1812 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Robert Herrick

Alexander Chalmers, in General Biographical Dictionary (1812-17) 17:407-08.



ROBERT HERRICK, one of the minor poets, of very considerable merit, in the reign of Charles I. was born in London, but descended from an ancient and genteel family in Leicestershire, the history of which is amply detailed by the able historian of that county. He was the fourth son of Nicholas Herrick, of St. Vedast, Foster-lane, by Julian Stone his wife, and was born in August 1591. He was educated at St. John's college, Cambridge, from 1615 to 1617; and Wood, who indeed speaks with hesitation, seems wrong in placing him in his Athenae Oxonienses. He is said to have afterwards removed to Trinity hall, Cambridge; but nothing more of his academical progress is known. Being patronised by the earl of Exeter, he was presented by king Charles I. on the promotion of Dr. Potter to the see of Carlisle, to the vicarage of Dean Prior in Devonshire, Oct. 1, 1629, where he became distinguished for his poetical talents and wit. During the prevalence of the parliamentary interest, he was ejected from his living, and resided in London in St. Anne's parish, Westminster, until the Restoration, when he again obtained his vicarage. The time of his death is not known. His poetical works are contained in a scarce volume, entitled "Hesperides, or the works, both humane and divine, of Robert Herrick, Esq. London," 1648, 8vo. To this volume was appended his "Noble numbers, or, his pious pieces," in which, says Wood, "he sings the birth of Christ, and sighs for his Saviour's sufferings on the cross. These two books made him much admired in the time they were published, and especially by the generous and boon loyalists, who commiserated his sufferings." In 1810, Dr. Nott of Bristol published a selection from the "Hesperides," which may probably contribute to revive the memory of Herrick as a poet, who certainly in vigour of fancy, feeling, and ease of versification, is entitled to a superior rank among the bards of his period. He is one of those, however, who will require the selector's unsparing hand, for, notwithstanding his "pious pieces," there are too many of an opposite description, which cannot, like his quaint conceits, be placed to the account of the age in which he lived.