John Donne (1572–1631)

English poet, essayist, and cleric. Born into a Roman Catholic family at a time when Catholicism was barely tolerated in England, Donne attended Oxford and Cambridge universities, but could not receive a degree because he was not a member of the Church of England. Donne studied law, though he never practiced, and, after quietly abandoning Catholicism sometime during the 1590s, entered government service. In 1615 he became an Anglican minister, and in 1621 he was named dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Donne’s literary reputation rests on his poetry as well as on his devotions and sermons. As a poet, he is renowned for both the “metaphysical” wit and sincere ardor of his early love lyrics and later religious verse. As a preacher, he was regarded as one of the greatest orators of his age. See also luminarium.org.