DONNE, JOHN (1572–1631)
English poet and preacher; dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London
Born into a Roman Catholic family at a time when anti–Catholic feeling in England was high, Donne nevertheless was able to attend Oxford and Cambridge. He studied law at Lincoln’s Inn, London, but never took a degree and never practiced law. Sometime during the 1590s, Donne abandoned his Roman Catholicism and became secretary to Thomas Egerton, the lord chancellor. His prospects for worldly success, however, were dashed in 1601, when he eloped with the lord chancellor’s niece, Ann More. Egerton promptly dismissed him. A period of poverty and failure followed, which ended only in 1615 when Donne accepted the king’s invitation to become an Anglican priest. Through rapid advancements, Donne became dean of St. Paul’s in 1621.
Donne is considered the greatest of the seventeenth–century metaphysical poets, a group which includes George Herbert, Henry Vaughan, and Richard Crashaw. Donne’s early poetry, represented best in his Songs and Sonnets and Elegies, is remarkable for its vivid language, startling and often exaggerated imagery, and frequent use of paradox. The Divine Poems, many of them splendid sonnets, are products of Donne’s later years and reveal an intensity of feeling and depth of insight rarely equaled in English poetry.
Donne was also a great preacher. Brilliant in their fervor and rhetoric, Donne’s sermons run to ten volumes in a modern edition. Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions (1624) contains the famous passage which begins, “No man is an island,” and ends, “Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” P.M.Bechtel
This Biographical Sketch comes from…
Who’s Who in Christian History
With over 1,500 biographical entries, this bibliographical dictionary is a comprehensive resource, spanning the first through the twentieth centuries-from Jesus and the apostles to Billy Graham and Mother Teresa. Any reader will be fascinated and inspired by the lives of men and women-well known and obscure-who were influential in Christian history. This one volume biographical dictionary is also a perfect resource for pastors, Bible teachers, Sunday school teachers, Bible students, and seminarians.