THE PROGRESS OF THE SOUL by Richard E. Hughes

THE PROGRESS OF THE SOUL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Any study of Donne is always interesting, and Professor Hughes' deep and meticulous portrait is better than that, undoubtedly the best Donne scholarship since Williamson and Coffin. As a young man, after piratical expeditions with Essex against Spanish colonies, Donne was ""a great Visitor of Ladies, a great Frequenter of Plays, a great Writer of conceited Verses."" Eventually he married Anne Donne, with whom he had an intense and faithful relationship until her death, took orders in the Anglican Church, and near to his fiftieth birthday became Dean of Saint Paul's. It is necessary to make these biographical notations, because all of Donne's poetry, whether amatory or religious, is a tremendously unified achievement, the direct correlative or crystalization of the poet's life, from swashbuckler to saint. For instance, Professor Hughes rightly notes that Donne's poems ""are replete with sea voyages, all emblematic of his hydroptic thirst to know,"" and that the poet's ""dream of love as a true alchemy"" is finally ""achieved in Donne's Christocentric world."" Professor Hughes' prose is not the most graceful in the world, nor does he adventurously pursue such fascinating matters as the Hiathanates, but his understanding of Donne's psychology, metaphysical wit and meditations is surely hard to beat.

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1968
Publisher: Morrow