Of the thousands of decisions, large and small, taken in the 19th century by persons seeking to make John Donne's writings available in print, few were as influential as the publisher and the editor of The Works of John Donne, D.D. in the 1830s. John W. Parker published six volumes, instead of the requested four, for a new edition of the sermons. His liberality made it possible to include the sermons in their entirety. He also had to make a number of unexpected decisions. The most important was what to do with the additional space. Henry Alford chose to include works that had a conspicuously biographical interest: the Devotions, which according to Izaak Walton contained Donne's ‘most secret thoughts,’ poems mostly on religious subjects, especially holy dying, and virtually all the letters in prose and in verse. As it turned out, the prose letters became the most widely read section of the Works.
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