1797 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Robert Herrick

John Nichols, "Letters of Robert Herrick" Gentleman's Magazine 66 (February 1797) 102-03.



Feb. 6.

Mr. URBAN,

From some authentic documents which I have lately seen, I am able to state that Anthony Wood was under a mistake when he supposed that Robert Herrick, the poet, was either of St. John's or All Souls at Oxford. He speaks indeed with hesitation on the subject; which implies that he entertained some doubts. (See LXVI. 461.)

There was a Roberty Heyrick of St. John's at Oxford, who was intended for the law; but, quitting that study for a more active life, died at Wesel, a lieutenant in the army, in 1639.

Robert, the poet, was a fellow-commoner of St. John's College, Cambridge, from 1615 to 1617; in which last year the following note of hand of his occurs, now transcribed to shew the forms of that age, and the absurdity of some which have lately been published.

"Be it known to all, that I Robert Heyrick, fellow-commoner of St. John's colledg in Cambridg, acknowledg myself to stand indebted unto my uncle, Sir Will. Hearick, of London, knight, in the some of tenn pounds, for so much receaved of him; to be repayed unto him at all times. I saye, receaved tenn pounds, by me

ROBERT HEARICK."

The early part of his personal history will also be illustrated by the two following undated letters to his uncle:

1. "After my abundant thanks for your last great love (worthie Sir) proud of your favoure and kindness, showne by my Ladie to my unworthy selfe, thus I laye open my self; that, for as much as my continuance will not long consist in the spheare where I now move, I make known my thoughts, and modestly crave your counsell whether it were better for me to direct my study towards the Lawe or not; which if I should (as it will not be impertinent), I can with facilitie laboure myself into another Colledg appointed for the like end and studye, where I assure my self the charge will not be so great as where I now exist; I make bold freely to acquaint you with my thoughts; and I entreat you to answeare me; this beeing most which checks me, that my time (I trust) beeing short, it may be to a lesser end and smaller purpose; but that shal be as you shall lend direction. Nothing now remaines but my perfect thankfullness and remembrance of your hopeful promises; which when Heaven, working with you, shall bring them to performance, I shall triumph in the victorie of my wishes; till when, my prayers shall invocate Hevven to powre upon you and your posteritie the utmost of all essentiall happiness. Yours, ever serviceable,

R. HEARICK."

2. "Trinitie Hall, Cam.

Sir,

The confidence I have of your both virtuous and generous disposition makes me (though with some honest reluctatation) the seldomer to solicite you; for, I have so incorporated beleef into me, that I cannot chuse but perswade my self that (though absent) I stand imprinted in your memorie; and the remembrance of my last beeing at London servd for an earnest motive (which I trust lives yet unperisht) to the effectuating of my desire, which is not but in modestly ambitious, and consequently virtuous: but, where freeness is evident, there needs no feere for forwardness; and I doubt not (because sayth gines boldness) but that Heaven, togeither with your self, will bring my ebbing estate to an indifferent tyde; meane while I hope I have (as I presume you know) changed my Colledg for one where the quantitie of expence wil be shortned, by reason of the privacie of the house, where I purpose to live recluse till time contract me to some other calling, striving now with myself (retayning upright thoughts) both sparingly to live, thereby to shun the current of expence. This is my desire (which I entreat may be p'formd), that Mr. Adrian Marius, bookseller, of the Blackfryers, maye be payd ten pounds as heretofore, and to take his acquittance. Trusting whereto, Ile terminate your sight, and end; hoping to see your dayes many and good, and prosperitie to crown your self and issue. Ever serviceable to your virtues,

R. HEARICK."

May I request some Cambridge friend to state the dates of his admission and degrees at St. John's, and at Trinity Hall; the first believe to be about 1614, the other 1617?

J. N.