IT is not necessary here to describe Donne's reputation as a great preacher and controversialist in the seventeenth century, for this has already been done by Mr. Pearsall Smith1 and Mrs. E. M. Simpson,2 but in spite of his significant revival in this century, he has received no recognition as an eminent Anglican divine and theologian, for it has been generally assumed that circumstances and the lack of court preferment forced him to become a priest, and that his love of the Anglican Church was not so sincere as that of George Herbert or Bishop Andrewes. In fact, Sir E. Gosse, commenting on the three unpublished sonnets,3 said that they betrayed his leanings to "certain Romish doctrines"4 and that "they seem to prove that even after the death of his wife and his subsequent conversion, he hankered after some tenets of the Roman faith, or at least that he still doubted as to his attitude with regard to them."
This is to bring a very serious charge of insincerity against the greatest Anglican preacher of his age whom Walton called a "second Austin," and whose art of preaching he compared to the ecstasy of S. Paul,5 and whom another contemporary likened to S. Chrysostom.6 Donne himself had a very high conception of the office of the preacher; and we can hardly expect him to be defending and preaching the Anglican doctrines in the pulpit, while writing divine sonnets to express his personal doubts about them. Donne declared in one of his sermons:
Elegy by R.B.____________________
|a.||"Show me, dear Christ, Thy spouse so bright and clear."|
|b.||"Oh, to vex me, contraries meet in one."|
|c.||"Since she whom I knew hath paid her last debt."|