Gosse (1848-1929) prepared his long embroilment with Donne by explaining in a preface why he had omitted Donne from a set of essays on seventeenth-century topics (Seventeenth Century Studies, 1883, pp. viii-ix).
[Gosse claims that Donne is too big a subject, as Randolph is too small, to be dealt with at essay-length.]
That extraordinary writer casts his shadow over the vault of the century from its beginning to its close…. Donne is himself the paradox of which he sings; he is a seeming absurdity in literature. To be so great and yet so mean, to have phrases like Shakespeare and tricks like Góngora, to combine within one brain all the virtues and all the vices of the imaginative intellect, this has been given to only one man, and that the inscrutable Dean of St Paul's. To write fully of his work would be to write the history of the decline of English poetry, to account for the Augustan renaissance, to trace the history of the national mind for a period of at least a century. I felt Donne to be as far beyond the scope of my work as Ben Jonson would have been.
A literary historian briefly surveyed 'The So-Called Metaphysical Poets', then gave an account of Donne (Shaw's New History of English Literature, rev. edn, 1884, pp. 143-4).