S.P.B. Mais (1885-1975) worked for radio and television, was a schoolmaster, novelist and freelance journalist and became Professor of English at the RAF Cadet College. He was an amazingly prolific witer, on subjects from literature to travel and wildlife. In a collection of essays on English and European authors, he gave a brief account of Donne (Why We Should Read, 1921, pp. 51-7).
[The avowed aim of Mais's essays is to introduce these authors to new readers by communicating the pleasure of reading them. Mais scorns the idea of critical judgement; yet he rounds up opinions of Donne's writing, from Walton to the modern commentators such as Saintsbury, Pearsall Smith, Rupert Brooke, Robert Lynd. He quotes highlights of the sermons, culled from Pearsall Smith, and the customary beauties from the Songs and Sonnets and Anniversaries. He offers the view that Donne is important as a poet]
because he treats of the universal passion of love in more phases than any other poet. He was the complete experimentalist in love, both in actual life and in his work. He is frankly in search of bodily experience.
[Then follows a string of illustrations from the Elegies and Songs and Sonnets, with simple descriptive comments. Mais occasionally ventures an observation of his own: 'There is a good deal of frank naturalism in the elegy entitled 'To His Mistress Going to Bed', but it is healthily coarse, though scarcely quotable in these times, which is a pity. He offers his impression that all Donne's experimenting in love came together in the end in 'an abiding love for one person, Ann More, his wife'. He quotes bits of 'The Ecstasy', the Anniversary, 'Break of Day', and 'The Dream', supposedly to attest this love. Then he essays a balanced recommendation.]
There is enough nastiness, eccentricity, coarseness, roughness and extravagance in Donne to put off many fastidious readers: but his faults lie open to the sky: his beauties are frequently hidden, but