Nature’s Confession

Baconian and Anti-Baconian Narratives in Donne’s Devotions
  • Anthony J. Funari


Sometime in late November of 1623, John Donne succumbed to the epidemic of “spotted” or relapsing fever that had been plaguing London for the past month. Striking him suddenly, the illness confined Donne for the next month to his chambers in the Deanery at St. Paul’s, essentially bedridden. During this time, he suffered a prolonged fever, insomnia, and severe physical weakness—he would later describe his diseased body as “iron fetters” imprisoning him to his bed. As the disease progressed, Donne’s physician expressed great concern for his recovery. King James I even sent his own physician to consult with those already attending to Donne. His physicians would administer cordials and eventually apply dead pigeons to Donne’s feet in an effort to draw the ill humors from his body. After weeks of being isolated from all except his doctors, Donne began to show signs that the worst of the sickness had passed. Enduring a regimen of purgatives, which appears to have been as incapacitating as the disease, Donne was able to leave his bed only with great effort and assistance.


Natural World True Form Early Modern Period Relapse Fever Critical Conversation 
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© Anthony J. Funari 2011

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  • Anthony J. Funari

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