John Donne and Anne More
The great poet was 25, handsome, well-read and well-travelled when he was appointed chief secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, in whose London house he met Anne More, Lady Egerton's niece. She was 12 years John's junior, but, as she grew to maturity, he fell in love with her. They married in secret when she was 17 and he 29. It was a heinous act. Donne was a Catholic, Anne from a staunch Church of England family. Egerton was furious and had Donne imprisoned, along with the priest who married them and a witness. But Donne was able to prove that the marriage was legal, and they were released. The marriage lasted 16 years, until Anne's death, aged 33, in 1617. She bore him 12 children, of whom six survived, and inspired his most sprightly early love poetry (eg, "Busy old fool, unruly sun"). Her death wrung from him the agonised Holy Sonnet 17 ("Since she whom I loved hath paid her last debt / To nature, and to hers, and my good is dead . . .") He never remarried, although it was usual for widowers with children to do so.