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THE LIFE OF DON N E.
Jour Donne was born in London, in the year 1973. His father was an eminent merchant, des scended from a very ancient family in Wales; and his mother was descended from the family of Sir Thomas More, Chancellor of England. His grandfather, by the mother's side, acco:ding to Jonson, in his “ Conversation with Drummond," was Heywood the Epigrammatist; fo that, as he observes, " he was originally a poet."
He was educated at home till the eleventh year of his age, when he was sent to the University of Oxford, and entered a Commoner of Hart-Hall, where, it was observed of him, as of John Picus Mirandula, that “ he was rather born wise, than made so by study."
He continued three years at Oxford, but declined taking his first degree, by the advice of his relations, who, being of the Romißh religion, diliked the oath required to be taken upon that occafion.
He afterwards removed to Trinity College, Cambridge, and from thence, about three years after, to Lincoln's Inn, London, where he prosecuted the study of the common law, with sufficient appearance of application and success.
He seems, however, to have divided his studies between law and poetry; for, about this time, he composed most of his love poems, and other levities and pieces of humour, which sufficiently established his poetical reputation, and procured him the acquaintance of all those of his own age, who were most distinguished for acuteness of wit, and gaiety of temper.
His father dying when he was about nineteen years of age, and leaving him 3000 1. he relinquished the study of the law, and devoted himself to a diligent examination of the controversy between the Protestants and Roman Catholics, which ended in a full conviction of the truths of the reformed religion, and his conversion to Protestantism.
About the twenty-first year of his age, he resolved to gratify his defire of travelling; and in the years 1596 and 1597, he accompanied the Earl of Essex in the expedition against Cadiz, and staid some years in Spain and Italy, where he improved himself by conversing with men of learning, and gained a perfe& knowledge of the Spanish and Italian languages.
Soon after his return to England, he was made secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, in whose service he continued five ycars, and who had so high an opinion of his abi. lities, as to declare that “ he was ficter to serve a king than a subje&."
In 1602, he married privately, without the consent of her father, Anne, daughter of Sir George Moore, Chancellor of the Garter, and Licutenant of the Tower, who then lived in the Lord Keeper's family, and was neice to his lady.
Sir George Moore resented his marrying his daughter, without his consent, so highly, that he procured his dismission from the Lord Keeper's service, and had him committed to prison.
He foon obrained his liberty; but was obliged to be at the expence of a tedious law-suit, to recoz ver the possellion of his wife, which in volved hina in great difficukies.
His wants, however, were in a great mcafure prevented by the kindness of his relation, Sir Francis Wooley, who entertained him and his family several years in his house, at Pilsord in Surrey, and at last effected a reconciliation between him and his father-in-law, who engaged to pay hin 8col. as a portion with his wife, and 20 l. quarterly till it was paid.
After the death of Sir Francis Wooley, he took a house for his wife and children at Mitcham in Surrey, and lodgings for himself near Whitehall, where he was much visited and caressed by the nobility, foreign ministers, and other persons of distinction.
Some time after, he removed his family to apartments in the house of his friend, Sir Robert Drury, in Drury-lane.
In 1610, he was incorporated Master of Arts at Oxford, having before taken the same degree at Cambridge.
About two years afterwards, he accompanied Sir Robert Drury to Paris; and not long after his return he entered into holy orders, by the persuasion of King James, who had a high opinion of his abilities, and often expressed great satisfaction in having been the niears of introducing so worthy a person into the church.
He was ordained by his friend, Dr. King, Bishop of London, who had been chaplain to the Lord Keeper Egerton, at the same time that he was his secretary. Pę was immediately after made one of the Chaplains in Ordinary to his Majelly, and, about the same tiine, attending the King to Cambridge, he was created Doctor in Divinity by the Univeräis, on the particular recommendation of his Majesty.
On his return from Cambridge, he had the afdi&ion to lose his wife,wbo died on the seventh day after the birth of her twelfth child, Avgust 15. 1617. Soon after the death of his wise, he was chosen Preacher of the Society of Lincoln's Inn, and two years after, by his Majesty's appointnicnt, attended the Earl of Doncaster in his embassy to Germany. 'In 162!, he was advanced to the Deanery of St. Paul's. Soon after, the vicarage of St. Dunstan in the West, was given to hini by the Earl of Dorset, and another benefice, by the Earl of Kent.
In 1623.4, he was chosen prolocutor of the Convocation, and appointed by the King to preach several occasional sermons at Paul's cross.
In 1630, he was seized with a fever at the house of his eldest daughter, Mrs. Harvey, at Abery Hatch, in Essex, which brought on a consumption, of which he died on the 31% of March 1631, and was buried in the cathedral church of St. Paul, where a monument was erected to his memory
Some time before his death, when he was emaciated with study and sickness, he caused himself to be wrapped up in a sheet, which was gathered over his head in the manner of a shroud ; and having closed his eyes, he had his portrait taken, which was kept by his bedside as long as he lived, to sea mind him of mortality. Dugdale says, that the efigy on his monument in St. Paul's church was done after this portrait.
Donne is better known as a poet, than as a divine; though in the latter character he had great merit. His profe writings, which are chiefly theological, are enumerated by Walton, who has written his life, with a juft admiration of his talents and virtues, but with unnecessary prolixity and amplification, and in a frain of vulgar credulity and enthusiasm, peculiar to the productions of the last century.
His “Pseudo Martyr,” in which he has effe&ually confuted the doctrine of the papal fupremacy, is the most valuable of his prose writings. His Sermons abound too much with the pedantry.cf the times in which they were written, to be at all esteemed in the present age.
His Poems, conßfting of “ Songs and Sunnets Epigrams, £lcgies, Epithalamions, Satires, Letters, Funeral Eelgies, Holy Sonnets, &c. published at different times, were printed together in one volume Izmo. by Tonson, 1719, and reprinted by Bell, in 3 vols. 12mo. 1781, with the addition of Elelegies on his Death, by Jonson, Carew, King, Corbet, and other contemporary wits, a specimen of which is given in the present edition.
All his contemporaries are lavish in his praise. Prejudiced, perhaps, by the style of writing which was then falhionable, they seem to have rated his performances beyond their juft value. To
the praise of wit and subtility his ticle is unquestionable. In all his pieces he displays a prodigious richness of fancy, and an elaborate minuteness of description ; but his thoughts are seldom natural, obvious, or just, and much debased by the carelessness of his versification.
Dryden has very juftly given him the character of “the greatest wit, though not the greatest poet of our nation.” In his dedication of Juvenal to the Earl of Dorset, he says: “ Donne, alone, of all our countrymen, had your talent, but was not happy enough to arrive at your versification; and were he translated into numbers and English, he would yet be wanting in the dignity of expression. You equal Donne in the variety, multiplicity, and choice of thoughts; you excel him in the manner and the words. I read you both with the same admiration, but not with the same delight. He affects the metaphysics, not only in his fatires, but in his amorous verses, where nature only should reign, and perplexes the minds of the fair sex with speculations of philosophy, where he should engage their hearts, and entertain them with the softness of love."
Pope, probably taking the hint from this passage, has shewn that Donne's satires, which abound with so much wit, afsume more dignity, and appear more charming, when “trandated into numbers and English."
Dr. Johnson, in his “ Life of Cowley," has displayed his prodigious genius and extensive learn. ing, to great advantage, in characterising the metaphysical poetry of Donne, and his imitators.
“ This kind of writing, which was, I believe, borrowed from Marino and his followers, had been recommended by the example of Donne, à man of very extensive and various knowledge.
“ The metaphysical poets were men of learning, and to shew their learning was their whole endeavour; but, unluckily, resolving to thew it in thyme, initead of writing poetry, they only wrote verses, and very often such verses as stood the trial of the finger better than of the ear, for the modulation was fo imperfect, that they were only found to be verses by counting the syllables.
“ In perusing the works of this race of authors, the mind is exercised either by recollection or inquiry; either something already learaed is to be retrieved, or something new is to be examined. If their greatness elevates, their acuteness often surprises; if the imagination is not always gratified, at least, the powers of reflection and comparison are employed, and in the mass of materials which ingenious absurdity has thrown together, genuine wit and useful knowledge may be sometimes found, buried, perhaps, in grossness of expreslion, but useful to those who know their value, and such as, when they arc expanded to perspicuity, and polished to elegánce, may give luftre to works which have more propriety, though less copiousness of sentimcat.".
To the Right Honourable
WILLIAM LORD CRAVEN,
BARON OF HAMSTED-MARSHAM.
Many of these Poemis have, for several imprellions, have been fo ingeniously received ; but these rede wandered up and down,trusting (as well they might, pretenders to excellencieschey so unjustlyown, who, upon the Author's reputation: neither do they now profanely rushing into Minerva's temple, with noicomplain of any injury but what may proceed either fome airs blast the laurel which thunder cannot hurt. from the kindness of the printer, or the courtesy of In this fad condition these learned Sisters are fleil the reader; the one by adding something too much, over to beg your Lordship’s protection, who have left any spark of this facred fire might perish un- been so certain a patron both to arts and arms; discerned; the other by putting such an estimation and who, in this general confusion, Nave so entirely upon the wit and fancy they find here, that they preserved your honour, that in your Lordship we are content to use it as their own; as if a man may still read a most perfect character of what should dig out the stones of a royal amphitheatre England was in all her pump and greatness : so to build a stage for a country show. Amongst all that although these poems were formerly written the monsters this unlucky age has teemed with, upon several occasions to several persons, they now find none so prodigious as the poets of these latter unite themselves, and are become one pyramid to times, wherein men, as if they would level under- set your Lordship's statue upon, where you may ftandings too as well as estates, acknowledging no stand, like armed Apollo, the defender of the Muses, inequality of parts and judgments, pretend as in- encouraging the poets now alive to celebrate your differently to the chair of wit as to the pulpit, and great acs, by affording your countenance to his conceive themselves no less inspired with the spirit Puens that wanted only fo noble a subject. of poetry than with that of religion : so it is not only the noise of drums and trumpets which have My Lord, your most humble servant, drowned the Muse's harmony, or the fear that the church's ruin will destroy the priests likewise, that
John DONNE, now frights them from this country, where they
UPON MR. J. DONNE AND HIS POEMS.
Who dares say thou art dead, when he doth see' 'This soul of Verse, in its first pure
estate Unburied yet this living part of thee;
Shall live, for all the world to imitate, This part, that to thy being gives fresh flame, But not come near ; for in thy fancy's flight And, though thou'rt Donne, yet will preserve thy Thou dost not stoop unto the vulgar sight,
But hovering highly in the air of Wit, Thy flesh (whose channels left their crimfon hue, Holdit such a pitch that few can follow it ; And whey-like ran at last in a pale blue) Admire they may. Each object that the spring May thew thee mortal; a dead palsy miay (Or a more piercing influence) doth bring Seife on't, and quickly turn it into clay,
T'adorn earth's face, thou sweetly didit conWhich, like the Indian earth, shall rise refin'd;
trive But this great fpirit thou hast left behind, To beauty's elenicnts, and thence derive
Unspotted lilly's white; which thou didft set For there would be more virtue in such spells Hand in hand with the vein-like violet,
Than in meridions or cross parallels.
There purest spirits sung such sacred lays