John Donne: The Reformed Soul
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John Donne: The Reformed Soul

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  118 ratings  ·  19 reviews
Metamorphosing from scholar to buccaneer, from outcast to establishment figure, John Donne emerged as one of the greatest English poets, concentrating the paradoxes of his age within his own crises of desire and devotion. Following Donne from Plague-ridden streets to palaces, from the taverns on the Bankside to the pulpit of St. Paul's, John Stubbs's biography is a vivid p...more
Hardcover, 592 pages
Published April 17th 2007 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2006)
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Charles
Aug 21, 2011 Charles rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: friends of the English language
John Donne was a modern man. He is full of contradictions, faults, neurotic if not psychotic guilt, confusion, love, hope, and faith. To me, he embodies the Anglican Christian, a role-model. Absolutely every aspect of his life resonates with me.

It is sad that there are only echoes of his wife, Ann More. There were so many reasons that this marriage was wrong, marginally legal, scandalous, and a professional drag, yet it remained passionate and sensual. His poetry to his wife indicates a unity o...more
John
I marvel at the unstinting flow of writing of the highest order from the pens of gifted biographers working today. Mr. Stubbs numbers among these persons, and in this life of John Donne he has given us a clear-eyed and incisive examination of the life of an extraordinarily intelligent man, whose political skill, ingenuity and agility as well as his extraordinary capacity to please, mollify and placate just the right people allowed him to survive and prosper in Stuart England, potentially a highl...more
Laura
I chose to read this book because the title intrigued me. I had a feint knowledge of John Donne. I was not aware that Donne was the author of “no man is an island”, both a concept and a phrase I have been familiar with since high school. I knew enough about him through reading a synopsis of the book to know that this book would contribute to my continued quest for non-fiction that will bring knowledge, insight, and just maybe inspiration to my life. Good choice on my part. I positively enjoyed r...more
loafingcactus
Fantastic biography of a man who changed so much over the course of his life. No thesis statement of a life is ever accurate, but if a post-hoc unifying myth can be created it surely makes biography easier. Nothing like that is available in this case.

Born a Catholic, pragmatically transitioning to the Anglican church, Donne found the extremists on all sides foolish and exemplified in all the contradictions of his life the "middle way" the Anglican church has sought.

I came to this book only knowi...more
John-Paul
This book probably deserves four stars. Stubbs' writing is learned, balanced, and clean. He knows a lot and he says a lot and he writes well. I recommend this to anyone who wants to know more about John Donne.

So why three stars? I usually try to respect an author's own terms and intentions and not play the "This book isn't good because I wish it were something else" game. BUT... I kinda sorta wanted more about the poetry. Stubbs has English lit degrees from Oxford and Cambridge but he doesn't s...more
Steve
THE modern biography of John Donne. Stubbs does an excellent job describing Donne's time and place and the seething mass of contradictions that made up the man who is still quoted, read, and talked about today.
Jessica
This one took me a while (I always find non-fiction somewhat time consuming), but it was so worth every minute. Stubbs does an incredible job of making biography erudite yet fascinating and accessible.
Shannon
This is a truly amazing nonfiction read. John Donne has always been a favored poet for me and this biography was an eye-opening learning experience that has extended my understanding of his poetry further than I thought possible. John Donne will forever be an enigma, a modern man existing in a medieval world. Was his conversion an honest appraisal of personal beliefs or a political maneuver? Was his marriage based in love or lust? Were his final years of religious emirsion based in guilt or true...more
Louise
Donne is a difficult subject, but it's hard to define what "difficult" is a euphemism for. Did the indiscretions of this youth make him an earnest clergyman, or a sycophant? Was his conversion (no ordinary conversion) and later oratorical attitude sincere or was it based on guilt or the necessity of making a living? The poems that live after him reflect a life he all but renounced at the time of his death.

Stubb's research yields only lame excuses for Donne's irresponsibility to his family. Ann,...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘No man is an island entire of itself.’


In this biography, John Stubbs divides the life of John Donne (1572-1631) into three separate stages. During the first, he grows up (sows those famous wild oats) and then marries. During the second, he tries to obtain secular preferment. Finally, pushed by his friends, patrons and also by King James I, he takes holy orders, finds a religious vocation and becomes Dean of St Paul’s.

This biography provides details of the historical setting in which he lived, a...more
Stephen
Substantial but concise guide to the life of John Donne. Captures the troubled man and his troubled times well enough to whet the appetite for the mountain of stuff available.
Jordathan
John Stubbs' research in John Donne: The Reformed Soul is so thorough that you will feel dropped into late 15th/early 16th century England. Littered and lined with historical comings-and-goings that bring to life the world of one of the English language's very best poets. The last fourth of the book suffers somewhat from becoming a bit too overextended in its' subjects latter years, but overall, a great read that should be given plenty of time to digest. Definitely a welcome volume on the booksh...more
Wayne
Intriguing biography of a fascinatingly complex character. Donne gave us the famous lines: "no man is an island...; for whom the bell tolls," as well as poems like 'Death be not proud'. Stubbs rates him as perhaps the most influential English poet.

Despite this I must say I found this biography heavy going at times. I almost lost interest half way but in the second half of the book was marking pages and taking notes. Definitely worth the EB sale price I paid for it.
Robert
A very informative biography. The description of events and characters draws one into era of the late 1500's and early 1600's. A substantive account of this poet whose words still echo in the modern age. The narrative is well paced and helps to evoke the struggles of this man who was torn by desire and commitment. There is little analysis of his work but the stories of his life brought me new insights into his poetry. Overall, an engaging portrait.
Gloria monaghan
This is a wonderful look into 17th Century England, but also into highly detailed life of the lover/poet John Donne. The author seems to be somehow spiritually or telepathically connected to the dead poet. It is not merely a romantic approach to his life and work, but a careful scholarly study of his work and time period-fascinating.
Dave
In college I took a course in English Renaissance Poetry and understood very little of it. This biography filled in a lot of holes.
Joe
If you enjoy Donne's poetry you will find this biography enjoyable. Even Donne was a young man, once.
Mark Zockoll
Not completely, but I probably won't touch it again for awhile!
Raoul Jones
Feb 07, 2008 Raoul Jones rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: You
I'm no island.
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John Stubbs received his PhD in Renaissance literature from Cambridge University. His biography John Donne: The Reformed Soul was shortlisted for the Costa Award and won the Royal Society of Literature Jerwood Award. He lives in Slovenia.
More about John Stubbs...
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