THE PURPOSE OF this study is to examine the body of Donne's poems, to analyze a number of shorter poems and passages in detail, and to arrive at an evaluation of Donne's work in general. An attempt is made to distinguish Donne the poet from Donne the priest and Donne the person-however interesting the latter may be in their own right. The principal thesis of this study is a somewhat negative one: that many misconceptions of Donne criticism are due directly to superficial reading of the poems, and importation of patterns which patently do not fit them. This essay makes no pretense of being a highpowered product of the New Criticism.
In its original form, this study was a dissertation presented for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Yale University. The dissertation was written under the direction of Mr. Cleanth Brooks, to whose writings and personal guidance I am highly indebted. I should mention the fact, however, that I am not a duly accredited disciple of Mr. Brooks. He should not be saddled with opinions which are mine but not his.
At Yale I was also indebted to Mr. Helge Kökeritz, with his immense store of knowledge on phonological matters; and to Mr. René Wellek, who oriented me on theory of literature.
I should also like to record a debt to Mr. Austin Warren, of the University of Michigan. This project was inspired in part by Mr. Warren's stimulating classroom lectures on Donne, at Kenyon School of English, the summer of 1948.
And I am extremely grateful for the patience and industry of my wife, Anne Dannemiller Louthan, who helped me at every stage of composition and preparation for the press. I, of course, am solely responsible for the shortcomings of the essay.
I am gateful to the following publishers for permission to