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ANON., The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1779

ANON., The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1779

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100. John Bell

1779



The publisher John Bell (1745–1831) brought out at Edinburgh

an edition of The Poetical Works of Dr John Donne in three

small volumes as nos 23–5 of a collection of Poets of Great

Britain. Before the poems Bell printed Walton’s Life of Donne

(abridged but not, as in the 1719 edition, rewritten), the younger

John Donne’s address to Lord Craven, Ben Jonson’s epigrams to

Donne, and all the funeral elegies on Donne.

The text of the poems is that of the 1719 edition, but the several

groups of poems are given in a new and quite arbitrary order.



101. Anon., The Monthly Review

1779



An anonymous reviewer of Johnson’s The Works of the English

Poets (the Prefaces to which were in fact the Lives of the English

Poets) quoted the first seven lines of Donne’s Elegie viii, ‘The

Comparison’, to confirm Johnson’s account of ‘metaphysical’

poetry in the Life of Cowley (The Monthly Review, lxi, JulyDecember 1779, p. 4). The reviewer remarks: ‘It is a most curious

specimen of metaphysical gallantry.’ He goes on to endorse

Johnson’s comment that whatever is improper or vicious in such

examples is produced by a voluntary deviation from nature in

pursuit of something new and strange.



244



102. Thomas Warton

1781



Warton (1728–90), younger brother of Joseph Warton, became

Professor of Poetry and later Professor of Ancient History at

Oxford. He was a poet and a historian of poetry. In his history of

English poetry to the end of the Elizabethan age he gave no

account of Donne, but he referred inaccurately to Donne’s Satyres

and to some of the early commendations of Donne’s poetry (The

History of English Poetry, 1774–81, iii, p. 278; iii (additional

section xlvi), p. 50; iii (additional section xlviii), p. 85).



Warton quoted Edmund Bolton’s appraisal of Donne and others in

the Hypercritica (see No. 2, ?1618), without himself commenting on

Donne. Later, he briefly praised Hall’s Satires at the expense of

Donne’s:

They [Hall’s Satires] were, however, admired and imitated by Oldham.

And Pope, who modernised Donne, is said to have wished he had

seen Hall’s satires sooner. But had Pope undertaken to modernise

Hall, he must have adopted, because he could not have improved,

many of his lines. Hall is too finished and smooth for such an

operation. Donne, though he lived so many years later, was susceptible

of modern refinement, and his asperities were such as wanted and

would bear the chisel.

Later still Warton mentions Donne’s Satyres again:

Donne’s SATIRES were written early in the reign of James the first

though they were not published till after his death, in the year 1633.

Jonson sends one of his Epigrams to Lucy Countess of Bedford,

with MR DONNES SATYRES. It is conjectured by Wood, that a

lively satirical piece, on the literature of the times…with Donne’s

initials, and connected with another poem of the same cast, is one

of Donne’s juvenile performances. I had supposed John Davies.

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JOHN DONNE



The ‘lively satirical piece’ is in fact by John Davies of Hereford. In a

footnote to this passage Warton quotes Freeman’s epigram ‘To John

Dunne’ from Runne, and a great Cast (see No. 6). He had earlier

mentioned Donne as one of the writers who befriended and

encouraged Freeman.



103. Vicesimus Knox

1782



Knox (1752–1821) was a clergyman and headmaster who wrote

miscellaneous essays. He added an essay on satire to the third

edition of a collection of essays first published in 1778, and briefly

compared Donne with Juvenal in the course of it. In another

essay in the volume he discussed Cowley, moving from him to a

general censure of the taste of the age and a consignment of

Cowley, Donne, and Jonson to a speedy oblivion (Essays, Moral

and Literary (1782), 1787, iii, pp. 167–8 and 439–40).



(i)

The Roman is remarkably harmonious. But Donne, his imitator, seems

to have thought roughness of verse, as well as of sentiment, a real

grace. It is scarcely possible, that a writer who did not studiously

avoid a smooth versification, could have written so many lines

without stumbling on a good one. Pope has revived his fame by

attuning his harsh numbers; a work whose very excellence makes us

regret that a genius so servile as was the bard’s of Twickenham, should

have wasted its vigour in paraphrases and translations….

(ii)

Time, the great arbiter of reputation, has already begun to strip the

poet of his borrowed honours. A critic, whose genius and judgment

keep pace with each other, and who illuminates every subject on

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THE CRITICAL HERITAGE



which he treats, has allotted Cowley his just species of praise, and

has given the world, in a judicious selection of his works, all that

they possessed of real value.

Of these the prose forms a principal part. It is written in a style

sufficiently flowing to prove that Cowley was not destitute of a

musical ear; a circumstance which countenances the opinion of those

who maintain that he affected a rugged style. Was it a compliance

with the taste of the age, that induced him to affect deformity?

unforunate compliance with a deplorable taste! He as well as they

whom he imitated, Donne and Johnson, were unquestionably

possessed of great learning and ingenuity; but they all neglected the

graces of composition, and will therefore soon be numbered among

those once celebrated writers, whose utility now consists in filling a

vacancy on the upper shelf of some dusty and deserted library.



247



104. Joseph Ritson

1783



The antiquary and bibliographer Ritson (1752–1803) found little

place for Donne in his A Select Collection of English Songs, 1783,

an anthology of older poetry which was intended to rival or

supplant Percy’s Reliques. In ‘A Historical Essay on the Origin

and Progress of National Song’, prefixed to the collection, Ritson

gave Donne’s poetry no more than a passing mention (i, p. lix).

But he did print a prettified version of ‘The Message’, untitled

and without author’s name, in a section of ‘Songs Omitted’

appended to volume i (i, pp. 257–8). This version, which is given

below, seems to have become popular for it appears in several

subsequent anthologies of lyric verse.



(i)

Among the songsters of James the Firsts time, one is pleased to meet

the name of that elegant writer and accomplished gentleman Sir Henry

Wotton. Dr Donnes imitation of Marlow, and other pieces, intitle

him to a place in the list….

(ii)

Send back my long stray’d eyes to me,

Which oh! too long have dwelt on thee:

But if from you they’ve learn’d such ill,

To sweetly smile,

And then beguile,

Keep the deceivers, keep them still.

Send home my harmless heart again,

Which no unworthy thought could stain:

But if it has been taught by thine,

To forfeit both

Its word and oath,

Keep it, for then ’tis none of mine.

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THE CRITICAL HERITAGE



Yet send me back my heart and eyes,

For I’ll know all thy falsities;

That I one day may laugh, when thou

Shalt grieve and mourn,

For one will scorn

And prove as false as thou art now.



105. Anon., A New and General

Biographical Dictionary

1784



There is a long account of Donne in A New and General

Biographical Dictionary, new edition, 1784, iv, pp. 469–78. The

entry is headed ‘DONNE (John), an English poet and divine’,

and is largely biographical, drawing on Walton and Wood. The

poems are mentioned briefly among Donne’s extant works,

though the only edition cited is that of 1719. Some of Dryden’s

judgments are quoted, and there is a reference to Pope’s versions

of Satyres ii and iv—‘He has shewed the world, that when

translated into numbers and English, as Dryden expresses it, they

are not inferior to any thing in that kind of poetry….’



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106. Henry Headley

1787



Headley (1765–88) was a young poet and critic. The year after

graduating at Oxford he published a selection of the beauties of

English poetry between 1558 and 1660. He included nothing by

Donne and gave no account of him though he offered biographical

sketches of many minor poets of the period. But he also omitted

the beauties of Sidney, Spenser, and Milton, whose names he

repeatedly invoked with Donne’s as major writers of that age.

In his introductory scale of poets Headley classified Donne solely

as a satirical writer, omitting him from the category of

‘Philosophical and Metaphysical’ poets and the category of

‘Amatory, and Miscellaneous’ poets (Select Beauties of Ancient

English Poetry, 1787, p. xv).



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