Letteratura inglese - John Donne
John Donne was born to a prosperous London ironmonger (also
named John Donne), in 1572. The Donne's were Catholic, and
young John was educated by Jesuits. His father died when he was
young, and he was raised by his mother, Elizabeth.
At the age of 11, John Donne went to Hart Hall at Oxford
University, where he studied for 3 years, and then proceeded to
Cambridge University for another 3 years. Donne did not take a
degree at either university, because as a Catholic he could not take
the required Oath of Supremacy at graduation.
After Cambridge, Donne studied law at Lincoln's Inn in London.
His faith was badly shaken when his younger brother Henry died
in prison, where he had been sent for sheltering a Catholic priest.
Donne's first literary work, Satires, was written during this period.
This was followed by Songs and Sonnets. a collection of love
poems that enjoyed considerable success through private
Donne gained a comfortable inheiritance, which he proceeded to
spend in profligate fashion on "wine, women, and song". He
joined the Earl of Essex's raid on Cadiz in 1596, and an expedition
to the Azores the following year.
On his return Donne became private secretary toi Sir Thomas
Egerton, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. His chances of career
advancement were destroyed when he secretly married Anne
More, daughter of Sir George More. Anne's enraged father had
Donne thrown into Fleet Prison for several weeks, and Egerton
dismissed him from his post.
Donne's marriage was a happy one, despite constant financial
worries. With typical wry wit, Donne described his life with Anne
as "John Donne, Anne Donne, Undone". Finally, in 1609, George
More was induced to relent and pay his daughter's dowry. In the
meantime Donne worked as a lawyer, and produced Divine Poems
Donne's final break with his Catholic past came with the
publication of Pseudo-Martyr (1610) and Ignatius his Conclave.
These works won him the favour of King James, who pressured
him to take Anglican orders. Donne reluctantly agreed, and in
1615 he was appointed Royal Chaplain, and the following year he
gained the post of Reader in Divinity at Lincoln's Inn. There his
fierce wit and learning made Donne one of the popular preachers
of his day.
Then in 1617 Anne Donne died in giving birth to the couple's 12th
child. Her death affected Donne greatly, though he continued to
write, notably Holy Sonnets (1618).
In 1621 Donne was appointed Dean of St. Paul's, a post he held
for the remainder of his life. In his final years Donne's poems
reflect an obsession with his own death, which came on March 31,
John Donne is remembered for the wit and poignancy of his
poetry, though in his own time he was known as much for his
mesmerizing sermons and preaching style.
As an aside, Donne's memorial in St. Paul's Cathedral was the
only one to survive the Great Fire that destroyed the old cathedral
in 1666. It can be seen today in the new St. Paul's. 4
John Donne was born in Bread Street, London
in 1572 to a prosperous Roman Catholic family
- a precarious thing at a time when anti-
Catholic sentiment was rife in England. His
father, John Donne, was a well-to-do
ironmonger and citizen of London. Donne's
father died suddenly in 1576, and left the three
children to be raised by their mother, Elizabeth,
who was the daughter of epigrammatist and playwright John
Heywood and a relative of Sir Thomas More. [Family tree.]
Donne's first teachers were Jesuits. At the age of 11, Donne and
his younger brother Henry were entered at Hart Hall, University of
Oxford, where Donne studied for three years. He spent the next
three years at the University of Cambridge, but took no degree at
either university because he would not take the Oath of
Supremacy required at graduation. He was admitted to study law
as a member of Thavies Inn (1591) and Lincoln's Inn (1592), and
it seemed natural that Donne should embark upon a legal or
In 1593, Donne's brother Henry died of a fever in prison after
being arrested for giving sanctuary to a proscribed Catholic priest.
This made Donne begin to question his faith. His first book of
poems, Satires, written during this period of residence in London,
is considered one of Donne's most important literary efforts.
Although not immediately published, the volume had a fairly wide
readership through private circulation of the manuscript. Same
Songs and Sonnets, assumed to
was the case with his love poems, 5
be written at about the same time as the Satires.
Having inherited a considerable fortune, young "Jack Donne"
spent his money on womanizing, on books, at the theatre, and on
travels. He had also befriended Christopher Brooke, a poet and his
roommate at Lincoln's Inn, and Ben Jonson who was part of
Brooke's circle. In 1596, Donne joined the naval expedition that
Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, led against Cádiz, Spain. In
1597, Donne joined an expedition to the Azores, where he wrote
"The Calm". Upon his return to England in 1598, Donne was
appointed private secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Keeper
of the Great Seal, afterward Lord Ellesmere.
Donne was beginning a promising career. In 1601, Donne became
MP for Brackley, and sat in Queen Elizabeth's last Parliament. But
in the same year, he secretly married Lady Egerton's niece,
seventeen-year-old Anne More, daughter of Sir George More,
Lieutenant of the Tower, and effectively committed career suicide.
Donne wrote to the livid father, saying:
"Sir, I acknowledge my fault to be so great as I dare scarce offer
any other prayer to you in mine own behalf than this, to believe
that I neither had dishonest end nor means. But for her whom I
tender much more than my fortunes or life (else I would, I might
neither joy in this life nor enjoy the next) I humbly beg of you that
she may not, to her danger, feel the terror of your sudden anger."
Sir George had Donne thrown in Fleet Prison for some weeks,
along with his cohorts Samuel and Christopher Brooke who had
aided the couple's clandestine affair. Donne was dismissed from
his post, and for the next decade had to struggle near poverty to
support his growing family. Donne later summed up the
experience: "John Donne, Anne Donne, Undone." Anne's cousin
offered the couple refuge in Pyrford, Surrey, and the couple was
helped by friends like Lady Magdalen Herbert,
mother, and Lucy, Countess of Bedford, women who also played a
prominent role in Donne's literary life. Though Donne still had
friends left, these were bitter years for a man who knew himself to
be the intellectual superior of most, knew he could have risen to
the highest posts, and yet found no preferment. It was not until
1609 that a reconciliation was effected between Donne and his
father-in-law, and Sir George More was finally induced to pay his
In the intervening years, Donne practised law, but they were lean
years for the Donnes. Donne was employed by the religious
pamphleteer Thomas Morton, later Bishop of Durham. It is
possible that Donne co-wrote or ghost-wrote some of Morton's
pamphlets (1604-1607). To this period, before reconciliation with
his inlaws, belong Donne's Divine Poems (1607) and Biathanatos
(pub. 1644), a radical piece for its time, in which Donne argues
that suicide is not a sin in itself.
As Donne approached forty, he published two anti-Catholic
polemics Pseudo-Martyr (1610) and Ignatius his Conclave (1611).
They were final public testimony of Donne's renunciation of the
Catholic faith. Pseudo-Martyr, which held that English Catholics
could pledge an oath of allegiance to James I, King of England,
without compromising their religious loyalty to the Pope, won
Donne the favor of the King. In return for patronage from Sir
Robert Drury of Hawstead, he wrote A Funerall Elegie (1610), on
the death of Sir Robert's 15-year-old daughter Elizabeth. At this
time, the Donnes took residence on Drury Lane. The two
Anniversaries— An Anatomy of the World (1611) and Of the
Progress of the Soul (1612) continued the patronage. Sir Robert
encouraged the publication of the poems: The First Anniversary
was published with the original elegy in 1611, and both were
reissued with The Second Anniversary in 1612.
Donne had refused to take Anglican orders in 1607, but King
James persisted, finally announcing that Donne would receive no
post or preferment from the King, unless in the church. In 1615,
Donne reluctantly entered the ministry and was appointed a Royal
Chaplain later that year. In 1616, he was appointed Reader in
Divinity at Lincoln's Inn (Cambridge had conferred the degree of
Doctor of Divinity on him two years earlier). Donne's style, full of
elaborate metaphors and religious symbolism, his flair for drama,
his wide learning and his quick wit soon established him as one of
the greatest preachers of the era.
Just as Donne's fortunes seemed to be improving, Anne Donne
died, on 15 August, 1617, aged thirty-three, after giving birth to
their twelfth child, a stillborn. Seven of their children survived
their mother's death. Struck by grief, Donne wrote the seventeenth
Holy Sonnet, "Since she whom I lov'd hath paid her last debt."
According to Donne's friend and biographer, Izaak Walton, Donne
was thereafter 'crucified to the world'. Donne continued to write
poetry, notably his Holy Sonnets (1618), but the time for love
songs was over. In 1618, Donne went as chaplain with Viscount
Doncaster in his embassy to the German princes. His Hymn to
Christ at the Author's Last Going into Germany, written before the
journey, is laden with apprehension of death. Donne returned to
London in 1620, and was appointed Dean of Saint Paul's in 1621,
a post he held until his death. Donne excelled at his post, and was
at last financially secure. In 1623, Donne's eldest daughter,
Constance, married the actor Edward Alleyn, then 58.
Donne's private meditations, Devotions upon Emergent
Occasions, written while he was convalescing from a serious
illness, were published in 1624. The most famous of these is
undoubtedly Meditation 17, which includes the immortal lines
"No man is an island" and "never send to know for whom the bell
tolls; It tolls for thee." In 1624, Donne was made vicar of St
Dunstan's-in-the-West. On March 27, 1625, James I died, and
Donne preached his first sermon for Charles I. But for his ailing
health, (he had mouth sores and had experienced significant
weight loss) Donne almost certainly would have become a bishop
posed in a shroud
in 1630. Obsessed with the idea of death, Donne 8
- the painting was completed a few weeks before his death, and
later used to create an effigy. He also preached what was called
his own funeral sermon, Death's Duel, just a few weeks before he
died in London on March 31, 1631. The last thing Donne wrote
just before his death was Hymne to God, my God, In my
Sicknesse. Donne's monument, in his shroud, survived the Great
Fire of London and can still be seen today at St. Paul's. 9
Biography of John Donne
The metaphysical poet and clergyman John
Donne was one of the most influential poets
of the Renaissance. He was just as famous for
his witty cutting poetry as he was for his
enthralling sermons. John was born to a
prominent Roman Catholic family from
London in 1572. Not a healthy child, John
Donne would lead a life plagued with illness.
He received a strong religious upbringing until his enrollment at
the University of Oxford at the age of 11. After only three years at
Oxford it is believed that he transferred to the University of
Cambridge for another three years of study, never obtaining a
degree at either college. In 1590 John made a decision that would
shape his life: he converted to Anglicanism.
With his newfound faith to support him, John moved to London to
study law at Lincoln's Inn. With a promising legal career in front
of him, he joined the second Earl of Essex, Robert Devereux, in a
naval expedition to Cadiz, Spain. Sometime during the return trip
in 1598, he was appointed to be the private secretary for Anne
More, niece of the Keeper of the Great Seal, Sir Thomas Egerton.
Donne excelled at caring for his charge - so well that in 1601 they
were secretly married. After Egerton relieved Donne of his
position he was imprisoned for his amorous actions. He later
wrote about his experience in poetry, "John Donne - Ann Donne -
John continued to live in London for the next few years working
as counsel for the anti-Catholic pamphleteer, Thomas Morton
from 1604 to 1607. It is also during this time that Donne began his
writing with Divine Poems in 1607 and Biathanatos in 1608, later
published after his death, in 1644.
In 1608 Donne made up with his father-in-law after a few
attempted suicides. Pseudo-Martyr, Donne's next work, published
in 1610, won him favor with the king. The prose work was a
treatise that said Catholics could swear allegiance to King James
the first without renouncing the pope. In 1615 John became a
priest of the Anglican church and began giving his now famous
sermons. Later that same year, he optioned the position of royal
chaplain. St. Paul's Cathedral appointed him Dean in 1621, a
position he held for ten years. In a final interesting note, our
esteemed Mr. Donne performed the eulogy for his own funeral
and even posted for a portrait in his death shroud shortly before
his death in 1631, of an unknown terminal illness. All of Donne's
now famous works were published after his death. 11
+1 anno fa
I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher melody_gio di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di Letteratura inglese 2 e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Ca' Foscari Venezia - Unive o del prof Innocenti Loretta.
Acquista con carta o conto PayPal
Scarica il file tutte le volte che vuoi
Paga con un conto PayPal per usufruire della garanzia Soddisfatto o rimborsato