John Donne


Bald, Life

R.C. Bald, John Donne: A Life (Oxford, 1970).

Gardner, Divine Poems

John Donne, The Divine Poems, ed. Helen Gardner [first pub. 1952] 2nd edition (Oxford, 1978).

Gardner, Elegies

John Donne, The Elegies and the Songs and Sonnets, ed. Helen Gardner (Oxford, 1965).


Edmund Gosse, The Life and Letters of John Donne, 2 vols (London, 1899).


The Poems of John Donne, ed. Herbert J.C. Grierson, 2 vols (Oxford, 1912; ninth printing 1968).


John Donne, Complete Poetry and Selected Prose, ed. John Hayward (London 1929; 10th impression 1967).

Keynes, Bibliography

Geoffrey Keynes, A Bibliography of Dr John Donne, 3rd edition (Cambridge, 1958); 4th edition (Oxford, 1973).

Loseley Manuscripts

The Loseley Manuscripts, ed. Alfred John Kempe (London, 1836).

Marriage Letters

John Donne's Marriage Letters in The Folger Shakespeare Library, ed. M. Thomas Hester, Robert Parker Sorlien, and Dennis Flynn (Washington, D.C., 2005).

Milgate, Epithalamions

John Donne, The Epithalamions, Anniversaries and Epicedes, ed. W. Milgate (Oxford, 1978).

Milgate, Satires

John Donne, The Satires, Epigrams and Verse Letters, ed. W. Milgate (Oxford, 1967).


John Donne, Paradoxes and Problems, ed. Helen Peters (Oxford, 1980).

Potter & Simpson

The Sermons of John Donne, ed. George R. Potter & Evelyn M. Simpson, 10 vols (Berkeley & Los Angeles, 1953-62).


The Complete Poetry of John Donne, ed. John T. Shawcross (New York & London, 1968).


The Variorum Edition of the Poetry of John Donne, General Editor, Gary A. Stringer (Indiana University Press): Volume 2, The Elegies (2000); Volume 6, The Anniversaries, Epicedes and Obsequies (1995); Volume 7, Part 1: The Holy Sonnets (2005); Volume 8, The Epigrams, Epithalamions, Epitaphs, Inscriptions, and Miscellaneous Poems (1995).


The Manuscripts of Donne's Verse

Apart from the Latin verses which he inscribed in two printed books (*DnJ 1-2), the only poetical autograph of Donne known to have survived is the verse epistle he sent to Lady Carey, now in the Bodleian (*DnJ 1858).

As if to compensate for the paucity of verse holographs, however, more transcripts of Donne's poems were made than of the verse of any other British poet of the 16th and 17th centuries. The large number of extant transcripts (which must be only a fraction of the number once in existence) indicates the extraordinary popularity of Donne's verse in the 17th century; they have obvious editorial importance as witnesses to Donne's text, and they are also a reminder that his verse belonged essentially to a manuscript culture. Although the number of poems by Donne that found their way into print in his lifetime, either in full or as extracts, is slightly more than was traditionally believed – see Ernest W. Sullivan II, The Influence of John Donne: His Uncollected Seventeenth-Century Printed Verse (Columbia & London, 1993) – perhaps only five were ever authorized by Donne for publication: namely, Amicissimo, & meritissimo Ben Jonson. In Vulponem (1607); Vpon Mr. Thomas Coryats Crudities (1611), the two Anniversaries (1612), and the Elegie upon the untimely death of the incomparable Prince Henry (1613). The rest were read, copied, and circulated in manuscript, within limited social groups, perhaps sharing some of Donne's values and assumptions, manuscripts themselves having a personal significance not possessed by printed books. Appropriately, if in a playful context, Donne himself testified to the special value that manuscripts might have, in his Latin poem to Dr Andrews, written when he had received from Andrews a manuscript copy of one of Donne's books that Andrews's children had torn up: ‘Sed quae scripta manu, sunt veneranda magis…’ (Grierson, I, 397). The relevant passage has been translated by Edmund Blunden:

What printing-presses yield we think good store,

But what is writ by hand we reverence more:

A book that with this printing-blood is dyed

On shelves for dust and moth is set aside,

But if 't be penned it wins a sacred grace

And with the ancient Fathers takes its place…

(‘Some Seventeenth-Century Latin Poems by English Writers’, University of Toronto Quarterly, 25 (1955-6), 10-22 (p. 11)).

What should be clear – and which has indeed become increasingly clearer by the remarkable amount of scholarship devoted to Donne's texts, and to how they should be edited, since 1980 — is that the extant manuscripts of Donne's poems are not mere accessories to the 1633 Poems. By reason of their very quantity, as well as peculiar qualities, they offer special opportunities for, among other things, the appreciation of Donne as a ‘coterie’ poet and for studying the nature and implications of textual transmission and readership in a transitional period from manuscript to print culture in the first half of the 17th century.

Donne himself is known to have made more than one attempt to compile collections of his poems and miscellaneous works. In an undated Latin letter probably belonging to mid-1611 (before going abroad with Sir Robert Drury) Donne requested Sir Henry Goodyer to set aside for him some of Donne's papers which had been lent to Goodyer, these apparently including his Latin epigrams and Courtier's Library. Donne intended to revise his writings, expurgating or indeed destroying works where necessary (Poems (1633), pp. 351-2, and see Bald, Life, pp. 241-2). Late in 1614 he contemplated, with some reluctance, compiling a collection of his poems for the press; the volume was to be dedicated to (and was possibly compiled at the instigation of) Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset. On 20 December 1614 he reported to Goodyer that he was ‘brought to a necessity of printing my Poems, and addressing them to my L. Chamberlain’, this being by nature of ‘a valediction to the world, before I take Orders’. He was consequently applying to Goodyer for texts ‘of mine own rags’, it costing him ‘more diligence to seek them, then it did to make them’, for which reason he wished ‘to borrow that old book of you’ (Letters to Severall Persons of Honour (1651), pp. 196-7). The project was abandoned, perhaps because of Donne's Ordination, 23 January 1614/15, and ensuing rise in the Church, and perhaps also because of the fall of Somerset in the Overbury scandal later in the year. The same letter to Goodyer makes it clear that Donne wished to include in his collection, if possible, at least one verse epistle to Lucy, Countess of Bedford (who belonged to a Court faction hostile to Somerset), and that, in effect, he did not wish his collection to be strongly partisan in character (which accounts for his disquiet in having to dedicate it to Somerset). (For a comparable collection of poems made for Somerset at this time (by Samuel Daniel), see Leeds University, Brotherton Collection, MS Lt. q. 36.

One other reference to a manuscript of Donne's poems occurs in an undated letter from Donne to Sir Robert Kerr, later Earl of Ancrum (evidently written in the spring of 1619 before his journey abroad with the Earl of Doncaster). Donne enclosed with the letter a manuscript of Biathanatos and also ‘the Poems, of which you took a promise’ (Letters to Severall Persons of Honour (1651), p. 21). An allusion to such poems is made in a letter from William Drummond to Kerr, 7 June 1621 (National Archives of Scotland, GD40/13, f. 26r; printed in Correspondence of Sir Robert Kerr, First Earl of Ancram, ed. David Laing (Edinburgh, 1875), I, 24-5). Referring to the ‘scrolls’ of Samuel Daniel which were bequeathed to Kerr, Drummond also mentions ‘Done, who in his trauells lefte you his’. Unfortunately, no manuscripts of Donne can be traced today among the muniments of the Kerr family (the Lothian manuscripts: see Samuel Daniel, Introduction above). Nothing can be known for certain about any of these ‘collections’ of Donne's poems, or about their relationship with extant manuscripts, neither can it be assumed that they must be the only collections made or contemplated by Donne.

Nor is it known for certain when large manuscript collections of Donne's poems began to circulate and proliferate. The earliest extant collections are of a particular group of poems written probably in the 1590s — the five Satyres, The Storme, and The Calme. These apparently circulated as a manuscript ‘book’, and are cited as such in an epigram on Donne by Thomas Freeman, published in 1614 (Grierson, II, lxxvi). Early examples or copies of this ‘book’ are preserved in DnJ Δ 31-34 and DnJ Δ 40 listed below. It is possible that Donne's Songs and Sonnets also circulated at a relatively early date as a separate collection. In his autograph list of ‘bookes red be me’ in 1613 William Drummond includes ‘Jhone Dones Lyriques’. This is positive evidence of the early circulation of manuscript poems by Donne, even though Drummond was not always strictly accurate in his dating (his lists were compiled somewhat later than the years to which they refer) and the term ‘Lyriques’ may also have been loosely applied. The extant collection of Donne's poems compiled by Drummond (the Hawthornden MS, DnJ Δ 54) may conceivably have been transcribed from the ‘book’ of ‘Lyriques’ which came into Drummond's possession c.1613, but it is related to the Wedderburn MS, DnJ Δ 55) and more probably belongs to the 1620s. It should be noted that the interesting inscription in the Hawthornden MS, ‘Thirre [i.e. these] poems belonginge to Jhon Don Transcribed by William Drummond’, is not in Drummond's own hand, and was probably added somewhat later, so that too much importance should not be attached to it. The possibility that the Songs and Sonnets had some kind of circulation as an independent collection is supported by the existence of several manuscripts devoted almost exclusively to these poems (DnJ Δ 2, DnJ Δ 8, DnJ Δ 11, DnJ Δ 12, DnJ Δ 26, as well as DnJ Δ 54 and DnJ Δ 55).

The extant manuscript collections would appear to date chiefly from the 1620s and 1630s, although it is rarely possible to date manuscripts with any exactness (the only manuscript with a clear date, ‘1620’, being the Stephens MS: DnJ Δ 23). Even though some manuscripts contain no poems composed later than 1609 or 1613, it would probably be unwise, in the absence of clear evidence to the contrary, to assume that any of them was compiled earlier than 1620. A relatively late dating is, on the other hand, insufficient reason for assuming that Donne's poems necessarily had a very restricted circulation before that period (though this may be the case). Since the 1620s-30s were, in effect, the golden age of the manuscript verse compilation in general, it is to that period that one would in any case expect most extant manuscript texts of Donne's poems (as of those of his contemporaries) to belong. In the decade or so following such notable publications as the 1616 Jonson Folio, the 1617 Spenser Folio, and the 1623 Shakespeare and Daniel Folios, collections of authors' works were in fashion. There is also reason to believe that this period was affected by a spirit of nostalgia for the culture of the previous (Elizabethan) generation, so that many of the compilations and miscellanies of the 1620s-30s are essentially retrospective affairs.

As for the terminus ad quem of the extant manuscript collections, probably most of them were compiled before the 1633 Poems was published (or, at any rate, before it became widely known), but, again, this is not definite. Some of the manuscripts (e.g. DnJ Δ 39, DnJ Δ 43-4, DnJ Δ 49) were clearly compiled much later than 1633, and it is evident that Donne's poems continued to enjoy a manuscript circulation, to be copied and re-copied from manuscript sources, for many years after printed texts were available. Seventeenth-century readers do not appear to have shared the assumption sometimes made by modern editors that the publication of an author's works automatically established a standard (if not definitive) reading text and rendered manuscripts largely redundant. It is also clear that not only did the process of transcribing Donne's poems continue after 1633 but also the process of editing and collating them with other texts. Readers seem to have wanted their collections to be as complete as possible (hence the additional manuscript pages bound into the Mapletoft and Swanley volumes (DnJ Δ 68, DnJ Δ 69), for instance, as well as the ‘Berland MS’). They similarly wanted their texts to be as ‘correct’ as possible, hence the evidence of correction from other sources in a number of the extant manuscripts and in the Crynes volume (DnJ Δ 67). Certain later editions of Donne's poems reflect the same activity. The 1669 edition offers an unreliable text, showing signs of editorial interference, but it was evidently based at least in part on unrecorded manuscript sources (printing for the first time certain readings that are to be found in early manuscripts), so that its variants cannot automatically be dismissed as ‘later corruptions’. The process of annotation, reflecting readers' desire to understand Donne's poems, was pursued likewise.

In understanding the nature and significance of extant manuscript collections obviously the question of provenance is of great importance. Fortunately the early ownership of some manuscripts is known, although in most instances provenance cannot at present be established. It is likely that, in the first instance, copies of Donne's poems were made by or for friends or influential people in his circle only for their personal use, that these copies were passed around and further copies made in their circles, and so the web of transmission spread outwards, eventually reaching the miscellanies compiled by people quite unknown to Donne at the universities and Inns of Court. That Donne's friends did make copies of his poems is known from various extant examples and from the report of one friend, George Garrard, who wrote on 10 November 1634 that he ‘never had Patience in all my Life to transcribe Poems, except they were very transcendent, such as Dean Donn writ in his younger Days’ (The Earl of Strafforde's Letters and Dispatches (Dublin, 1740), I, 338). Among the principal extant collections, one manuscript (DnJ Δ 19) was compiled by Donne's friend Rowland Woodward; another (DnJ Δ 5) was probably compiled for Donne's friend Henry Percy, ninth Earl of Northumberland; another (DnJ Δ 24) was owned by the first Earl of Bridgewater, son of Donne's erstwhile employer Thomas Egerton; yet another (DnJ Δ 56) was owned by the Herbert family, who were very well known to Donne; and in the Hawthornden MS (DnJ Δ 54) occurs Drummond's inscription ‘Satyre 2 after C. B.’ (DnJ 2783), suggesting a possible derivation of this text from one owned by Donne's friend Christopher Brooke. Among the extant texts of individual poems, some are in the hand of Sir Henry Goodyer (of which more below), two are in the hand of Sir Nathaniel Rich (DnJ 1430-1), and one, the obsequy on Lord Harington, is in a volume which may perhaps be associated with the Harington family (DnJ 2430). Various other collections are known to have belonged to members of the nobility or gentry, suggesting possible links, at a social level, with the Donne circle. It should be noted, however, that, in view of the extensive proliferation of transcripts of Donne's poems, provenance is not necessarily an indication of textual authority, since texts owned even by families personally known to Donne (such as the Egertons and Herberts) may well have been copied at several stages removed from Donne's autograph manuscripts.

The Conway Papers

One group of manuscripts that deserves special attention in connection with provenance is the so-called ‘Conway Papers’. Such attention is warranted, first, because Sir Edward Conway (c.1564-1631), first Viscount Conway and Secretary of State, was personally known to Donne; secondly, because his son, Edward (1594-1655), second Viscount Conway, was a man of literary interests, a collector of verse, a friend of the younger John Donne, and a friend also of Algernon Percy (1602-68), tenth Earl of Northumberland, son of Donne's friend, the ninth Earl of Northumberland; thirdly, because the Conway Papers are the main collection to preserve manuscripts of Donne's friend and correspondent Sir Henry Goodyer (1571-1627), who owned the ‘old book’ of Donne's poems which Donne asked to borrow in 1614, who is known to have received authorial copies of other poems and works by Donne besides, and whose connection with Donne is thus of special significance; and fourthly, because the disposal of the Conway Papers presents peculiar problems of location and identification. Secretary Conway's papers, which included confidential state documents, were regarded as politically sensitive, so that, just before Conway's death, Charles I wanted his study to be sealed up and all his papers ‘recouered’ (Henry, Earl of Holland to Secretary Dorchester, 24 January 1630/1, in the National Archives, Kew, SP16/183/18). In 1751, however, at Conway's family seat of Ragley Hall in Warwickshire (then rebuilt), Horace Walpole discovered what he later described as the remains of the papers of ‘the two Lords Conway, Secretaries of State’ [i.e. the first and third Viscounts], partly in a ‘box that was kept till almost rotten in a cupboard’, partly ‘thrown loose into the lumber-room’. From thence, in 1758, he ‘brought away a chest near five feet long, three wide and two deep, brimful’. These papers were indeed but remains for ‘They seem to have laid up every scrap of paper they ever had’ from Queen Elizabeth's time onwards and there had been ‘whole rooms full’, but early in the 18th century they were ‘by the ignorance of a steward consigned to the oven and to the uses of the house’ (Walpole to George Montagu, 20 August 1758: The Yale Edition of Horace Walpole's Correspondence, ed. W. S. Lewis, IX (1941), 223-4). Walpole intended to publish a selection of the papers, but his plan came to nothing. Probably most (though not all) of the papers were later given by Francis Charles Seymour Conway (1777-1842), third Marquess of Hertford, to John Wilson Croker (1780-1857). Just before his death, Croker wrote to Sir George Grey, offering to present the Conway Papers to the then Public Record Office. Here they were duly received on 26 August 1857, ‘in two boxes…filled with a great number of bundles of various sizes, containing about 60 volumes of unbound papers’, some ‘in good preservation, but by far the greater proportion’ suffering ‘from damp, vermin, and ill-treatment in every way, and many… in such perishing condition as to be almost beyond the hope of preservation’ (Nineteenth Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records (1858), pp. 17-18). This bequest included most but not all of the Conway Papers in Croker's possession. A large number of letters and miscellaneous papers of the Conway family belonging to Croker came in January 1860 to the British Library (Add. MSS 23212-21, 23223-9, 23231, 23234). Many of the letters in this deposit for the period 1642-84 are printed in Conway Letters, ed. Marjorie Hope Nicolson (London, 1930). Various other Conway manuscripts (including DaJ 291 and a dozen letters of Jeremy Taylor which sre now in the Robert H. Taylor Collection at Princeton (RTC01, 134) were incorporated in Croker's autograph collection and sold at Sotheby's, 6 May 1858. On the ‘envelope’ containing lot 66 in this sale (a letter of Queen Elizabeth) Croker wrote that all the ‘letters’ belonging to the Conway Papers were given to him by Lord Hertford ‘to make a volume for myself, like a very fine and curious one which I made for him’. Perhaps an example of such a ‘volume’ is the Conway MS (DnJ Δ 40). The main collection which the Public Record Office received was, unfortunately, never catalogued as a collection but simply incorporated in their general collections, Conway manuscripts being distributed throughout the many volumes of State Papers of the period. The manuscripts can (as Croker noted on the envelope mentioned above) be partly identified, however, since ‘All the Conway Papers contained in the old chest are stamped with the words “Conway Papers” in printed characters’.

Several letters and poems in Sir Henry Goodyer's hand derived from the ‘Conway Papers’ are found in the National Archives, Kew (e.g. SP 14/153/112; 14/180/15-17) and in the Conway Manuscript in the British Library (DnJ Δ 40, ff. 10r-14v, 37r-v, 49r, 58r-v, 76r-7r, 133r-8r, 142r). The latter includes copies in Goodyer's hand of Donne's Somerset Epithalamion (DnJ 988), Goodfriday (DnJ 1426), and Lovers infinitenesse (DnJ 2248). In addition, poems, or portions of dramatic entertainments, similarly stamped, are to be found written in what may be called a para-Goodyer hand: i.e a man's hand closely resembling Goodyer's and possibly belonging to someone associated with his household. Examples of this hand occur in the National Archives, Kew, (SP 14/115/34* (poems by Sir John Beaumont and William Skipwith) and SP 14/122/58 (JnB 613)), and, again, in the British Library Conway MS (DnJ Δ 40, ff. 47r, 67r-8r, 99r-100r). Both Goodyer's hand and the para-Goodyer hand occur, besides, in a small bundle of poems on unbound leaves or bifolia in the National Archives, Kew (SP 9/51), incorporated in miscellaneous collections of Sir Joseph Williamson (1633-1701), Secretary of State. Even though the leaves in this bundle are not stamped ‘Conway Papers’ there is, in fact, strong evidence for believing that they too derive from the Conway Papers bequeathed by Croker and have no connection with Williamson. Goodyer himself transcribed a masque by Jonson in SP 9/51/40-39 (JnB 576.5), and the para-Goodyer hand was responsible for copies of Donne's Loves Usury (SP 9/51/41: DnJ 2183), Carew's The Flea (SP 9/51/23), and the main part of an untitled poem [adapted from one by Thomas Pestell addressed to Lady Katherine Stanhope, 1619] beginning ‘Poore lines if ere you fortunately stand’ (SP 9/51/22).

One of the other poems in the bundle, beginning ‘Madame | Mixt with the Greatest, a Grand Day at Court’ (SP 9/51/37-8) – recently attributed to Edmund Waller (see WaE 111.5) — includes a reference to the ‘bosomfrend’ of Algernon Percy, tenth Earl of Northumberland, ‘Patroclus-Conaway’ (that is, the second Viscount Conway). A significant detail of this copy is that it is endorsed in pencil, probably in a 19th-century hand (? Croker's), with the word ‘Verses’ and the same endorsement, in an identical hand, occurs repeatedly in the British Library Conway MS (DnJ Δ 40, ff. 18v, 32v, 33, 35v, 63v, 154v). Yet another hand that occurs in both sources is a somewhat immature, predominantly italic hand which transcribed an anagram on Diana Cecil (‘Clad all in Ice, and yet She burnes all harts’) in SP 9/51/19 and also three pieces in the Conway MS (DnJ Δ 40, ff. 19r, 80r, 81r). One further important item in the National Archives bundle is a scribal copy of Donne's elegy of 1625 on the Marquess of Hamilton (SP 9/51/17-18: DnJ 1598), and it may be recalled that in the 1620s Donne, Hamilton, and the first Viscount Conway were all members of the Council of the Virginia Company (Bald, Life, p. 436). None of the items in the bundle is stamped ‘Conway Papers’, but their condition is very poor. If they were among the most ‘perishing’, ‘damp’ and ‘vermin’ infected manuscripts which came to the Public Record Office in 1857, these fragments may not previously have been in a fit condition to be stamped. Moreover, some Conway Papers were certainly incorporated by the Public Record Office in the Williamson Collection (in SP.9) — a number can be identified by the usual stamp — and the poems in question correspond to none of the 205 items constituting the Williamson Collection listed in 1849 before the arrival of the Conway Papers (F. S. Thomas, A History of the State Paper Office (London, 1849), pp. 60-83). Some further papers from Ragley Hall, owned in 1951 by the eighth Marquess of Hertford, are now in the Warwickshire County Record Office (CR 114A), but contain no verse or Donne-related material.

A clearer identification of the extant body of Conway Papers might help to throw light on an important circle in which Donne's poems were, or may have been, transmitted — the link between Conway and Goodyer being particularly significant, and other links (for instance, with the Percys and George Garrard, friend of the second Viscount Conway) also having interest. With regard to the Percys, it may be added that the Conway MS (DnJ Δ 40) contains some pages of Donne's Satyres in the distinctive calligraphic hand in which the Leconfield MS (DnJ Δ 5) is written. The Conway family was later connected with the Percy family (through the related Seymour family) by the marriage in 1682 of Charles Seymour (1662-1748), sixth Duke of Somerset, to Elizabeth Percy (b.1667), daughter and sole heiress of the eleventh and last Earl of Northumberland. The Leconfield MS itself is likely to have been owned by Donne's friend, the ninth Earl of Northumberland, but it does not bear his device, and theories as to how this manuscript might have come among the Percy collections at Petworth House cannot exclude the possibility of a connection with the Conway family.

An extensive study of the Conway family and its connection with Donne is currently being prepared by Daniel Starza-Smith.

Principal Manuscript Collections

Other manuscript collections of Donne's poems far removed from the author may fall into a distinct category in so far as they were prepared for publishing ventures. The exact circumstances leading to John Marriot's publication of Donne's Poems in 1633 are not known, but it may be that the period immediately following Donne's death, on 31 March 1631, witnessed considerable activity in this respect, as one or more would-be publishers endeavoured to obtain or produce suitable copy-texts of Donne's poems. At least two of the extant manuscript collections — the related O'Flahertie and Luttrell MSS (DnJ Δ 17, DnJ Δ 18) — show signs of having been prepared with a view to publication; indeed the former appears to have been one of the main sources used for the second edition of the Poems in 1635.

The other main category of manuscript texts which is worth comment comprises miscellanies, which were so fashionable in the 1620s-40s, particularly within Inns of Court and university circles. Most of these miscellanies must have been compiled by young men, though some were no doubt owned by other members of their family, and by other older citizens and country gentlemen. Their texts derive from various traditions, some closely relating to the main manuscript collections. Certain traditions are particularly characteristic of the miscellanies and are interesting in their own right. For instance, one of the main centres for the production of verse miscellanies appears to have been Christ Church, Oxford (college of such literary figures as Richard Corbett, William Strode, George Morley, Jasper Mayne, Henry King, and King's amanuensis Thomas Manne). A number of the miscellanies that can be associated in some way with Christ Church prove to be textually interrelated. Until relatively recently modern editors were generally reluctant to explore such sources in any depth — in view of their apparent remoteness from the author and the intermingling, or ‘contamination’, of textual traditions which they represent. Until recent years editors readily dismissed variants found therein as ‘corruptions’ and treated miscellanies (simply by virtue of the fact that they are miscellanies) with greater suspicion than manuscripts devoted almost exclusively to a single author, as if exclusiveness denoted some form of pedigree. As is now widely recognised, miscellanies can throw extensive light on the process of textual transmission, on the general practices and assumptions involved in the collecting of verse in this period, on the way contemporaries interpreted texts, and on the nature and provenance of sources. The selection and arrangement of poems by Donne in these manuscripts, and of accompanying poems by others, are vital clues to the sources from which they derive and to possible reasons for confusion over the canon. Individual texts in miscellanies may, in any case, derive not from large collections at all but from independent early copies of particular poems, and apparent ‘corruptions’ may, in fact, sometimes represent different versions or states of revision of the text. In short, the potential and far-ranging significance of miscellanies should not be underestimated.

Textually, the main collections of Donne's poems were traditionally classified into various ‘groups’. Although recent editors have taken a different view of this classification, it remains at least useful for reference purposes. The system is by no means rigid and clear-cut: for instance, different groups of poems within a single manuscript may belong to different traditions, and there are, in any case, differences of opinion as to the appropriate classification of certain manuscripts. The situation is potentially complicated by relationships which have, or may, come to be recognised between manuscripts ostensibly belonging to different groups, and by the discovery of new manuscripts whose classification has not yet been established.

The following is a checklist of the main manuscript collections of poems by Donne, according to the traditional grouping, and incorporating those additions made in IELM, I.i (1980). At the end are a few unnumbered additions, including annotated exempla of printed editions, which have come to light more recently.

Group I

(DnJ Δ 1) Bodleian, MS Eng. poet. e. 99. DOWDEN MS.

(DnJ Δ 2) British Library, Harley MS 4064. HARLEY NOEL MS.

(DnJ Δ 3) British Library, Harley MS 4955. NEWCASTLE MS.

(DnJ Δ 4) Cambridge University Library, MS Add. 5778. CAMBRIDGE BALAM MS.

(DnJ Δ 5) Cambridge University Library, MS Add. 8467. LECONFIELD MS.

(DnJ Δ 6) St Paul's Cathedral, MS 49. B. 43. ST PAUL'S MS.

Group II

(DnJ Δ 7) British Library, Add. MS 18647. DENBIGH MS.

(DnJ Δ 8) British Library, Lansdowne MS 740. LANSDOWNE MS.

(DnJ Δ 9) Harvard, fMS Eng 966.3. NORTON MS.

(DnJ Δ 10) National Library of Wales, Dolaucothi MS 6748. DOLAU COTHI MS.

(DnJ Δ 11) Texas Tech University, PR 1171 D14. DALHOUSIE MS I.

(DnJ Δ 12) Texas Tech University, PR 1171 S4. DALHOUSIE MS II.

(DnJ Δ 13) Trinity College, Cambridge, MS R. 3. 12 (James 592). PUCKERING MS.

(DnJ Δ 14) Trinity College, Dublin, MS 877, [Part I], [ff. 13r-161v]. DUBLIN MS (I)

Group III

(DnJ Δ 15) British Library, Stowe MS 961. STOWE MS I.

(DnJ Δ 16) Harvard, fMS Eng 966.4.DOBELL MS.

(DnJ Δ 17) Harvard MS Eng 966.5. O'FLAHERTIE MS.

(DnJ Δ 18) Cambridge University Library, MS Add. 8468. LUTTRELL MS.

Group IV

(DnJ Δ 19) New York Public Library, Berg Collection [no callnumber]. WESTMORELAND MS.

Manuscripts Associated with Group III

(DnJ Δ 20) Bodleian, MS Eng. poet. f. 9. PHILLIPPS MS.

(DnJ Δ 21) British Library, Add. MS 25707. SKIPWITH MS.

(DnJ Δ 22) Harvard, fMS Eng 966.1. CARNABY MS.

(DnJ Δ 23) Harvard, MS Eng 966.6. STEPHENS MS.

(DnJ Δ 24) Huntington, EL 6893. BRIDGEWATER MS.

(DnJ Δ 25) Huntington, HM 198, Part I. HASLEWOOD-KINGSBOROUGH MS (I).

(DnJ Δ 26) Huntington, HM 198, Part II. HASLEWOOD-KINGSBOROUGH MS (II).

(DnJ Δ 27) New York Public Library, Arents Collection, Cat. No. S 191 (Acc. 7167). JOHN CAVE MS.

(DnJ Δ 28) Victoria and Albert Museum, Dyce MS 18 (Pressmark Dyce 25.F.17). NEDHAM MS.

(DnJ Δ 29) Yale, Osborn MS b114. KING MS.

(DnJ Δ 30) Yale, Osborn MS b148. OSBORN MS.

Manuscripts Of The Satyres, The Storme, and The Calme as a Separate Group

(DnJ Δ 31) British Library, Harley MS 5110. HARLEY SATIRES MS.

(DnJ Δ 32) The Queen's College, Oxford, MS 216. QUEEN'S COLLEGE MS.

(DnJ Δ 33) Victoria and Albert Museum, Dyce MS 17 (Pressmark Dyce 25.F.16). NEVE MS.

(DnJ Δ 34) Privately owned in England. HENEAGE MS.

Unclassified Manuscripts Containing Ten or More Poems by Donne

(DnJ Δ 35) Bedfordshire Record Office, J 1583. ST JOHN MS.

(DnJ Δ 36) Corpus Christi College, Oxford, MS 327. FULMAN MS.

(DnJ Δ 37) Bodleian, MS Eng. poet. e. 14. LAWSON MS.

(DnJ Δ 38) Bodleian, MS Rawl. poet. 31. RAWLINSON MS.

(DnJ Δ 39) Bodleian, MS Rawl. poet. 117. WASE MS.

(DnJ Δ 40) British Library, Add. MS 23229. CONWAY MS.

(DnJ Δ 41) British Library, Add. MS 30982. LEARE MS.

(DnJ Δ 42) British Library, Egerton MS 2230. GLOVER MS.

(DnJ Δ 43) British Library, Harley MS 3511. CAPELL MS.

(DnJ Δ 44) British Library, Stowe MS 962. STOWE MS II.

(DnJ Δ 45) Cambridge University Library, MS Add. 29. EDWARD SMYTH MS.

(DnJ Δ 46) Cambridge University Library, MS Ee. 4. 14. MOORE MS.

(DnJ Δ 47) Edinburgh University Library, MS La. III. 493. LAING MS.

(DnJ Δ 48) Folger, MS V.a.103. THOMAS SMYTH MS.

(DnJ Δ 49) Folger, MS V.a.162. WELDEN MS.

(DnJ Δ 50) Folger, MS V.a.345. CURTEIS MS.

(DnJ Δ 51) Harvard MS Eng 966.7. UTTERSON MS.

(DnJ Δ 52) Cambridge University Library, MS Add. 8470. HYDE MS.

(DnJ Δ 53) Leicestershire Record Office, DG. 7/Lit. 2. BURLEY MS.

(DnJ Δ 54) National Library of Scotland, MS 2067. HAWTHORNDEN MS.

(DnJ Δ 55) National Library of Scotland, MS 6504. WEDDERBURN MS.

(DnJ Δ 56) National Library of Wales, NLW MS 5308 E. HERBERT MS.

(DnJ Δ 57) University of Nottingham, Pw V 37. WELBECK MS.

(DnJ Δ 58) Pierpont Morgan Library, MA 1057. HOLGATE MS.

(DnJ Δ 59) Rosenbach Museum & Library, MS 1083/16. BISHOP MS.

(DnJ Δ 60) National Library of South Africa, Cape Town, MS Grey 7 a 29 (formerly MS Grey 2 a 11). GREY MS.

(DnJ Δ 61) Trinity College, Dublin, MS 877, [Part II] [ff. 162r-278v]. DUBLIN MS (II).

(DnJ Δ 62) Westminster Abbey, MS 41. MORLEY MS.

(DnJ Δ 63) Meisei University, MR 0799. MONCKTON MILNES MS.

Other Unclassified Collections

(DnJ Δ 64) British Library, Harley MS 3991. HARLEY RAWLINSON MS.

(DnJ Δ 65) Emmanuel College, Cambridge, MS 1. 3. 16 (James 68). EMMANUEL COLLEGE MS.

(DnJ Δ 66) National Library of Scotland, MS 2060. DRUMMOND MISCELLANY.

(DnJ Δ 67) St John's College, Oxford, HB4/6.b.5.5. CRYNES VOLUME.

(DnJ Δ 68) United States Air Force Academy, STC 7045. MAPLETOFT VOLUME.

(DnJ Δ 69) Unlocated. SWANLEY VOLUME.

A few other manuscripts and annotated volumes with fairly substantial Donne contents, which were not recorded or given delta numbers in IELM, I.i in 1980, include the following:

Untraced. BERLAND MS.

Texas Tech University, Southwest Collection, Rare Books PR2245.A1. BRODERICK VOLUME.

Duke of Bedford, Woburn Abbey, Woburn MANUSCRIPTS HMC No. 26. BEDFORD MS

British Library, Add. MS 78423. TUKE MS

University of Illinois, Post-1650 MS 0038. SAVE MS

Another exemplum of Poems (1633), bearing ‘over twenty manuscript emendations made probably by a seventeenth-century reader’ was sold at Sotheby's, 21 July 1983, lot 18A.

Additional Recorded Collections

Some further manuscripts containing poems by Donne may be mentioned here as having been recorded some time ago but which cannot now be traced or identified sufficiently well to merit separate entries.

(1) An untraced manuscript collection of note was once owned by the Dutch poet and statesman Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687). This was offered for sale by the bookseller Janus Albinus in his Catalogus...librorum (Dordrecht, 1696) as item 41 (p. 325) in his section on ‘Libri Manuscripti in Folio’ (an exemplum of this catalogue is in the British Library, Printed Books 126.a.18). The manuscript or manuscripts are described thus:

‘The Itinerarij in to the north, 10 Aug. 1618. by Richard Corbett. En Vers. & quantités d'autres Poemes, sur toute sorte de sujets par les Meilleurs Auteurs Anglois; a scavoir par Edward Lapworth, John Squijer, Tomkis, Sr. Henry Godyer, John Donne, & autres; tous en Anglois. Ex Bibliotheca Constantini Hugenii’.

This collection seems not to have been sold, as it was re-offered in a catalogue in 1701 as item 80 (on p. 53) and may well have been among the books from Huygens's library sold in London on 25 February 1701/2 (see Richard Todd's article in EMS, 11 (2002), p. 161).

Huygens was, of course, a translator of Donne into Dutch (see DnJ 34.5, DnJ 2434.5, DnJ 3091.5, DnJ 3714.5). His exemplum of the 1651 printed edition of Donne's Letters to Several Persons of Honour is now at the University of Birmingham (Special Collections, rPR 2247L4) and is discussed in I.A. Shapiro, ‘Huygens' Copy of Donne's Letters, 1651’, in Elizabethan and Modern Studies, ed. J. P. Vander Motten (Ghent, 1985), pp. 229-34.

(2) An unspecified manuscript of ‘Donne's Poems’ in quarto was offered for five shillings as item 3616 by the booksellers Thomas and John Egerton in their ‘A Catalogue of Books comprising of Several Libraries lately purchased, including those of the Reverend Peter Whalley, M.A. Editor of Ben Jonson's Works; and of Michael Morris, M.D., F.R.S.’ at the Military Library, Whitehall, 1792 (an exemplum of this catalogue is in the British Library, 129.k.2(2)).

(3) A ‘contemporaneous Manuscript, 4to’ of ‘Dr. Donne's Satires and Poem of the Storm’ was offered for £1 1s in Thomas Rodd's sale catalogue of manuscripts in 1841, item 599 (now ? DnJ Δ 28).

(4) A ‘neatly written 4to’ of ‘Poems by Dr. Donne and Bp.Corbet’ temp. Charles I was offered by Rodd for £1 8s in the same catalogue, item 600 (now ? DnJ Δ 33).

(5) A duodecimo miscellany of 78 leaves, dating sometime after 1628 and once owned by one ‘Ambrose Salusburye’, is reported to include, among other things, poems or extracts from Donne. This volume was sold at Sotheby's, 2 December 1907 (A.H. Frere sale), lot 321, to Dobell.

(6) What was evidently a collection of manuscript poems by Donne, Carew and others ‘lent to Mr Murhouse’ is recorded in a list dated 7 December 1632, which is in a manuscript descending from the Rudston family of Hayton, East Yorkshire, now in the Folger Shakespeare Library (MS X.d.580). This list is edited in Peter Beal, ‘An Authorial Collection of Poems by Thomas Carew: The Gower Manuscript’, EMS, 8: Seventeenth-Century Poetry, Music and Drama (2000), 160-85 (as Appendix II on pp. 181-3).

The Canon

The canon of Donne's verse is based for present purposes on Grierson, with a few emendations. It excludes the poems spuriously attributed to Donne which Grierson printed in his appendices (I, 401-67), with four exceptions:

(1) To the Countesse of Huntington (DnJ 3572-4), which Grierson later accepted as Donne's in his edition of 1929.

(2) A Letter written by Sr H:G: and J:D: alternis vicibus (DnJ 1878-9), which is accepted as partly Donne's in Milgate, Satires (pp. 76-8).

(3) The Song ‘Stay, O sweet, and do not rise’ (DnJ 2942-83), which, although perhaps written by John Dowland, has special textual interest because of its frequent association with Breake of day (DnJ 414-71), and which is given a place among the ‘Dubia’ in Gardner, Elegies (p. 108).

(4) Psalme 137 (DnJ 2646.54-2646.68, which was included in all seven seventeenth-century printed editions of Donne's poetry, but which has usually been attributed to Francis Davison. Although the matter remains uncertain, a case for Donne's authorship is made in Lara Crowley's article in Modern Philology (2008).

For the sake of comprehensiveness, and in view of their uncertainty, the entries below also include poems admitted by Grierson but questioned or even rejected by later editors: namely, The Expostulation (DnJ 1215-42), His parting from her (DnJ 1488-1516), Julia (DnJ 1709-13), Sapho to Philaenis (DnJ 2708-23), Selfe love (DnJ 2889-92), Sonnet. The Token (DnJ 3026-34), A Tale of a Citizen and his Wife (DnJ 3124-9), and Variety (DnJ 3856-61). However, the Ode: Of our Sense of Sinne (Grierson, I, 350) was later accepted by Grierson, and by G.C. Moore Smith, as being probably by Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury (see HrE 79-91).

Two minor English epigrams, ‘Faustus keepes his sister and a whore’ (DnJ 1302-4) and Manliness (DnJ 2255-2257), are accepted into the canon on the basis of arguments advanced by John Shawcross and because their association with Donne's known epigrams receives some support from more recently discovered manuscripts. Likewise a brief epigram on the Earl of Nottingham has been included on the basis of arguments presented by Gary Stringer (DnJ 972.5).

A questionable addition to Grierson's version of the canon was a poem in uninspired Latin on St Ignatius Loyola which was attributed to Donne in 1967 on the basis of ascription in a miscellany of the 1630s (DnJ 1626). It is not impossible that Donne's name was adduced in that source simply because he was associated with a well-known anti-Jesuitical tract, Conclave Ignati. Clear evidence has come to light, however, that the poem was written by Raphael Thorius (see DnJ 1627.3, DnJ 1627.8).

Many other poems have been assigned to Donne. For instance, an untitled 228-line poem beginning ‘My Lord, / Now you are at Rome, and there behold’, written on both sides of a single folio leaf, was described in Sotheby's sale catalogue, 27 June 1898 (H. Sidney sale), lot 540, as ‘An Original Holograph Poem by Donne’. It was owned in the 18th century by the Rev. Walter Harte, who noted on the manuscript that it was written by Donne in 1630 and sent to William, Lord Craven, from whose descendants Harte acquired it in 1762. The poem was printed from this manuscript in A.R.B., ‘A Poem by Dr. Donne’, N&Q, 5th Ser. 5 (25 March 1876), 242-3. An elegy beginning ‘When my harte was mine owne and not by vowes’ was printed (from the Holgate MS) by E. K. Chambers as ‘An Elegy by John Donne’ (RES, 7 (1931), 69-71) and (from the Haslewood-Kingsborough MS) in Shawcross (No. 81). The poem was rejected by Helen Gardner, however. In a miscellany of Thomas Manne (British Library, Add. MS 58215, pp. 18-21), a metrical version of Psalm 104 (‘My Soule the great Gods praises sings’), usually attributed to Thomas Carew, is clearly ascribed to ‘Dor: Dunne’. And other similar examples could be cited. Certain attributions of this kind, though doubtful, may merit some consideration, but the sheer number of poems (some well known, some very rare) found ascribed to Donne in 17th-century miscellanies, many probably on the basis of nothing more than conjecture, must invalidate the vast majority of these claims. Nevertheless, the Donne apocrypha would be an interesting subject for investigation in its own right, both as a gauge of Donne's popularity and influence and for the light it may throw on early verse collections incorporating poems by him. Some initial research in this field has already been undertaken by Lara M. Crowley.

Adaptations and Imitations

Although manuscripts of a few translations by Constantijn Huygens are given entries below (DnJ 34.5, DnJ 2434.5, DnJ 3091.5, DnJ 3714.5), as also a series of extracts adapted by the radical politician and pamphleteer Robert Overton (c.1609-72?) in his manuscript tribute to his deceased wife (DnJ 4184), various adaptations and imitations of Donne have been excluded. Some examples of these may be listed as follows:

An early 18th-century copy on eight quarto pages of ‘Dr Donne's 1st Satire imitated’ (beginning ‘Hence motley Humorist, this door shall be’) is in the British Library, Add. MS 78521, ff. 65r-8r.

William Mason's autograph draft of his ‘First Satire of Dr Donne Versified’ (beginning ‘Away, fond Fop! mad motley thing begone’) is preserved at York Minster (MS Add. 25, pp. 19-24): see Donald A. Low, ‘An Eighteenth-Century Imitation of Donne's First Satire’, RES, NS 16 (1965), 291-8.

An autograph fragment and an early transcript of Alexander Pope's version of Donne's Satyre II are in the British Library (Add. MS 4809, f. 172v, and Lansdowne MS 852, ff. 94v-6): see Hans-Joachim Zimmermann, ‘Ein Autograph-Fragment von Popes The Second Satire of Dr John Donne, Versifyed’, Archiv für das Studium der Neueren Sprachen und Literaturen, 199 (1963), 173-7.

An adaptation of at least the opening of Donne's Elegie XII. His parting from her (‘Since she must go, and I must mourn, come Night’) is in St John's College, Cambridge, MS S. 22 (James 415), at the reverse end.

A poem which paraphrases the same elegy, headed ‘In Memoriall Of the late vertuous and rarely paraleld virgin Mrs: Elizabeth Nevill’ (beginning ‘Since shee is gone, & I must mourne, Come Night’), was neatly written c.1630 at the reverse end of a quarto volume of tracts in various hands, inscribed inside the cover ‘To his very loving Brother Gifford Galton, living wth Mr Henry Ouerton Stationed att his shopp at the entring in of Popes=heade=alley out of Lumbard streete these / London’. This volume is at St John's College, Cambridge, MS S 22 (James 415).

Some quotations from, and echoes and partial imitations of, Donne, including an imitation of A Valediction forbidding mourning, are in poems copied in the miscellany of Constance Fowler (née Aston) and her sister Gertrude Thimelby, of Tixall, Staffordshire, now in the Huntington Library (HM 904): see Deborah Aldrich Larson, ‘John Donne and the Astons’, HLQ, 55 (1992), 635-41.

Larson also notes (p. 640) an imitation of the same ‘Valediction’ in the Folger, MS V.a.345, pp. 44-5.

An anonymous poem on ‘Dr. Donnes Anatomy’, beginning ‘The Muses carefull least his fame bee hidd’, is on a single quarto leaf. among the papers of the Isham family of Lamport Hall, now in the Northamptonshire Record Office, IL 4319.

To these items should perhaps be added the long-lost text of Donne's Latin epigrams. Not only is there no known surviving manuscript of them but there is no known exemplum of the printed edition which supposedly included them according to Anthony Wood: namely, Fasciculus poematum & epigrammatum miscelaneorum (1632). The closest surviving evidence of these epigrams is what is alleged to be Jasper Mayne's English translation of them, published not only in the elusive Fasciculus but also in the 1852 edition of Donne's Paradoxes, Problemes, Essayes, Characters. Although generally considered of dubious authenticity, and almost certainly including a very few epigrams by Mayne himself, these English versions do seem likely to be based on Donne's Latin epigrams: see the arguments in Dennis Flynn, ‘Jasper Mayne's Translation of Donne's Latin Epigrams’, John Donne Journal, 3/2 (1984), 121-30.

Donne's Prose Works: Sermons

Until the current Oxford Edition of the Sermons of John Donne is completed, the canon of Donne's sermons accepted at present is based on Potter & Simpson, the sermons being indexed according to short titles and in the order in which they appear in that edition. The anonymous sermon on Psalms 24.7 which occurs in the Lothian MS (ff. 1r-10r) and which has sometimes been attributed to Donne is excluded (see Potter & Simpson, X, 249).

The most substantial collections of sermons by Donne, in scribal transcripts, are the following:

1) Bodleian, MS Eng. th. c. 71. MERTON MS.

(2) Bodleian, MS Eng. th. e. 102. DOWDEN SERMONS MS.

(3) Harvard, fMS Eng 966.4. DOBELL MS.

(4) Cambridge University Library, MS Add. 8469. ELLESMERE MS.

(5) National Library of Scotland, MS 5767. LOTHIAN MS.

(6) St Paul's Cathedral, MS 52. D. 14. CHETWODE MS.

The major discovery in recent years, made by Jeanne Shami, is of the presentation manuscript, with Donne's autograph corrections, of his Sermon on the Gunpowder Plot, among the Royal Manuscripts in the British Library (see *DnJ 4044.5). Jeanne Shami has also discovered, among the Harley Manuscripts in the British Library, two other previously unrecorded manuscripts containing seven sermons by Donne (British Library, Harley MS 6356 and British Library, Harley MS 6946).

Apart from the new discovery, none of Donne's sermons survives in his hand; neither is there any trace of his working notes, or of the transcripts of his sermons which the younger John Donne alleged were made by two old servants of his father, Thomas Roper and Robert Christmas (Keynes, Bibliography (1973), p. 31).

One tantalising survival in British Library, Harley MS 364, is a detached bifolium relating to Donne's farewell sermon of 18 April 1619, which suggests the route of transmission of this sermon from the author to Lord Bridgewater, son of Donne's former employer Lord Ellesmere, via Bodley's librarian Thomas James (see DnJ 4013.5). This may conceivably have implications for the circulation of copies of sermons instigated by Donne himself.

Miscellaneous Prose Works

Of Donne's miscellaneous prose works, one manuscript that has special authority is the scribal copy of Biathanatos which Donne corrected and sent to Lord Herbert of Cherbury (*DnJ 4054). This text can now be supplemented by the discovery of another complete manuscript of Biathanatos, in Canterbury Cathedral (DnJ 4054.5). There are also a number of recorded exempla of the posthumous edition of this work published in 1647 by John Donne the younger which bear his presentation inscriptions. These are not given entries below, but are recorded notably in Keynes, Bibliography, pp. 113-17; in Ernest W. Sullivan II, ‘Bibliographical Evidence in Presentation Copies: An Example from Donne’, Analytical & Enumerative Bibliography, 6 (1981), 17-22; in his edition of the work (1984); and in I.A. Shapiro, ‘A Biathanatos Presentation Inscription Recovered’, N&Q, 243 (March 1998), 35. One printed exemplum of Biathanatos, containing ‘at the end fifteen manuscript pages in a contemporary hand, in the form of an Index with commentary notes’, was offered in Maggs's sale catalogue No. 577 (1932), item 1758.

Another interesting manuscript is an early copy of Donne's satirical catalogue The Courtier's Library (DnJ 4065). This is bound in a composite volume of manuscripts which includes sermons of Lancelot Andrewes written in the hand of his amanuensis, Samuel Wright (see AndL 11-12). It is not impossible that this transcript also belonged to someone in Andrewes's circle, especially since the hand is very similar to that of another of Andrewes's secretaries (responsible, for instance, for a letter of 11 June 1623: see *AndL 79.

The other works of Donne represented in the entries are chiefly items of Juvenilia, which enjoyed some degree of circulation in manuscript, were sometimes incorporated in the manuscript collections of poems, and, like most of Donne's poems, were only published posthumously. For the canon of Donne's miscellaneous prose, see Keynes, Bibliography (1973).


Some 129 letters by Donne were published by his son John Donne the younger as Letters to Severall Persons of Honour (London, 1651). The complications of this edition, including the unreliability of some of the identifications of recipients, have been widely discussed by scholars, including Keynes, Bibliography (1973), pp. 133-59; I.A. Shapiro, ‘The Text of Donne's Letters to Severall Persons’, RES, 7 (1931), 291-301; R.E. Bennett, ‘Donne's Letters to Severall Persons of Honour’, PMLA, 56 (1941), 120-40; and Ernest W. Sullivan II, ‘The Problem of Text in Familiar Letters’, PBSA, 75 (1981, 115-126; as well as the survey by John Carey, who regards Donne's letters as ‘by and large extremely dull’, in ‘John Donne's Newsless Letters’, Essays and Studies (1981), 45-65, which inspired a refutation in Annabel Patterson, ‘Misinterpretable Donne: The Testimony of the Letters’, John Donne Journal, 1 (1982), 39-53.

Of all those letters which the younger John Donne published, only two (*DnJ 4109 and *DnJ 4133) are preserved in the originals (and textual discrepancies are sufficient to show that he was printing not from the originals but from a collection of transcripts). Besides these two original letters, some thirty-four further autograph letters by Donne are known to survive and have been given separate entries below (among DnJ 4098-4142).

Some other letters probably by Donne, or the identity of which is uncertain, are preserved in early transcripts. These may be listed or summarised as follows in the hope that new editors of the letters will be able to clarify them in due course:

‘35 old Letters sowed together of Mr. Jo. Donne’ are mentioned in an inventory of the papers of the Drury family made in 1658: see R.C. Bald, Donne & the Drurys (Cambridge, 1959), p. 3.

A transcript of five letters by Donne, written on two folio leaves which were evidently once conjugate, was sold at Puttick & Simpson's, 19 December 1855, lot 1436, and afterwards owned by the writer John Lavicount Anderdon (1792-1874). It was printed in Gosse (I, 109-10, 309-10; II, 16-17, 33-4, 206). At some point the bifolium was separated. One leaf, formerly owned by Miss Mary Donne of Chester, is now preserved in the London Metropolitan Archives (DnJ 4105, DnJ 4116, DnJ 4129). The other leaf, once owned by the Chicago lawyer Roger Barrett, is now in the library of Robert Pirie, New York (DnJ 4114, DnJ 4117).

A transcript of letters, one by Donne dated 12 February 1613/14, was offered in Simon Finch's sale catalogue No. 35 (1998), item 53.

Copies of some thirty-two further letters which have been attributed to Donne are part of the Burley MS (DnJ Δ 53: Leicestershire Record Office, DG. 7/Lit. 2). They are edited (from an early 20th-century transcript of parts of the manuscript) in Evelyn M. Simpson, A Study of the Prose Works of John Donne (Oxford, 1924; 2nd edition 1948), but the authorship of many of these letters is highly debatable. Some of these letters are also discussed, with facsimile examples, in Ilona Bell, ‘“Under ye Rage of a Hott Sonn & yr Eyes”: John Donne's Love Letters to Ann More’, in The Eagle and the Dove: Reassessing John Donne, ed. Claude J. Summers and Ted-Larry Pebworth (Columbia, Missouri, 1986), pp. 25-52.

Transcripts of two formal epistles by Donne – one to Lucy, Countess of Bedford; the other to Sir Robert Carr – preface Donne's Obsequies to the Lord Harrington and An Hymne to the Saints, and to Marquesse Hamylton respectively. They generally accompany the numerous manuscript copies of these two poems (DnJ 2408-2430, DnJ 1587-1598) and have not been given separate entries.

A letter which was printed as if by Donne among Donne's Letters to Severall Persons of Honour (1651) was actually by Sir Henry Goodyer, written to Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury, [1609]. The original letter is now in the library of the Marquess of Salisbury, Hatfield House (Cecil Papers CXCV, f. 101r): see Stanley Johnson, ‘Sir Henry Goodere and Donne's Letters’, MLN, 63 (1948), 38-43.

There is also a copy of a letter to Donne by an anonymous admirer in Trinity College, Dublin, MS 652, ff. 362v-3r.


Some miscellaneous documents, largely in Donne's hand or signed by him, as well as some inscriptions by him, are preserved and have been given separate entries below (DnJ 4143-4155). One other related document, not generally known to biographers, was acquired in recent years by the British Library (Add. MS 71131, item D). It is a listing of the mourners at the funeral in St Paul's, in October 1626, of Sir William Cokaine, former Lord Mayor of London, including (f. 2v) ‘The Deane of Pawles Preacher’, who delivered the sermon.

Dubious Manuscripts

A further category of manuscripts that have not been given separate entries is manuscripts of dubious, or at least unverifiable, authority. They include the following:

(1) Alleged ‘Notes in his [Donne's] autograph, 1p. 4to, with note respecting the same by Dr. Jessop’. Sold at Sotheby's, 19 December 1912, lot 350, to Dobell.

The note by Augustus Jessopp (1823-1914), schoolmaster and writer, reads: ‘This leaf was removed from a MS. wholly in the handwriting of Dr. Donne which was in my possession for 43 years’. Jessopp's opinion on such matters was not, however, entirely reliable.

(2) An alleged ‘fragment in the handwriting of Dr. Donne, being pious Meditations, closely written on 2 pp, sm 4to’ was sold at Hodgson's, 16 April 1942, lot 465. It was purchased by I.A. Shapiro and is now among his papers at the University of Birmingham. From his accompanying notes, it is clear that Shapiro originally believed that this prose manuscript, with quotations from the Psalms (beginning ‘In paine have I opened my lips to invoke his aide…’), was a unique surviving autograph working draft by Donne, especially since it is inscribed ‘A fragment in the hand writing of Dr. Donne found in one of the Chests in the Muniments Room at Loseley DW. 1833’. The predominantly italic hand in the manuscript is not, however, in Donne's hand – as Shapiro probably realized later, since he never made any reference to it after 1942.

3) The Loseley manuscript of Donne's epitaph on his wife Ann was long believed to be autograph but is in fact a contemporary copy, in an unidentified hand: see DnJ 4065.1.

Books from Donne's Library

The only other examples of Donne's hand to be found are the occasional inscriptions or annotations that he made in printed books in his library. In accordance with the terms of his will, Donne's library was dispersed at his death (an unspecified number of his books being given away by him according to ‘a Scedule signd wth my hand’). Many books once owned by Donne can be identified today, however. In Keynes, Bibliography (1973), pp. 263-79, are listed no fewer than 218 titles of volumes once owned by Donne; a further ten, or perhaps eleven, titles are listed in Sir Geoffrey Keynes, ‘More Books from the Library of John Donne’, The Book Collector, 26 (Spring 1977), 29-35. Some books from Donne's library are also listed in John Donne, an exhibition catalogue compiled by Robert S. Pirie (Grolier Club, New York, 1972), pp. 31-2 (items 112-20). For books possibly owned by Donne (and afterwards by Henry King), now in Chichester Cathedral Library, see Mary Hobbs, ‘More Books from the Library of John Donne’, The Book Collector, 29 (Winter 1980), 590-2. Various other books owned by Donne have come to light in recent years, in sale catalogues and elsewhere (a number of them recorded in issues of The Book Collector since 1977). A fresh detailed catalogue of Donne's library, entitled John Donne's Books: Reading, Writing, and the Uses of Knowledge, is currently being completed by Hugh Adlington.

Facsimiles of various title-pages bearing Donne's signature or motto appear in Keynes, Bibliography (1958), facing p. 218; (1973), facing p. 273; in The R. B. Adam Library (London & New York, 1929), III, facing p. 87 (the original page later in the Hyde Collection, Life, V, 5, 346); in Francis W. Steer, Chichester Cathedral Library (Chichester, 1964), Plate VI; in The Houghton Library 1942-1967 (Cambridge, Mass., 1967), p. 54; in The book Collector, 26 (Spring 1977), facing pp. 32, 35; in Sotheby's sale catalogues, 19 March 1951 (Bridgewater Library sale), lot 21, and 16 May 1977, lot 75; in Christie's, New York, sale catalogue, 18 November 1988 (John F. Fleming sale), lot 113; and in Simon Finch's sale catalogue No. 8 (1991), item 36.

Printed Exempla of Works by Donne Annotated by Other Readers

Many exempla of printed works by Donne contain readers' inscriptions or annotations, from his own time onwards. Some notable examples, and related items, are recorded below (DnJ 4156-4171. For Izaak Walton's exemplum of Donne's Letters to Several Persons of Honour (1651), see *WtI 155.

Editors' and Scholars' Papers

Papers and annotated volumes of various 19th- and 20th-century Donne scholars have been preserved, and are already proving to be of value to more recent scholars and editors. Besides Potter's notes on the Dobell MS (Harvard, f.MS Eng 966.4), examples of this material, not given separate entries below, may briefly be mentioned as follows.

(1) Exceptionally comprehensive and original research papers of I.A. Shapiro (1904-2004), whose unfinished edition of Donne's letters was begun c.1930, were donated by his executors to the University of Birmingham, and since 2006 have been on temporary deposit at Bentley College, Massachusetts, being used by Dennis Flynn and the other editors of the forthcoming Oxford edition of John Donne's Letters. For an obituary of Shapiro by Peter Beal, see The Times, 23 March 2004, p. 59.

Shapiro's exempla of early editions of Donne's works, some bearing Shapiro's annotations, were offered for sale at Sotheby's, 16 December 2004, lots 60-87 — the majority purchased for Texas A&M University.

(2) A collection of papers of Dame Helen Gardner (1908-86), including some of her working papers on the texts of Donne, is preserved at the Massachusetts Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies, in Amherst.

(3) Papers of William Augustus White (1843-1927), American banker and collector, including some on Donne, are at the University of Virginia.

(4) Papers of Sir John Simeon, third Baronet, MP (1815-70), including material relating to Donne's poems, are at the Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University (MS 66-223).

(5) The library of the Rev. T.R. O' Flahertie (fl.1861-94), vicar of Capel, near Dorking, Surrey, including much Donne material, was offered for sale at Sotheby's, 16 January 1896. Some items were offered or re-offered on 25-27 July 1899 (notably lots 86-87, 374, 376-85). His heavily annotated interleaved exemplum of Letters to Severall Persons of Honour (evidently lot 385 in the 1899 sale, sold to Tregaskis) was later bought at Sotheby's, 29 February 1932 (through Dobell) by I.A. Shapiro. It was sold by his Estate at Sotheby's, 16 December 2004, lot 79 (illustrated in the sale catalogue), and is now at Texas A&M University (see DnJ 4157).

(6) Exempla of printed works by Donne copiously annotated by Augustus Jessopp (1823-1914), schoolmaster and writer, were sold at Sotheby's in December 1911.

(7) Papers of Sir Herbert Grierson, FBA (1866-1960), chiefly relating to his pioneering edition of Donne's poems, including his annotated exemplum of his edition of 1912, are in the Bodleian, MSS Eng. Poet. e. 92-93 and MS Eng. Lett, d. 363.

(8) Correspondence of Evelyn Mary Simpson (née Spearing) (1885-1963), literary scholar, chiefly relating to her work on Donne's sermons, c.1906-63, is at Yale (Osborn MSS 90).

The manuscript texts of poems by Donne given entries below are generally collated in the Variorum Edition, or will be when all volumes are published. They are not at present recorded as collated in each individual entry.

Peter Beal