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Letter by John Donne

This is one of thirteen letters by the seventeenth-century poet John Donne held at the Folger, a collection that makes up about a third of his surviving letters. Eight of them, including this one, illuminate a crisis in Donne's life triggered by his secret marriage in late 1601 to Anne More, daughter of Sir George More of Loseley Park. By marrying Anne without her father's permission, Donne offended against both the civil and the canon laws. He soon found himself jobless, in prison, and barred from communication with his bride.

Donne responded with an outpouring of eloquent, pleading letters to Sir George More and to Sir Thomas Egerton, his former employer (and his wife's uncle). In this one to More, Donne writes movingly of Anne, "whose good ys dearer to me by much than my lyfe." The poet's appeals were eventually heeded, and on April 27, 1602, the court of the archbishop of Canterbury confirmed the marriage. Despite some financial difficulties brought on by the scandal, the marriage was a happy one. After his wife's death in childbed in 1617, the great poet vowed never to marry again.

John Donne. Letter to Sir George More. Manuscript, 1 March 1602

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