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date: 15 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article aims to focus on a particular moment — Donne's decision to take orders in the Church of England in 1615. No decision in Donne's life has generated such divergent accounts of his situation — economic, personal, political, social, religious, or spiritual — or raised as many questions about his motivations and inner life. In part, the diversity of biographical opinion rests on the nature of primary source evidence: Izaak Walton's Life of Donne and Donne's extant letters. The letters, too, require reading strategies attuned to their baffling contradictions. Donne described them using the enigmatic trope of the ‘conveyance’, both ‘an organ and channel of communication’ and ‘a private or secret passage’. Donne's patronage relationships have been only partially understood by biographers, in part because they are constructed largely through his heavily coded correspondence in prose and in verse. Donne's courage in making his profession divinity enabled a career choice is definitely commendable.

Keywords: orders, Church of England, biographical opinion, enigmatic trope

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