John Donne: The Critical Heritage - Vol. 2

By A. J. Smith; Catherine Phillips | Go to book overview

3.

William Minto

1880

Professor W. Minto (1845-93) of the University of Aberdeen contributed a substantial appraisal of Donne to a leading review. He had formerly published a book on Characteristics of English Poets from Chaucer to Shirley (1874; second edition 1885), with the aim of setting out 'the characters, personal and artistic, of the poets dealt with', but, although he included BenJonson, he made no mention of Donne. ('John Donne', Nineteenth Century, 7 (1880), 846-63.)

[Minto ponders the continuing neglect of Donne's poetry:]

it is strange that a man who in such an age was numbered among the masters of literature should have received so little honour from posterity.

Neglect, indeed, is not the only indignity that the poetry of Dr Donne has suffered. It was stamped with emphatic condemnation by the great critical authority of the eighteenth century. Dr Johnson recognised Donne as a master and the founder of a school, but it was a school with which he had no sympathy. He nicknamed Donne and his followers 'the metaphysical poets', and he culled from their works a variety of specimens to prove that the characteristics of the school were unnatural and far-fetched conceits, 'enormous and disgusting hyperboles', 'violent and unnatural fictions', 'slight and trifling sentiments'. At the same time he did not deny that there was something to be said in their favour.

Great labour, directed by great ability, is never wholly lost; if they frequently threw away their wit upon false conceits, they likewise sometimes struck out unexpected truth; if their conceits were far-fetched, they were often worth the carriage…. If their greatness seldom elevates, their acuteness often surprises; if the imagination is not always gratified, at least the powers of reflection and comparison are employed; and in the mass of materials which ingenious absurdity has thrown together, genuine wit and useful knowledge may be sometimes found buried perhaps in grossness of expression, but useful to those who know their value; and such as, when they are expanded to perspicuity and polished to elegance, may give lustre to works which have more propriety, though less copiousness, of sentiment.

-3-

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John Donne: The Critical Heritage - Vol. 2
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • General Editor's Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgements xii
  • Note on the Text xiv
  • Introduction xv
  • 1. - Henry Morley 1
  • 3. - William Minto 3
  • 5. - Alice King 15
  • 9. - Edmund Gosse 24
  • 11. - George Edward Bateman Saintsbury 26
  • 13. - Margaret Woods 31
  • 15. - W.F. Collier 50
  • 17. - Gamaliel Bradford 52
  • 21. - Sir Edmund Kerchever Chambers 70
  • 25. - George Edward Bateman Saintsbury 89
  • 29. - Thomas Bird Mosher 102
  • 31. - Augustus Jessopp 105
  • 32. - Anon., Academy 108
  • 35. - Henry Augustin Beers 115
  • 44. - Francis Thompson 180
  • 46. - Anon., Academy 184
  • 48. - Anon., Nation 187
  • 52. - Anon., Quarterly Review 206
  • 59. - Rudolf Richter 221
  • 69. - Charles Eliot Norton 249
  • 73. - Martin Grove Brumbaugh 254
  • 74. - Charles Crawford 255
  • 76. - Herbert John Clifford Grierson 259
  • 79. - Alfred Horatio Upham 272
  • 83. - Janet Spens 295
  • 84. - Phoebe Anne Beale Sheavyn 302
  • 85. - William Macdonald Sinclair 303
  • 89. - Herbert John Clifford Grierson 317
  • 93. - Evelyn Mary Simpson (Née Spearing) 352
  • 94. - Anon., Nation 353
  • 95. - Felix E. Schelling 356
  • 97. - Rupert Brooke 359
  • 100. - Ernest Percival Rhys 370
  • 102. - Sir Sidney Colvin 390
  • 106. - David Macleane 395
  • 107. - Ezra Pound 396
  • 118. - Logan Pearsall Smith 410
  • 126. - Louise Imogen Guiney 432
  • 128. - Herbert John Clifford Grierson 437
  • 132. - Stuart Petre Brodie Mais 451
  • 134. - Elbert Nevius Sebring Thompson 453
  • 137. - William Butler Yeats 457
  • 138. - Robert Seymour Bridges 458
  • Appendix A. 463
  • Appendix B. 467
  • Appendix C: 474
  • Index 475
  • The Critical Heritage Series 502
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