Donne’s Masculine Persuasive Force

  • Helen Carr
Part of the Insights book series


This evocation of John Donne as romantic ideal in Angela Carter’s The Magic Toyshop struck an immediate chord when I read it. It was just how he was regarded in my grammar school, though perhaps our Leavisite teacher saw to it that we didn’t formulate it in quite that way. ‘How all the young girls loved John Donne’, Melanie thinks. It’s not entirely clear whether she means the young girls in Donne’s poems or in her school. Carter’s prose suggests the ambiguity is in Melanie’s mind, mirroring the (other) school-girls’ passionate identification with those girls addressed within the poems. Melanie’s is just the kind of naïve, onastic reading that our teachers and lecturers warned us against. Besides, she’s a fictional character who constantly transforms all the books she reads into imaginative sustenance from her erotic self-discovery. Yet all the same, her response to John Donne and his aliases is worth thinking about. Angela Carter has astutely captured something quite significant about the persona — or rather personae — that Donne created in his love poetry. Their range of attitudes and feelings — impatience, desire, mastery, energy, tenderness — together suggest something very recognisable still as ideally ‘masculine’.


Eighteenth Century Seventeenth Century Romantic Love Passionate Identification Christian Doctrine 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1988

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  • Helen Carr

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