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ANON., The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1779
100. John Bell
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
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.
102. Thomas Warton
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
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.
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
103. Vicesimus Knox
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).
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….
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
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.
104. Joseph Ritson
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.
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….
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.
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
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….’
106. Henry Headley
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).