Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name





Donne, John, 1572-1631


In the year 1573 when Shakespeare and Marlowe were already boys of nine, Chapman in adolescence, Spenser, Lyly and Richard Hooker men of twenty, John Donne, then important to only a few but destined to the company of royalty, was born. Walton says, in his very excellent but inadequate and often inaccurate “Lives of Dr. John Donne, etc.,” that his father as descended “from an ancient and worth family in Wales.” Gosse, however, calls this simply “a pious wish” because nothing is known of his father’s parentage. He was prosperous iron merchant of London, who died in 1576 leaving his family in very comfortable circumstances. The poet’s mother’s great-grandmother was a sister to Sir Thomas More, sometime Lord Chancellor of England. She maintained her Catholic faith, as had her family ever since the days of Henry VIII, all her life. Her family had been persecuted more than once for fidelity to Rome and in his preface to Pseudo Martyr John Donne asserts that his own family had seen as great persecution as any of the same size and position in England. In 1593 Henry Donne, a younger brother of John, died of a fever which he contracted while in prison for having concealed a Jesuit priest in his room. John was given the first part of his education under a private tutor in his father’s house. When ten years of age he was sent to Oxford. After four years there he went to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he stayed until his seventeenth year. He was a good student and worth of degrees, but his Catholic inclinations prevented his taking the oath required of those receiving degrees at that time.