A scathing (but anonymous) reviewer of Gosse's Life and Letters of John Donne claimed that Gosse misrepresents Donne's life because he does not know how to read Donne's poems ('Gosse's Life of Donne, i.', Nation, 8 February 1900, pp. 112-13; and 'Gosse's Life of Donne, ii.', Nation, 15 February 1900, p. 133).
Another large part of the volumes is occupied with an account and analysis of Donne's poems and other writings, and the student or lover of the poet is likely to turn to this portion of Mr Gosse's work with especial interest, because much of Donne's poetry, while it serves to illustrate his strange career and stranger character, presents such difficulties as to require intelligent and appreciative exposition in order that its true merits may be understood-merits which led Ben Jonson, one of the most capable of critics, 'to esteem John Donne the first poet in the world in some things'.
In his second chapter Mr Gosse deals with the earliest of Donne's poems, his Satires, of which the first four were probably written when Donne, born in 1573, was hardly more than twenty years old. They are extraordinary performances for a youth. Though rugged in versification, they show as a whole remarkable breadth and keenness of observation and maturity of thought….
There is no one of Donne's earlier poems which is of more interest as an illustration of his character than his third Satire. It is an impassioned discourse, addressed to an unknown person, on the need of getting and holding to religion….
The whole satire is the utterance of intimate personal conviction; it is full of vigor of thought, no less than of expression, and it is of the more interest because its main conception, that religious truth was not to be found complete in the creed of any one church, was one of Donne's abiding convictions, as appears alike in certain of his letters and of his sermons.
The best known poems of Donne are the Lyrics. Like his Satires, they mostly belong to his earlier years-years before his marriage in 1601, when he was twenty-eight years old. They are full of the