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Wednesday, 29 October 2014

John Donne

John Donne was born on January 22,. 1572 in London, the third of six children. His father, also named John Donne, was of Welsh descent and a warden of the Ironmongers Company in the City of London. The Donne family were Roman Catholics when practice of that religion was illegal in England.

A portrait of Donne as a young man, c. 1595, artist unknown, in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London

In 1601, John Donne eloped with Anne More, the seventeen-year-old niece of his employer, Sir Thomas Egerton. Donne was promptly arrested and imprisoned for marrying a minor without the consent of her guardians.

Donne wrote his young bride a letter from prison, saying, "John Donne, Anne Donne, Undone."

Anne bore John twelve children in sixteen years of marriage (including two stillbirths); indeed, she spent most of her married life either pregnant or nursing.

Donne served as a member of parliament in 1601 and in 1614.

In 1615, he became an Anglican priest, although Donne did not want to take Anglican orders. He did so because King James I persistently ordered it.

King James I employed Donne as a private chaplain in 1619. Two years later, on November 22, 1621, Donne was appointed the Dean of St Paul's Cathedral in London.

John Donne

For many years Donne was recognized as the most brilliant and eloquent preacher around. Listening to a spellbinding preacher was one of the most popular entertainments available to the common people at the time and many flocked to listen to famous preachers such as Donne. Crowds including the King himself came to hear sermons, which often last several hours.

Donne suffered a nearly fatal illness in late 1623. 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. Divided into 23 parts, the book traced the "stations" of Donne's illness. Each part consisted of three sections—a meditation in which Donne pondered a specific aspect of his illness or the human condition, an expostulation in which he debates or wrestles with God.

One of these meditations, Meditation XVII, later became well known for its phrases "No man is an Iland" (often modernised as "No man is an island") and "...for whom the bell tolls".

Two months before his death Donne preached his legendary “Death’s Duell,” his so-called funeral sermon."We celebrate our own funeral with cries, even at our birth," preached the poet, who was seemingly obsessed with the subject for his entire life.

John Donne died on March 31, 1631, most likely of stomach cancer, He was buried in old St Paul's Cathedral, where a memorial statue of him was erected with a Latin epigraph probably composed by himself. Donne's monument survived the 1666 Fire of London, and is on display in the present building.

Memorial to John Donne, St Paul's Cathedral

In 1962, his works were cited by physicist Robert Oppenheimer as having been the inspiration for choosing the code name "Trinity" for the first nuclear bomb test.

Sources Christian History, Wikipedia

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