M.G. Brumbaugh (1862-1930) was a highly energetic and innovative educationalist in Philadelphia and Puerto Rico; he became Governor of Pennsylvania 1915-19 and was nominated as a presidential candidate in 1916. He wrote books on religion, geography and history and was editor of Lippincott schoolbooks. His doctoral thesis at the University of Pennsylvania was 'A Study of the Poetry of John Donne' (reported in W.F. Melton, The Rhetoric of John Donne's Verse, 1906, p. 130).
[Brumbaugh reviews the entire body of criticism which is concerned with Donne's style and thought. Yet he himself is at pains to point out Donne's absolute originality within his own restricted range.]
Donne…is…unlike all others in the range and limitations of his thinking, and in the marvellous power of condensation… contrary to most of his critics…he has…a very narrow range of thought. But in this limited field he holds absolute sway.
[Brumbaugh notes that Dryden, Johnson, Gray and Saintsbury had each sought a different antecedent for Donne's style, respectively deriving it from Horace, St Bernard, the conceited Italian writers, and the French Renaissance poets.]
It is remarkable that these four eminent critics should find Donne imitating the writers of four different and widely divergent national types. Nobody would scorn such an imputation with greater vehemence than Donne himself. He did not imitate anybody…. Had his method been such as to allow of what he would call zany efforts, he would in all probability have put himself in touch with some of the many poetic influences of his own times and of his own associates.