes and Problems, written by Dr. Donne. The second Edition, corrected. London, printed by E. P. for Henry Seyle.…’ 4to, 1633.
- ‘Fasciculus Poematum & Epigrammatum Miscellaneorum. Translated into English by Jasp. Mayne, D.D.…’ London, 8vo, 1652. (This collection is almost wholly spurious.)
- ‘ΒΙΑθΑΝΑΤΟΣ. A Declaration of that Paradoxe or Thesis, That Self-homicide is not so naturally Sin, that it may never be otherwise. …’ The license to print this work is dated 20 Sept. 1644. It was published in 4to the same year, and issued with a different title in 1648.
- ‘Essayes in Divinity. By the late Dr. Donne, Dean of St. Paul's. Being Several Disquisitions interwoven with Meditations and Prayers: Before he entered into Holy Orders. Now made publick by his son J. D., Dr. of the Civil Law,’ London, 16mo, 1651. This was republished by the writer of this article in 1855 (London, John Tupling), with a life of the author and some notes. Copies of the original edition are very scarce; the same may be almost said of the reprint.
- ‘Letters to Several Persons of Honour. Written by John Donne, sometime Deane of St. Paul's. Published by John Donne, Dr. of the Civill Law,’ 4to, London, 1651. Reissued with a different title-page in 1654.
- ‘A Collection of Letters made by Sir Tobie Matthews [sic], Kt.…’ 12mo, 1660. There are between forty and fifty letters in this collection written by Donne or addressed to him. The collection was issued by John Donne the younger. The most complete collection of Donne's poems is that brought out by Mr. Grosart in 2 vols. post8vo, 1872, in the ‘Fuller's Worthies Library.’
A small collection of his poems, till then unprinted, was issued to the Philobiblon Society in 1858 by Sir John Simeon. ‘The Works of John Donne, D.D., Dean of St. Paul's.…’ 6 vols. 8vo, edited by Henry Alford, M.A., afterwards dean of Canterbury, is not worthy of Donne or his editor. A folio volume containing several of Donne's manuscript sermons, belonging to the late J. Payne Collier, was in 1843 in the custody of Archdeacon Hannah. This may have been the same volume known to be in the possession of the Rev. W. Woolston of Adderbury, Oxfordshire, 1815.
A quarto volume of Donne's sermons, &c., apparently intended for the press, and written by his own hand, is in the possession of the writer of this article. It contains eighteen sermons which have never been printed, and eight which appear in his collected works. Two of the unprinted ones are rather treatises than sermons, and are of excessive length. We can thus account for at least 180 sermons, written and delivered in sixteen years. Considering their extraordinary elaboration, and the fact that they form but a portion of their writer's works, it may be doubted whether any other English divine has left behind him a more remarkable monument of his mere industry, not to speak of the intrinsic value of the works themselves.