A pure original: the inventive genius of John Donne

Perhaps it was all because of his name. John Donne: for a poet this must have felt a little like destiny, and even in the most unlikely of moments he couldn’t resist making puns. He sat down to write a letter to the enraged father of the teenage girl he had just married in secret. A lesser man might have chosen to play this fairly straight, but not JD. ‘It is irremediably done,’ he wrote to his new father- in-law, and of course he spells it ‘donne’. His young bride’s family name was More; the jokes pretty much wrote themselves. The couple had 12 children and were, he later said,

Is America now a Catholic country?

‘It’s like being in church’, said my teenage son. It was a bit — two bursts of prayer, a religious song, a long sermon, and a general air of community-reverence, inclusive piety. We were watching Biden’s inauguration last week, grateful for a mid-afternoon break from other screens. These are quasi-religious events — I knew that. But this time it seemed more pointedly religious than ever. Let’s get back to the true faith, after a spell of gold-plated idolatry. And, if you knew how to spy the signs, this ceremony reflected the new man’s Roman Catholicism — a Jesuit leading the prayers, a quote from Saint Augustine, songs from an Italian-American