Things the King Liked to Hear
- Sermons of John Donne Vol. III: Sermons Preached at the Court of Charles I edited by David Colclough
Oxford, 521 pp, £125.00, November 2013, ISBN 978 0 19 956548 1
- BuyComplete Works of John Milton Vol. VI: Vernacular Regicide and Republican Writings edited by N.H. Keeble and Nicholas McDowell
Oxford, 811 pp, £125.00, December 2013, ISBN 978 0 19 921805 9
John Donne is a modern rediscovery. His reputation, high among his contemporaries, fell after their time, along with those of other 17th-century metaphysical poets who would wait equally long for rehabilitation. The late 17th century and the 18th, committed to orderliness of metre and feeling, disliked the ‘forced’ and ‘unnatural’ rhythms of his verse, his ‘false’ conceits, his unruly sensuality. His friend Ben Jonson, whose classical preferences would earn from subsequent generations the esteem that was denied to Donne, judged him ‘the first poet in the world in some things’, but also declared that Donne ‘for not keeping of accent deserved hanging’. Donne, Jonson predicted, ‘for not being understood would perish’.