Asked to name the most important person in the rehabilitation of John Donne's reputation, most people, would say, 'T.S. Eliot'; a few would probably recall H.J.C. Grierson's work. This volume shows how changes in literary and social values led symbiotically to the rediscovery of Donne and the preparation of public taste to admire Modernist writers such as Eliot. Appreciation of Donne in the eighteenth century was so slight that during the whole of it only three editions of his verse were produced. The nineteenth century saw eight fairly substantial collections and by 1872-3-the point at which this book opens-there was sufficient interest to support annotated editions that filled two volumes. Writers, such as Edmund Gosse and George Saintsbury, attempted to construct from these collections biographical and stylistic analyses until, early in the twentieth century, glaring anomalies in interpretation led to realization that little more could be achieved without thorough re-examination of the text of the poems. Grierson's two-volume edition of 1912 was timely and immediately hailed for its careful collation of the manuscripts and early printings. It laid the foundations for other scholars, among them John Hayward, Helen Gardner, Theodore Redpath, W. Milgate and A.J. Smith. 1 Donne's poetry attracted one of early facsimile editions with a copy in 1969 of the first edition of 1633 (which Grierson had used as his copy-text), followed in 1988 by facsimiles of the First and Second Dalhousie Manuscripts. In the variorum format, however, only the first volume of the projected University of Missouri Variorum Edition was available by 1992.
Opinion of Donne has depended heavily on which and how many of his works have been well known at any period. The popularity of the Songs and Sonnets and a few of the Divine Poems has risen, until most people now base their view of Donne almost exclusively on these, with a consequent skewing of understanding that has been criticized with asperity by John Roberts. 2 Musical settings of Donne have followed a similar trajectory in popularity,