Thompson anonymously reviewed Gosse's Life and Letters of John Donne ('Mr Gosse's Life of Donne', Academy, 4 November 1899, pp. 505-6; given in The Real Robert Louis Stevenson, and Other Critical Essays, ed. T.L. Connolly, 1959, pp. 70-4).
[Thompson judges Gosse well qualified in various ways to be the biographer of Donne.]
In particular, his wide range of literary sympathy peculiarly fits him to point out both the derivations and the originality of Donne, most learned yet independent of writers.
A brilliant and unique figure is Donne. A Protestant Bishop, of stubborn Catholic stock; an amatory poet, full of mysticism and scholasticism; a wit, a courtier, a man of the world; to the last shrinking from the ecclesiastical state with the reluctant avoidance of a Thomas à Becket, yet ultimately the most famous of preachers and a voluminous theological writer; beginning with verse not doubtfully licentious, and ending with a death of ascetic piety.
[He speaks of Donne's family and upbringing, then goes on to discuss the early verse.]
Yet Donne's first poems were the reverse of what such influences might beget-they were satires, and among the very earliest of English satires, in the formal sense of the word. It was 1593, and he was then twenty; yet he was a satirist before Hall, and after the languid attempt of Lodge. Already he was himself, and utterly unlike the Spensers, Daniels, and the rest who furnished models for the young Shakespeare about this date. Mr Gosse's investigation as to the derivation of the satires therefore becomes of extreme interest. He shows that, probably owing to the authority exerted by the lectures of Casaubon at Geneva, Persius was the special model of the earlier English satirists. Moreover, it was Persius peculiarly understood. Crabbedness both of style and metre were supposed to be leading features of the old Roman poet, and therefore essential features of satire itself. It was accordingly of deliberate endeavour that Donne darkened his language and knotted his