- Donne, John
- (1572-1631)English poet, one of the most important of the group known as metaphysical poets. Born into a Roman Catholic family, in his youth he managed his education at Oxford and the law schools (the Inns of Court) carefully so that he could avoid taking the oath of supremacy that acknowledged the monarch's position as head of the church, which was required of all recipients of degrees. He travelled on the European continent before settling down to the study of law and seems to have recanted his Catholicism while at the Inns of Court. He served in a naval expedition against Spain and won appointment as private secretary to a high government official. His clandestine marriage to a niece of his patron cost him his official favor and threw him and his family into poverty.Under James I, however, Donne's fortunes improved, helped by two tracts defending the Anglican church and criticizing Roman Catholicism. In 1615, encouraged by the king, he was ordained as a clergyman; in 1616 he became official preacher and theological lecturer at Lincoln's Inn; and in 1621 he became dean of St. Paul's cathedral. He often preached in the presence of Kings James I and Charles I, and his published sermons are among the finest English sermons of the 17th century.Donne's poetry, much of it love poetry written in his youth, and some of it written on the theme of death during his later years, is notable for its striking figures of speech and its passionate spirit. After several centuries of being out of fashion among critics, his work was rediscovered by English-language poets of the early 20th century. Since that rediscovery, Donne has come to be regarded as a major lyric poet. Little of his verse was published in his lifetime, and only a few of his sermons. Shortly after his death, his son published three volumes of his sermons. Though many of his poems had circulated in manuscript, most of them were collected and published in editions of 1632 and 1635. The best of his poems, such as the elegy The Second Anniversary, are among the most widely admired lyrics in the English language.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.