1806 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. John Donne

Joseph Dennie, "Headnote to Life of John Donne" Port Folio [Philadelphia] NS 1 (18 January 1806) 21.



The life of Dr. Donne, succinctly and agreeably written by a Scottish Biographer, Dr. Anderson, who has copiously added to the stores of literary information, will please, if not the million, at least the lovers of antient poetry. But, exclaims the fastidious hunter after novelty, why fatigue your readers with the memoirs of an old divine, whose satires, like his sermons, are rumbling, quaint and austere? To this captiousness of objection it is answered that to many old writers we wish to recal vagrant attention. Donne, if his versification be harsh, and his style uncouth, has so much Genius, "wild Wit, and Invention ever new," that his works and character deserve some of our regard. His faults are the faults of his age. They are the faults of Cowley. But let it always be remembered that originality of thought in literature, like Charity in life, "covers a multitude of sins." The works of that writer which Pope studied and imitated must be considered a mine, replete with the solid and sparkling diamond, however incrusted or unpolished.