For his first book, Stubbs has produced a biography of the enigmatic, conflicted poet familiar today to many people mostly thanks to a single, lovely line: "No man is an Island, entire of it self." John Donne—born in 1572, at the outset of the most politically tumultuous and religiously violent era in English history—searched throughout his life for passage to a continent, to find a homeland, to involve himself, as he put it, in mankind. Beginning life as a secular Catholic, Donne ended it as a pious Protestant priest; a dissolute young man, he evolved into a serious intellectual of delicate demeanor; a swashbuckler who fought against Spain for loot and adventure, he buckled down and became one of the finest poetical craftsmen of the Renaissance; a promiscuous loner once focused on making money and powerful friends, he married for love and left it all happily behind. Throughout his life, Stubbs shows, Donne was a study in paradoxes, and one of the strengths of this book is his ready acknowledgment of his subject's contradictions. "Part of the job of this biography," writes Stubbs, "is to trace the strands between these personae and point out the unity underlying them." He succeeds admirably. (Apr.)
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*Starred Review* The greatest English metaphysical poet was and wasn't a man of letters, as Stubbs shows in as engaging a work of scholarship as a biography could ever be. Donne (1572?-1631) was more obviously a lifelong bureaucrat than an author. Initially hampered by his family's Catholicism, he studied law. He fought with Essex at Cadiz and Raleigh in the Azores, got a plum secretarial post, but fell in love with a wealthy squire's daughter. Their elopement brought immediate dismissal and years of scraping by. Only after Ann Donne's death did he take holy orders and rise swiftly to the deanship of St. Paul's Cathedral. He had written poetry since his late teens. Circulated in manuscript, it made him famous in society, enough so to allow Donne a sideline in writing commissioned verse that kept him afloat during the lean years. Adroitly employing Donne's poems to illuminate his life and arguing that Donne was always animated by his vision of the interdependency of all human beings, Stubbs opens a large window on the most durably fascinating society in English history. Ray Olson
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Mr. Stubbs has put together a wonderful biographical story of Donne, using many sources, not the least being Donne's poetry, to bring to life a literary genius about whom I had... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Clifford R. Judge
I've noticed most reviews find this book either "boring" or "entertaining," and no one is terribly concerned with Stubbs's liberal blending of biography and poetry. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Jayme N. Peacock
This is the best modern Donne biography available - I highly recommend it. Book weaves social and political
and church history together. Very readable even for non - scholars.
The life of a poet with many voids.
Good as starters, but if you want the
main dish, you would probably think
how it is possible that Edward Alleyn,
the... Read more
Reading John Stubb's biography of John Donne is pure joy. Stubbs vividly portrays the times and circumstances of Donne's life with vigour and wisdom, all the while staying true to... Read morePublished on January 29, 2011 by xline
John Stubbs' biography of John Donne won several high-profile international awards, and was heaped with praise by such renowned scholars as Peter Ackroyd and Harold Bloom. Read morePublished on September 23, 2010 by Joshua Black
Sometimes an academic will pick a subject to write about just to prove themselves scholistically. In such cases you can expect the subject matter to suffer, but in some cases it... Read morePublished on November 18, 2009 by sherri
I found this book to be a huge disappointment. Not only were there numerous solecisms which were distracting to the whole (he could have used a real editor over at Norton), but it... Read morePublished on February 11, 2009 by Dr. Emily Kurtz
John Donne emerged as one of the world's greatest English poets from his former status as a buccaneer, capturing the paradoxes of his times and offering satirical visions of hell,... Read morePublished on January 12, 2009 by Midwest Book Review