John Donne by Isaac Oliver

John Donne (1572-1631). Portrait by Isaac Oliver (1556-1617). Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

John Donne
John Donne
Occupation Poet, Priest, Lawyer
Nationality English
Genres Satire, Love poetry, Elegy, Sermons
Subjects Love, sexuality, religion, death
Literary movement Metaphysical Poetry

Rev. John Donne (1572 - 31 March 1631) was an English priest who served as dean of St. Paul's Cathedral, 1621-1631, and a leading English poet of the metaphysical school of the period. The Encyclopædia Britannica says that Donne "is often considered the greatest love poet in the English language. He is also noted for his religious verse and treatises and for his sermons, which rank among the best of the 17th century."[2]



Donne, was born in London, son of a wealthy ironmonger. Brought up as a Roman Catholic, he was sent to Oxford and Cambridge, and afterwards entered Lincoln's Inn with a view to the law. Here he studied the points of controversy between Romanists and Protestants, with the result that he joined the Church of England. The next 2 years were somewhat changeful, including travels on the Continent, service as a private sec., and a clandestine marriage with the niece of his patron, which led to dismissal and imprisonment, followed by reconciliation. On the suggestion of James I, who approved of Pseudo-Martyr (1610), a book against Rome which he had written, he took orders, and after executing a mission to Bohemia, he was, in 1621, made Dean of St. Paul's. Donne had great popularity as a preacher. His works consist of elegies, satires, epigrams, and religious pieces, in which, amid many conceits and much that is artificial, frigid, and worse, there is likewise much poetry and imagination of a high order. Perhaps the best of his works is "An Anatomy of the World" (1611), an elegy. Others are "Epithalamium" (1613), "Progress of the Soul" (1601), and "Divine Poems." Collections of his poems appeared in 1633 and 1649. He exercised a strong influence on literature for over half a century after his death; to him we owe the unnatural style of conceits and overstrained efforts after originality of the succeeding age.[3]


Donne was born in London between January 24 and June 19, 1572,[4] into a Roman Catholic family, at a time when open practice of that religion was illegal in England.[5] He was the third of 6 children. His father, also named John Donne, was of Welsh descent, and a warden of the Ironmongers Company in the City of London. Donne's father was a respected Catholic who avoided unwelcome government attention out of fear of being persecuted for his religious faith.[6][7]

Donne's father died in 1576, leaving his wife, Elizabeth Heywood, the responsibility of raising their children.[7] Elizabeth Heywood was also from a recusant Catholic family, the daughter of John Heywood, the playwright, and sister of Rev. Jasper Heywood, a Jesuit priest and translator. She was a great-niece of the Catholic martyr Thomas More.[8] This tradition of martyrdom would continue among Donne's closer relatives, many of whom were executed or exiled for religious reasons.[9] Donne was educated privately; however there is no evidence to support the popular claim that he was taught by Jesuits.[10] Donne's mother married Dr. John Syminges, a wealthy widower with three children, a few months after Donne's father died. In 1577, his mother died, followed by two more of his sisters, Mary and Katherine, in 1581.

File:John Donne house Pyrford.jpg

Donne was a student at Hart Hall, now Hertford College, Oxford, from the age of 11. After three years at Oxford he was admitted to the University of Cambridge, where he studied for another three years.[11] He was unable to obtain a degree from either institution because of his Catholicism, since he could not take the Oath of Supremacy required of graduates.[8]

John Donne BBC News

Donne as a young man. Portrait by unknown artist, circa 1595. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

In 1591 he was accepted as a student at the Thavies Inn legal school, one of the Inns of Chancery in London. In 1592 he was admitted to Lincoln's Inn, one of the Inns of Court.[8] His brother Henry was also a university student prior to his arrest in 1593 for harbouring a Catholic priest, William Harrington, whom Henry betrayed under torture.[5] Harrington was tortured on the rack, hanged until not quite dead, then was subjected to disembowelment.[5] Henry Donne died in Newgate prison of bubonic plague, leading John Donne to begin questioning his Catholic faith.[7]

During and after his education, Donne spent much of his considerable inheritance on women, literature, pastimes and travel.[6][8] Although there is no record detailing precisely where he traveled, it is known that he traveled across Europe and later fought with the Earl of Essex and Sir Walter Raleigh against the Spanish at Cadiz (1596) and the Azores (1597) and witnessed the loss of the Spanish flagship, the San Felipe.[1][7][12] According to Izaak Walton, who wrote a biography of Donne in 1640:

... he returned not back into England till he had stayed some years, first in Italy, and then in Spain, where he made many useful observations of those countries, their laws and manner of government, and returned perfect in their languages.
—Izaak Walton

By the age of 25 he was well prepared for the diplomatic career he appeared to be seeking.[12] He was appointed chief secretary to the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, Sir Thomas Egerton, and was established at Egerton's London home, York House, Strand close to the Palace of Whitehall, then the most influential social centre in England.

Marriage to Anne MoreEdit

During the next four years he fell in love with Egerton's niece Anne More, and they were married just before Christmas[5] in 1601 against the wishes of both Egerton and George More, Lieutenant of the Tower and Anne's father. This ruined Donne's career and earned him a short stay in Fleet Prison, along with the priest who married them and the man who acted as a witness to the wedding. Donne was released when the marriage was proven valid, and soon secured the release of the other two. Walton tells us that when he wrote to his wife to tell her about losing his post, he wrote after his name: John Donne, Anne Donne, Un-done. It was not until 1609 that Donne was reconciled with his father-in-law and received his wife's dowry.

Following his release, Donne had to accept a retired country life in Pyrford, Surrey.[8] Over the next few years he scraped a meagre living as a lawyer, depending on his wife's cousin Sir Francis Wolly to house him, his wife, and their children. Since Anne Donne had a baby almost every year, this was a very generous gesture. Though he practised law and worked as an assistant pamphleteer to Thomas Morton, Donne was in a constant state of financial insecurity, with a growing family to provide for.[8]

Anne bore him 12 children in 16 years of marriage (including two stillbirths - their eighth and then in 1617 their last child); indeed, she spent most of her married life either pregnant or nursing. The 10 surviving children were named Constance, John, George, Francis, Lucy (after Donne's patroness Lucy, Countess of Bedford, her godmother), Bridget, Mary, Nicholas, Margaret and Elizabeth. Francis, Nicholas and Mary died before they were ten. In a state of despair, Donne noted that the death of a child would mean one fewer mouth to feed, but he could not afford the burial expenses. During this time Donne wrote, but did not publish, Biathanatos, his defence of suicide.[9] His wife died on 15 August 1617, five days after giving birth to their twelfth child, a still-born baby. Donne mourned her deeply, including writing the 17th Holy Sonnet.[8] He never remarried; this was quite unusual for the time, especially as he had a large family to bring up.

Early poetryEdit

File:Generic Donne Divine Poems Art Cover.jpg

Donne's earliest poems showed a developed knowledge of English society coupled with sharp criticism of its problems. His satires dealt with common Elizabethan topics, such as corruption in the legal system, mediocre poets, and pompous courtiers. His images of sickness, vomit, manure, and plague assisted in the creation of a strongly satiric world populated by all the fools and knaves of England. His third satire, however, deals with the problem of true religion, a matter of great importance to Donne. He argued that it was better to examine carefully one's religious convictions than blindly to follow any established tradition, for none would be saved at the Final Judgment, by claiming "A Harry, or a Martin taught [them] this."[9]

Donne's early career was also notable for his erotic poetry, especially his elegies, in which he employed unconventional metaphors, such as a flea biting two lovers being compared to sex.[12] In Elegy XIX: To His Mistress Going to Bed, he poetically undressed his mistress and compared the act of fondling to the exploration of America. In Elegy XVIII, he compared the gap between his lover's breasts to the Hellespont.[12] Donne did not publish these poems, although did allow them to circulate widely in manuscript form.[12]

Career Edit

Donne was elected as Member of Parliament for the constituency of Brackley in 1602, but this was not a paid position and Donne struggled to provide for his family, relying heavily upon rich friends.[8] The fashion for coterie poetry of the period gave him a means to seek patronage and many of his poems were written for wealthy friends or patrons, especially Sir Robert Drury, who came to be Donne's chief patron in 1610.[12] Donne wrote the two Anniversaries, An Anatomy of the World]] (1611) and Of the Progress of the Soul, (1612), for Drury. While historians are not certain as to the precise reasons for which Donne left the Catholic Church, he was certainly in communication with the King, James I of England, and in 1610 and 1611 he wrote two anti-Catholic polemics: Pseudo-Martyr and Ignatius his Conclave.[8] Although James was pleased with Donne's work, he refused to reinstate him at court and instead urged him to take holy orders.[7] At length, Donne acceded to the King's wishes and in 1615 was ordained into the Church of England.[12]


Donne became a Royal Chaplain in late 1615, Reader of Divinity at Lincoln's Inn in 1616, and received a Doctor of Divinity degree from Cambridge University in 1618.[8] Later in 1618 he became chaplain to Viscount Doncaster, who was on an embassy to the princes of Germany. Donne did not return to England until 1620.[8] In 1621 Donne was made Dean of St Paul's, a leading (and well-paid) position in the Church of England and one he held until his death in 1631. During his period as Dean his daughter Lucy died, aged eighteen. It was in late November and early December 1623 that he suffered a nearly fatal illness, thought to be either typhus or a combination of a cold followed by the seven-day relapsing fever. During his convalescence he wrote a series of meditations and prayers on health, pain, and sickness that were published as a book in 1624 under the title of Devotions upon Emergent Occasions. One of these meditations, Meditation XVII, later became well known for its phrase "for whom the bell tolls" and the statement that "no man is an island". In 1624 he became vicar of St Dunstan-in-the-West, and 1625 a Royal Chaplain to Charles I.[8] He earned a reputation as an eloquent preacher and 160 of his sermons have survived, including the famous Death's Duel sermon delivered at the Palace of Whitehall before King Charles I in February 1631.

Later poetryEdit


Some have speculated that Donne's numerous illnesses, financial strain, and the deaths of his friends all contributed to the development of a more somber and pious tone in his later poems.[12] The change can be clearly seen in "An Anatomy of the World]]" (1611), a poem that Donne wrote in memory of Elizabeth Drury, daughter of his patron, Sir Robert Drury of Hawstead, Suffolk. This poem treats Elizabeth's demise with extreme gloominess, using it as a symbol for the Fall of Man and the destruction of the universe.[12]

The poem "A Nocturnal upon S. Lucy's Day, Being the Shortest Day]]",, concerns the poet's despair at the death of a loved one. In it Donne expresses a feeling of utter negation and hopelessness, saying that "I am every dead / Of absence, darkness, death." This famous work was probably written in 1627 when both Donne's friend Lucy, Countess of Bedford, and his daughter Lucy Donne died. Three years later, in 1630, Donne wrote his will on Saint Lucy's day, the date the poem describes as "Both the year's, and the day's deep midnight."

The increasing gloominess of Donne's tone may also be observed in the religious works that he began writing during the same period. His early belief in the value of skepticism now gave way to a firm faith in the traditional teachings of the Bible. Having converted to the Anglican Church, Donne focused his literary career on religious literature. He quickly became noted for his sermons and religious poems. The lines of these sermons would come to influence future works of English literature, such as Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls, which took its title from a passage in Meditation XVII of Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, and Thomas Merton's No Man is an Island, which took its title from the same source.

Towards the end of his life Donne wrote works that challenged death, and the fear that it inspired in many men, on the grounds of his belief that those who die are sent to Heaven to live eternally. One example of this challenge is his Holy Sonnet X, from which come the famous lines "Death, be not proud, though some have called thee / Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so." Even as he lay dying during Lent in 1631, he rose from his sickbed and delivered the Death's Duel sermon, which was later described as his own funeral sermon. Death's Duel portrays life as a steady descent to suffering and death, yet sees hope in salvation and immortality through an embrace of God, Christ and the Resurrection.[9][12][14]


It is thought that his final illness was stomach cancer, although this has not been proven. He died on 31 March 1631 having written many poems, most only in manuscript. Donne was buried in old St Paul's Cathedral, where a memorial statue of him was erected (carved from a drawing of him in his shroud), with a Latin epigraph probably composed by himself. Donne's monument survived the 1666 fire, and is on display in the present building.


His work has received much criticism over the years, especially concerning his metaphysical form. His poetry is noted for its vibrancy of language and inventiveness of metaphor, especially as compared to that of his contemporaries. John Donne's style is characterized by abrupt openings, various paradoxes, ironies, dislocations. These features in combination with his frequent dramatic or everyday speech rhythms, his tense syntax, and his tough eloquence were both a reaction against the smoothness of conventional Elizabethan poetry and an adaptation into English of European baroque and mannerist techniques. His early career was marked by poetry that bore immense knowledge of British society and he met that knowledge with sharp criticism. Another important theme in Donne's poetry was the idea of true religion, which was something that he spent a lot of time considering and theorizing about. Donne is particularly famous for his mastery of metaphysical conceits.[15]

Donne is generally considered the most prominent member of the Metaphysical poets, a phrase coined in 1781 by the critic Dr Johnson, following a comment on Donne by the poet John Dryden. Dryden had written of Donne in 1693: "He affects the metaphysics, not only in his satires, but in his amorous verses, where nature only should reign; and perplexes the minds of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy, when he should engage their hearts, and entertain them with the softnesses of love."[16] In Life of Cowley (from Samuel Johnson's 1781 work of biography and criticism Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets), Johnson refers to the beginning of the seventeenth century in which there "appeared a race of writers that may be termed the metaphysical poets". Donne's immediate successors in poetry therefore tended to regard his works with ambivalence, with the Neoclassical poets regarding his conceits as abuse of the metaphor. However he was revived by Romantic poets such as Coleridge and Browning, though his more recent revival in the early twentieth century by poets such as T.S. Eliot and critics like F R Leavis tended to portray him, with approval, as an anti-Romantic.[17]

Donne's work suggests a healthy appetite for life and its pleasures, while also expressing deep emotion. He did this through the use of conceits, wit and intellect - as seen in the poems "The Sun Rising" and "Batter My Heart".

Donne is considered a master of the metaphysical conceit, an extended metaphor that combines two vastly different ideas into a single idea, often using imagery.[9] An example of this is his equation of lovers with saints in "The Canonization". Unlike the conceits found in other Elizabethan poetry, most notably Petrarchan conceits, which formed clichéd comparisons between more closely related objects (such as a rose and love), metaphysical conceits go to a greater depth in comparing two completely unlike objects. One of the most famous of Donne's conceits is found in "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" where he compares two lovers who are separated to the two legs of a compass.

Donne's works are also witty, employing paradoxes, puns, and subtle yet remarkable analogies. His pieces are often ironic and cynical, especially regarding love and human motives. Common subjects of Donne's poems are love (especially in his early life), death (especially after his wife's death), and religion.[9]

Donne's poetry represented a shift from classical forms to more personal poetry.[18] Donne is noted for his poetic metre, which was structured with changing and jagged rhythms that closely resemble casual speech (it was for this that the more classical-minded Ben Jonson commented that "Donne, for not keeping of accent, deserved hanging").[9]

Some scholars believe that Donne's literary works reflect the changing trends of his life, with love poetry and satires from his youth and religious sermons during his later years. Other scholars, such as Helen Gardner, question the validity of this dating - most of his poems were published posthumously (1633). (The exceptions are his Anniversaries which were published in 1612 and Devotions upon Emergent Occasions published in 1624. His sermons are also dated, sometimes specifically by date and year.

Critical introductionEdit

by John W. Hales

Donne's contemporary reputation as a poet, and still more as a preacher, was immense; and a glance at his works would suffice to show that he did not deserve the contempt with which he was subsequently treated. But yet his chief interest is that he was the principal founder of a school which especially expressed and represented a certain bad taste of his day. Of his genius there can be no question; but it was perversely directed. One may almost invert Jonson’s famous panegyric on Shakespeare, and say that Donne was not for all time but for an age.

To this school Dr. Johnson has given the title of the Metaphysical; and for this title there is something to be said. "Donne," says Dryden, "affects the metaphysics not only in his Satires, but in his amorous verses where Nature only should reign, and perplexes the minds of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy when he should engage their hearts and entertain them with the softnesses of love." Thus he often ponders over the mystery of love, and is exercised by subtle questions as to its nature, origin, endurance. But a yet more notable distinction of this school than its philosophising, shallow or deep, is what may be called its fantasticality, its quaint wit, elaborate ingenuity, far-fetched allusiveness; and it might better be called the Ingenious, or Fantastic School. Various and out-of-the-way information and learning is a necessary qualification for membership.

Donne in one of his letters speaks of his "embracing the worst voluptuousness, an hydroptic immoderate desire of human learning and languages." Eminence is attained by using such stores in the way to be least expected. The thing to be illustrated becomes of secondary importance by the side of the illustration. The more unlikely and surprising and preposterous this is, the greater the success. This is wit of a kind. From one point of view, wit, as Dr. Johnson says, "may be considered as a kind of discordia concors; a combination of dissimilar images or discovery of occult resemblances in things apparently unlike. Of wit thus defined they [Donne and his followers] have more than enough. The most heterogeneous ideas are yoked by violence together; nature and art are ransacked for illustrations, comparisons, and allusions; their learning instructs, and their subtility surprises; but the reader commonly thinks his improvement dearly bought, and though he sometimes admires is seldom pleased."

And so in the following curious passage from Donne’s Dedication of certain poems to Lord Craven it should be observed how "wit" and "poetry" are made to correspond: "Amongst all the monsters this unlucky age has teemed with, I find none so prodigious as the poets of these late times [this is very much what Donne’s own critics must say], wherein men, as if they would level undertakings too as well as estates, acknowledging no inequality of parts and judgments, pretend as indifferently to the chair of wit as to the pulpit, and conceive themselves no less inspired with the spirit of poetry than with that of religion." Dryden styles Donne "the greatest wit though not the best poet of our nation."

The taste which this school represents marks other literatures besides our own at this time. It was "in the air" of that age; and so was not originated by Donne. But it was he who in England first gave it full expression — who was its first vigorous and effective and devoted spokesman. And this secures him a conspicuous position in the history of our literature when we remember how prevalent was the fashion of conceits’ during the first half of the seventeenth century, and that amongst those who followed it more or less are to be mentioned, to say nothing of the earlier poems of Milton and Waller and Dryden, Suckling, Denham, Herbert, Crashaw, Cleveland, Cowley.

This misspent learning, this excessive ingenuity, this laborious wit seriously mars almost the whole of Donne’s work. For the most part we look on it with amazement rather than with pleasure. It reminds us rather of a "pyrotechnic display," with its unexpected flashes and explosions, than of a sure and constant light.... We weary of such unmitigated cleverness — such ceaseless straining after novelty and surprise. We long for something simply thought, and simply said.

His natural gifts were certainly great. He possesses a real energy and fervour. He loved, and he suffered much, and he writes with a passion which is perceptible through all his artificialities. Such a poem as The Will is evidence of the astonishing rapidity and brightness of his fancy.

He also claims notice as one of our earliest formal satirists. Though not published till much later, there is proof that some at least of his satires were written three or four years before those of Hall. Two of them (ii. and iv.) were reproduced — "versified" — in the last century by Pope, acting on a suggestion by Dryden: No. iii. was similarly treated by Parnell. In these versions, along with the roughness of the metre, disappears much of the general vigour; and it should be remembered that the metrical roughness was no result of incapacity, but was designed. Thus the charge of metrical uncouthness so often brought against Donne on the ground of his satires is altogether mistaken. How fluently and smoothly he could write if he pleased, is attested over and over again by his lyrical pieces.[19]


Donne is commemorated as a priest in the calendars of saints of the Church of England and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on 31 March.[20]

Sylvia Plath, interviewed on BBC Radio in late 1962, said the following about a book review of her collection of poems titled The Colossus that had been published in the United Kingdom two years earlier: "I remember being appalled when someone criticized me for beginning just like John Donne but not quite managing to finish like John Donne, and I felt the weight of English literature on me at that point."[21]

The memorial to John Donne, modelled after the engraving pictured above, was one of the few such memorials to survive the Great Fire of London in 1666 and now appears in St Paul's Cathedral, where Donne is buried.

Eight of his poems ("Daybreak," "Song," "That Time and Absence proves," "The Ecstasy," "The Dream," "The Funeral," "A Hymn to God the Father," and "Death") were included in the Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1900.[22]

In literatureEdit

Donne has appeared in several works of literature:

  • A dying John Donne scholar is the main character of Margaret Edson's Pulitzer prize-winning play Wit (1999), which was made into the film Wit starring Emma Thompson.
  • Donne's Songs and Sonnets feature in The Calligrapher (2003), a novel by Edward Docx.
  • In the 2006 novel The Meaning of Night by Michael Cox, Donne's works are frequently quoted.
  • John Donne appears, along with his wife Anne and daughter Pegge, in the award-winning novel Conceit (2007) by Mary Novik.
  • Joseph Brodsky has a poem called "Elegy for John Donne".
  • The love story of John Donne and Anne More is the subject of Maeve Haran's 2010 historical novel The Lady and the Poet.
  • An excerpt from "Meditation 17 Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions" serves as the opening for Ernest Hemingway's "For Whom The Bell Tolls".
  • Marilynne Robinson's Pulitzer prize-winning novel Gilead makes several references to Donne's work.
  • To Your Scattered Bodies Go, the title of Philip Jose Farmer's first "Riverworld" science-fiction novel, is a phrase from Donne's "Holy Sonnet 7".

In popular cultureEdit

  • Tarwater, in their album called Salon des Refuses, have put "The Relic" to song.
  • Children of Bodom, in the song "Follow the Reaper" reference John Donne's Holy Sonnet 10
  • Metallica in the song "For Whom the Bell Tolls" reference Meditation 17 from Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
  • Titus Andronicus, in their 2008 song "Albert Camus", quote from Donne's Holy Sonnet 10
  • Jethro Tull, in the song "Teacher" uses the line "No man is an Island" from Meditation 17 from Devotions upon Emergent Occasions
  • Van Morrison pays homage to John Donne in "Rave on John Donne," from his album "Live at the Belfast Opera House."
  • Lost in Austen, the British mini series based on Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, has Bingley refer to John Donne when he describes taking Jane to America, "John Donne, don't you know? 'License my roving hands,' and so forth."
  • Loudon Wainwright III, in his 1986 song Hard Day On The Planet, affirms "A man ain't an island; John Donne wasn't lying"
  • Indie Rock band mewithoutYou use words from A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning in their song "Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt", from their album A-B Life.
  • Bob Chilcott has arranged a choral piece to John Donne's "Go and Catch a Falling Star".
  • In the popular show Psychoville, The character David recites a John Donne poem to his dieing mother, she asks him if he had just wrote that. He replied "No, John Donne" to which she corrected, "No David, its John Did", attempting to correct his cockney.





  • Pseudo-Martyr. London: W. Stansby, for Walter Burre, 1610.
  • Conclaue Ignati (in Latin). London, 1611
    • translated as Ignatius His Conclaue. London: N.O. for Richard More, 1611.
  • An Anatomy of the World. London: Samuel Macham, 1611.
  • The Second Anniuersarie: Of The Progres of the Soule (published with The First Anniuersarie: An Anatomie of the World. London: M. Bradwood for Samuel Macham, 1612.
  • A Sermon Vpon The XV Verse Of The XX Chapter Of The Booke Of Ivdges. London: William Stansby for Thomas Jones, 1622.
  • A Sermon Vpon The VIII Verse Of The I Chapter of The Acts Of The Apostles. London: Aug. Mat for Thomas Jones, 1622.
  • Encænia: The feast of dedication, celebrated At Lincolnes Inne, in a sermon there upon Ascension day, 1623. London: Aug. Mat. for Thomas Jones, 1623.
  • Three Sermons Vpon Speciall Occasions. London: for Thomas Jones, 1623.
  • Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions. London: A. Mat for Thomas Jones, 1624.
  • The First Sermon Preached To King Charles. London: A. Mat for Thomas Jones, 1625.
  • Fovre Sermons Vpon Speciall Occasions. London: Thomas Jones, 1625.
  • A Sermon, Preached To The Kings Mtie. At Whitehall, 24. Febr. 1625. London: Thomas Jones, 1626.
  • Five Sermons Vpon Speciall Occasions. London: for Thomas Jones, 1626.
  • A Sermon Of Commemoration Of The Lady Dãuers. London: I.H. for Philemon Stephens & Christopher Meredith, 1627.
  • Deaths Dvell. London: Thomas Harper for Richard Redmer & Benjamin Fisher, 1632.
  • Juvenilia. London: E.P. for Henry Seyle, 1633.
  • Six Sermons Vpon Severall Occasions. London: Printers to the Universitie of Cambridge, sold by Nicholas Fussell & Humphrey Mosley, 1634.
  • Sapientia Clamitans. London: I. Haviland for R. Milbourne, 1638.
  • Wisdome crying out to Sinners. London: M.P. for John Stafford, 1639.
  • LXXX Sermons. London: Richard Royston & Richard Marriot, 1640.
  • BIATHANATO A Declaration of that paradoxe, or thesis that selfe-homicide is not so naturally sinne, that it may never be otherwise. London: John Dawson, 1647.
  • Essays in Divinity. London: T.M. for Richard Marriot, 1651
  • Fifty Sermons. London: Printed by Ja. Flesher for M.F.J. Marriot & R. Royston, 1649.
  • XXVI Sermons. London: Printed by T.N. for James Magnes, 1660.
  • Donne's Sermons: Selected Passages (edited, with an introduction, by Logan Pearsall Smith). Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1919.
  • The Sermons of John Donne (10 volumes, edited by George R. Potter and Evelyn M. Simpson). Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1953-1962.
  • Sermons on the Psalms and Gospels: With a selection of prayers and meditations (edited by Evelyn M. Simpson). Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1963.
  • Donne's Prebend Sermons (edited by Janel M. Mueller). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971.
  • Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions (edited by Anthony Raspa). Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1975.
  • Biathanatos (edited by Ernest W. Sullivan II). Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press; London: Associated University Presses, 1984.
  • John Donne (edited by John Carey). Oxford & New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Collected editionsEdit


  • Letters to Severall Persons of Honour (edited by John Donne, Jr.). London: J. Flesher for Richard Marriott, 1651)
    • facsimile (with introduction by M. Thomas Hester). Delmar, NY: Scholars' Facsimiles & Reprints, 1977.
  • A Collection of Letters, Made by Sr Tobie Mathews, Kt. (edited by John Donne, Jr.) London: Henry Herringman, 1660.
  • Life and Letters (edited by Edmund Gosse). (2 volumes), London: Heinemann, 1899.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[25]

See alsoEdit

The Sun Rising by John Donne - Poetry Reading

The Sun Rising by John Donne - Poetry Reading


  • R.C. Bald, John Donne: A Life.. Oxford, UK: 1970.
  • Edward Le Comte, Grace to a Witty Sinner: A life of Donne. Walker, 1965.
  • John Stubbs, Donne: The reformed soul. Viking, 2006. ISBN 0-670-91510-6
  • Kit Lim, John Donne: An Eternity of Song. Penguin, 2005.
  • Frank J. Warnke, John Donne. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 1987.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Donne, John. Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition
  2. Patricia Garland Pinka, "John Donne," Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., Web, Sep. 3, 2012.
  3. John William Cousin, "Donne, John," A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature, 1910, 119. Web, Jan. 5, 2018.
  4. John Donne, Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. Web, June 5, 2016.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Schama, Simon (2009-05-26). "Simon Schama's John Donne". BBC2. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Donne, John" by Richard W. Langstaff. Article from Collier's Encyclopedia, Volume 8. Bernard Johnston, general editor. P.F. Colliers Inc., New York: 1988. pp. 346-349.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 "Donne, John." Article in British Authors Before 1800: A Biographical Dictionary. Edited by Stanley Kunitz and Howard Haycraft. The H.W. Wilson Company, New York: 1952. pp. 156-158
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 8.11 Jokinen, Anniina. "The Life of John Donne." Luminarium, 22 June 2006. Accessed 22 January 2007.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 Greenblatt, Stephen. The Norton anthology of English literature, Eighth edition. W.W. Norton and Company, 2006. ISBN 0-393-92828-4; pp. 600-602
  10. * Colclough, "Donne, John (1572-1631)," Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, September 2004; online edn, October 2007, accessed 18 May 2010
  11. Donne, John in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 12.6 12.7 12.8 12.9 Will and Ariel Durant. The Story of Civilization: Part VII: The Age of Reason Begins. Simon and Schuster: New York, 1961. pp. 154-156
  13. Lapham, Lewis. The End of the World. Thomas Dunne Books: New York, 1997. p. 98.
  14. Fulfilling the Circle: A Study of John Donne's Thought by Terry G. Sherwood University of Toronto Press, 1984, p. 231
  16. Dryden, John, A Discourse Concerning the Original and Progress of Satire (London, 1693)
  17. The Best Poems of the English Language. Harold Bloom. HarperCollins Publishers, New York: 2004. pp. 138-139.
  18. John Donne. Island of Freedom. Accessed 19 February 2007.
  19. from John W. Hales, "Critical Introduction: John Donne (1572–1631)," The English Poets: Selections with critical introductions (edited by Thomas Humphry Ward). New York & London: Macmillan, 1880-1918. Web, Apr. 8, 2016.
  20. (PDF) Evangelical Lutheran Worship - Final Draft. Augsburg Fortress Press. 2006. 
  21. Voices and Visions television documentary episode about Sylvia Plath telecast on PBS for the first time on 14 August 1988. Her recollection of the book revewier comparing her to John Donne is from an audio clip of one of her BBC radio appearances that she made in late 1962 after separating from her husband, poet Ted Hughes.
  22. Alphabetical list of authors: Daniel, Samuel to Hyde, Douglas. Arthur Quiller-Couch, editor, Oxford Book of English Verse 1250-1900 (Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1919)., Web, May 16, 2012.
  23. The poetical works of Skelton & Donne, Volume II (1855), Internet Archive. Web, Aug. 31, 2013.
  24. Essays in Divinity (1855), Internet Archive. Web, Aug. 31, 2013.
  25. John Donne 1572-1631, Poetry Foundation, Web, Sep. 3, 2012.

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