William Harbert

Alexander B. Grosart, "Memorial Introduction" Miscellanies of the Fuller Worthies Library 1 (1870-76) 5-14.

The original title-page of the exceedingly rare volume now for the first time reprinted, bears no name: but to the two Epistles-Dedicatory, — at commencement and toward the close — to Sir Philip Herbert, is subscribed "William Harbert." He is usually called "Sir" William Harbert or Herbert: but I believe without authority. So far as I have been able to trace, the first to employ it was RITSON in his "Bibliographica Poetica" (1802: page 234). But he furnishes a corrective and solution of his blunder. He has confounded this "William Harbert" with a Sir William Herbert, to whom is give (a) "A letter to a pretended Roman Catholic" (1585) and (b) Some wretched doggrel or cat-rel, entitled "Sidney or Baripenthes, briefly shadowing out the rare and never-ending lauds of ... Sir Philip Sidney, knight" (1586).

I can very well suppose that it may have been to shield himself — alas! in vain — from being confounded with this rhymster-contemporary, that our youthful Singer spelled his name "Harbert" as pronounced — much as Lord Derby sounds Darby, Verney as Varney, Hertford as Hartford, and the like, and much as my venerable friend JAMES MONTGOMERY used ruefully to wish that he could somehow protect himself from the humiliation of the notoriety (not fame) of "Satan" ROBERT MONTGOMERY. Perchance we soothed him by reminding him of another poet Montgomery in the author of the "Cherry and the Slae": and there were noble and nobly-gifted as well as sawdust brained Herberts, and onward saintly George Herbert. I have called our Poet "youthful". This lies on the surface of "Cadwallader", in its speaking more than once of his "infant Muse," and "fruites of youth" "and unripened yeeres", and in the boy-like lavishness of classical names and references. But besides this internal evidence I have been guided by a tribute to "Christ College, Oxford" as follows: "Chiefe benefactor of what ere is mine" (page 84, 119) to his matriculation at the University, which thus stands: "1600. Oct. 17. Gulielmus Harbert. 17. Arm. fil. Glamorg." The age given in these Registers always means age at last birthday: so that Harbert may have been just over seventeen or a little under eighteen, i.e., in 1604, when "Cadwallader" was published, twenty-one or thereby. In the Register of Christ Church College, Dean Liddell informs me his age appears to be entered as "13:" but he adds that it is probably a hasty (and erroneous) transcript from the Matriculation-Book. As the latter has "17," it is plain the former is incorrect; and indeed this might be suspected, albeit names as few-yeared and fewer, are found.

The date and age of our "William Harbert" settles that the author of Baripenthes and the author of Cadwallader were two, not one. For if the Singer of Cadwallader had previously published Baripenthes, he couldn't in 1604 have told us of his "infant Muse", seeing Baripenthes was in print eighteen years before, viz. in 1586 as compared with 1604, by which date its author must have been thirty at least. Moreover in 1586 by the Matriculation entry our "William Harbert" was only in his 3rd year, — an age somewhat premature for versifying, even of the type of Bairipenthes. The same date leads me to assign to Sir William Herbert of Baripenthes, and not as Ritson and others have done to our Poet — who is a Poet — the verses in the Phoenix Nest (1593) and those given to him by Sir Egerton Brydges in Restituta having "W. Har." Appended — the date being 1594. But there seems little doubt that our Worthy contributed the little poem prefixed to Peter Erondell's French Garden (1605). It is signed "William Harbert " as in Cadwallader. Here it is:

Doth not the coward hardinesse admire?
and sencelesse ignorance the arts embrace?
Embrace they doe, and with a great desire,
Desire those gifts (those noble gifts of grace)
which they doe want, and others doe embrace:
So I embrace, admire, applause thy skill,
As wanting knowledge, though not wanting will.

Will and good will which I did ever beare
To thee and those which learning doe professe,
Hath made me bolde, that ever wont to feare:
But feare not thou, whose labours doe expresse
thy carefull love and loving carefulnesse.
with praise begin, so thus with thee I end:
Praying for those that doe thy praise extend.
Non multa sed mea

I incline to think that though spelled "Herbert" our Poet also wrote the two copies of Verses prefixed to Browne's Britannia Pastorals (1625), and hence they must appear here:

Awake sad Muse, and thou my sadder spright,
Made so by Time, but more by Fortune's spight,
Awake, and hie us to the Greene,
There shall be seene
The quaintest Lad of all the time
For neater Rime:
Whose free and unaffected straines
Take all the Swaines
That are not rude and ignorant,
Or Envy want.

And Envy lest it's hate discovered be
A Courtly Love and Friendship offers thee:
The Shepherdesses blithe and faire
For thee despaire.
And whosoe'er depends on Pan,
Holds him a man
Beyond themselves, (if not compare,)
He is so rare,
So innocent in all his wayes
As in his Layes
He masters no low soule who hopes to please
The Nephew of the brave Philisides.

Were all men's envies fixt in one man's lookes,
The monster that would prey on safest Fame,
Durst not once checke at thine, nor at thy Name:
So he who men can reade as well as Bookes
Attest thy Line: thus tride, they show to us
As Scaeva's shield, thy Selfe Emeritus.

Further — That the author of Cadwallader was no "Sir" is additionally confirmed by the sorry epigram of William Gamage in his Linsi Woolsie, so late as 1613. It is as empty as need be: but it is headed "To the ingenious poet Mr. William Herbert, of his booke intituled the Prophesie of Cadwallader." We give it the small space needed for it:

Thy royall prophesie doth blaze thy name
So poets must, if they will merit fame.
(2nd. Century: Epigr. 92.)

These facts — slight though they be — correct Ritson, Mr. Collier, Mr. Hazlitt and others, as to the "Sir" and supposed relationship or identity with Baripenthes' Sir William Herbert. Such "knighting" is a kind of literary "laesa majestatis" — eh?

The Verse of our Harbert reveals that he was a native of Wales ["Glamorgan"] — and in some way advanced by the Pembroke (Herbert) family; while Mr. Hunter in his Chorus Vatum surmises, that he was probably placed near the person of Prince Henry, soon after James became king of England. The "Arm fil." of the Matriculation, indicates much what the modern "Esquire" is supposed to mean. In the Matriculation-Registers of Oxford, sons of baronets are described as "Bart. fil.": sons of knights as "Eq. Aur. fil." Hence "Arm. fil." meant that the father was not a titled person but of social rank above that of a gentleman or "gen. fil." These terms were doubtless used all the more exactly in that they regulated the fees paid by the students matriculating.

Such is all that considerable research has yielded. A "William Harbert" occurs in the Parish-Register of St. George's, Southwark, among the buried: "prisoner in King's Bench, 20th Nov., 1628" — likely for debt. I am reluctant to know this was our Poet.

It is to be deplored that Welshmen, who spend their strength and enthusiasm without stint, over mythic-names and merely antiquarian, and as Lord Brooke puts it, "life-forsaken" verse — leave such a name as this un-illumined, as they continue to their opprobrium to do a greater — Henry Vaughan the Silurist.

There is intellectual if exuberant force, and no little melody and good workmanship in Cadwallader and related poems. His versification is usually harmonious: occasionally an epithet gleams out like a poppy in a cornfield or an old woman's red cloak or hood in a landscape, and now and then you come on aphoristic sayings that only need to be known to keep quick. His incense — stale and rank — to the king, was the mode of the day — an explanation if no apology. Then, young imagination is purpled, and purples, as the setting (or rising) sun transfigures a bit of broken glass into diamond-brilliance.

As before, our text reproduces the whole with strict fidelity. Most of the names that occur are trite: only a few brief notes are furnished.

The following is the original title-page

of Cadwallader, last king
of the Britaines:
Containing a Comparison of the English
Kings, with many worthy Romanes, from
Williain Rufus, till Henry the fift.
Henry the fift, his life and death.
Foure Battels betweene the two Houses of
Yorke and Lancanster.
The Field of Banbery.
The losse of Elizabeth.
The praise of King James.
And lastly a Poeme to the yong Prince.
Printed by Thomas Creede, for Roger Jackson, and are to
be solde at his shop in Fleet streete, over against the
Conduit. 1604. (8vo.)

Title — Verse-dedication to his Poem — to the Reader [3 leaves] and 32 leaves—

As a book Cadwallader &c. is of the rarest — being valued in the open market at treble the cost of a complete set in large paper of our Worthies! The copy in the Bodleian as that in the British Museum, is imperfect.

Colonel Chester, my accomplished and indefatigable Anglo-American friend — curiously enough the foremost living authority on all matters genealogical in English "Registers" — has obligingly furnished me from his opulent stores, with a considerable number of "Harberts" and "Herberts": but Christ Church fixes our Poet. To him I am indebted for these memoranda on Sir Philip Herbert to whom our Poet dedicates his book — "Sir Philip Herbert" I suppose to have been afterwards 4th earl of Pembroke and 1st earl of Montgomery. He was then (1604) quite a young man, having matriculated at New College, Oxon, 9 Mch. 1592|3 at the early age of 9 years, (one of the few instances of this sort). He was younger son of Henry, 2nd earl, by his 3rd wife Lady Mary, daughter of Sir Henry Sidney, K. G. — to her Sir Philip Sidney dedicated his Arcadia. I find him mentioned as Sir Philip in 1604: and I know of no other of that name at the period. He was no doubt one of the knights of the Bath created on the coronation of King James I, 25th July, 1603.


St. George's, Blackburn, Lancashire,

October 11th, 1870.