George Saintsbury (1845-1933), Regius Professor at Edinburgh, proved to be one of Donne's most steadfast champions. He sustained his qualified admiration for Donne's writings in published commentaries over some three decades. His first substantial account of Donne started in a discussion of the development of English satire (Elizabethan Literature (1887), 1910, pp. 145-51, 177 and 387).
…the Satires of Donne…were indeed, like the other poetical works of their marvellously gifted writer, not published till many years after; but universal tradition ascribes the whole of Donne's profane poems to his early youth….
At any rate after the work (in so many ways remarkable) of Donne, Hall, and Marston, there could hardly be any more doubt about the matter, though part of the method which these writers, especially Donne and Marston, took to give individuality and 'bite' to their work was as faulty as it now seems to us peculiar.
Ben Jonson, the least gushing of critics to his contemporaries, said of John Donne that he was 'the first poet of the world in some things', and I own that without going through the long catalogue of singularly contradictory criticisms which have been passed on Donne, I feel disposed to fall back on and adopt this earliest, simplest, and highest encomium. Possibly Ben might not have meant the same things that I mean, but that does not matter. It is sufficient for me that in one special point of the poetic charm-the faculty of suddenly transfiguring common things by a flood of light, and opening up strange visions to the capable imagination-Donne is surpassed by no poet of any language, and equalled by few. That he has obvious and great defects, that he is wholly and in all probability deliberately careless of formal smoothness, that he adopted the fancy of his time for quaint and recondite expression with an almost perverse vigour, and set the example of the topsy-turvified conceits which came to a climax in Crashaw and Cleveland, that he is almost impudently licentious in thought and imagery at times, that he alternates the highest poetry with the