Found: A Long-Lost Copy of John Donne's Fart-Filled Satire

Courtesy of Westminster Abbey
Courtesy of Westminster Abbey

If you’ve studied the writings of John Donne, the 17th-century English poet and priest, you know that many of his verses are filled with sexual innuendo that's masked with religious symbols and imagery. There’s nothing subtle, however, about the socially charged work by Donne recently rediscovered in the archives of Westminster Abbey, according to The Guardian.

Found buried inside a tin trunk among hundreds of fragments of documents, the handwritten manuscript is the earliest-known copy of Donne’s The Courtier's Library. The mock library catalog satirizes Jacobean England, public figures, and religious corruption, and could have led to the writer’s downfall if it had been seen by anyone aside from his most intimate confidants.

Two pages of the handwritten manuscript by John Donne
Two pages of the handwritten manuscript by John Donne
Courtesy of Westminster Abbey

Donne wrote The Courtier’s Library—still a relatively obscure work— in the early 1600s, and this particular copy has been dated back to 1603 to 1604. While not in Donne's own handwriting, the find is important. “It gives us important new clues about the life and writing of one of our most important writers,” said Daniel Starza Smith, a lecturer in early modern English literature at King’s College London, according to a news release.

Matthew Payne, who works as the keeper of documents at Westminster Abbey, found the lost Donne manuscript in fall 2016 while perusing the tin trunk’s unsorted contents. The truck mostly contained fragments of administrative records dating back to the late medieval and early modern period, but amid the mouse-eaten papers Payne found one complete document that had no title or author listed. The work was written in Latin, and with the help of Google, Payne identified it as Donne’s Catalogus Librorum Satiricus, or The Courtier’s Library.

The tin trunk where the handwritten manuscript by John Donne was discovered at Westminster Abbey.
The tin trunk where the handwritten manuscript by John Donne was discovered.
Courtesy of Westminster Abbey

Donne wrote The Courtier’s Library when he was a young, bitter man working as a lawyer to make ends meet and support a growing family. He’d recently lost his title as the secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton, England's Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, after he’d secretly marrying Egerton's niece, Anne More. More’s father, a courtier and parliament member, disapproved of the relationship, and when he learned of his daughter's union, Sir George More briefly imprisoned Donne and stripped him of his post.

Donne circulated The Courtier’s Library among his friends and patrons, but didn’t dare to print it during the reign of King James I, when anti-Catholicism was on the rise. (Donne was raised Catholic but eventually converted to Anglicanism.) In addition to poking fun at religion, it made fun of real public officials. One of the scandalous catalog’s imaginary books features "the many confessions of poisoners given to Justice Manwood, and used by him afterwards in wiping his buttocks, and in examining his evacuations.” The manuscript also contains sections called “Ars Spiritualis Inescandi Mulieres" ("The Spiritual Art of Enticing Women"), “On the Nothingness of a Fart,” and “Concerning the method of emptying the dung from Noah’s Ark.”

Nobody quite knows how the early copy of The Courtier’s Library made its way to Westminster Abbey, but experts say its rediscovery is timely, given today’s political climate. “We might think of ‘fake news’ as a modern phenomenon, but Donne saw something similar happening around him,” Smith said. “He was horrified at the corruption of truth by the powerful, greedy, and willfully ignorant, and he responded with this vicious satire, which was too dangerous to print until after his death. This discovery helps us understand how it circulated furtively among his trusted friends.”

An essay describing the find will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Review of English Studies. The manuscript itself will go on display from November 13 to November 18 in St Margaret’s Church, which is next door to Westminster Abbey.

[h/t The Guardian]

Blue Apron’s Memorial Day Sale Will Save You $60 On Your First Three Boxes

Scott Eisen/Getty Images
Scott Eisen/Getty Images

If you’ve gone through all the recipes you had bookmarked on your phone and are now on a first-name basis with the folks at the local pizzeria, it might be time to introduce a new wrinkle into your weekly dinner menu. But instead of buying loads of groceries and cookbooks to make your own meal, you can just subscribe to a service like Blue Apron, which will deliver all the ingredients and instructions you need for a unique dinner.

And if you start your subscription before May 26, you can save $20 on each of your first three weekly boxes from the company. That means that whatever plan you choose—two or four meals a week, vegetarian or the Signature plan—you’ll save $60 in total.

With the company’s Signature plan, you’ll get your choice of meat, fish, and Beyond foods, along with options for diabetes-friendly and Weight Watchers-approved dishes. The vegetarian plan loses the meat, but still allows you to choose from a variety of dishes like General Tso's tofu and black bean flautas.

To get your $60 off, head to the Blue Apron website and click “Redeem Offer” at the top of the page to sign up.

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5 Places to Find Free E-Books

She's grinning because she got hooked on an Agatha Christie whodunit without spending a penny.
She's grinning because she got hooked on an Agatha Christie whodunit without spending a penny.
sawaddee3002/iStock via Getty Images

Even if you have a long history of choosing hefty hardcovers and dog-eared paperbacks over e-books, life in quarantine may be giving you a new appreciation for your tablet’s ability to download a book the moment you decide to bump it to the top of your to-be-read list.

With the world of digital reading material at your fingertips and probably a little more time to bury your nose in a book than usual, your credit card could soon have a reason to protest—but it doesn’t have to. Discover five different places you can download free e-books online below.

1. Project Gutenberg

Project Gutenberg is a digital library with more than 60,000 e-books in the public domain. You won’t come across the hottest new thriller on here, but you will find countless classics in every genre, available to read online or download as EPUB or Kindle files. Make your way through Jane Austen’s whole catalog, tackle Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, or get hooked on an Agatha Christie whodunit.

2. ManyBooks

ManyBooks is another site that features older books in the public domain, but it also includes e-books by self-published authors you probably haven’t heard of. It’s a great place to discover something new (or old), and the site layout is well-organized and modern.

3. Libby

You'll find the hottest new thriller on the Libby app, though you might have to wait your turn to check it out. The app, created by digital library company Overdrive, gives users access to their local library’s entire inventory of e-books (and, for some libraries, audiobooks, comics, and magazines, too). All you have to do is download the app and log in with your library card credentials.

4. hoopla

Like Libby, the hoopla app lets you check out digital content from your local library; however, there are a couple key differences between the platforms. For one, hoopla offers TV shows and movies in addition to e-books and audiobooks. Also, you don’t have to place something on hold and wait for another user to return their copy—every piece of content is available for you to borrow whenever you want. Instead, there’s a limit on how many checkouts you’re allowed per month, which varies by library.

5. Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is a treasure trove of material both for research purposes and recreational reading. After you sign up for a free account, you can borrow up to 10 books at a time, each for a two-week loan period, though you might have to hop on the waitlist for popular works that aren’t in the public domain. The Internet Archive’s Open Library contains plenty of modern novels, like Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games and some Stephen King bestsellers, and it recently launched a temporary National Emergency Library with more than a million e-books that you can check out immediately—no need to join a waitlist. However, since the Internet Archive acquires e-books through donations, purchases, and partnerships with academic libraries, rather than licensing them directly from publishers, authors have spoken out against the National Emergency Library, explaining that its unlimited lending model prevents them from earning royalties on their work. If you're looking for the best way to support an author, we recommend sticking to library-affiliated apps like hoopla (or ordering a physical book from your favorite indie bookstore).