Focusing on the two earliest printed editions of John Donne’s poems (1633 and 1635), the essay considers how each edition differently constructs its idea of Donne and his poetry, as well as explores a number of historical and theoretical questions about early modern authorship, anonymity, and the complicated relationship of text and paratext. Donne was notoriously ambivalent about print, and after he took orders in 1615, none of his poetry was published in his lifetime. Only after his death were the poems collected and published, in editions that identified the author only as “J. D.” (until the seventh edition of 1669, which does the name the author). Each of these early editions is remarkably reticent about using the poet’s name, which appears only three times before it echoes through the set of remarkable “Elegies on the Author’s Death,” as the title page calls them. These concluding elegies, which modern editions and most critics have mostly ignored, are not merely conventional acts of approbation by contemporaries of Donne. Appropriating his language and style, the elegies ensure that he lives on, as his living presence is not only asserted but also enacted in these poems. They complete and confirm the structure of the published book, serving as “the Poet’s service,” celebrating the living corpus of Donne’s poetry instead of grieving over the corpse of the dead poet.


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pp. 443-467
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