Today, John Donne is probably best remembered for his metaphysical poetry which is the term coined by Samuel Johnson for strong, sensual, love and religious poems.
John Donne who came from a recusant Roman Catholic family, switched his allegiance and was ordained into the Protestant faith, becoming Dean of St Paul’s. It is for the reader to speculate on whether this was a pragmatic decision or a true conviction.
During his young adulthood, after university and law school, Donne spent his inheritance on women, literature and travel with the hope that his knowledge would secure him a diplomatic position. When this did not happen immediately he turned his literary talents to selling his poetry and religious works and scouting for legal briefs. Finally he was engaged as Secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. His career was ruined when he secretly married Sir Thomas’ neice, Anne, who was very young. As a social outcast he was forced to return to his previous line of work which was exceedingly precarious.
He hoped his religious writings and books would see a return to court but James I felt his calling was with the church. Since after ordination he was made a Royal Chaplain one can only assume James dangled this carrot. He was made him Reader in Divinity and his last post was Dean of St. Paul’s.
I found this book a fascinating read. I wonder if he would be pleased to learn his posterity is due to his poetry. Was his choice to take holy orders a last resort for financial security for his large family or a true epiphany?
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