Donne’s Reputation

Sarah Wintle

  • English Renaissance Studies edited by John Carey
    Oxford, 320 pp, £15.00, March 1980, ISBN 0 19 812093 1

In his preface to this celebratory volume of essays presented to Dame Helen Gardner on her 70th birthday, John Carey apologises for the fact that the topics discussed are restricted to 16th and 17th-century English literature. Dame Helen’s latest book, after all, was The Composition of ‘The Four Quartets’. Eliot’s presence, though, still hovers over 17th-century literary studies, and it hovers over much of this book. Five of the essays, including a splendid piece by Barbara Everett on epic catalogues, are on Milton. Eliot made a major contribution to the ‘dislodgement’ of Milton, but Milton studies never even faltered. Indeed, important books like Ricks’s Milton’s Grand Style were conceived of as counterblasts to the Leavis-Eliot offensive. Barbara Everett’s piece is too: her starting-point is Eliot’s treatment of Milton’s name-dropping in the first of his essays on that poet – treatment which she proves to be curiously illuminating of Milton’s practice.

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