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John Donne: The Reformed Soul: A Biography Paperback – November 17, 2008
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This is a major addition to Donne criticism. -- Atlantic Monthly
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Top Customer Reviews
I do not usually think "Afterwords" are justified. In this case, this device provides for a nicely done close, with its linkage between Dr. Donne and our age's great physicist, J. Robert Oppenheimer. (Dr. Donne's words still speak to our largely unchanged human condition.)
By a young scholar, John Stubbs. This is an excellent first book.
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those, whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.
Donne was born into an English Roman Catholic family at a time when belonging to the Roman church could and often did carry grave consequences. Though his father died while Donne was only a young boy, he still received a good education and soon learned of his ability to mold language. He also learned of his ability as a lawyer and a statesman and soon converted to the Anglican Church in order to enhance his career prospects. Proudly profligate, Donne spent his youth and early adulthood attempting to satisfy every lust of his flesh. Yet in an age where marriages were strictly arranged by fathers to further their own ends, Donne secretly married for love and was to suffer the consequences of such an uncouth arrangement for the rest of his life.Read more ›
This biography provides details of the historical setting in which he lived, and of the religious politics which he - with his deep Roman Catholic roots - was never entirely free of. His mother was the great-niece of Sir Thomas More; his brother died as a result of harbouring a priest who was himself executed. At the time of his marriage, John Donne was Chief Secretary to the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal (Sir Thomas Egerton) and quite probably well placed for secular preferment. Alas, his secret marriage to Ann More, niece of Sir Thomas, ruined his career and earned him a brief period in prison.
But what of John Donne the man? It is tempting to read his early poems, as John Stubbs does, as reflecting the man himself. It makes Donne an even more romantic - and tragic - figure: torn at times between desire and spiritual devotion. Ann died five days after giving birth to their 12th child (10 of whom survived), after sixteen years of marriage. Donne never remarried.
I found this biography very interesting and while I am cautious about the boundary between fact and interpretation, I learned a lot about the life and times of John Donne. And, knowing a little more about the man I feel moved to read more of his poetry.
Stubb's research yields only lame excuses for Donne's irresponsibility to his family. Ann, whom his poems extol, at 16 years old, gave up everything for him and bore him 10 (12?) children before her death at age 33. He would leave her for travels, be unfaithful (or so the evidence points) and despite his very public professions of love, prefer a burial apart.
Marriage and post marriage negotiations for daughter Constance are insulting to her just as not leaving his papers to John Jr. were insulting to his son. Rejecting support when it finally came from his father in law shows more personal pride than concern for the well being of his family. What became of other children is not clear, and not a topic of interest to Donne who leaves no written record expressing concern.
The book presents larger issues than the character of Donne: religious persecution, the politics of religion, the rigidity of society, the lure of the new world, the effects of the autocracy of the monarch, the politics of the clergy, the societal consequences of the plague, etc. are all described.
I chose this book because of my interest in this historical period more than an interest in Donne. The author did not disappoint in this.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
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 6 months 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 11 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