John Donne and Jonathan Swift


The Anglican Church

1527 - 1531

King Henry VIII asks the Pope for an annulment (cancellation) of his marriage because his wife has not given him a male heir to the throne. The Pope says no. Because of this, Henry breaks away from the Catholic Church and forms the Anglican Church, or Church of England.

English Civil War and Aftermath

1642 - 1660

English Civil War is fought between Protestants, who control Parliament, and Catholics loyal to the Catholic king, Charles I. The Protestants win, but after their leader, Oliver Cromwell, dies, and a Catholic king returns to the throne.

The "Glorious Revolution"


Protestants in Parliament get William of Orange and his wife Mary to invade England. They remove the Catholic king, James II, and rule England together.

The Penal Laws


James II flees to Ireland, where he is supported. English forces follow him and defeat him. Several harsh economic laws—the Penal Laws-- are passed. These laws are designed to financially punish Ireland for supporting James.

John Donne

John Donne is born to a Catholic family in England.


Denied Degrees


Donne refuses to acknowledge Henry VIII as the head of the Church. Because of this, he does not get a degree from school.


1590 - 1600

Donne’s brother dies in prison after giving sanctuary (a safe place to stay) to a Catholic priest in 1593. Sometime during this decade, Donne converts to Anglicanism.

Sermons and Poetry

1615 - 1631

During his life, Donne is known for his sermons, but throughout his private life, he writes very personal, unconventional poetry. His style, including long metaphors called conceits, is now known as Metaphysical poetry.

Donne is ordained as an Anglican priest.


John Donne dies.


Jonathan Swift

Jonathan Swift is born in Dublin, Ireland.


Swift leaves Ireland and moves to England.


Swift returns to Ireland.


A Modest Proposal


Jonathan Swift writes “A Modest Proposal,” a satirical attack on the treatment of poor people in Ireland by the English government.

Jonathan Swift dies.


Literary Movements

The Cavalier Poets

1550 - 1660

The Cavalier poets took inspiration from Classical (Greek and Roman) poetry, and used conventional, traditional structure for their poems. Their poems were usually about less serious topics.


1660 - 1745

Like the Cavalier poets, Neoclassical writers and artists tried to imitate Classical (Greek and Roman) forms of writing and art. Jonathan Swift, a satirist influenced by the Roman writers Horace and Juvenal, was a Neoclassical writer.