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The Eye of the Eagle

John Donne and the Legacy of Ignatius Loyola


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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Conclusion -263


Conclusion I had my first breeding and conversation with men of a suppressed and af f licted religion, accostumed with the despise of death, and hungry of an imagined martyrdom. — John Donne, Pseudo-Martyr I go into the mouth of such adversaries as I cannot blame for hating me, the Jesuits, and yet I goe. — John Donne, Letters The evidence presented in this book leads to the conclusion that the exer- cise of meditation and discretion accompanied Donne in his journey from militant Roman Catholicism to the choice of being ordained in the Church of England in January 1615. Donne’s circumstances before his ordination support, or, at the very least, do not conf lict with this conclusion. Donne was brought up a Catholic. There is little doubt that he was educated by Catholic tutors of his mother’s persuasion. Through her father and broth- ers, Elizabeth Heywood had been in touch with members of the Society of Jesus in its infancy before it had become identified with post-Tridentine Catholicism and before the generals Mercurian and Acquaviva introduced a new emphasis on the ascetic life from the late 1570s onwards. Most probably Donne went abroad after his short stay at Oxford.1 He certainly remained in contact with Jesuits and with his Jesuit uncle, Jasper Heywood. When 1 D. Flynn, John Donne and the Ancient Catholic Nobility (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), 134–46, discusses Donne’s experience in France and Belgium, and at 170–2 argues that Donne was probably part of the Stanley...

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