This volume presents the only 'authorial' manuscript ever discovered for any of John Donne's sermons. Jeanne Shami's discovery of this manuscript in the British Library's Royal Manuscripts Collection -- as a miscellaneous and unattributed sermon text -- is indeed a cause for celebration among Donne scholars. Manuscript sources exist for only 16 of Donne's 160 sermons, and this is the first to be identified as corrected in his own hand. The implications of Shami's discovery are profound. Transcribed immediately after Donne delivered the sermon on November 5th, 1622, this manuscript version and its corrections give us important new information about Donne's habits of composition and revision. In addition, the existence of an authorial manuscript version requires us to reconsider the textual status of George Potter and Evelyn Simpson's ten-volume California edition of Donne's sermons published in 1962. Their edition has, to date, been relied upon as 'definitive.' Potter and Simpson's version was based on the only printed version of this sermon in Fifty Sermons printed in 1649.
The substantive differences between this newly discovered manuscript and the version printed in 1649 reveal much about the political considerations impinging on Donne in 1622. The revisions suggest that he changed his sermons for stylistic and rhetorical reasons but also for political ones, and that his intentions for the sermons may have changed over time.