Yesterday, I braced my resolve and began to think about writing about John Donne. Well as you can see from my last post, I managed to produce an introduction to my relation, or rather my connection to Donne.
What I intended to write was about was the connections between the books in my stock and Donne. The greater part of my inventory spans the years 1500 to 1700. Donne fits (at least temporally) right near the middle. I was educated, after my formal education set me loose on books, in an ever incomplete post-structural ,postmodern –>speculative :quest ,maybe pointlessly directionless guided (or not) by an anti-technique , found homeless in america a,theory and research that allows for multiple, non-hierarchical entry and exit points in data representation and interpretation. In short Rhizomatics.
Deleuze and Guattari introduce A Thousand Plateaus by outlining the concept of the rhizome (quoted from A Thousand Plateaus):
- 1 and 2: Principles of connection and heterogeneity: any point of a rhizome can be connected to anything other, and must be
- 3. Principle of multiplicity: only when the multiple is effectively treated as a substantive, “multiplicity” that it ceases to have any relation to the One
- 4. Principle of asignifying rupture: a rhizome may be broken, but it will start up again on one of its old lines, or on new lines
- 5 and 6: Principle of cartography and decalcomania: a rhizome is not amenable to any structural or generative model; it is a “map and not a tracing” Yet as Baudrillard states in Simulation and Simulacra it is “the cartographer’s mad project of the ideal coextensivity of map and territory,” (Baudrillard) and is ever the tracing more than a layering,yet another Plateau?
- So here,now and at last (never finally) I will begin to map, trace outline and draw atop the works on John Donne. I’ll begin with an old outline and squirm around in what is on the shelf!
- A point of departure will be Tradition…The tradition began with nothing auspicious, Williamson begins with Ben Johnson telling Drummond ” that Donne himself,for not being understood would perish” Well, what can be said of this? We can look in Donne’s Letters and see if he ‘heard’ about this, no matter how unlikely, it will be fun to look through the letters…. and look at this,indeed I currently have for sale both a copy of Donne’s Letters, and Also a first Edition of Drummond’s works.
105F Donne, John. 1573-1631
Letters to Severall Persons of Honour: Written by John Donne, Sometime Deane of St Pauls London. Published by John Donne Dr. of the Civill Law.
London: Printed by J. Flesher, for Richard Marriot, and are to be sold at his shop in St
Dunstans Church-yard under the Dyall. 1651 $5,000
Quarto, 7 x 5.2 inches. First edition. A-Z4, Aa-Ss4. [Lacking only the blanks A1 and Ss4]. This copy lacks the portrait of Donne. This copy is bound in full contemporary polished calf boards with gilt tooled edges; the binding has been rebacked and bears a label. The edges of the leaves are speckled red. The contents, on the other hand, are clean and tight, the paper generally in excellent condition. Notwithstanding the missing portrait, this is a very good copy. This copy is from the Damgard-Nielsen collection of John Donne, with his small bookplate inside the front board and his signature on the front free end leaf.
Published posthumously by the poet’s son, John Donne (1604-1662), this collection contains 129 letters, written between December 1600 (a year before Donne’s marriage to Anne More) and March1631 (two months before his death).
“‘In no other kind of conveyance,’ Donne once told Goodyer, ‘can we find so perfect a Character of a man as in his Letters’. These letters provide valuable information about Donne’s situation and frame of mind at the time of the poems that many readers consider his greatest achievements -the ‘Anniversaries’, the ‘Holy Sonnets’, many of the verse letters and ‘A Litanie’. Moreover, the letters provide an even fuller account of the periods of intense mental and physical duress during the composition of Donne’s equally important prose works -‘Biathanatos’, ‘Pseudo-Martyr’, his polemical support of the Oath of Allegiance, ‘Devotions’ and many of his sermons. “An even more impressive (and constant) feature conveyed by the letters is the picture of Donne the family man. Here we see the loving husband who bemoans that he has transplanted his wife Anne ‘into a wretched fortune’ and who reflects at the time of one of her illnesses that he ‘should hardly have abstained from recompensing for her company in this world, with accompanying out of it.’ [ ] Here also are those brief personal touches that one would expect from ‘conveyors of friendship’ -glimpses of his nervousness at being commanded to preach before King Charles I for the first time, that he has neither the ‘ambition, nor design upon the style’ to pursue the law as his ‘best entertainment’, of his preference for life in the city and, as always, his delight in self-criticism: ‘I may die yet, if talking idly be an ill sign.'”(M. Thomas Hester)
“Like his poems, Donne’s letters paint the brilliant and insolent young man; the erudite and witty, but troubled and melancholy, suitor for court favour and office; the ascetic and fervent saint and preacher. And this is their chief interest. For some time, Donne held the position, almost, of the English Çpistolier, collections of the “choicest conceits” being made, in commonplace books, from his letters as well as his poems. But they were not well fitted to teach, like Balzac’s, the beauty of a balanced and orderly prose, though they far surpass the latter in wit, wisdom and erudition. Their chief interest is the man whom they reveal, the characteristically renascence “melancholy temperament,” now deep in despondence and meditating on the problem of suicide, now, in his own words, kindling squibs about himself and flying into sportfulness; elaborating erudite compliments, or talking to Goodere with the utmost simplicity and good feeling; worldly and time-serving, noble and devout-all these things, and all with equal sincerity.” (Cambridge History of English and American Literature, Vol IV, Ch. 11.)
Wing D-1864; Keynes 55.
Drummond, despite the light Williams puts it, in his “Conversation betwixt the Famous poet Ben Johnson and William Drummond” States that Donne “is second to none and far from all second: but..
This retelling and printing is from the 1711 first edition of Drummond’s Works.
894F Drummond, William. 1585-1649
The works of William Drummond, of Hawthornden. Consisting of those which were formerly printed, and those which were design’d for the press. Now published from the author’s original copies.
Edinburgh : printed by James Watson, in Craig’s-Closs, 1711. $3,500
Folio, 8.5 X 13 inches. First collected edition [ ],a-l2, m1, a1, B-Z2, Aa-Zz2, Aaa-Qqq2, A2.A-P2. This copy has seven full page plates and one interesting shape poem!! This copy is bound in its original full calf binding, it has been recently rebacked retaining the original spine. This is a wonderful copy of this book.
This is the first edition of Drummond’s works, printed under the supervision of his Son, it contains a brief life of Drummond and his letters to Ben Jonson and other poets of his day. William Drummond is the last significant figure in Scottish poetry before the Eighteenth Century. The gap between him and Alan Ramsay indicates a crisis in Scottish literary culture brought on by the departure of the Scottish court to London with the accession of James VI of Scotland to the throne of Great Britain. James had been a patron of poets, dabbled in poetry himself and delivered himself of Rewellis and Cautelis [Do’s and Don’ts] for its composition. Not only had the court been a centre of literary activity where men of letters such as Drummond’s uncle, William Fowler, and his friend William Alexander of Menstrie, later Earl of Stirling, gained employment, it had also given authority to Scots as a literary language. These conditions were now abolished. Poets who had published their work in Scots, followed James in revising it and publishing it in English, and Drummond, who did not go south with the court, was left in a state of cultural bereavement. He made a lot of that melancholy state. He became a poet of retreat and death, like Henry Vaughan during the Interregnum.
Drummond was born in 1585, the eldest son of John Drummond, descended through a cadet branch from the Drummonds of Stobhall, Lords Drummond of that ilk since 1471, and of Susannah Fowler, daughter of a well-connected Edinburgh burgess. John Drummond acquired the property of Hawthornden, where the North Esk runs through a romantic gorge near Dalkeith, and was made gentleman usher at the court of James VI in 1590. William Drummond was educated at the High School in Edinburgh and at Edinburgh University, where he graduated MA in 1605. He completed his education by travelling to France, visiting Paris and studying law at Bourges. On the way out and on his return in 1609, he stayed in London. He became laird of Hawthornden on the death of his father in 1610 and thereafter seldom left his estate, where he dedicated himself to literary pursuits, accumulating an excellent library and rebuilding the house as a Scots baronial mansion.
Like everyone else, he published a lament on the death of Prince Henry in 1613, “Teares on the Death of Moeliades”. Poems followed in 1614; most of these were included and revised in the 1616 edition, whose first part is a celebration of a love for Auristella and the second a mourning of her death. The “Teares” for Prince Henry is included and there are additional madrigals and epigrams, but the main body of the collection is a two part series of sonnets and songs like Sir Philip Sidney’s Astrophil to Stella and Sir William Alexander’s Aurora. Drummond was a late practitioner of the Petrarchan sonnet sequence in English, but he worked in phrases and ideas of the French and Italian masters of late petrarchism. Marino was an author he admired and imitated. The language he writes in is not the Scots he spoke but a literary English, as correct as he could learn to make it from reading books. His art aims at refined sweetness both in versification and in the preciosity of his reworking and tinkering with petrarchan imagery. The landscape of his love-melancholy is a solitary and Arcadian Midlothian.
On this colde World of Ours,
Flowre of the Seasons, Season of the Flowrs,
Sonne of the Sunne sweet Spring,
Such hote and burning Dayes why doest thou bring?
(Madrigal vi, ll. 1-4, Poems, Part 1)
The love affair he writes about so artificially has a very oblique relation to his life. His Auristella has at least some connection with Euphemia Cunningham, who lived by the Ore, or Ora as he has it, in Fife. Like Poe, Drummond seems to have felt that the death of a beautiful woman was the best subject for poetry and Euphemia Cunningham did her best for him in this respect. Only a year after he had completed the Poems that end in mourning her literary epiphany. Religion was another source of melancholy interiority that he exploited; he expanded the divine poems of the 1616 collection and brought them out as Flowres of Sion in 1623. The volume includes his prose meditation on death, The Cypresse Grove. In 1617, James visited Scotland, and joining in the public rejoicing, Drummond published “Forth Feasting” to celebrate the occasion.
Drummond’s Poems were a success. He had already made the acquaintance of Alexander in 1614 on a chance visit to his house in Menstrie; he records the hospitality and literary chat in an attractive letter. Through Alexander, he struck up an epistolary friendship with Michael Drayton; and Ben Jonson visited him in the summer of 1618, having walked up to Hawthornden from London. The notes of his talk are among the best things Drummond wrote.
In the years after the death of Euphemia Cunningham, Drummond kept a mistress by whom he had three illegitimate children. In 1632 he married Elizabeth Logan, and by her had nine legitimate ones. He wrote a welcome for the visit of Charles I to Scotland in 1633, but his literary activity had dwindled. He wrote an essay on impresas and anagrams and some coarse satirical squibs and epigrams, which display an interesting obverse to the aesthetic refinement of the poetry he is most known for. He followed the Scottish virtuoso, John Napier of Merchiston, in thinking up machines for the destruction of mankind or improvements on those already in use and applied for a patent in 1626. In later years he began to compile an uninteresting royalist History of Scotland. The Bishops’ Wars between Charles I and the Scots Presbyterians and the involvement of the Covenant in the politics of the English Civil War stirred Drummond to write political tracts against the Covenanters, notably Irene in response to the promulgation of the National Covenant of 1638 and Skiamachia in support of the Cross Petition to the Scottish Parliament against moves for an alliance with the English Parliamentarians. He did not publish them but they probably circulated in manuscript. Too literary, written in too elaborate and beautifully modulated a style to engage effectively in the cut and thrust of Civil War polemic, they nevertheless make shrewd points about the contradictions in which the Covenanters had involved themselves. Here is his address in Irene to the Covenanting churchmen who meddle in politics:
Yee lightes of the World, examples of Holiness and all Vertues, you living libraryes of Knowledge, Sanctuarryes of Goodnesse, looke upon the weaknesse and fragilitie of Mankynd! The Bodyes of Common wealthes are alreddye turned in Skeletones, the Cityes in Sepulcheres, the fieldes in Shambles, the Trees in Gibbetes. Pittye humaine Race, spare the blouud of Man: the earth is druncke with it, the Watteres empurpled, the aire empoysoned, and all by you, for, who give advice and counsell for the performing of evill actiones, cause them, and doe these actiones themselves: and they who command them and approve them when done are beyond he actores guilty
ESTC Citation No. T125750