Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Wntr 1993 v33 n1 p85(13)

The "press and the fire": print and manuscript culture in Donne's circle. Wollman, Richard B..

Abstract: John Donne's well-known aversion to setting his work down in print is widely believed to signify his antiprofessionalism and the temporary nature of his poems. A study of the motivations behind his retaining his works in manuscript form reveal that Donne wished to prevent the misinterpretation of his words which is prevalent with printed materials. He desired to retain authorial control over his poems to ensure their correct reading.

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 1993 Rice University

Recent critics of Donne have focused on conditions of writing, that is, on the important (and troublesome) fact that as a poet Donne actively shunned print throughout his lifetime and chose to remain a "coterie poet" whose writing existed almost exclusively in manuscript.(1) This is a fruitful area of study, since analysis of the competing pressures of manuscript and print culture in the seventeenth century can provide new ways to understand Donne (and many others) in their own context. However, Donne criticism in its effort to be new, is ironically replicating a tradition that begins as early as Walton in his hagiographic Life of Dr. John Donne.

Walton's claim that Donne's "Recreations of his youth were Poetry ... in which he was so happy as if nature and all her varieties had been made only to exercise his sharp wit and high fancy" is echoed by Ted-Larry Pebworth, who writes that "Donne's contradictoriness--the struggle of contraries in individual poems and throughout the canon, as well as the amorous, philosophical, and theological inconsistencies that pervade the work--bespeaks a penchant for bravura, virtuosic performance."(2) Pebworth, who draws a certain inspiration from Walton, says that Donne indulges in a "penchant for bravura," writing poetry that may be considered "expendable" once the occasion for which it was written is past. In Walton's words we hear excuses made for what he perceived to be a frivolous endeavor, yet a similar, if not the same, sentiment is heard in Pebworth's words as he cites Donne for random "inconsistencies" that suggest the poet is merely exercising his wit. Walton's biography of Donne reveals an uneasiness with paradox--the paradox of Donne's life as much as of his poems. Of the poems themselves, Walton writes, "they were facetiously composed and carelessly scattered", referring both to Donne's method of composition and means of transmission. Pebworth, in his effort to provide a "useful analogy ... of the difference between coterie poetry and print poetry", compares Donne to a sidewalk artist who cares not for the "endurance" of his art. Pebworth here rightly emphasizes Donne's "ethos of performance", which is an important feature of manuscript poetry. I think it needs to be questioned, however, whether the performative aspect of the poetry should lead to the conclusion that Donne has "little sense of poetic vocation" and is incapable of "consistent vision," that he simply "regards poetry less seriously than ... |his~ contemporaries", and (in a phrase that again echoes Walton), is "careless of his poetry" both in composition and in transmission.

The "careless" and less than serious Donne is a twentieth-century version of Walton's "careless" and facetious Donne, a repetition that seems to me problematic in the way it reinforces an old view for new purposes. For it is then too easy to conclude that Donne's poems are merely the unfortunate trifles that Walton wished to dismiss. Far from wanting to resurrect the saint that Walton creates or attribute Donne's motivations merely to political or social agendas (as is fashionable nowadays), Pebworth is eager to provide reasons for Donne's decision not to publish his works in print and thereby leave posterity an "authoritative" text.(3) The print-biased standard, however, is not the only existing standard in the seventeenth century, and it is erroneous to privilege print over manuscript in analyses of Donne's work. By doing just that, we measure Donne by print standards and find him not only deficient as a "professional" but also as a writer.

Several issues arise from this bias affecting our understanding of the poet's attitudes towards speech and writing, authority and authorship, immortality, permanence, and professionalism, all of which may be distorted when considered from the perspective of modern print culture. A more thorough understanding of Donne's relationship to manuscript culture is essential to interpreting correctly his attitude towards print.

Arthur Marotti has paid a great deal of attention to these issues.(4) His study of Donne as an author, however, makes a circular retreat to Walton, giving us a Donne who is an "occasional" poet whose resistance to print reduces him to a poet whose writings reflect only immoderate ambition and various underlying political agendas. Marotti does not set out to diminish Donne's stature as a poet; the reductiveness is rather an unintended result of a critical approach that misconstrues the context within which the poet is writing.(5)

It is a mistake, I think, to focus on Donne's sociopolitical motivations for writing to the point of excluding any other categories for determining meaning. This restricted view leads to misreadings of Donne's letters and poems because it neglects irony, tone, and emphasis, and most of all, the oral-aural nature of Donne's manuscript-oriented writing. Donne was always writing with a specific reader (or readers) in mind, but Marotti stresses only the seemingly negative aspects of Donne's circle and construes Donne's relationships exclusively in terms of patronage.(6) The word "coterie" takes on an oddly pejorative meaning in Marotti's lexicon as he analyzes Donne's manuscript exchange of poems and letters as a covert play for power and method of "transaction."(7) Donne the author is reduced to an "author-function"--a borrowed epithet overused with numbing frequency--and Marotti expresses thanks to Foucault and other poststructuralists for liberating us from "literary authorship" and for giving us in its place "cultural products."(8) He jettisons Donne the author in order to show how Donne the author-function is a socially-produced fiction constructed from a series of posthumous printings of his verse beginning in 1633, two years after the poet's actual death. By blurring the distinction between the author himself and the reception of his works, Marotti conflates Donne's context with the later contexts in which he was read, a critical method that replicates rather than rejects Walton's own reconstruction of Donne.

Marotti bases much of his analysis on the issue of permanence, arguing that since Donne did nothing to insure his immortality in print, his poems should be considered "occasional writing, even when the occasions were misrepresented or lost."(9) Pebworth likewise concludes that Donne's "social poetry" is itself a sign of impermanence and that Donne therefore "worried ... little about the very survival" of his works. Despite the fact that a great many of Donne's poems were not written for particular occasions, Pebworth insists that we view them as "performance" that is

essentially ephemeral: once the occasion has passed, once the poetic gesture has been made and received, the poem commemorating it ceases to have its primary excuse for existence and so is expendable.

But Donne himself was far from casual about his unpublished works, and his letters and poems demonstrate an obsessive desire to preserve his identity through his writing. In a 1619 letter to his friend Robert Ker in which he includes the manuscript of Biathanatos, Donne writes,

because it is upon a misinterpretable subject, I have always gone so near suppressing it, as that it is only not burnt; no hand hath passed upon it to copy it, nor many eyes to read it.... Keep it, I pray, with the same jealousy; let any that your discretion admits to the sight of it know the date of it, and that it is written by Jack Donne, and not by Dr. Donne. Reserve it for me if I live, and if I die I only forbid it the press and the fire; publish it not, but yet burn it not, and between those do what you will with it.(10)

Because of its delicate subject--suicide--Donne guarded the circulation of this work closely, but even more interesting is his desire to guard against the potential misinterpretation of readers. By sending the book to a close friend with a set of reading instructions governed by "discretion," Donne tries to insulate himself against the inevitable misreading that occurs when writing is separated from the writer's actual voice, from the dialogue exchanged between reader and writer.

Publishing in print multiplies the opportunity for misinterpretation; on the other hand, manuscript transmission among a close circle of learned friends provides Donne with some measure of authorial control.(11) Donne places his writing somewhere "between" the "press and the fire," between the rigid visual fixity of print and the complete destruction of his words. That middle area is defined by Donne in ways alien to print culture but suitable to manuscript culture. Contrary to the claims of Elizabeth Eisenstein in The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, there were widespread communications networks in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; to remain in manuscript was not necessarily to descend into obscurity.(12) As for Donne's poems, there were "probably more transcripts ... made than of the verse of any other British poet of the 16th and 17th centuries."(13) Donne was aware of his immense popularity; he was not afraid of the physical survival of his poems but of the proliferation of misinterpretation by readers. To Magdalen Herbert he writes, "I am to my letters as rigid as a Puritan, as Caesar was to his wife. I can as ill endure a suspicion and misinterpretable word as a fault."(14)

Eisenstein and subsequent readers have largely ignored the important fact that manuscript culture in Donne's time still retained significant (and varying) degrees of residual orality. As William Nelson points out,

Unlike one who talks, whoever writes, whether before or after Gutenberg, must conjure up his absent reader or readers out of his imagination. But in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries we are a still a long way from a radical divorce between writer and audience.(15)

Donne is no exception; he writes both his poems and letters as if he is speaking to a present listener. On the other hand, print closes up the ears and shifts understanding to the realm of sight. The finality of print locks in the author's words with a rigid physical fixity that separates language from its origin as utterance. Manuscript, as Donne demonstrates, preserves to a greater extent the oral expression of the writer by inviting a closeness with the reader that becomes more and more difficult, if not impossible, to achieve in print.(16) That intimacy "preserved" for Donne some authorial control over his writing and assured that his specifically appointed readers would not allow his words to perish on the page. In another letter concerning Biathanatos, Sir Edward Herbert, like Ker, is asked to "moderate" in a dialogue between authors:

I make account that this book hath enough performed that which it undertook, both by argument and example.... It shall not therefore kill itself, that is, not bury itself, for, if it should do so, those reasons by which that act should be defended or excused were also lost with it. Since it is content to live it cannot choose a wholesomer air than your library, where authors of all complexions are preserved. If any of them grudge this book a room, and suspect it of new or dangerous doctrine, you who know us all can best moderate.(17)

Donne personifies his own books and the books of Edward Herbert's library as living "authors," as if there is little or no difference between the manuscript and the writer. His book about suicide will not "kill itself" or "bury itself" since "it is content to live" among "authors of all complexions." This is hardly the Donne that cares not for the survival of his works.(18) To the possible objection that Donne is merely joking, I would argue that Donne, like Milton, truly believed that the poet "ought him selfe to bee a true Poem," and his witty metaphor of the book on suicide that will not take its own life is to be taken literally.(19)

In a much earlier letter to his father-in-law George More, Donne makes the connection between writing and death even more explicit, explaining that the "knowledge buried in books perisheth, and becomes ineffectual, if it be not applied, and refreshed by a companion or friend."(20) The greatest threat that the emerging print culture presents to Donne is its potential to reify his words in a silence that he equates with death, to drain them of their "lively activity and vigour."(21) "I know what dead carcasses things written are in respect of things spoken," Donne writes to the Countess of Montgomery, but, he continues, "in things of this kind, that soul that inanimates them never departs from them."(22) Although the death of which Donne speaks occurs to a lesser degree even in manuscript, print completely severs the ties between the spoken word and the written word. Donne, however, acknowledges both sides of the paradox: words are the "subtlest and delicatest outward creatures . . . composed of thoughts and breath,"(23) which is to say they are, as speech, perishable, but Donne's close circle of readers retain the ability to resuscitate them:

For with how much desire we read the papers of any living now (especially friends) which we should scarce allow a box in our cabinet, or shelf in our library, if they were dead? And we do justly in it, for the writings and words of men present we may examine, control, and expostulate, and receive satisfaction from the authors; but the other we must believe, or discredit; they present no mean.(24)

The "mean" is the middle area that exists between the "press and the fire," in which the reader and the author engage in dialogue. Donne attempts to "control" the dialogue when he ends the letter by imploring More to preserve his writing and asking him to inform him who his readers are: "Though their unworthiness and your own ease be advocates for me with you, yet I must add my entreaty that you let go no copy of my problems till I review them. If it be too late, at least be able to tell me who hath them."(25) More will be the "mean," the one to mediate between the press and the fire by being his "advocate," literally one who defends him with his voice.

Often, Donne claims that his words themselves guarantee their own interpretation by engaging in a dialogue with each other, as in a letter to Magdalen Herbert:

yet I would not burn my first letter; because as in great destiny no small passage can be omitted or frustrated, so, in my resolution of writing almost daily to you I would have no link of the chain broken by me, both because my letters interpret one another, and because only their number can give them weight.(26)

Donne's attempts to protect his words from being misinterpreted are accompanied by his insistence on his own living presence in addition to his reader's:

I allow my letters much less that civil dishonesty, both because they go from me more considerately and because they are permanent; for in them I may speak to you in your chamber a year hence before I know not whom and not hear myself. They shall therefore ever keep the sincerity and intemperateness of the fountain, whence they are derived. And as wheresoever these leaves fall, the root is in my heart, so shall they, as that sucks good affections towards you there, have ever true impressions thereof.(27)

The letters are "permanent" expressions of the "sincerity" of Donne's speaking voice. His preference of manuscript over print is analogous to Socrates' preference of speech over writing in the Phaedrus;(28) for Socrates, the "written word cannot defend itself as the natural spoken word can," while speech demands an audience and relies on exchange between persons.(29) For Donne the "natural spoken word" may be preserved to some extent in manuscript; he regards print in the same way Socrates regards all writing: "once a thing is put in writing, the composition, whatever it may be, drifts all over the place, getting into the hands not only of those who understand it, but equally of those who have no business with it."(30) Socrates' statement explains in part Jonson's brief but incisive comment (as reported by Drummond) that "Donne himself, for not being understood, would perish."(31) But Jonson, anxious to print his own works, perhaps did not understand how true his own statement was. For Donne, meaning exists in the exchange, and contrary to modern print assumptions, not solely on the page.

Donne emphasizes this over and over in his letters, attributing to them the power of dialogue: "I make account that the writing of letters, when it is with any seriousness, is a kind of ecstasy, and a departure and secession and suspension of the soul, which doth then communicate itself to two bodies."(32) Donne's oral epistemology also pervades his poems and verse epistles, both in his manner of composition and of transmission. To Sir Henry Wotton he writes, "Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle Soules; / For, thus friends absent speake."(33) Both the letter and the verse epistle echo Donne's poetic obsession with ecstasy, with how two souls mingle and become one. In the last two stanzas of "The Ecstasy," Donne makes explicit how the soul is to the body as speech is to the book. The first stanza sets up the comparative analogy with the last--and most important--term dropped out:

To'our bodies turne wee then, that so Weake men on love reveal'd may looke; Loves mysteries in soules doe grow, But yet the body is his booke.

(lines 69-72)

The paradox remains irresolvable for "weake men," since they must rely on the physical evidence presented to their eyes in order to read the "mysteries in soules" written in the "booke" of the "body." The paradox can only be resolved once the missing term--"dialogue"--is supplied:

And if some lover, such as wee, Have heard this dialogue of one, Let him still marke us, he shall see Small change, when we'are to bodies gone.

(lines 73-76)

Donne's claim that there will be no separation even when the lovers' souls return to their individual bodies is the same claim that he makes for his letters. The "dialogue of one" makes the lovers a speaking book that is silent to most of us ("weake men"), but may be heard by one who is also a "lover," someone who "by love refined" may understand the "soules language." Donne's wish in "The Ecstasy" to return to the physical body without suffering change is also the reason why he does not "forbear" writing. Just as "lover's souls" must at first "descend" "T'affections, and to faculties, / Which sense may reach and apprehend" (lines 66-67) in order to achieve the ecstasy, so must Donne commit his thoughts and words, those "subtlest and delicatest creatures" to writing if he is ever to "communicate" with another.(34)

The word "descend," in this context, contains its opposite meaning, a paradox that helps to explain another of Donne's descents, this time into print. In a letter to Henry Goodyer concerning the printing of Conclave Ignatii, Donne wittily records his ambivalence in regard to publishing anything in print by taking both sides of the issue:

The author was unwilling to have this book published, thinking it unfit both for the matter, which in itself is weighty and serious, and for the gravity which himself had proposed and observed in another book |Pseudo-Martyr~ formerly published, to descend to this kind of writing. But I, on the other side, mustered my forces against him, and produced reasons and examples.(35)

Donne's joking tone makes evident that he had pardoned himself for "descend|ing~ to this kind of writing"; not so, however, with the publication of the First Anniversarie, which he regretfully acknowledges in several letters to his friends. The poem was printed in 1611, perhaps with but maybe without Donne's consent, and not without reservations:

Of my Anniversaries, the fault which I acknowledge in myself is to have descended to print anything in verse, which, though it have excuse, even in our times, by example of men, which one would think should as little have done it, as I; yet I confess I wonder how I declined to it, and do not pardon myself. But for the other part of the imputation of having said so much, my defence is, that my purpose was to say as well as I could; for since I never saw the gentlewoman, I cannot be understood to have bound myself to have spoken just truth; but I would not be thought to have gone about to praise anybody in rhyme, except I took such a person, as might be capable of all that I could say.(36)

Many readers bring forward this letter as evidence of Donne's antiprofessionalism, and by doing so perpetuate many of the misreadings that go on to downgrade Donne as a poet. Donne is measured against the so-called professionalism of Ben Jonson, who was the first to publish his own complete works. But it is important to remember that Jonson's innovation was a singular act and the modern concept of the professional writer simply did not exist in the seventeenth century. Marotti's labeling of Jonson as a "professional author" and Donne as a "coterie poet" implies a hierarchy that privileges print over manuscript and perpetuates J.W. Saunders's original oversimplification in "The Stigma of Print" (1951) that "gentlemen ... shunned print."(37) Manuscript circulation, despite these claims, does not make Donne less of an author, but simply defines a different way of being an author in an age that provides widely variant responses to the competing pressures presented by two equally acceptable systems of literary transmission--manuscript and print. As J.B. Leishman points out, a poet such as Michael Drayton is frustrated by the "new" majority of poets who shun print. Drayton "twice rather bitterly and contemptuously protested against this new fashion for short poems circulated in manuscript":

in publishing this Essay of my Poeme, there is this great disaduantage against me; that it commeth out at this time, when Verses are wholly deduc't to Chambers, and nothing esteem'd in this lunatique Age, but what is kept in Cabinets, and must only passe by transcription.(38)

In a verse letter to Henry Reynolds, Drayton leaves Donne out of his list of living poets and complains of those poets who shun print:

For such whose poems, be they nere so rare, In private chambers, that incloistered are, And by transcription daintyly must goe; As though the world unworthy were to know, Their rich composures, let those men that keepe These wonderous reliques in their judgement deepe, And cry them up so, let such peeces bee Spoke of by those that shall come after me. I passe not for them.(39)

It is not at all clear from Drayton's complaints which is the new fashion and which the old, and such blurring between the two is characteristic of the times. Given the lack of evidence from the poets themselves, who seldom if ever make the claim themselves that they are antiprofessional, I would argue that the concept does not yet exist.

Donne's use of the word "descent," therefore, refers not to class or position but is closely allied with his paradoxical use of the word in his poetry. He regrets printing the Anniversaries not because of a "gentlemanly disdain" for professionalism, but because the censures that he receives after publication only confirm for him that in print he can no longer control the rampant misinterpretation of his poem. This is why he sends so many similar versions of his letters to his friends (as if trying to compete with the dissemination in print) reiterating his defense of "having said so much" about Elizabeth Drury. His emphasis is not on print, but rather on the damage print inflicts on his identity. The small audience that could apprehend the "dialogue of one" in "The Ecstasy" cannot be controlled once the Anniversaries reach print.

The Anniversaries are the index and dictionary of all of Donne's poetry, a compendium of his verse that gathers his conceits from the Songs and Sonnets and harnesses them into a single work. The medium of print challenges his sincerity and misapprehends his meaning, placing his poem in the visual realm of the printed word at a distance from spoken utterance. This Donne acknowledged only two years later when he was "brought to a necessity of printing |his~ poems, and addressing them to my Lord Chamberlain."(40) "This I mean to do forthwith," Donne says, then adds "I apprehend some incongruities in the resolution, and I know what I shall suffer from many interpretations," yet despite the inescapable "necessity," the poems were never published. To avoid those "incongruities" Donne spared his poems both the press and the fire, and stabilized his works by locating meaning in manuscript rather than print.(41)


1 Donne published in print during his lifetime two poems contributed to Thomas Coryat's Crudities (1611), an elegy on the death of Prince Henry in Lachrymae Lachrymarum (1613), and the Anniversaries in 1611 and 1612. See Alan MacColl, "The Circulation of Donne's poems in Manuscript," John Donne: Essays in Celebration, ed. A.J. Smith (London: Methuen, 1972), pp. 28-46.

2 Izaak Walton, The Lives of John Donne, Sir Henry Wotton, Richard Hooker, George Herbert, and Robert Sanderson, ed. George Saintsbury (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1966), pp. 60-61. Ted-Larry Pebworth, "John Donne, Coterie Poetry, and the Text as Performance," SEL 29, 1 (Winter 1989): 61-75, 65. All page references to Walton and Pebworth's SEL article are hereafter included in the text.

3 Pebworth, one of the principal editors of the text for the new Donne Variorum, has devoted much of his career to providing us with the best possible text of Donne's poems. His essay, "Manuscript Poems and Print Assumptions: Donne and His Modern Editors," John Donne Journal 3, 1 (1984): 1-21, explains the need to avoid the problem of "anachronistically reflect|ing~ the assumptions of print culture" when editing a manuscript poet (p. 1). Pebworth skillfully handles the paradoxical issue of authorial control in manuscript and in print by pointing out the potential advantages and disadvantages of both forms of transmission.

4 See Arthur F. Marotti, John Donne, Coterie Poet (Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1986) and "John Donne, author," JMRS 19, 1 (Spring 1989): 69-82.

5 In a chastening essay, "What Was Donne Doing?" SCRev 4, 2 (Summer 1987): 2-15, William Kerrigan, troubled by the conclusions reached in these analyses of "power" relations, explains the consequences of reading only in light of Marotti's "sociopolitical contexts": "When the magic word 'power' appears in Donne studies we almost always find a cruelly emptied out, vitiated Donne--the Donne of Carey, or the Donne of Marotti--who has nothing in him except simplistic ambitions and an immense appetite for exhibiting his wretched plight before a coterie of self-pitying no-accounts ... or the Donne of Goldberg, cringing self-interestedly before the absolutist pretensions of James". Ted-Larry Pebworth, in "John Donne, Coterie Poetry, and the Text as Performance," p. 63, provides a more balanced approach to Donne's poetic career: "Donne's motivation for writing poems was undoubtedly various, responding to intimately personal and intellectual impulses as well as to professional advancement. His poetry is not merely careerist in intent."

6 In his chapter, "John Donne and the Rewards of Patronage," in Patronage in the Renaissance, eds. Guy Fitch Lytle and Stephen Orgel (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1981), p. 208, Marotti writes that "Donne actually treated literature as an avocation rather than a vocation, as part of a style of life and career whose goals were the social prestige and preferment that successful exploitation of the patronage system would win."

7 Marotti, John Donne, Coterie Poet, p. 22.

8 The title of the essay, "John Donne, author," reads like an epitaph, with emphasis on the lower-case "a."

9 Marotti, "John Donne, author," p. 72.

10 Edmund Gosse, The Life and Letters of John Donne, 2 vols. (Dodd, Mead and Company, 1899; rprt., Gloucester, MA: Peter Smith, 1959), 2:124.

11 According to Marotti, since Donne failed to print his verse, it "escaped authorial control to be disseminated in different forms" ("John Donne, author," p. 70). But for Pebworth, Donne, unlike Jonson, did not "take full advantage of the print medium to make durable, unchanging artifacts of his verse" ("John Donne, Coterie Poetry, and the Text as Performance," p. 66). It is my contention that Donne did not consider print to be an "advantage" and chose not to print precisely for the reason that he could preserve his "authorial control" by limiting his readership.

Marotti uses "authorial control" as an absolute measurement for whether or not a poet is an "author," misapplying print standards to manuscript culture and failing to account for the different set of norms at work in manuscript culture. This overemphasis on the instability of manuscript writings has its source in Elizabeth L. Eisenstein's The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1979).

12 Nor was the absence of print a "check" to "narcissism" (Eisenstein, p. 233) by its very withholding of fame from individual authors. See Anthony T. Grafton, "The Importance of Being Printed," JIH 11, 2 (Autumn 1980): 265-86, for his excellent review and important qualifications of Eisenstein's work.

13 Peter Beal, comp., Index of English Literary Manuscripts, 5 vols. (London: Mansell, 1980), 1:245.

14 Gosse, 1:165.

15 William Nelson, "From 'Listen, Lordings' to 'Dear Reader,'" UTQ 46, 2 (Winter 1976/7): 110-24, 117.

16 See Walter J. Ong, chap. 5: "Print, Space, and Closure," in Orality and Literacy: Technologizing the Word (London: Methuen, 1982), pp. 117-38.

17 Gosse, 2:125; my emphasis.

18 In a letter to the Countess of Bedford, Donne writes that "in letters, by which we deliver over our affections and assurances of friendship, and the best faculties of our souls, times and days cannot have interest nor be considerable, because that which passes by them is eternal, and out of the measure of time" (Gosse, 2:43).

19 John Milton, An Apology Against a Pamphlet, in Complete Prose Works of John Milton, vol. 1, ed. Don M. Wolfe (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1953), p. 890.

20 Gosse, 1:122.

21 Gosse, 1:122.

22 Gosse, 2:123. Donne can make this claim for manuscript only, since print erodes the bond between speaker and listener. For more on the paradox of writing and death, see Ong's Orality and Literacy, p. 81, and his Interfaces of the Word: Studies in the Evolution of Consciousness and Culture (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1977), pp. 230-71.

23 "To Sir H|enry~ G|oodyer~," Gosse, 1:228.

24 "To Sir G. M|ore~," Gosse, 1:123.

25 Gosse, 1:123.

26 Gosse, 1:165.

27 "To Sir H|enry~ G|oodyer~," Gosse, 1:168-69.

28 Phaedrus 274-76, in The Collected Dialogues of Plato, eds. Edith Hamilton and Huntington Cairns (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1985).

29 Ong, Orality and Literacy, p. 79.

30 Plato, Phaedrus 276.

31 Ben Jonson, Ben Jonson: The Complete Poems, ed. George Parfitt (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1975).

32 "To my honoured friend Sir T. Lucy," Gosse, 1:173.

33 John Donne, The Complete Poetry of John Donne, ed. John T. Shawcross (New York: New York Univ. Press, 1968), p. 195. All subsequent references to Donne's poems are from this edition.

34 For other instances of this theme in the poems, see (among others) "The Triple Fool" and "A Valediction: of the Book." In "The Canonization," Donne compares his manuscript poem to a "peece of Chronicle" (line 31), a hymn that provides future lovers with "A patterne of ... love" (line 45), which suggests that he thought of his poem as a permanent artifact that would continue to communicate even after his death.

35 Gosse, 1:254; my emphasis.

36 Gosse, 1:302; my emphasis. For the best treatment of the circumstances surrounding Donne's relationship to Elizabeth Drury and her role in the Anniversaries, see Edward W. Tayler's fine book, Donne's Idea of a Woman: Structure and Meaning in the Anniversaries (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1991), pp. 4-8, 30-36. Tayler, who indeed has "set the record straight" (p. x) with his definitive reading of these poems, reminds us of the "ways in which human motivations may find legitimate if often ambivalent expression within a social, political system dominated by patronage" (p. 7).

37 See J.W. Saunders, "The Stigma of Print: A Note on the Social Bases of Tudor Poetry," EIC 1, 1 (January 1951): 139-64; Marotti, "John Donne, author," p. 70; and Richard C. Newton, "Jonson and the (Re-)Invention of the Book," in Classic and Cavalier: Essays on Jonson and the Sons of Ben, eds. Claude J. Summers and Ted-Larry Pebworth (Pittsburgh: Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 1982), pp. 31-55. According to Richard Helgerson in Self-Crowned Laureates: Spenser, Jonson, Milton, and the Literary System (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1983), pp. 108-109, Donne and his circle "shared the short literary careers and the gentlemanly disdain for literature that had characterized the Elizabethan amateurs."

38 From Drayton's 1612 Preface to the first part of Poly-olbion; cited in J.B. Leishman, The Monarch of Wit (New York: Harper and Row, 1965), p. 17.

39 "To Henery Reynolds Esquire," Poems of Michael Drayton, vol. 1, ed. John Buxton (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1953), p. 151.

40 Gosse, 2:68.

41 A shorter version of this essay was presented at the 1991 MLA convention in San Francisco. I wish to express my thanks to Marc Berley, Dayton Haskin, David S. Kastan, Anne Lake Prescott, Edward W. Tayler, Daniel J. Vitkus, and Adrienne Wollman for their incisive comments and encouragement.

Richard B. Wollman teaches Renaissance literature at Boston College. This essay is part of a dissertation being completed at Columbia University on manuscript and print culture in seventeenth-century literature.