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John Donne: The Reformed Soul: A Biography
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John Donne: The Reformed Soul: A Biography

4.0 2
by John Stubbs

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"Will reveal Donne to a new generation...[and] propel John Stubbs into the first rank of biographers."—Peter Ackroyd


"Will reveal Donne to a new generation...[and] propel John Stubbs into the first rank of biographers."—Peter Ackroyd

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Rich, generous and capacious....Its triumph is to show how the brilliant, abrasive, phenomenally direct voice of the Songs and Sonnets...deepens and darkens, cracking sometimes under the harsh strain of his middle years, only to re-emerge in the humane and powerful sermons of his last decade.”

“Highly readable...Stubbs manages to make Donne seem recognizable and sympathetic, and also the inhabitant of a world that has long since disappeared.”

“An exemplary literary biography. Stubbs has all the appropriate skills: lucid prose style, deep historical knowledge, and a deftness in reading poems with a marvelous economy in his comments. I am grateful to Stubbs for aiding me to see John Donne more accurately and sympathetically, a person and a poet.”

“John Stubbs treats Donne as 'a living concoction of differing, frightened spiritualities' in this vivid portrait, this rich and full life, of an English immortal enmeshed in his time. The result is a wonderfully precise study of a great poet, a soul formed and reformed. It is a stunning biographical debut.”

Thomas Mallon
Donne’s definitive biographer, R. C. Bald, warned in 1970 against the temptation to make much inference from scant evidence in writing the poet’s life. In particular, he noted that “too many attempts have been made to extract autobiography from the love poems.” Stubbs has by no means entirely avoided that temptation, but a reader’s confidence in him remains firm. He sets a lively, plausible scene and sustains a high level of exactitude and style in his phrasing. His book has juice and, best of all, a kind of fearlessness in approaching the “frequently convoluted” emotions of a poet who possessed, if not English literature’s greatest imagination, quite possibly its greatest intellect.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

For his first book, Stubbs has produced a biography of the enigmatic, conflicted poet familiar today to many people mostly thanks to a single, lovely line: "No man is an Island, entire of it self." John Donne—born in 1572, at the outset of the most politically tumultuous and religiously violent era in English history—searched throughout his life for passage to a continent, to find a homeland, to involve himself, as he put it, in mankind. Beginning life as a secular Catholic, Donne ended it as a pious Protestant priest; a dissolute young man, he evolved into a serious intellectual of delicate demeanor; a swashbuckler who fought against Spain for loot and adventure, he buckled down and became one of the finest poetical craftsmen of the Renaissance; a promiscuous loner once focused on making money and powerful friends, he married for love and left it all happily behind. Throughout his life, Stubbs shows, Donne was a study in paradoxes, and one of the strengths of this book is his ready acknowledgment of his subject's contradictions. "Part of the job of this biography," writes Stubbs, "is to trace the strands between these personae and point out the unity underlying them." He succeeds admirably. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
No bells tolling here; this book won a 2004 Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award as a work in progress. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.60(d)

Meet the Author

John Stubbs studied English at Oxford and Renaissance literature at Cambridge, where he completed a doctorate. John Donne was awarded a Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award and shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award. Stubbs lives in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

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John Donne: The Reformed Soul: A Biography 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have returned to Donne's poems on and off for the past 30 years, but never taken the time to get to know the man behind the work. The poet's life is fascinating in itself and Stubbs' makes excellent use of it in a book that is a pleasure to read. It led me to Donne's later, religious poems, which I (like many others) tended to ignore, but no more. It is now obvious how directly they evolved out of his mystical eroticism. If you like Donne's poems, buy the book. It will enhance your pleasure. The only criticism I might make is that Stubbs clearly is on Donne's side--he genuinely likes the man and perhaps makes more allowances than he should. But the poet does seem to be one of those rare figures who looks more attractive the more you know about him.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago