English poet and dean of St Paul's. Born into a Catholic family, Donne attended Oxford University, though his religion, which he was later to reject, barred him from taking a degree. In 1596, he joined the earl of Essex's attack on Cádiz and, the following year, Ralegh's pursuit of Spanish treasure ships off the Azores, before training in law and becoming an MP. By 1598 he had expressed his allegiance to Protestantism and became secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton, the lord keeper. A secret marriage in 1601 to Ann More, Egerton's niece, was discovered the following year; he was dismissed from service and he spent the next ten years in poverty, dependent on charity and the aid of friends. Many of his religious poems are the product of this period; he also occupied himself with religious pamphleteering. With the help of powerful patrons, Donne gradually re-established himself, and was ordained in 1615 on the advice of James I; in 1621 he became dean of St Paul's, and gained fame for his preaching both there and at court. Donne is remembered both for the witty ‘metaphysical’ poetry of his youth, which combines wordplay, intellectual jesting, and passionate feeling, and for his religious writings: his Sermons are a record of a celebrated preacher, and his Devotions attest to a fervent, if not untroubled faith.
Dictionary of National Biography;Find this resource:
R. C. Bald, John Donne: A Life (1970);Find this resource:
John Carey, John Donne: Life, Mind and Art (1981).Find this resource: