I wish I had thought of the title of this review, but it is Katherine Rundell’s phrase, and it encapsulates the aim of her new biography Super-Infinite: to follow the changes of role and personality that took John Donne from a childhood and youth shaped by his Catholicism, via an impulsive clandestine marriage, social disgrace, repeated professional disappointments, and multiple illnesses and bereavements, to the exalted position of Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral. Rundell is something of a transformational character herself; there cannot be many Fellows of All Souls, “home of the incurably bookish” as she describes it, whose hobbies include tightrope-walking (also, metaphorically, practiced by Donne) and rooftop-climbing. In addition, she is the author of several novels for children, so she knows how to tell a story briskly and crisply (if, at times, a little too...

 

New to The New Criterion?

Subscribe for one year to receive ten print issues, and gain immediate access to our online archive spanning more than four decades of art and cultural criticism.

Popular Right Now