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The Eye of the Eagle

John Donne and the Legacy of Ignatius Loyola

Series:

Francesca Knox Bugliani

John Donne’s family were committed Catholics. His two uncles were Jesuits. One of them, Jasper Heywood, was the leader of the Jesuit mission in England, while Donne’s mother was a recusant who was forced to leave the country in 1595. In this detailed and historically contextualized study, the author argues that Donne was greatly influenced in his journey from militant Roman Catholicism to ordination in the Church of England by Ignatius of Loyola’s religious ideals and in particular by his Spiritual Exercises.
The book describes the pervasive influence of the Spiritual Exercises on late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century Catholicism and Protestantism. In this light, it offers a close reading of Donne’s preordination religious poems and prose with constant reference to the sermons. These works are usually read through the tinted lenses of ‘Catholicism’ or ‘Protestantism’ or other religious ‘-isms’. The reading proposed here argues instead that Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises were for Donne a means to transcend the simplistic and perilous divisions of contemporary Catholicism and Protestantism.

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Introduction -1

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Introduction My first end in serving God, must not be my selfe, but he and his glory. — John Donne, The Sermons John Donne plays a major role as a poet and divine, both in literary and his- torical criticism. New biographies, new editions, critical essays and mono- graphs inspired by dif ferent schools of criticism continue to be published. But despite – or perhaps because of – these scholarly endeavours, there still remain contrasting pictures of Donne: Jack Donne and John Donne, the love-poet and the divine, the libertine sceptic and man of faith. I believe we can restore a sense of unity and integrity to Donne and his writings by focusing on his spiritual formation through, above all, a life-long and ever tentative process of discernment. The roots of this discernment were in Ignatian spirituality. This book discusses the inf luence of Ignatian spirituality on some of the poetical and theological works written by Donne before he was ordained as deacon and priest by Bishop John King on 23 January 1615.1 1 By the term ‘spirituality’ I mean, in general, ‘the conscious human response to God that is both personal and ecclesial’; see P. Sheldrake, Spirituality and History. Questions of Interpretation and Method (London: Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge, 1995), 37, 52; id., ‘Preface to the Series’, in W.L. Countryman, The Poetic Imagination: An Anglican Spiritual Tradition (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1999), 9–11: 10; id., A Brief History of Spirituality (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007), 1–11. In particular...

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