Criticism, Fall 1996 v38 n4 p497(24)

John Donne and Elizabethan economic theory. Freer, Coburn.

Abstract: English poet John Donne critiqued existing Elizabethan economic theory in his poetic metaphors. His use of economic metaphor extended beyond the common use of such during his time, and commented upon the valuation of currency, the minting of coins, the supply of gold and its affect upon economic prosperity, and capital investment. Donne compares love to taxation in "A Valediction: of the booke," which the man must pay out in exchange for the pleasure of the woman's physical beauty.

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 1996 Wayne State University Press

Few poets of Donne's time -- or for that matter any time -- show his understanding of contemporary economic theory and use it as a body of metaphor in their poetry. It has of course been argued that there was in fact no such thing as Elizabethan economic theory; even the so-called Gresham's Law was not thought up by Queen Elizabeth's financier but was actually the creation of a nineteenth-century Scot. Economic theory in English is usually held to begin with Adam Smith, although several recent historians have pushed the beginning of scientific thinking about economics back to the late 1660s.(1) However, in the later sixteenth and earlier seventeenth centuries, a number of English writers worked the ground between theory and practice, most notably John Hales, Gerard Malynes, Edward Misselden, and Thomas Mun.(2) Many financiers such as Sir Thomas Gresham also made, in their letters and working papers, what might be called direct contributions to the evolving field of study;(3) and of course philosophers such as Sir Francis Bacon and Thomas Hobbes put in their two cents, worth.(4) None of these have any particularly impressive achievements in what we would call imaginative literature, and this essay began with an inquiry into just what early modern economic concepts might have first percolated down into the poetic mind.

I should make clear at the outset that I am not speaking of the simple use of figures of speech derived from the concept of usury. Countless Elizabethan writers employed this metaphor, which had been current since the later Middle Ages. Shakespeare's Sonnet 4, for example, addresses the fair youth as mindlessly engaging in usury, but this use of the metaphor shows no special understanding of the economics behind the practice.(5) By contrast, Donne's writing shows how a late Renaissance poet, certainly no financial wizard himself, was able to use ideas from economics with considerable sophistication. Donne is one of the first English poets to sense the vast economic changes coming over Europe in general and England in particular, and the first to work them into the understanding of intellectual experience.


Perhaps the best place to center the discussion is that aspect of economics that has always been of the most immediate interest, currency. This was not only the most written-about aspect of the English economic picture, but it was also one of Donne's favorite sources of metaphor. By 1600 there was general agreement that the main problem of the English economy was the shortage of money, which seemed to go hand in hand with rising prices, what the Elizabethans called "the dearth." It was as if the supposed law of supply and demand had been somehow suspended: even though there was abundant food, produce, clothing, and crafted goods, prices still rose steadily throughout the later sixteenth century and even more rapidly in the first quarter of the seventeenth century. Money of course means coin, and there was never enough to go around. John Hales, writing in 1581, wonders at the paradox of plenty within shortage of money: "There was never more plentie of cattell than there is nowe, and yet [it] is scarcitie of things which commonly maketh dearthe. This is a mervelous dearthe, that in such plentie cometh, contrary to his kynd."(6) Popular literature and sermons tended to blame venal merchants and the consumer's vain desire for luxury as the twin sources of rising prices,, but there is no evidence to suggest that human nature in the later sixteenth century received a sudden infusion of greed that was previously lacking. And prices were not being driven up by the lavish spending habits of some of the wealthier classes, as the failure of the sumptuary laws would show. Toward the close of the century subtler minds began to sense that more strictly monetary difficulties lay at the source of the problem, difficulties that Donne alludes to in his poetry.

The first cause was thought to be the debasement of currency. Going into the sixteenth century, silver money had been essentially unchanged since the Conquest, and gold money had remained unchanged in quality since Edward III introduced the florin in the fourteenth century. But under Henry VIII the coinage had been debased steadily. The original Tower pound standard silver stood at five parts fine to one part alloy, but by 1544 it had fallen to one part fine to two parts alloy. The gold standard had been 23.5 carats fine, but by 1544 it had fallen to 20 carats fine.(8) Donne alludes to this adulteration as "changing that whole precious Gold/ To such small Copper coynes."(9) Elsewhere he specifically alludes to the fineness of gold: "How is the gold become so dimme? How is/ Purest and finest gold thus chang'd to this?"(10) While Elizabeth succeeded in stabilizing the currency,(11) it still bought less and less, and the debasement of coinage came to describe the decaying quality of life: as Donne says, compared to our fathers, we are indeed debased men,

But this were light, did our lesse volume hold

All the old Text; or had wee chang'd to gold

Their silver.(12)

Smaller and weighing less for our relative size, we are like lightweight coin, not even good silver, much less gold.

This view, that the dilution of the precious metal in the currency made it necessary to spend more in order to obtain the same goods, was in competition with an older view, which was that the currency itself had no intrinsic value, but only the value that the monarch gave to it. Deriving their position from Aristotle and St. Thomas, the medieval schoolmen had argued that the prince had the right to fix the value of money, terming this the valor impositus.(13) Elizabeth had never endorsed this theory but the Stuart kings would insist on it (in Charles's case, to disastrous effect). Thus the king's very image on the coin gave it monetary value.(14) Not surprisingly, this theory is the source of one of Donne's favorite economic metaphors. The woman's impression in the lover's heart

Makes mee her Medall, and makes her love mee,

As Kings do coynes, to which their stamps impart

The value.(15)

When the lover cries, his tears are like coins, "and thy stampe they beare,/ And by this Mintage they are something worth."(16) In the same way, the metaphor applies to a saintly person like Elizabeth Drury, whose actions validate our own: "Shee coyn'd, in this, that her impressions gavel To all our actions all the worth they have."(17) This metaphor can subsume even the poet's ability to write, as he identifies both himself and his subject as bearing God's stamp: "Did this Coine beare any other stampe, then his,/ That gave thee power to doe, me, to say this."(18)

Donne seems to have found the metaphor useful for reasons perhaps more poetic than social, for certainly he was aware of the debate over what conferred value: in "The Canonization," telling the reader how to succeed in the world, he says to go "Observe the Kings reall, or his stamped face."(19) But he was also well aware of economic realities, and more sophisticated views of how English currency acquired its value also found their way into his poetry. To step back a moment: in the late Middle Ages, the search for more gold supplies became increasingly intense. While countries like Germany had their own mines and Italy had its valuable trade routes, the English never had access to as free supplies. (And in every European country, the difficulties of mining and commerce made alchemy seem like a workable alternative, although the successes, here were of course fraudulent -- as Donne says, "oft Alchimists doe coyners prove.")(20)

What ended the shortage of native English precious metals proved also to be the source of the dearth, and that was the infusion of massive supplies of gold from Spain and the New World. Donne repeatedly alludes to the influx of Spanish gold;writing in the persona of a starving poet, he says that Poetry indeed be such a sinne/ As I thinke That brings dearths, and Spaniards in."(21) Donne knew that Spanish money looked rough, knew how it had become diffused through Europe, and knew that it brought not prosperity but ruin wherever it went:

Spanish Stamps, still travelling,

... are become as Catholique as their King,

Those unlickt beare-whelps, unfil'd pistolets

That (more than Canon shot) availes or lets;

Which negligently unrounded, looke

Like many angled figures, in the booke

Of some great Conjurer that would enforce

Nature, as these doe justice, from her course;

Which, as the soule quickens head, feet and heart,

As streames, like veines, run through th'earth's every part,

Visit all Countries, and have slily made

Gorgeous France, ruin'd, ragged and decay'd;

Scotland, which knew no State, proud in one day:

And mangled seventeen-headed Belgia.(22)

Donne knew also that England was not exempt from the effect, and like others he thought that the main conduit was the "Crownes of France":

For, most of these, their naturall Countreys rot

I think possesseth, they come here to us,

So pale, so lame, so leane, so ruinous.(23)

There is a distinct connection between the new money and the new insolvency:

Active Kings

Whose foraine conquest treasure brings,

Receive more, and spend more, and soonest breake.(24)

Donne sees the danger in the influx of gold from the New World, a danger that has an ironic edge to it when he refers to his mistresses as being rich mines like the Indies: all the sexual jokes about digging in mines suggest trouble in monetary terms.(25)

But the influx of gold from the New World did not drive prices up simply because the wealthy became more ostentatious (with James's lively encouragement) or because of the new gold's evident purity. What a few Elizabethan economic writers grasped, and what Donne alone among the poets seemed to sense, was that within his lifetime, money itself had become a commodity.(26) After the relative shortage of specie in England in the fifteenth and most of the sixteenth centuries-relative, that is, to Spain and France -- the abundance of new gold made goods cost more simply because there was more gold that could be paid for them. Prices rose in direct proportion to the gold that was available, and as John Kenneth Galbraith has said, "these prices, not the tales of the conquistadores, were the message to most Europeans that America had been discovered. At work in a primitive but unmistakable fashion was the central proposition concerning the relation of money to prices -- the quantity theory of money."(27) In contrast, then, to other theories of value -- value comes from the King's face, or the amount of alloy, or some basic greed quotient -- this theory recognizes that the principles of commodification apply to money itself and not just to goods. Or as Donne says in the clogged syntax of a verse letter, "Rarenesse, or use, not nature value brings."(28) That is, scarcity or availability determines value, not nature or anything intrinsic. (The woman he is praising has made herself scarce by living in Twicknam, and by the end of the poem, Donne is predictably comparing her to a mine.)


So far the discussion has centered on problems of currency, but Donne's poetry also shows a general awareness of the interconnections between economic matters. Notions of credit, debt, and borrowing figure often in his description of love, and as always Donne takes commonplace metaphors and reinvents them. True lovers, for example, illustrate a constant movement toward a kind of intellectual balance of trade,(29) in that they pay, lend, and pay out again, in a currency that is not debased and cannot decline in value:

They unto one another nothing owe,

And yet they doe, but are

So just and rich in that coyne which they pay,

That neither would, nor needs forbeare, nor stay;

Neither desires to be spar'd, nor to spare,

They quickly pay their debt, and then

Take no acquittances, but pay again;

They pay, they give,, they lend, and so let fall

No such occasion to be liberall.(30)

The balance can be upset if one party pays ahead; thus if a man owes a letter to a woman he loves, he is on the road to bankruptcy:

nothings, as I am, may

Pay all they have, and yet have all to pay.

Such borrow in their payments, and owe more

By having leave to write so, then before.(30)

This is an especially dangerous situation to be in if the woman is a man's main source of intellectual capital (Elizabethans used the term stock), and he has been spending it:

First I confesse I have to others lent

Your stock, and over prodigally spent

Your treasure.(32)

Donne's financial metaphors repeatedly suggest that women are risky intellectual investments, not so much because they might be fickle or untrue (he admits this and moves beyond it) but because love ties up all the lover's mental stock or capital. The case appears in its most extreme form when two lovers believe their love is growing infinitely. In the quasi-fiscal operations of the loving intellect, this is a possibility: if one has laid out all he owns intellectually for the woman, and her love for him is not total, he cannot expect a return any greater than his own initial investment. This is the argument behind "Lovers infinitenesse":

all my treasure, which should purchase thee,

Sighs, teares, and oathes, and letters I have spent,

Yet no more can be due to mee,

Then at the bargaine made was ment,

If then thy gift of love were partiall,

That some to mee, some should to others fall,

Deare, I shall never have Thee All.(33)

Suppose she did love him completely at one time. Other lovers then may come along, and with a larger investment of capital, create new value in her:

Or if then thou gavest mee all,

All was but All, which thou hadst then,

But if in thy heart, since, there be or shall,

New love created bee, by other men,

Which have their stocks intire, and can in teares,

In sighs, in oathes, and letters outbid mee,

This love may beget new feares.(34)

The poem wittily concludes that as his own love grows every day, he cannot want all her love in return, for "If thou canst give it, then thou never gavest it," and he must abandon the metaphor of exchange altogether:

But wee will have a way more liberall,

Then changing hearts, to joyne them, so wee shall

Be one, and one anothers All.(35)

In a more somber mood, Donne will say that the more intellectual capital we accumulate, the better we will be able to handle the final payout we all must make: we may, "If we can stocke our selves, and thrive, uplay/ Much, much deare treasure for the great rent day."(36) Or to view the metaphor another way, when the woman one loves has died, the lover's interest rate grows at such a pace that he makes the final payout faster:

This death, hath with my store

My use encreas'd.

And so my soule more earnestly releas'd,

Will outstrip hers; As bullets flowen before

A latter bullet may o'rtake, the pouder being more.(37)

The idea of life as a succession of payments or exactions seems to have been central to Donne's view of human behavior, and especially to his view of love. The growth of true love most closely resembles rising taxes:

though each spring doe adde to love new heate,

As princes doe in times of action get

New taxes, and remit them not in peace,

No winter shall abate the springs encrease.(38).

More complex is Donne's use of a taxation metaphor drawn from the royal subsidies. These levies for the prosecution of wars had been made since early Tudor times, but during Elizabeth's reign they came to be exacted for any unusual expense.(39) During James I's reign, it became apparent that the parliamentary grants the King was receiving were enough to cover military expenses and reasonable household expenses, and the subsidies were actually going to cover James's extravagant largesse to his many favorites. Thus among those close to the court, there was a very real sense that even though the country did not need the subsidies, they would never go away and would only go up. Coupled with this were gross inequities in the way the subsidies were assessed, with the middle and lower classes being assessed at full value and the wealthiest being assessed at only a fraction of their net worth. Donne would have understood the Leona Helmsley principle that only the little people pay taxes.

Donne pulls all of this into focus in "A Valediction: of the booke," which begins by saying that the book comprised of the love letters between him and his mistress will be an encyclopedia of knowledge about the mysteries of love. He then invokes his familiar idea of love's clergy,(40) who will use this text to understand either "abstract spirituall love" (30) or "Something which they may see and use" (34), something represented by physical beauty. But this kind of love can be a trap, and the poem then turns on an intricate stanza describing love as a peculiar form of taxation:

Here more then in their bookes may Lawyers finde,

Both by what titles Mistresses are ours,

And how prerogative these states devours,

Transferr'd from Love himselfe, to womankinde,

Who though from heart, and eyes,

They exact great subsidies,

Forsake him who on them relies,

And for the cause, honour, or conscience give,

Chimeraes, vaine as they, or their prerogative.


Womankind now has the prerogative of exacting great subsidies, as the God of Love once did, subsidies they levy from the heart and eyes. In contrast to "abstract spirituall love," the love subsidized by the beauty that the eyes take in can devour the state, and the man who pays out the taxes will be forsaken. Such women use illusions of honour or conscience to justify their actions, which are as foolish and hopeless as their very right to exact the subsidies. Donne's lover is like the wealthy nobility under Elizabeth and James, who resisted the subsidies and had themselves underassessed in order to avoid paying them. This type of taxation is a metaphor for misplaced love, the greatness of which can be reckoned best, the poem concludes, when the lovers are apart and not physically together. Here again Donne describes love in terms of economic metaphors that would appeal to the class to which he aspires and for which he writes.


Why did Donne find economic metaphors coming so readily to hand? And how did his understanding of the ideas behind the metaphors actually develop? No other major English poet of the time shows this kind of acquaintance with economics; as I have suggested, Shakespeare's sonnets using metaphors from usury show no particular understanding of interest, and as Marc Shell has shown, the monetary background of The Merchant of Venice is more that of the Middle Ages than of 1600.(41)

R. C. Bald's biography of Donne traces en passant the routes by which Donne would have been exposed to thought on economics.(42) His father was a prosperous ironmonger and coal merchant who contributed to the founding of Sir Thomas Gresham's Royal Exchange.(43) He was active in the politics of the City and was an accomplished master of financial maneuvering, so adept in putting off a large debt to his father-in-law that William Cecil, Lord Burleigh once had to lean on him. His son john attended the Inns of Court and saw the convoluted financial maneuvers of lawyers and suitors in Chancery and the Star Chamber,(44) but probably young Donne's best opportunity to see the world of finance up close would have been the four years (November 1597?-February 1602) that he served as Secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal. These would have given him an extraordinary education in fiscal policy and manipulation, especially since Egerton was often at odds with Burleigh, who had been a close associate of Sir Thomas Gresham and was one of the most powerful figures in Elizabethan and Jacobean finance.

One guesses that employment with Egerton must have involved handling a good deal of money, because Donne's poetry from this period is full of references to the appearance of coins, counterfeit, patched, soldered, and clipped.(45) Most of these allusions are explained by Helen Gardner and Wesley Milgate in their editions, respectively, of the Elegies and the Satires; but thorough as these notes are, they still occasionally miss some witty turns on the physical alteration of money. Two examples: Elegy XI, "The Bracelet," not only alludes to the practice of clipping (shaving the edges of coins to pick up small quantities of gold), but also puts it in its social context: "howsoe'r French Kings most Christian be,/ Their Crownes are circumcis'd most Jewishly" (27-28). The point of the joke is not simply that clipping is a cutting or trimming like a circumcision, which would be a rather aimless metaphor, but that jews were blamed for clipping, and several times in English history, when clipping became rampant, all Jewry were arrested or expelled.(46) Another: in Satire V, which treats Egerton's handling of "demands, fees, and duties," Donne says that "The mony which you sweat, and sweare for, is gon/ into other hands" (40-41), making a punning allusion to the practice of "sweating" coins. This was the practice of putting gold coins in a leather bag and shaking them, thus giving the coins the appearance of only normal wear while leaving a deposit of gold dust in the bag. One of the perks of being in any position that involved handling large amounts of money was the chance to sweat coin, finding gold without technically breaking the law.(47)

Donne's postgraduate education in economics might be said to have begun with the disclosure of his clandestine marriage to Egerton's niece. Blocked from employment from the age of 30 to 43, Donne demonstrated the man of letters, minimal skills in handling money, but somewhere in his mind he must have continued to have speculative finance on his mind. Going right to the top, with the grandest of the seventeenth-century investment schemes, in 1609 he sought the post of Secretary of the Virginia Company, as if they did not have enough problems without being managed by a poet.(48) By 1611 he was a member of a select dining club that met at the Mitre Tavern; one member was Lionel Cranfield, who was already rising rapidly to become one of the most powerful financiers in England, and another was his business partner Arthur Ingram, whose shifty dealing would make him even wealthier than Cranfield.(49) One would give a great deal to know more about Donne's connections with Ingram, who was a projector, on the grand scale, although as one economic historian has said, "it can hardly be doubted that ethically his conduct in business often failed to reach even the low standards of his age."(50) Ingram, Donne, and Cranfield were all members of the so-called `Addled Parliament' of 1614, in which Donne served on a select committee that reviewed the King's right to impose certain customs duties. Donne and Cranfield remained good friends the rest of their lives, even after Cranfield's fall; Cranfield sent his own doctor to Donne when he was ill in 1628, and, perhaps more significantly, he also sent money.(51) By his thirties Donne knew Francis Bacon, if he had not known him much earlier, for Bacon had also sought preferment from Egerton, and certainly it is difficult to imagine that Bacon's popular essays on business and economics would have escaped Donne's attention.(52) And investment projects involving colonial expansion continued to engage Donne personally, even beyond his 1622 sermon to the Virginia Company: late in his life, he worried much about his son George, who commanded the militia protecting the colonists on the island of St. Kitt's.(53) In all, there would seem to be much connecting Donne's life with financial speculation in both theory and practice.


By far the greater part of my illustrations have been drawn from Donne's verse letters, elegies, satires, secular lyrics, and the two Anniversaries. This is itself an accurate reflection of the way that economic metaphors tend to drop out of Donne's work in the latter part of his life, and almost none appear in his divine poems. Is it that the shifts and strategies necessary for survival and success in finance are pointless, when we know we are under the eye of God? Or is metaphor itself suspect, a means of exalting the writer's own spiritual hubris and personal pride in his handiwork?(54) What is certain is that metaphors from economics or commerce appear only seldom in the poems and sermons that occupied Donne from his ordination in 1615 to his death in 1631.

But there is one final superb illustration of Donne's understanding of economic matters, and this is his funeral sermon for Sir William Cokayne in 1626. A greatly admired performance in the high Donnean sermonic mode, it uses four of his favorite themes: the certainty and finality of death; the hope for resurrection; the difficulty of praying with a single mind; and the final vision of rising into the pure light of God. The magnificence of the sermon's prose cadences has often been admired,(55) and the paragraphs working out those four themes have been frequently anthologized and quoted.

Less well-known is the eulogy for Cokayne, and here Donne's personal involvement requires some delicate balancing. One of the wealthiest merchants in London, Cokayne had been an alderman and Lord Mayor, and for a private funeral his was lavish even by Jacobean standards. The funeral herald's order for the funeral gives the names of the principal mourners,(56) and these include many of the most prominent English merchants and financiers of the time. Of particular interest for this discussion is the presence of the Lord Mayor and five previous or future holders of the office, fourteen aldermen, and nine major figures in the City who had been knighted for their financial services to the crown. At one point in his sermon Donne notes that Cokayne's fellow merchants are seated in the choir (237), and for him this has a special significance. It can be documented that at various times Donne had been directly involved in financial or legal dealing with three of them; at least five others had mutual friends in Ingram and Cranfield; two others had been masters of the Ironmonger's Company, of which Donne's father had been warden; and several of those present had held offices in the Virginia Company.(57) Donne is speaking to businessmen he knows, in the context of business, and this will affect the remarks he is about to make.

For the merchants their relationship to Donne is also complex, and this too Donne is going to understand. They know that because of his own background, Donne is no stranger to the workings of finance; and because Cokayne's business affairs had been widely discussed in Court and in Parliament, they can also assume that he knows Cokayne's immense wealth had been built on sharp practices, and that ten years earlier his manipulations had brought the country to the brink of a massive economic recession.(58) The problem for Donne is how to handle this ticklish situation in the sermon. In our time, it would be like having to deliver a eulogy for Charles Keating.

Donne's solution is the bold one of admitting Cokayne's under-handed dealings directly into the sermon, using the language of economics and trade that the merchants and financiers in his audience would understand.(59) Cokayn's story needs to be recounted in order to see how Donne can praise him. At the end of 1612, upon the death of Lord Treasurer Salisbury, rather than appoint a new Treasurer, King James temporarily appointed a Commission for Treasury Affairs. The dilution of responsibility and authority was ready@made for an entrepreneur like Cokayne. Most of the commissioners were operating out of fairly blatant self-interest, and with bribes from Cokayne, they approved Cokayne's proposal to prohibit the export of undyed and undressed cloth;(60) the ostensible plan here was to stimulate the dyeing and dressing industries, which had lined up behind Cokayne. Broadcloth, the so-called white cloth, comprised the bulk of English export trade; Sir Edward Coke estimated it at 90% of all English exports. Most of the fabric went to the Low Countries and Germany, where established dyeing and finishing operations completed the manufacture of usable cloth. The customs duties on the export of the unfinished cloth were 60,000 pounds a year, and Cokayne claimed that the dyed and finished cloth would yield revenues of five times this. The financial yield appealed to James, who was overspending wildly, but the plan also appealed to his vanity: he would become both the father of a new cloth trade and the country's economic savior. Overriding the Privy Council, he put the export ban into effect in July 1614.

The plan backfired almost immediately. The Dutch prohibited the import of dyed cloth and took up the slack with cloth from other countries. The export of undressed cloth fell 60%, and in the first three months of 1615, customs revenues, far from increasing, were down by 6,000 pounds, and the deficit mounted as the year went on. Now, the sale of broadcloth was the monopoly of the Merchant Adventurers, of which Cokayne was not a member, and one of his chief aims was to crack their monopoly. Thus as the national debt grew, in 1615 he secured their licence to export undyed and undressed cloth. In the meantime, he did nothing to stimulate the dyeing trade; in fact he had avoided all along making any commitments to produce a specific amount of dyed cloth. Now with the licence to export white cloth, he had no incentive to produce dyed cloth, a point that Sir Francis Bacon made in a letter to James. Cokayne soon began buying large quantities of white cloth at depressed prices, which he was to resell later when the market turned around. The doubledealing at the heart of the operation was apparent to everyone: in Parliament, Cokayne and his friends were said to be like watermen, who looked one way and rowed another. It was a clear case of a merchant so rapacious he was willing to throw the country into a depression in order to make his own fortune.

At this point Donne's friend Lionel Cranfield enters the picture. Since they had been dinner companions at the Mitre Tavern he had risen to be Surveyor-General of the Customs, and he had complete control of the figures. Just as important, he was a member of the Merchant Adventurers and knew the cloth trade. In January 1616 the Privy Council summoned Cokayne to answer questions put by Cran-field, a blunt and hardheaded master of his books, and all the details of sinking exports, failing industries, and rising unemployment were laid on the table. James did nothing. A month later Bacon wrote to him asking how much longer he would continue these "experiments," that were ruining the health of the nation, but James showed virtually no interest in stopping the project. Inertia had its rewards. In June Cokayne showed his gratitude with a grand banquet in his home, at which James was presented with a gold basin filled with a thousand pounds in gold pieces, while young Prince Henry was given five hundred pounds. At the end of the summer, when Cranfield pointed out that unemployment was double what it was when James came to the throne, James responded by endorsing Cokayne's scheme once again.

What finally stopped the scheme was Cokayne's overreaching attempt to merge his own New Company with the Merchant Adventurers. Under the pressure of Cranfield's figures, the King was also beginning to have his doubts about Cokayne's scheme, and he now wanted to broker a compromise between the two companies. Cranfield and Bacon both attempted to mediate, but the Merchant Adventurers wanted no part of it, even when the King denounced their recalcitrance. Yet in the end they agreed to try to get along with Cokayne, and in January 1617 the King granted them all their old privileges, possibly being influenced by a bribe of 80,000 pounds they gave to him and the Lord Treasurer. Despite the quashing of Cokayne's scheme, though, for more than a year the country remained in an economic slump, and the whole affair had far@reaching consequences in later sessions of Parliament.

The drama of the scheme is depressingly familiar to modern readers, who have seen how trade imbalances can result in the collapse of not one but many industries. But for someone close to the Stuart court, the Cokayne affair had a kind of novelty. It renewed discussion of how trade works, and it redirected concern about the influx of specie from the New World somehow going hand in hand with the dearth and the shortage of capital. More immediately for Donne, preaching a sermon in St. Paul's, the ironies must have been rich: the man for whom he is pronouncing the eulogy was stopped in his schemes by a friend of Donne's; and Cokayne's profit-taking and greed had been encouraged by the King, who had also given Donne his Deanship. But there are even more intriguing links. Cokayne had left his wife and children after 1616, when their youngest child was born, but Donne had continued to correspond on friendly terms with Mrs. Cokayne, and in one extant letter he refers to "the perverseness of the father" in what appears to have been a fierce custody battle.(61) Preaching an intellectually and emotionally engaging eulogy for a man whose character in many respects must have been antipathetic is precisely the challenge this preacher must have relished, although the sermon does show, as Arnold Stein dryly notes, "Donne working hard at his task."(62)

Donne lays out his subject in such a way that he can glance at the particulars of Cokayne's life, feeling no need to make excuses, but omitting where he must, and all the while establishing his credentials to speak about a financier. Donne takes his text from John 11:21, Martha's lament to Jesus, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." But he does not unfold the text until later, and instead begins with a line of reasoning that has an immediate and astonishing biographical relevance, as if to notify his listeners that the details of Cokayne's life may appear at any point: "God made the first Marriage, and man made the first Divorce" (219). Explaining that he is referring to soul and body, Donne says that God makes their union indissoluble." As farre as man is immortall, man is a married man still, still in possession of a soule, and a body too" (219). Donne then lays out two main headings, that in spiritual things there is nothing perfect in this world, and that in temporal things there is nothing permanent. The first part has three divisions, "the weakness of Man's best actions," the weakness of Martha, and the greatness of God's mercy in accepting our offerings; the second part has a similar three divisions, the transitoriness of things, the decay of the body, and, despite that decay, the assurance that God will take the body up to a glorious state. Most of these branches of the argument contain allusions to Cokayne's financial life; all build toward a final analysis of Cokayne's theory of wealth.

Beginning by looking at how weak our knowledge is, Donne makes a witty reference to know-nothing philosophers, comparing them to us and how little we know of our net financial worth: "We call that a mans meanes, which he hath; But that is truly his meanes, what way he came by it. And yet how few are there (when a state comes to any great proportion) that know that; that know what they have, what they are worth?" (222). After numerous examples of how flawed our faith is, he says even our prayer is flawed, the most glaring example being the use of prayer by the Catholics, who have turned prayer into a virtual commodity: "they wil antidate and postdate their prayers; Say to morrows prayers to day, and to dayes prayers to morrow, if they have other uses and employments of the due time betweene; where they will trade, and make merchandise of prayers by way of exchange" (226). Moving then to Martha's words, of all the many ways they could be taken Donne focuses them as a powerful exposition of the need for charity, the absolute imperative to resist condemning others, "whom thou wilt needs thinke lesse pure, or perfect then thy selfe" (232). The reason for this rather unexpected interpretation of the text is clear if we think of the merchants present who had had financial dealings with the man in the coffin before them.(63)

Donne's development of the second part of the sermon is briefer and all three sections are focused on business and Cokayne. The first division is the impermanence of all earthly things, and his example here is again suited to his audience: "Ayre condensed becomes water, a more solid body, And Ayre rarified becomes fire, and a body more disputable, and in-apparant. It is so in the Conditions of men too; A Merchant condensed, kneaded and packed up in a great estate, becomes a Lord; And a Merchant rarified, blown up by a perfidious Factor, or by a riotous Sonne, evaporates into ayre, into nothing, and is not seen" (233). The merchant's condition is the human condition; we can become "packed up" into a great alderman and Lord Mayor, like Cokayne, or we can get bad advice and our fortunes disappear.

Donne now moves directly to Cokayne and the point upon which the mass of the whole sermon revolves. First, "God imprinted in him an industrious disposition" (235) and more@: "God enlarged him, and then he filled him; He gave him a large and comprehensive understanding, and with it, A publique heart" (236). What Donne means by "a publique heart" is not the charity he saw in the story of Martha, much less the philanthropy and good works that many great merchants such as Gresham practised, but rather a view of the way money works. Donne first distinguishes between making money through trade and making money through foreign exchange, and he directly addresses the merchants in the congregation: "You have, I thinke, a phrase of Driving a Trade; And you have, I know, a practise of Driving away Trade, by other use of money" (236). Cokayne belongs to the first, because he wanted to use domestic goods for export, applying to them a manufacturing process to create added value: "And you have lost a man, that drove a great Trade, the right way of making the best use of our home-commodity. To fetch in Wine, and Spice, and Silke, is but a drawing of Trade; The right driving of trade, is, to vent our owne outward; And yet, for the drawing in of that, which might justly seeme most behoofefull, that is, of Arts, and Manufactures, to be imployed upon our owne Commodity within the Kingdome, he did his part, diligently, at least, if not vehemently, if not passionately" (236).

Donne accepts here the modem idea of driving trade outward, and he also appears to have accepted Bacon's idea -- in contrast to James's -- that the goal was to have more exports than imports and not merely balance the two. Donne's description earlier in the sermon of how God gives out eternal life suggests that He too would approve of a trade overbalance: "Out of the surplusage of his inexhaustible estate, out of the overflowing of his Power, he enables his Executors to doe as he did; for Peter gives Dorcas this Resurrection too" (220). But again, the crucial matter at hand in eulogizing Cokayne is that he advocated more than merely increasing exports, or what the Elizabethans called (rather infelicitously) "seeking vent": he sought through technology to build additional value into basic commodities.(64)

As a defense of Cokayne's scheme in the cloth trade this is wonderfully highminded: he was not attempting to take over a monopoly for personal gain, but rather was pushing a theory of added value into the comparatively recent idea of building a surplus in foreign trade. The fact that Cokayne had never agreed upon a set amount of fabric he would have dyed and processed, that he could never be brought to make a promise about keeping up dyeing after the three-year agreement expired; and that he bought white cloth at depressed prices to sell later for huge profits, are only details that do not need to be considered, given the `vehemence' of the theory.

If Donne has accounted here for Cokayne's motives, he has yet to account for the manner in which the whole ruinous scheme was allowed to continue, and that was the vain and foolish indulgence of the King. But here Donne can give some testimony straight from the horse's mouth:

I have sometimes heard the greatest Master of Language and

Judgement, which these times, or any other did, or doe, or

shall give, (that good and great King of ours) say of

[Cokayne], That he never heard any man of his breeding, handle

businesses more rationally, more pertinently, more elegantly,

more perswasively; And when his purpose was, to do grace

to a Preacher, of very good abilities, and good note in his

owne Chappell, I have heard him say, that his language, and

accent, and manner of delivering himselfe, was like this man


Having made his own assessment of Cokayne's financial ideas, Donne now implies, by his emphasis on verbal style and manner, that economic considerations played no part in the King's assessment of Cokayne's worth. The validation is now complete: Cokayne had a good theory: he believed in it; and the King believed in Cokayne. It is as straightforward as that. Donne could not have avoided knowing what Cokayne's project had done to the economy. He also would have known that the chief opponent to the project was his friend Cranfield. Obviously none of this can enter the eulogy, and instead Donne directs attention to the theory behind the project rather than the imperfect -- some would have said crooked -- application of the theory. When the disastrous consequences of the project appear in the sermon, they are sublimated into the private and personal rather than the public and social: "So great a Ship, required a great Ballast, So many blessings, many crosses; And he had them, and sailed on his course the steadier for them, (237). These crosses do not need to be mentioned, however, as the "Persons of this City" (237), sitting by Donne will have no problem recalling them. A brief and moving description of the death itself leads Donne to his end, with two short paragraphs on the funeral.

As a bravura performance in its sections on the resurrection, the difficulty of prayer, and the frailty of the body, the sermon has been greatly admired, but I have focused instead on the metaphors Donne used to praise a man who had exploited a rapidly changing economic system. That Donne understood most of the basic principles in the evolving study of economics is evident; that he found in them material for his art is certain.(66)


(1.) See, for example, William Letwin, The Origins of Scientific Economics (London: Methuen, 1963).

(2.) Hales, A Discourse of the Common Weal of this Realm of England (1581); Malynes, The Canker of England's Commonwealth (1601); Misselden, The Circle of Commerce or the Ballance of Trade (1623); Mun, England's Treasure by Forraign Trade; and see also A Select Collection of Early English Tracts on Commerce, ed. J. R. McCulloch (London: Political Economy Club, 1856). On the confluence and relative importance of these figures, see Max Beer, Early British Economics (London: Allen and Unwin, 1938).

(3.) F. R. Salter's Sir Thomas Gresham (London: Leonard Parsons, 1925) is concise and helpful.

(4.) Of special importance is Bacon's essay "Of Sedition and Troubles," which studied the concept of a "balancing of trade." See also "Of Expense," "Of Riches," and "Of Usury." These have varied dates of first publication -- respectively, 1625, 1597, 1612, and 1625 -- but all come well after the dates of their composition and manuscript circulation (see Works ed. James Spedding et al. [London: Longmans, 1857-74], VI, 536). For specific remarks on how Bacon's use of method affected later economists, see Letwin, 122f. Hobbes's most important contribution may be found in Chapter 24 of Leviathan, "Of the Nutrition, and Procreation of a Commonwealth."

(5.) Shakespeare's other sonnets that work with ideas of interest include 2, 6, 9, 20, 48, and 134. Of course not every appearance of the term use implies a reference to interest.

(6.) A Discourse, ed. Elizabeth Lamond (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1929), 37.

(7.) Thus William Cholmeley in The Request and Suite of a True-Hearted Englishman (1553): "It is the companyes and fellowshipps of marchauntis of Anwarpe, with ther great stockes and substaunce of monye, knowyng the folly of oure marchauntis and nation how to leade them, who are theare confedarated and bent agaynst the Englysh nation, intendyng to make us pay well (as we do in dede unreasonably) for our manyfolde bables that we bye of them, and so to force us to seke upon them to take our cloth (which they woulde sew to us for if we woulde once be wyse), and to conveygh oure fine gold and sylver out of this realme to gyve them theyr owne askyng for theyr pynnes, theyr paynted papers, head clothes for women, with fore sleeves and neckerchefes, glasses, hobbey horses, babies for our children, and a thousand such like thingis, which all we myght well forbeare; yea and a great deal of our sylkes also, and other thinges which we have in high estimation" (in Tudor Economic Documents, ed. R. H. Tawney and Eileen Power [London: Longmans Green, 1924] III, 146).

(8.) See Handbook of the Coins of Great Britain and Ireland (London: British Museum Dept. of Coins and Medals, 1899), xxxiii.

(9.) "The second Anniversary," 429-430. For convenience's sake, all quotations come from H. J. Grierson's one-volume Poems of John Donne (London: Oxford University Press, 1933). I have checked all quotations against the newer O.U.P. texts edited by Helen Gardner and Wesley Milgate, and corrections are as noted.

(10.) "The Lamentations of Jeremy," 269.

(11.) See Frederick C. Dietz, English Public Finance, 1558-1641, second ed. (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1964), 18-19. Dietz also notes the recurrent suggestions that the currency be once again debased.

(12.) The first Anniversary," 147-49.

(13.) Arthur Eli Monroe, Monetary Theory before Adam Smith (New York: Augustus M. Kelley, 1923, repr. 1966), 26f.

(14.) This may be why James considered counterfeiting to be so monstrous: "There is some horrible crimes that yee are bound in conscience never to forgive: such as Witchcraft, wilfull murther, Incest, (especially within the degrees of consanguinitie) Sodomie, poisoning, and false coine" (Basilikon Doron [1616], in Political Works of James I [Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1918], 20).

(15.) "Elegie X: The Dreame," 3-5.

(16.) "A Valediction: of weeping," 3-4. In a rather surprising allusion to this theory of monetary value, Sidney Godolphin reverses the metaphor in his lyric "Fair friend, `tis true your beauties move". "Like unstamped gold, I weigh each grace,/ So that you may collect/ The intrinsic value of your face/ Safely from my respect" (in The New Oxford Book of Seventeenth-Century Verse, ed. Alastair Fowler [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991], 486).

(17.) "The second Anniversary," 369-70.

(18.) "The second Anniversary," 521-22.

(19.) Line 7. Jonathan Goldberg remarks the numismatic paradox here: "The king's real face is the one stamped on his coins" (James I and the Politics of Literature [Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983], 46).

(20.) "The Crosse," 37. On alchemy as a solution to the shortage of specie, see Beer, 65-66; Beer also cites Rice Vaughan's tract Coin and Coinage [c. 1640], which recommends relating the value of gold to silver by using the alchemists' ratios (237).

(21.) "Satyre II," 5-6.

(22.) "Elegie XI: The Bracelet," 29-42. The place of Spanish gold in the Renaissance economy is traced in detail by Pierre Vilar in A History of Gold and Money 1450-1920, trans. Judith White (London: Verso, 1984).

(23.) Ibid., 24-26.

(24.) "The Dissolution," 16-18.

(25.) See, for example, "The Sun Rising," 17; "Loves Alchemy," 1; or "Elegy XIX," 29.

(26.) On the economic process itself, see Beer, 101, 110, 125, et passim. One other poet who saw what was happening was Sir Walter Raleigh: writing in "Select Observations relating to Trade, Commerce, and Coin" (161), he says that "While the current cash of this kingdom can be converted into a bullion, and so made a trading commodity, it will either be conveyed to the best market or wrought into plate at home. It is evident, notwithstanding those great sums coined in the last two reigns, 'twas no sooner made than converted into trading commodity, which, if it happen again, the nation may be totally drained of it" (quoted in W. A. Shaw, The History of Currency [London: Wilsons and Milne, (1895)] 135). But the brilliance of the observation never found its way into Raleigh's poetry.

(27.) Money: Whence It Came, Where It Went, rev. ed. (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1995), 10.

(28.) "To the Countesse of Bedford: You have refin'd mee, and to worthyest things," 3. The context makes clear that use here is not a reference to usury; the contrast is one that hinges upon rareness.

(29.) The idea of a balance in exchange and trade was a topic of lively interest in Donne's time. Bacon's use of the term has already been noted (n.4, above). On the one hand it was argued that England should seek a balance of payments surplus, while the older medieval view was that this was ethically unacceptable, and equality of exchange should be the goal. For the latter view, see Malynes, The Canker of Englands Commonwealth, in Tudor Economic Documents, III, 386-404; a witty and malicious rebuttal came from Edward Misselden in The Circle of Commerce (New York: Augustus M. Kelley, repr. 1971), and a more temperate counterargument was offered by Thomas Mun in England's Treasure (Oxford: Blackwell, 1949), ch. 14. James endorsed the older view (Beer, 184-85), which would appear to apply to Donne's lovers.

(30.) "An Epithalamion, Or mariage Song on the Lady Elizabeth, and Count Palatine," 88-96. Of course there is also a sexual reference to `paying the debt' and being `liberal'; cf. e.g., "Elegie XIX: Going to Bed," 44-45.

(31.) "To the Countesse of Bedford: T'Have written then, when you writ, seem'd to mee," 7-10.

(32.) To the Countesse of Bedford. Begun in France but never perfected," 11-13.

(33.) 5-11.

(34.) 12-18.

(35.) 28; 31-33.

(36.) "To Mr. Rowland Woodward," 32-33.

(37.) "The Dissolution," 20-24.

(38.) "Loves growth," 25-28. Another poem describing love as numerical multiplication is "The Primrose," although the context there is not financial but rather the presumed magic power of the base of five.

(39.) See Dietz, Ch. 17, "Subsidies and Fifteenths and Tenths," which describes the subsidiary process in great detail.

(40.) As in "A Valediction: forbidding mourning" or "The Canonization."

(41.) See "The Wether and the Ewe: Verbal Usury in The Merchant of Venice," in Money, Language, and Thought (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), 47-83. One dramatist contemporary with Donne who shows a similar understanding of economics was Thomas Middleton, although his plays are concerned more with the social consequences of monetary changes than with the changes in consciousness that interested Donne.

(42.) Unless otherwise noted, the following biographical material comes from John Donne: A Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press, rpt. with corrections, 1986).

(43.) Donne mentions the Exchange in "Elegie XIV: A Tale of a Citizen and his Wife," 25-26. In her edition of the Elegies, Helen Gardner includes the poem among other dubia, on the basis of an unconvincing textual history and stylistic analysis. There is also some uneasiness about Donne's choice of an "improper" subject; see Elegies and Songs and Sonnets (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965), xxxix-xl. Grierson considered the poem to be Donne's.

(44.) His "Satyre V" describes these abuses in specific terms.

(45.) Noting these images, John Carey has some interesting remarks on the metaphoric properties of coins for Donne (see John Donne: Life, Mind and Art, 2nd ed. [London: Faber, 1990], 251). But as I hope will be apparent, Donne's concern seems even more to be focused on the monetary process.

(46.) C. H. V. Sutherland, English Coinage 600-1900 (London: Batsford, 1973), 66, 69.

(47.) John Chown, A History of Money from AD 800 (London: Routledge, 1994), 13.

(48.) Bald, 162.

(49.) See Menna Prestwich, Cranfield: Politics and Profits under the Early Stuarts (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), 94-98. The other diners in this remarkable group included Inigo Jones, lawyers from the Middle Temple, the Master of the Rolls, and others well connected in the Court; the role of clown in the group was ably filled by Thomas Coryate. The rise of literary clubs has been described by Timothy Raylor in Cavaliers, Clubs, and Literary Culture (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1994); see esp. 72-74. What is unusual about the group at the Mitre is that it was not a self-consciously literary group (unlike the club at the Mermaid), but was composed largely of merchants, financiers, and lawyers (like Donne).

(50.) J. W. Gough, The Rise of the Entrepreneur (New York: Schocken Books, 1969), 190.

(51.) Bald, 101. Cranfield was not by nature a generous man. Donne was once forced to vacate a living in Welford when Cranfield bought the land it was on; see Bald, 537-38.

(52.) Bacon was seeking favors from Egerton about the same time as Donne; in early 1597 he wrote to him offering his Clerkship of the Star Chamber to Egerton's son if Egerton would appoint him Master of the Rolls, making much of "your love towards me and care of me" (Works, IX, 64). Bacon was also Attorney General and thus a major figure in Parliament at the time that Donne served as a Member. But for all his acumen in writing about investment, capital, and usury, Bacon was even less competent as a fiscal manager than Donne. For a stunning illustration, see the story of his open money chest in Catherine Drinker Bowen's Francis Bacon: The Temper of a Man (Boston: Little, Brown, 1963), 160-61.

(53.) In 1629 the Spanish overcame them and George was taken hostage; as Bald says, "The last year of the poet's life was clouded by anxiety about his son's fate" (553). Several years later, however, George was back seeking credit on the Royal Exchange for a venture in Virginia (578).

(54.) This of course is the way that a poet like George Herbert viewed it; Donne on the other hand seems to retain some residual confidence that God can appreciate a controlled performance.

(55.) As by Evelyn Simpson in her eloquent Introduction to the Sermons on the Psalms and Gospels (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967), 23-27. All quotations from the sermon come from this edition.

(56.) Jeanne Shami of the University of Regina first brought the existence of this document to my attention, and Arnold Hunt of Trinity College, Cambridge gave me further particulars; to both I am most grateful. The order is cataloged as British Library Add. MS 71131 D and is one of a collection of funeral heralds' orders for Lord Mayors and aldermen of London from 1605 to 1673.

(57.) The three with direct connections to Donne: Sir Henry Martin, who settled several church disputes involving Donne and had served with him (and Laud) on the High Commission; Sir Thomas Middleton, a Lord Mayor who had been involved in a property suit with Egerton, Donne serving as a witness in the hearings; and James Whitelocke, Chief Justice of Chester, who had been in the Mitre circle. Those connected via Ingram and Cranfield; Sir Thomas Bennett, a financier; Martin Freeman, a customs farmer for Ireland; the second Earl of Nottingham, a wealthy holder of several monopolies whose father had been a close friend of Donne's patron Robert Drury; Sir William Parckhurst, who had been entrusted with a cipher along with Donne, indicating Donne's interest in foreign affairs; George Whitmore, who like Freeman helped bankroll Ingram; and Joseph Wolstenholme, who worked with Cranfield to produce analyses of Cockayne's projects for the Privy Council and was himself an early projector. The two masters of the Ironmongers' Company were Lord Mayor Sir Thomas Cambell (whose father had twice held the office) and Sir Christopher Clitherow, whose father had served as master three times. Various of these held offices in the Virginia Company and East India Company. Also present was Sir Paul Pindar, who would almost certainly have known Donne's friend Sir Henry Wotton; Pindar was a wealthy factor in Venice when Wotton came through on his first tour of Europe, and he became the English ambassador to Aleppo in 1609, while Wotton served as ambassador to Venice from 1604 to 1624.

(58.) The standard account is that by Astrid Friis, Alderman Cockayne's Project and the Cloth Trade (Copenhagen: Levin & Munksgaard, 1927). This should be supplemented by reference to Prestwich's Cranfield, for which Prestwich had access to many previously unavailable papers and manuscripts. Dietz also has some useful remarks, and my summary of events is based on these three studies.

(59.) Prestwich argues (165, 167-68) that Donne was trying to conceal the reality of Cokayne's machinations, but that seems unlikely, given the knowledge and interests of Donne's listeners. In the same way, it is difficult to accept Barbara Lewalski's argument that Cokayne's personal moral virtue was "irrelevant" to Donne's concern (Donne's Anniversaries and the Poetry of Praise [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973], 210). While it is true that Donne sees "even such a man in symbolic terms as image of God" (210), he is hardly disregarding Cokayne's defects, as Lewalski claims (212), for Donne sees them as intimately connected with Cokayne's scheme in the cloth trade, which he is endorsing as economically sound.

(60.) On these bribes and the role of bribery in general in the Jacobean court, see Linda Levy Peck's Court Patronage and Corruption in Early Stuart England (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1990), especially Chapter Six, "Corruption and the Economy."

(61.) She feared that Cokayne would try to take them away, and thus she dispersed them throughout the country; see Bald, 509. The entry on Cokayne in the DNB makes no reference to this matter, just as it also does not mention the whole business with the cloth trade; the life is tidied up nicely, perhaps because "`his spreading boughs and fair branches have given both shade and shelter to some of the goodliest families in England'" (IV,684). However, Cokayne did settle handsome estates on his daughters and his son (DNB, IV, 684), and, according to Donne's sermon, in his final hours he prayed for his wife and family (238).

(62.) The House of Death (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1896), Stein is perhaps the only reader of the sermon who shows how Donne attempts to balance the realities of Cokayne's business life with the spiritual lessons of his death.

(63.) Evelyn Simpson describes the order of the service in her edition, 24. As Lewalski notes, of Donne's four other published funeral sermons, only one was delivered before the unburied body, and that was the sermon for King James (Donne's Anniversaries, 201). This may suggest something of Cokayne's importance in the City and also the closeness of his friendship with the King.

(64.) How much of a change in viewpoint this constitutes could be seen by comparing Donne's remarks to those of Richard Hakluyt a generation earlier. In his advice to merchants seeking to develop trade with Russia and China, he offers a list of commodities to vent, all essentially untouched by an idea of added value; parchments, glue, dyestuffs, thread, rabbitskins, seeds, brimstone, antimony, and so on; aquavitae is the most sophisticated manufacture he suggests (Tudor Economic Documents, III, 238-39). Bacon would have understood fully the concept behind Cokayne's scheme, flawed as it was in execution: "And it cometh many times to pass that material superabit opus, that the work and carriage is worth more than the material, and enricheth a state more, as is notably seen in the Low Countrymen, who have the best mines above ground in the world" ("Of Seditions and Troubles," in Works, VI, 410). This essay was published the year before Donne's sermon.

(65.) James's partiality to Cokayne, even after the cloth scheme, may have been colored by his having been one of three financiers to loan James 30,000 pounds to tide him over through the winter in 1621; see Dietz, 194. After 1616 Cokayne went on to become one of the great customs farmers, and as such he was a major figure in financing the Stuart court.

(66.) Portions of this essay were presented at the Conference on the New Economic Criticism held at Case Western Reserve University in October 1994, and at the Literature and History Conference held at the University of Reading in July 1995; it has benefitted from comments offered by the participants. Professor Alan S. Caniglia of the Department of Economics at Franklin and Marshall College read an earlier draft of the essay and made several helpful suggestions, but I am responsible for such errors or misconceptions that remain. The Department of English at the University of Georgia offered generous support for research in the British Library, and it is a pleasure to acknowledge that here.