Donne's parents were Catholics, and his mother, Elizabeth Heywood, was directly descended from the sister of the great Sir Thomas More; she was the daughter of John Heywood the epigrammatist.
As a child, Donne's precocity was such that it was said of him that "this age hath brought forth another Pico della Mirandola."
Mrs Donne's cousin, Sir Francis Wooley, offered the young couple an asylum at his country house of Pyrford, where they resided until the end of 1604.
To the same period, but possibly somewhat earlier, belongs the apology for the principle of suicide, which was not published until 1644, long after Donne's death.
Sir John had married Donne's old friend, Mrs Magdalen Herbert, for whom Donne wrote two of the most ingenious of his lyrics, "The Primrose" and "The Autumnal."
In 1630 Donne's health, always feeble, broke down completely, so that, although in August of that year he was to have been made a bishop, the entire breakdown of his health made it worse than useless to promote him.
Donne's poems were first collected in 1633, and afterwards in 1635, 1639, 1649, 1650, 1654 and 1669.
To the odd terminology of Donne's poetic philosophy Dryden gave the name of "metaphysics," and Johnson, borrowing the suggestion, invented the title of the "metaphysical school" to describe, not Donne only, but all the amorous and philosophical poets who succeeded him, and who employed a similarly fantastic language, and who affected odd figurative inversions.
The best edition of Donne's Poems was edited by E.