Donovan was born on New Year's Day in 1883. (Named William, he chose his middle name, Joseph, at the time of his confirmation.) He had two younger brothers and two younger sisters who survived into adulthood and several additional younger siblings who died in infancy or childhood. "From Anna's side of the family came style and etiquette and the dreams of poets," Donovan's biographer, Douglas Waller, has written. "From Tim came toughness and duty and honor to country and clan."