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are disrespectful to Walton, and they merely darken counsel with regard to Donne's career. Walton's treatment of the central years of his subject's life is a tangle quite inextricable by any number of notes. The “Life” is an exquisite work, which must stand alone, on the score of its sweet amenity and the beauty of its style. I yield to no one in my admiration of it, and I share to the full the opinion of Mr. Austin Dobson (expressed in an unpublished poem from which I have the indiscretion to quote) when he speaks of
“old Izaak's phrase
And the general impression the “Life of Donne” gives is, no doubt, as faithful as it is beautiful. As a compendium of dry consecutive facts about the career of the poet, however, it is absolutely misleading. The correspondence of Donne, which is now for the first time collected, has been my main source of additional information. We are very richly supplied with letters from Donne, who seems to have enjoyed a wide reputation as a writer of epistles, and many of whose letters were kept, not on account of their intrinsic interest, but as models of epistolary deportment. Of these, one hundred and twentynine were published by John Donne the younger in 1651, and are now for the first time reprinted." These letters, as has already been remarked, offer an extreme perplexity. No more tantalising set of documents can be imagined. They are printed with complete disregard to chronology; only twenty-two of the whole number are fully dated, and of these several are found to be dated wrongly; even the names of the persons to whom the letters are addressed are not always supplied, nor always correctly. These conditions make the Letters of 1651 far more difficult to deal with than any original MSS. are likely to be, for we have no data to go upon but what the careless original editor has
* The so-called second edition of 1654, is nothing but old sheets bound up with a new title-page, and Alford's attempt I take into no account.
chosen to give us, and we can never appeal to the author himself. In the few occasions where the originals of these letters have been preserved, the discrepancies between MS. and printed text are rather startling. This neglected mass of correspondence is, notwithstanding, of extreme value. In the present work I have attempted no less arduous a task than to break up this inert mass of dateless letters, and re-arrange its component parts in consecutive illustration of the narrative. In this I have received inestimable help from Dr. Jessopp; it would be more just, indeed, to say that it is I who have supplemented his unpublished labours. If, however, in this huge enterprise, which is simply beset with pitfalls, I have fallen into error, I would take upon myself the full responsibility. This re-arrangement and dating of the Letters of 1651 is the portion of the work which has given Dr. Jessopp and myself the most extended labour. Even now, we are not entirely at one with regard to the value of certain indications of internal evidence. It will, nevertheless, be denied by no candid reader that the determination to force Donne's correspondence to illustrate his biography had become a necessary one; and even if the minute critic does not always agree with the order selected here, there is a large majority of instances in which it is impossible that he should not admit its correctness and value. For the practical purposes of biography these Letters of 1651 have hitherto been almost of as little service as though they had never been printed. Another neglected source of information about Donne is the little volume entitled A Collection of Letters made by Sr. Tobie Mathews, Kt., and printed in 1660. Tobie Matthew (or Mathews), whose name frequently recurs in the following pages, was an acquaintance, although never a friend of Donne. He made a collection of holographs, which fell into the hands of John Donne the younger. The latter published them with a dedication to Lucy, Countess of Carlisle, the aged widow of his father's friend, James Hay, Viscount Doncaster and Earl of Carlisle, who had died nearly a quarter of a century before. Into this collection he shredded or flung some thirty letters written \
by his father, but not included (with one or two exceptions) in the Letters of 1651. But if that publication was irregular, the Tobie Matthew collection is absolutely chaotic. The editor says of it, “it begins wheresoever you open it, and it ends wheresoever you see.” A large number of the Donne letters have neither address nor signature, and are discoverable purely by internal evidence. Nevertheless, these are among the most valuable, because the most personal, which I have been able to discover. The volume of 1660 has never been reprinted or described. Besides the letters by Donne, it contains no small mass of highly important correspondence addressed to him. Materials hitherto unpublished have been secured from the Domestic State Papers, the Manuscript Departments of the British Museum and the Bodleian Libraries, the Registers of Lincoln's Inn, the Registers of Wills at Somerset House, and the Library of Dulwich College. Various sources, such as the University Library at Cambridge, Sion College Library, and the Registers of St. Dunstan's-in-the-West, have been searched with no or disappointingly slight results. Mr. Horatio F. Brown has been so kind as to search the archives at Venice for me, but unhappily without success. Several very important letters have been copied from the collections of private owners, who were kind enough to permit them to be transcribed. In printing Donne's letters, I have modernised the spelling, which has no philological value, and is often so eccentric as to annoy and repel the general reader. I do not think that “to join with you to move his Lordship to withdraw it” is made more luminous by printing it, “to joyne woo yo" to moue hys Lp to wodrawe ytt.” In the same spirit, I have ventured throughout to give the dates in new style, as seems to me the only rational thing to do in the course of a modern narrative; and in this I have on my side the example of most of our reputed historians. It is a great disappointment to me that so very little is still known about the incidents of Donne's early life. I am inclined to fear that we never shall discover anything precise about the wandering years of his youth. But even VOL. I.
here we know quite as much about Donne as about Shakespeare or Spenser. From 1600 onwards until the death of his wife in 1617, that is to say, through the entire central portion of his life, our knowledge of his emotions and movements becomes so precise, in the light of the documents published in these volumes, that we may now claim to follow Donne's career more minutely than that of any other Elizabethan or Jacobean man of letters, except, perhaps, Bacon. My object has not been confined to the collection of all the documents which I could find which illustrated the biography of Donne. I have desired, also, to present a portrait of him as a man and an author. As, therefore, his prose works are rare, and in most cases are inaccessible to the general reader, I have dwelt on their characteristics as well as on those of the poems. In short, what I have essayed to present, is a biographical and critical monograph on Donne in his full complexity. It will be observed that I have not attempted to annotate the Letters, which would be a labour quite apart from my present object; but wherever names are quoted as those of men and women with whom Donne was brought into personal relations, I have endeavoured to say enough about them to render each reference of this kind intelligible. The amplification of this sort of information might be extended much further, but I have forced myself to recollect that my subject is a biography of Donne, and not the Life and Times of James I. Hence I have avoided being led aside into a consideration of the historical points raised in the news-letters. Already so much has been said, and will be repeated, of my debt to Dr. Jessopp, that I may be silent regarding it here. I have to thank the Bishop of London for kind encouragement and some valuable suggestions. The Rev. William Hunt has most generously placed at my service his great knowledge of ecclesiastical history, and has read the proofs to their constant advantage. I have to thank Lord Kenyon for opening to me his remarkable ecclesiastical library at Gredington, and thus * me
here we know quite as much about Dome is of speare or Spenser. From 1600 onwards until to a of his wife in 1617, that is to say, through the or central portion of his life, our knowledge of his im: and movements becomes so precise, in the light to documents published in these volumes, that we mist claim to follow Donne's career more minutely thant: any other Elizabethan or Jacobean man of letto perhaps, Bacon. My object has not been confined to theolo all the documents which I could find which illusio biography of Donne. I have desired, also to so. portrait of him as a man and an author. * th: his prose works are rare, and in most cases as: "o to the general reader, I have dwelt on their to: as well as on those of the poems. In short, with essayed to present, is a biographical and critical moo on Donne in his full complexity. It will be observed that I have not attempo"
tate the Letters, which would be a labour quite so herever names are qo
my present object; but w those of men and women with whom Donne W** into personal relations, I have endeavoured to o about them to render each reference of this kind into The amplification of this sort of information o extended much further, but I have forced myself too that my subject is a biography of Donne, and noto I. Hence I have avoided o
and Times of James aside into a consideration of the historical points *
the news-letters. Already so much has been said, and will be ro
of my debt to Dr. Jessopp, that I may be silent rol there. I have to thank the Bishop of London fo ncouragement and some valuable suggestions. lev. William Hunt has most generously placed rvice his great knowledge of ecclesiastical historil s read the proofs to their constant advantage. } thank Lord Kenyon for opening to me his rema lesiastical library at Gredington, and thus enabli
to enrich the chapter which deals with the recusant controversy. Suggestive ideas regarding the biographical value of the Poems I owe to the Hon. Maurice Baring. I am indebted to Mr. James Fitzmaurice-Kelly, the learned historian of Spanish literature, for valuable hints as to the
nature and extent of Donne's Spanish studies. Edward Dowden has lent me some important MSS. I am
obliged to Dr. Norman Moore for a very curious diagnosis of the state of Donne's health and of the probable cause of his death, which I print as an appendix. I must so
fail to acknowledge the prompt and care - services of Miss M. B. Curran. Without making o
responsible for any errors into which I may havo fallen, would say that for my historical background I have go” to the various writings of Dr. Samuel Rawson Gardiner.