SIR THOMAS MORE
AND HIS FAMILY
STUDY OF DONNE'S Catholic heritage has mainly concentrated on an effort to supply the fullest possible detail about what he himself pointed out, the personal and material sufferings endured by the branches of his family. This has sometimes seemed an end in itself, and no doubt much here remains to be discovered. But too often Donne scholars have ignored his family's opposition to Tudor reform, conceiving the eventful years between Sir Thomas More and Donne (as Donne himself tersely sketched them) in generalized terms as a record of suffering. Donne and his family lived through important and historic developments in which they were active participants more often than passive sufferers. It is necessary therefore to show what Donne did not mention, let alone detail—that sacrifice and repression took place in significant social and political contexts. In particular, despite Donne's silence and the silence of others, we need to know more about the long history of association between his family, the ancient Catholic nobility, and the Tudor Court.
Donne's Catholic heritage was a problem for him mainly because of the Elizabethan Settlement of 1559, the most effective effort of a Tudor regime to determine the religion of England through Parliamentary statute. But the root of Donne's problem, entwined in the conflict between the Tudors and the ancient Catholic nobility, grew back past Elizabethan politics as far as the early career of his most famous ancestor, Sir Thomas More. In More's bold if somewhat tactless Latin Epigram "On the Coronation Day of Henry VIII," he contrasts the coming reign to the past reign of Henry VII, who is implicitly characterized as a tyrant. Enthusiasm for the new reign is mainly reflected in a sharp castigation