The Venerable W.M. Sinclair (1850-1917), Archdeacon of London, wrote books on religious subjects and church architecture and gave lectures to the Royal Society of Literature on the religious poetry of Tennyson and of Donne. His lecture on Donne, read to the Society on 26 January 1910, he had previously published as a general appreciation of the 'poet and preacher' (Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature, 29:2 (1909), 179-202).
[Much of Sinclair's account of Donne is strung together from standard sources, drawing on Walton and Gosse for Donne's life and career, and Carew and Saintsbury for Donne's literary genius. But he does undertake to demonstrate the harsh injustice of Hallam's dismissal of Donne. 1
Sinclair's way of countering the familiar detractions of Donne is to quote copiously from Donne's poems, with commendatory linking comments. He gives stanza 1 of 'The Good Morrow', remarking that it is Very characteristic of Donne's originality'. The Song, 'Go, and Catch a Falling Star', given entire, 'shows him in his lightest mood'. Stanza 4 of 'The Canonisation' is one of 'several charming verses' in this poem. Lines 15-28 of 'Love's Growth' make up 'two exquisite stanzas'. Stanzas 1-3 and 7 of 'The Bait' contain 'a pretty conceit'. Lines 1-8 of 'The Primrose' present a 'picture from Nature' which 'could hardly be surpassed'; and the first stanza of the Epithalamion 'Hail Bishop Valentine' is likewise 'full of vivid observations of Nature'. Holy Sonnet 1, 'Thou Hast Made Me', given entire, is 'one of a great number [of sonnets] of remarkable beauty'. Stanza 23 of 'A Litany' affords a taste of this 'noble poem'. Two passages from The Second Anniversary (lines 33-44 and 65-81) present 'a fine example of one of his finest poems'. Lines 1-24 of Satire 1 exemplify the vigour of Donne's Satires.
Sinclair follows up these quotations with a series of brief snippets to show that 'Noble lines stud every page'. He gives lines 31 and 66-7 of the Metempsychosis; lines 85-6 of The Second Anniversary; lines 1-2 of 'Love's Deity', and lines 19-20 of 'The Dream'.
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Publication information: Book title: John Donne: The Critical Heritage. Volume: 2. Contributors: A. J. Smith - Editor, Catherine Phillips - Editor. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1996. Page number: 303.
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