Dr A. Jessopp (1823-1914), headmaster, parish priest and local historian, had a lifelong interest in Donne. He published the first modern edition of Donne's Essays in Divinity in 1855, and at Cambridge he was mentor to the future editor of Donne's sermons Evelyn M. Spearing. He had intended to write a full scholarly life of Donne, but resigned the task to Gosse in the end. In his life of Donne in the Leaders of Religion series he used Donne's letters to substantiate the narrative, as Gosse would do later (John Donne: Sometime Dean of St Paul's, 1897, pp. 18-19, 76-77, 83-4, 89, 171, 206 and 215).
[Jessopp ventures occasional comments on Donne's poetry.]
In the later years of Elizabeth's reign there was a great deal of literary activity, which was rather in danger of degenerating into frivolity and affectation than rising to seriousness. People were happy and gay, and their gaiety expressed itself in playfulness of style-in songs and epigrams, in eccentricities of manner, in far-fetched metaphors and odd fancies. There was a continual striving for effect-a taste for the fantastic, which by no means discouraged obscurity in diction, when the substance was often subordinated to the form, and the thought wrapped up in verbiage, which sometimes rather concealed than expressed it in harmonious language. Donne, in his earlier writings, may be said to have fallen into the sins of his time. He wrote much in verse-sonnets, lyrics, love-songs, elegies, and satires. In prose he threw off what he called his 'paradoxes' and problems-short essays, each containing some odd fancy of whimsical theory; as, 'That Nature is our worst Guide', 'That all things kill Themselves', 'Why doth not Gold soil the Fingers?' or 'Why do Women delight much in Feathers?' Ben Jonson, though he admitted his cleverness, was more than ordinarily severe upon him for his ruggedness. Why should subtlety of thought excuse neglect of rhythm? Nevertheless, the young poet became the rage, and his writings were widely circulated. It was not the fashion to print such trifles; they were handed about in