“John Donne, Anne Donne, Vn-done”? A Biocultural Reassessment of Their Scandalous Marriage

  • Michael A. Winkelman
Part of the Cognitive Studies in Literature and Performance book series (CSLP)


Much has changed since John Donne’s clandestine marriage to Anne More in December 1601. Matrimony in the West is now chiefly predicated on romantic love, with divorce available if things do not work out. Meanwhile, the scientific discoveries of the last four centuries have spurred technological progress that has transformed the world; consequently, universities have sprung up to educate workers for this, our Information Age, employing researchers in every subspecialty imaginable, including Renaissance English Literature. Pondering these innovations, it might surprise us that the conventional wisdom concerning the Donnes’ intertwined fate has remained fixed since hagiographer Izaak Walton rendered his judgment in the mid-seventeenth century: “His marriage was the remarkable error of his life” (60). Professors Annabel Patterson, John Carey, R. V. Young, and Dayton Haskins all refer to it as “disastrous” or a “disaster.”1 Even critics smitten by Donne’s Songs and Sonnets generally echo Walton in calculating the costs of wedding Anne. Yet the oppositional position held by a few Romantics and Victorians who idealized his domestic bliss—Donne’s “days flowed on in a tranquil and monotonous happiness” with “no ambition beyond learning, and with very little care or thought of the morrow,” one wrote—also seems seriously off target.2


Parental Investment Marriage Market Cognitive Approach Romantic Love ANNE DONNE 
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    Annabel Patterson, “Satirical Writing: Donne in Shadows,” CCJD, 120; John Carey, John Donne: Life, Mind and Art (London and Boston: Faber & Faber, 1981), 71; R. V. Young, “Love, Poetry, and John Donne in the Love Poetry of John Donne,” Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature 52 (2000): 262; and Dayton Haskins, “On Trying to Make the Record Speak More about Donne’s Love Poems,” DM, 41.Google Scholar
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© Michael A. Winkelman 2013

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