1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Edmund Waller

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 88.



Waller (1605-1687) flourished under the rule of Charles I. and Charles II. His mother was aunt of the celebrated John Hampden, who was first cousin both of Edmund Waller and Oliver Cromwell. Rich and well-born, Waller was educated at Eton, and became a member of Parliament at eighteen. His political life was eventful, and not wholly to his credit. He sat in all the parliaments of Charles II. and was the delight of the House: even at eighty years of age he was the liveliest and wittiest man within its walls. His verses are smooth and polished, but superficial. Overpraised in his day, his fame had, not undeservedly, declined. He was left heir to an estate of 3500 in his infancy, and was either a Roundhead or a Royalist, as the time served. At twenty-five he married a rich heiress of London, who died the same year. Easy and witty, he was yet cold and selfish.