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ANON., A New and General Biographical Dictionary, 1784
106. Henry Headley
Headley (1765–88) was a young poet and critic. The year after
graduating at Oxford he published a selection of the beauties of
English poetry between 1558 and 1660. He included nothing by
Donne and gave no account of him though he offered biographical
sketches of many minor poets of the period. But he also omitted
the beauties of Sidney, Spenser, and Milton, whose names he
repeatedly invoked with Donne’s as major writers of that age.
In his introductory scale of poets Headley classified Donne solely
as a satirical writer, omitting him from the category of
‘Philosophical and Metaphysical’ poets and the category of
‘Amatory, and Miscellaneous’ poets (Select Beauties of Ancient
English Poetry, 1787, p. xv).
THE CRITICAL HERITAGE
ELIZABETH began to reign in 1558.
Phin. Fletcher, Massinger,
Giles Fletcher, Jonson,
107. Anon., Nouveau Dictionnaire Historique
There is a wildly inaccurate account of Donne in the seventh
edition of the Nouveau Dictionnaire Historique: ou Histoire
Abrégée, Caen and Lyon, 1789, pp. 331–2. Donne is said to have
been born in 1574, son of a rich merchant, and to be the subject
of a life by ‘Jean Watton’, 1658. There is a mention of PseudoMartyr and a summary of the argument of Biathanatos. Otherwise
all that is said of his writings is that ‘he gained the esteem of his
countrymen by productions full of spirit and grace’, and that he
made in turn poems of gallantry and what his age took for satires.
He is declared to have gained prosperity and honours in
recompense of his talents.
108. William Cowper
Cowper was related to the family of Donne and had dealings with
the poet’s descendants. He several times alluded to Donne as a
kinsman and fellow-poet. All the following references are addressed
to relatives with whom he evidently shared an interest in their
common forebear. The first occurs in a letter to Mrs Bodham
written from Weston, 27 February 1790. Mrs Bodham’s maiden
name was Anne Donne; she was Cowper’s cousin, daughter of his
mother’s brother, the Rev. Roger Donne, and had seemingly sent
him a picture of his mother (The Correspondence of William
Cowper, ed. T.Wright, 1904, iii, pp. 434–5). The second item is
from a letter to John Johnson dated 31 July 1790, inviting him to
visit (Correspondence, iii, p. 478). Cowper’s sonnet ‘Kinsman
belov’d’, from which the third extract is taken, was also addressed
to Johnson; it expresses gratitude for the gift of a bust of Homer,
which had none the less caused the poet grief as well as joy.
There is in me, I believe, more of the Donne than of the Cowper; and
though I love all of both names, and have a thousand reasons to love
those of my own name, yet I feel the bond of nature draw me
vehemently to your side. [He gives various Donne traits in his own
character.]… Add to all this, I deal much in poetry, as did our venerable
ancestor, the Dean of St Paul’s, and I think I shall have proved myself
a Donne at all points. The truth is that whatever I am, I love you all….
If you have Donne’s poems bring them with you, for I have not seen
them many years, and should like to look them over.
The grief is this, that sunk in Homer’s mine
I lose my precious years, now soon to fall,