DR. Donne, the poet, in 1602 married the daughter of Sir George Moore privately against her father's consent, who was so enraged that he not only turned him and his wife out of his house, but got Lord Chancellor Egerton to turn him out of his office as Secretary to the Great Seal. Donne and his wife took refuge in a house in Pyrford, in the neighbourhood of his father-in-law, who lived at Losely, in the county of Surrey, where the first thing he did was to write on a pane of glass:
These words were visible at that house in 1749. It should be remembered that Donne's name was formerly pronounced Dun.
— Prior, Malone, p. 396.
IT is observed that a desire of glory or commendation is rooted in the very nature of man; and that those of the severest and most mortified lives, though they may become so humble as to banish self-flattery, and such weeds as naturally grow there, yet they have not been able to kill this desire of glory, . . . which I mention, because Dr. Donne, by the persuasion of Dr. Fox, easily yielded at this very time to have a monument made for him; but Dr. Fox undertook not to persuade him how, or what monument it should be; that was left to Dr. Donne himself.
A monument being resolved upon, Dr. Donne sent for a carver to make him in wood the figure of an urn, giving him directions for the compass and height of it; and to bring with it a board of the just height of his body.
'These being got, then without delay a choice of painter was got to be in a readiness to draw his picture, which was taken as followeth. Several charcoalfires being first made in his large study, he brought with him into that place his winding-sheet in his hand, and, having put off all his clothes, had this sheet put on him, and so tied with knots at his head and feet, and his hands so placed, as dead bodies are usually fitted to be shrouded and put into their coffin, or grave. Upon this urn he thus stood with his eyes shut, and with so much of the sheet turned aside as might shew his lean, pale, and death-like face, which was purposely turned towards the East, from whence he expected the second coming of his and our Saviour Jesus.'
In this posture he was drawn at his just height; and when the picture was fully finished, he caused it to be set by his bedside, where it continued, and became his hourly object till his death.
— Walton, Lives, pp. 77-8.
In a forthcoming article Dame Helen Gardner gives strong reasons for questioning the reliability of Walton's long-accepted account of how Donne's picture was drawn.
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