E.M. Simpson (1885-1963) was the first woman to take a D. Phil, at Oxford. After a spell as Assistant in English at Bedford College London 1909-11, she became tutor in English literature at St Hugh's College, Oxford 1918-21. She worked on Elizabethan translations of Seneca, on BenJonson and on Donne, where she is known for her editing of his sermons. She entered upon her lifelong engagement with Donne's prose by calling attention to its disregarded literary merits, as well as to the links between Donne's poems and his other writings ('Donne's Sermons, and Their Relations to his Poetry', Modern Language Review, 7 (1912), 40-53).
[Simpson reminds us that the distinctions of Donne's prose remained all but unrecognized long after his poems had returned to favour: 'The revival of interest in Donne's poetry which has occurred in recent years does not seem to have extended to his prose works.' She attributes this neglect to the lack of satisfactory modern editions of the writings themselves, and commends Donne's style by quoting some excerpts from the sermons which exhibit 'a dignity and beauty that have seldom been surpassed in English prose'.
The sermons also claim attention for the light they throw on the poetry; and she points out a number of passages which directly parallel effects in particular poems. She concludes with some high flights from the sermons which express Donne's yearning to transform his secular attachments into the joy of eternal love.]
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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: 352.
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