|Birth Day:||January 22, 1572|
|Death Date:||31 March 1631(1631-03-31) (aged 59)
|Birth Place:||London, England, British|
As per our current Database, John Donne died on 31 March 1631(1631-03-31) (aged 59)
|Height||Weight||Hair Colour||Eye Colour||Blood Type||Tattoo(s)|
His father died in 1576, when Donne was four years old, leaving his mother, Elizabeth, with the responsibility of raising the children alone. Heywood was also from a recusant Roman Catholic family, the daughter of John Heywood, the playwright, and sister of the Reverend Jasper Heywood, a Jesuit priest and translator. She was also a great-niece of Thomas More. A few months after her husband died, Donne's mother married Dr. John Syminges, a wealthy widower with three children of his own.
Donne was educated privately; however, there is no evidence to support the popular claim that he was taught by Jesuits. In 1583, at the age of 11, he began studies at Hart Hall, now Hertford College, Oxford. After three years of studies there, Donne was admitted to the University of Cambridge, where he studied for another three years. Donne, however, could not obtain a degree from either institution because of his Catholicism, since he refused to take the Oath of Supremacy required to graduate. In 1591 he was accepted as a student at the Thavies Inn legal school, one of the Inns of Chancery in London. On 6 May 1592 he was admitted to Lincoln's Inn, one of the Inns of Court.
In 1593, five years after the defeat of the Spanish Armada and during the intermittent Anglo-Spanish War (1585–1604), Queen Elizabeth issued the first English statute against sectarian dissent from the Church of England, titled "An Act for restraining Popish recusants". It defined "Popish recusants" as those "convicted for not repairing to some Church, Chapel, or usual place of Common Prayer to hear Divine Service there, but forbearing the same contrary to the tenor of the laws and statutes heretofore made and provided in that behalf". Donne's brother Henry was also a university student prior to his arrest in 1593 for harbouring a Catholic priest, William Harrington, and died in Newgate Prison of bubonic plague, leading Donne to begin questioning his Catholic faith.
During the next four years Donne fell in love with Egerton's niece Anne More, and they were secretly married just before Christmas in 1601, against the wishes of both Egerton and George More, who was Lieutenant of the Tower and Anne's father. Upon discovery, this wedding ruined Donne's career, getting him dismissed and put in Fleet Prison, along with the Church of England priest Samuel Brooke, who married them, and the man who acted as a witness to the wedding. Donne was released shortly thereafter when the marriage was proved to be valid, and he soon secured the release of the other two. Walton tells us that when Donne wrote to his wife to tell her about losing his post, he wrote after his name: John Donne, Anne Donne, Un-done. It was not until 1609 that Donne was reconciled with his father-in-law and received his wife's dowry.
In 1602 John Donne was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for the constituency of Brackley, but membership was not a paid position. Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, being succeeded by King James VI of Scotland as King James I of England. The fashion for coterie poetry of the period gave Donne a means to seek patronage, and many of his poems were written for wealthy friends or patrons, especially for MP Sir Robert Drury of Hawsted (1575–1615), whom he met in 1610 and who became Donne's chief patron, furnishing him and his family an apartment in his large house in Drury Lane.
After his release, Donne had to accept a retired country life in a small house in Pyrford, Surrey, owned by Anne's cousin, Sir Francis Wooley, where they resided until the end of 1604. In spring 1605 they moved to another small house in Mitcham, London, where he scraped a meager living as a lawyer, while Anne Donne bore a new baby almost every year. Though he also worked as an assistant pamphleteer to Thomas Morton writing anti-Catholic pamphlets, Donne was in a constant state of financial insecurity.
There were musical settings of Donne's lyrics even during his lifetime and in the century following his death. These included Alfonso Ferrabosco the younger's ("So, so, leave off this last lamenting kisse" in his 1609 Ayres); John Cooper's ("The Message"); Henry Lawes' ("Break of Day"); John Dowland's ("Break of Day" and "To ask for all thy love"); and settings of "A Hymn to God the Father" by John Hilton the younger and Pelham Humfrey (published 1688). After the 17th century there were no more until the start of the 20th century with Havergal Brian ("A nocturnal on St Lucy's Day", first performed in 1905), Eleanor Everest Freer ("Break of Day, published in 1905) and Walford Davies ("The Cross", 1909) among the earliest. In 1916–18, the composer Hubert Parry set Donne's "Holy Sonnet 7" ("At the round earth's imagined corners") to music in his choral work, Songs of Farewell. In 1945, Benjamin Britten set nine of Donne's Holy Sonnets in his song cycle for voice and piano The Holy Sonnets of John Donne. Among them is also the choral setting of "Negative Love" that opens Harmonium (1981), as well as the aria setting of "Holy Sonnet XIV" at the end of the 1st act of Doctor Atomic, both by John Adams.
In 1610 and 1611 Donne wrote two anti-Catholic polemics: Pseudo-Martyr and Ignatius His Conclave for Morton. He then wrote two Anniversaries, An Anatomy of the World (1611) and Of the Progress of the Soul (1612) for Drury.
Some scholars believe that Donne's literary works reflect the changing trends of his life, with love poetry and satires from his youth and religious sermons during his later years. Other scholars, such as Helen Gardner, question the validity of this dating—most of his poems were published posthumously (1633). The exception to these is his Anniversaries, which were published in 1612 and Devotions upon Emergent Occasions published in 1624. His sermons are also dated, sometimes specifically by date and year.
Donne sat as an MP again, for Taunton, in the Addled Parliament of 1614 but though he attracted five appointments within its business he made no recorded speech. Although James was pleased with Donne's work, he refused to reinstate him at court and instead urged him to take holy orders. At length, Donne acceded to the king's wishes, and in 1615 was ordained priest in the Church of England.
In 1615 Donne was awarded an honorary doctorate in divinity from Cambridge University, and became a Royal Chaplain in the same year, and a reader of divinity at Lincoln's Inn in 1616, where he served in the chapel as minister until 1622. In 1618 he became chaplain to Viscount Doncaster, who was on an embassy to the princes of Germany. Donne did not return to England until 1620. In 1621 Donne was made Dean of St Paul's, a leading and well-paid position in the Church of England, which he held until his death in 1631. At the same time he became rector of a number of parishes, including Blunham, in Bedfordshire. Blunham Parish Church has an imposing stained glass window commemorating Donne, designed by Derek Hunt. During his period as dean his daughter Lucy died, aged eighteen. In late November and early December 1623 he suffered a nearly fatal illness, thought to be either typhus or a combination of a cold followed by a period of fever. During his convalescence he wrote a series of meditations and prayers on health, pain, and sickness that were published as a book in 1624 under the title of Devotions upon Emergent Occasions. One of these meditations, Meditation XVII, contains the well known phrases "No man is an Iland" (often modernised as "No man is an island") and "...for whom the bell tolls". In 1624 he became vicar of St Dunstan-in-the-West, and 1625 a prolocutor to Charles I. He earned a reputation as an eloquent preacher and 160 of his sermons have survived, including Death's Duel, his famous sermon delivered at the Palace of Whitehall before King Charles I in February 1631.
Anne gave birth to 12 children in 16 years of marriage, (including two stillbirths—their eighth and then, in 1617, their last child); indeed, she spent most of her married life either pregnant or nursing. The 10 surviving children were Constance, John, George, Francis, Lucy (named after Donne's patron Lucy, Countess of Bedford, her godmother), Bridget, Mary, Nicholas, Margaret, and Elizabeth. Three (Francis, Nicholas, and Mary) died before they were ten. In a state of despair that almost drove him to kill himself, Donne noted that the death of a child would mean one mouth fewer to feed, but he could not afford the burial expenses. During this time, Donne wrote but did not publish Biathanatos, his defence of suicide. His wife died on 15 August 1617, five days after giving birth to their twelfth child, a still-born baby. Donne mourned her deeply, and wrote of his love and loss in his 17th Holy Sonnet.
Donne died on 31 March 1631 and was buried in old St Paul's Cathedral, where a memorial statue of him by Nicholas Stone was erected with a Latin epigraph probably composed by himself. The memorial was one of the few to survive the Great Fire of London in 1666 and is now in St Paul's Cathedral. The statue was said by Izaac Walton in his biography to have been modelled from the life by Donne in order to suggest his appearance at the resurrection; it was to start a vogue in such monuments during the course of the 17th century. In 2012 a bust of the poet by Nigel Boonham was unveiled outside in the cathedral churchyard.
The increasing gloominess of Donne's tone may also be observed in the religious works that he began writing during the same period. Having converted to the Anglican Church, Donne quickly became noted for his sermons and religious poems. Towards the end of his life Donne wrote works that challenged death, and the fear that it inspired in many men, on the grounds of his belief that those who die are sent to Heaven to live eternally. One example of this challenge is his Holy Sonnet X, "Death Be Not Proud". Even as he lay dying during Lent in 1631, he rose from his sickbed and delivered the Death's Duel sermon, which was later described as his own funeral sermon. Death's Duel portrays life as a steady descent to suffering and death; death becomes merely another process of life, in which the 'winding sheet' of the womb is the same as that of the grave. Hope is seen in salvation and immortality through an embrace of God, Christ and the Resurrection.
His work has received much criticism over the years, especially concerning his metaphysical form. Donne is generally considered the most prominent member of the metaphysical poets, a phrase coined in 1781 by Samuel Johnson, following a comment on Donne by John Dryden. Dryden had written of Donne in 1693: "He affects the metaphysics, not only in his satires, but in his amorous verses, where nature only should reign; and perplexes the minds of the fair sex with nice speculations of philosophy, when he should engage their hearts, and entertain them with the softnesses of love." In Life of Cowley (from Samuel Johnson's 1781 work of biography and criticism Lives of the Most Eminent English Poets), Johnson refers to the beginning of the seventeenth century in which there "appeared a race of writers that may be termed the metaphysical poets". Donne's immediate successors in poetry therefore tended to regard his works with ambivalence, with the Neoclassical poets regarding his conceits as abuse of the metaphor. However he was revived by Romantic poets such as Coleridge and Browning, though his more recent revival in the early twentieth century by poets such as T. S. Eliot and critics like F R Leavis tended to portray him, with approval, as an anti-Romantic.
During his lifetime several likenesses were made of the poet. The earliest was the anonymous portrait of 1594 now in the National Portrait Gallery, London which has been recently restored. One of the earliest Elizabethan portraits of an author, the fashionably dressed poet is shown darkly brooding on his love. The portrait was described in Donne's will as "that picture of myne wych is taken in the shaddowes", and bequeathed by him to Robert Kerr, 1st Earl of Ancram. Other paintings include a 1616 head and shoulders after Isaac Oliver, also in the National Portrait Gallery, and a 1622 head and shoulders in the Victoria and Albert Museum. In 1911 the young Stanley Spencer devoted a visionary painting to John Donne arriving in heaven (1911) which is now in the Fitzwilliam Museum.
After Donne's death, a number of poetical tributes were paid to him, of which one of the principal (and most difficult to follow) was his friend Lord Herbert of Cherbury's "Elegy for Doctor Donne". Posthumous editions of Donne's poems were accompanied by several "Elegies upon the Author" over the course of the next two centuries. Six of these were written by fellow churchmen, others by such courtly writers as Thomas Carew, Sidney Godolphin and Endymion Porter. In 1963 came Joseph Brodsky's "The Great Elegy for John Donne".
There have been settings in popular music as well. One is the version of the song "Go and Catch a Falling Star" on John Renbourn's debut album John Renbourn (1966), in which the last line is altered to "False, ere I count one, two, three". On their 1992 album Duality, the English Neoclassical Dark Wave band In The Nursery used a recitation of the entirety of Donne's "A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning" for the track "Mecciano" and an augmented version of "A Fever" for the track "Corruption." Prose texts by Donne have also been set to music. In 1954, Priaulx Rainier set some in her Cycle for Declamation for solo voice. In 2009, the American Jennifer Higdon composed the choral piece On the Death of the Righteous, based on Donne's sermons. Still more recent is the Russian minimalist Anton Batagov's " I Fear No More, selected songs and meditations of John Donne" (2015).
Donne's early career was also notable for his erotic poetry, especially his elegies, in which he employed unconventional metaphors, such as a flea biting two lovers being compared to sex. Donne did not publish these poems, although they circulated widely in manuscript form. One such, a previously unknown manuscript that is believed to be one of the largest contemporary collections of Donne's work (among that of others), was found at Melford Hall in November 2018.
Currently, John Donne is 450 years, 10 months and 8 days old. John Donne will celebrate 451st birthday on a Sunday 22nd of January 2023.
Find out about John Donne birthday activities in timeline view here.