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date: 16 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Identifying John Donne's seventeenth-century readers provides important information about the nature of Donne's poetry as well as its role in early modern culture. Our conception of Donne's readers as persons of great intellectual and aesthetic sophistication has been shaped largely by England's greatest literary critics: Ben Jonson's line in ‘To John Donne’ and his observation ‘that Donne himself for not being understood would perish’; John Dryden's comment in A Discourse Concerning the Original and Progress of Satire that Donne ‘affects the Metaphysicks...and perplexes the Minds of the Fair Sex with nice Speculations of Philosophy’; Samuel Taylor Coleridge's comment on Donne's ‘intenseness and peculiarity of thought’; and T. S. Eliot's description of Donne's poetry as characterized by ‘rapid association of thought which requires considerable agility on the part of the reader’. We learn that Donne's writings had commercial, social, and personal value for a great diversity of readers during the entire century.

Keywords: John Donne, Donne's poetry, metaphysics, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, aesthetic sophistication

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