John Donne: The Critical Heritage - Vol. 2

By A. J. Smith; Catherine Phillips | Go to book overview

134.

Elbert Nevius Sebring Thompson

1921

E.N.S. Thompson (1877-1948) was Professor of English Literature at the State University of Iowa from 1921. He published a number of books on Renaissance subjects, including Controversy between the Puritans and the Stage, Literary Bypaths of the Renaissance and The English Essay of the Seventeenth Century. He also compiled a Topical Bibliography of Milton. In a lengthy survey of mysticism in seventeenth-century English writing, largely about Thomas Traherne and the Vaughan twins, he devoted several pages to Donne ('Mysticism in Seventeenth-Century English Literature', Studies in Philology, 18 (1921), 170-231).

[Thompson takes mysticism to include any impulse which seeks an order of reality beyond the physical order; and so Donne must be allowed his mystical strivings despite the strong appearance to the contrary.]

Of all the poets of the Jacobean age Donne would be least suspected of a mystical turn of mind. His keen restless intellect, his constant dependence on the external features of daily life for his illustrative material, as well as his open cynicism and irreverence in the Elegies and Songs, would isolate him, necessarily it appears, from the spiritual forces of the day. This, however, was not the case. Cynicism, impudent ribaldry, realism tingle in his early verse. Yet not even Browning recognised more unqualifiedly than Donne that the life of the spirit is the matter of sole moment to man. 'I wonder by my troth, what thou and I/Did, till we loved?' he asks, forgetful of all the soul-stirring episodes of his venturesome youth. This was not because Donne scorned or despised our bodies [he quotes lines 53-6 of 'The Ecstasy']. But the spirit's welfare seemed of greater importance than the body's.

[The writer argues that Donne's very conception of love has something mystical about it when it posits that the passion of true love can inseparably unite two lovers. He quotes 'The Ecstasy' and 'A Valediction: Of Weeping', and comments:]

-453-

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John Donne: The Critical Heritage - Vol. 2
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • General Editor's Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgements xii
  • Note on the Text xiv
  • Introduction xv
  • 1. - Henry Morley 1
  • 3. - William Minto 3
  • 5. - Alice King 15
  • 9. - Edmund Gosse 24
  • 11. - George Edward Bateman Saintsbury 26
  • 13. - Margaret Woods 31
  • 15. - W.F. Collier 50
  • 17. - Gamaliel Bradford 52
  • 21. - Sir Edmund Kerchever Chambers 70
  • 25. - George Edward Bateman Saintsbury 89
  • 29. - Thomas Bird Mosher 102
  • 31. - Augustus Jessopp 105
  • 32. - Anon., Academy 108
  • 35. - Henry Augustin Beers 115
  • 44. - Francis Thompson 180
  • 46. - Anon., Academy 184
  • 48. - Anon., Nation 187
  • 52. - Anon., Quarterly Review 206
  • 59. - Rudolf Richter 221
  • 69. - Charles Eliot Norton 249
  • 73. - Martin Grove Brumbaugh 254
  • 74. - Charles Crawford 255
  • 76. - Herbert John Clifford Grierson 259
  • 79. - Alfred Horatio Upham 272
  • 83. - Janet Spens 295
  • 84. - Phoebe Anne Beale Sheavyn 302
  • 85. - William Macdonald Sinclair 303
  • 89. - Herbert John Clifford Grierson 317
  • 93. - Evelyn Mary Simpson (Née Spearing) 352
  • 94. - Anon., Nation 353
  • 95. - Felix E. Schelling 356
  • 97. - Rupert Brooke 359
  • 100. - Ernest Percival Rhys 370
  • 102. - Sir Sidney Colvin 390
  • 106. - David Macleane 395
  • 107. - Ezra Pound 396
  • 118. - Logan Pearsall Smith 410
  • 126. - Louise Imogen Guiney 432
  • 128. - Herbert John Clifford Grierson 437
  • 132. - Stuart Petre Brodie Mais 451
  • 134. - Elbert Nevius Sebring Thompson 453
  • 137. - William Butler Yeats 457
  • 138. - Robert Seymour Bridges 458
  • Appendix A. 463
  • Appendix B. 467
  • Appendix C: 474
  • Index 475
  • The Critical Heritage Series 502
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