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IN the year 1610, and shortly after the death of his faithful patron and kinsman, Sir Francis Wolley, Donne formed an acquaintance which gave an entirely new colour to his life and a new channel to his thoughts. Sir Robert Drury, of Hawsted, in Suffolk, who was one of the wealthiest men in England, had a daughter, Elizabeth, for whom he nourished the loftiest ambitions." It is said that he dreamed of preparing her, as the consort of Prince Henry, for the throne itself. This girl, his sole heiress and hope, died in her fifteenth year, early in 1610, and was commemorated by the erection of an almshouse for widows at Hawsted. The despairing grief of Sir Robert Drury, who was a man of extravagant passions, was widely reported, and came to the ears of Donne. The poet, although he had never seen the young lady, set about to compose in her honour a little “funeral elegy” of 106 lines, which he forwarded to her sorrowing father. The tone he took was exalted


“We may well allow
Verse to live so long as the world will now,
For her death wounded it. The world contains
Princes for arms, and counsellors for brains,
Lawyers for tongues, divines for hearts, and more,
The rich for stomachs, and for backs the poor;
The officers for hands, merchants for feet,
By which remote and distant countries meet;

* Through the courtesy of Mr. G. Milner-Gibson-Cullum, I am enabled to reproduce for the first time the interesting portrait of Elizabeth Drury which is in his

VOL. I. 273 s

But those fine spirits, which do tune and set
This organ, are those pieces which beget
Wonder and love; and these were she ; and she
Being spent, the world must needs decrepit be.”

With extreme hyperbole of praise and lamentation there are mingled some personal touches, such as of the smallness of Elizabeth Drury's stature, and of her delicacy, like “a lamp of balsamum"—

“One, whose clear body was so pure and thin,
Because it need disguise no thought within,”

and we are left with a suspicion that Donne was supplied with information, if not actually approached with a suggestion. However this may be, no poem was ever more lucky in securing the fortunes of a poet. Sir Robert Drury accepted with rapturous pleasure an elegy which informed the world that Death, having slain his poor little daughter,

“can find nothing, after her, to kill, Except the world itself, so great as she.”

He was “a gentleman of a very noble estate and a more liberal mind,” and having formed Donne's personal acquaintance, he determined to attach him to his person. He “assigned him and his wife a useful apartment in his own large house in Drury Lane, and not only rent-free, but was also a cherisher of his studies, and such a friend as sympathised with him and his in all their joy and sorrows.” Drury Place, in which the Donnes now settled under such pleasant auspices, was a mansion surrounded by gardens on the road north-west of Temple Bar. It was afterwards shorn of part of its demesne and became known as Craven House, its last remnants being destroyed in 1809. The Olympic Theatre is said to be built on a portion of its site. When a year had elapsed since the death of Elizabeth Drury, Donne gratified his patron by the composition of the very curious and fantastical gnomic poem called An Anatomy of the World. By this time a monument had been placed in Hawsted Church, in which the child was represented, as in so many similar memorials, supporting her head with her hand. This gave rise to a foolish legend that her death was due to her father's having boxed her ears. Donne's poem was published in 1611, with the original Funeral Elegy appended to it. This was the earliest of his publications in verse, and it was against his will that it appeared. His opinion, and almost his conscience, was opposed to so much publicity, but the amiable vanity of Sir Robert Drury overpowered him. Of this original edition only two copies are known to exist. In An Anatomy of the World, the extravagance of hyperbole, which the taste of the age permitted to such compositions, reaches a height unparalleled elsewhere. It is difficult to understand how the desire to please and the intoxication of his own ingenuity can have so blinded Donne to the claims of self-respect, as to permit him to use language which is positively preposterous. The death of Elizabeth Drury has so wounded and tamed “the sick world” that it has thrown the globe into a lethargy. Her life was so precious that we might

“have better spared the Sun, or Man.”

All light has left the earth except a ghostly glimmer, “the twilight of her memory.” But a longer extract from this catalogue of superlatives will give a juster impression both of the reckless absurdity of Donne's extravagance, and of the technical beauty of the verse which he dedicated to such servile ends— “She whose rich eyes and breast Gilt the West Indies, and perfumed the East; Whose having breathed in this world did bestow Spice on those isles, and bade them still smell so; And that rich India, which doth gold inter, Is but as single money coin’d from her; She to whom this world must itself refer, As suburbs, or the microcosm of her; She, she is dead; she’s dead; when thou know'st this, Thou know'st how lame a cripple this world is.”

The Anatomy of the World is an astonishing constellation of absurdities and beauties, of profound thoughts and maddening conceits. Nothing could be lovelier than some of its incidental passages, as, for instance, this reminiscence of the Canary Islands, seen by Donne in his youth upon the Azores Expedition—

“Doth not a Teneriffe or higher hill

Rise so high like a rock, that one might think
The floating moon would shipwreck there, and sink P.”

or than this transcendental glorification of the delicate beauty of girlhood—

“she, in whom all white and red and blue,
Beauty's ingredients, voluntary grew,
As in an unvex'd paradise; from whom
Did all things' verdure, and their lustre come;
Whose composition was miraculous,
Being all colour, all diaphanous,
For air and fire but thick gross bodies were,
And liveliest stones but drowsy and pale to her;
She, she is dead; she's dead; when thou know'st this,
Thou know'st how wan a ghost this our world is.”

These beauties, however, are rare and transitory; they are soon eclipsed by the scholastic obscurity of the cold, extravagant eulogy. At the end Donne is almost cynical, for, addressing the “blessed Maid,” he begs her to

“Accept this tribute, and his first year's rent,
Who till his dark short taper's end be spent,
As oft as thy feast sees this widow’d earth,
Will yearly celebrate thy second birth.”

Accordingly, early in 1612 Donne paid “rent” again in a “second Anniversary,” called Of the Progress of the Soul. This was a still longer metaphysical celebration of poor little Elizabeth Drury, whom the barest decency might by this time have left to sleep under her monument in Hawsted Church. In this Donne announces that his Muse's

“chaste ambition is Yearly to bring forth such a child as this.”

This threat filled his friends with justifiable alarm, for even in the age of James I. the Second Anniversary was not

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