John Donne: The Critical Heritage - Vol. 2

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

25.

George Edward Bateman Saintsbury

1896

Saintsbury introduced an edition of Donne's poems in two small volumes for the Muses' Library (Poems of John Donne, ed. E.K. Chambers, 1896, vol. I, pp. xi-xxxiii).

[Saintsbury notes how Donne's poetry evokes extreme responses for and against, making clear his own enthusiasm for Donne.]

There is hardly any, perhaps indeed there is not any, English author on whom it is so hard to keep the just mixture of personal appreciation and critical measure as it is on John Donne. It is almost necessary that those who do not like him should not like him at all; should be scarcely able to see how any decent and intelligent human creature can like him. It is almost as necessary that those who do like him should either like him so much as to speak unadvisedly with their lips, or else curb and restrain the expression of their love for fear that it should seem on that side idolatry. But these are not the only dangers. Donne is eminently of that kind which lends itself to sham liking, to coterie worship, to a false enthusiasm; and here is another weapon in the hands of the infidels, and another stumbling-block for the feet of the true believers. Yet there is always something stimulating in a subject of this kind, and a sort of temptation to attempt it.

To write anything about Donne's life, after Walton, is an attempt which should make even hardened écrivailleurs and écrivassiers nervous. That the good Izaak knew his subject and its atmosphere thoroughly; that he wrote but a very few years after Donne's own death; and that he was a writer of distinct charm, are discouraging things, but not the most discouraging. It is perhaps only those who after being familiar for years with Donne's poems, of which Walton says very little, make subsequent acquaintance with Walton's presentment of the man, who can appreciate the full awkwardness of the situation. It is the worst possible case of pereant qui ante nos. The human Donne whom Walton depicts is so exactly the poetical Donne whom we knew, that the effect is uncanny. Generally, or at least very frequently, we find the poet other than his form of verse; here we find him quite astoundingly akin to it….

-89-

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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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