1796 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Rev. Robert Herrick

Eugenio, "Biographical Notes on Robert Herrick" Gentleman's Magazine 66 (June 1796) 461-62.



June 9.

Mr. URBAN.

The Robert Herrick, enquired after by W. F. I. p. 384, was "a Londoner born, but descended from those of his name (which are antient and genteel) in Leicestershire." [author's note: Wood, Athen. Oxon. II. 122.] He was fourth son of Nicholas Herrick, of St. Vedast, Foster-lane, London, by Julian Stone his wife; was baptized Aug. 24, 1591; and became fellow of St. John, about the year 1628. He was M.A.; but the time of taking his degree is not known. Being patronized 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 [author's note: Rymer, Foed. tom. XIX p. 138], Oct. 1, 1629, where he exercised his Muse as well as in poetry as other learning, and became much beloved by the gentry in those parts for his florid and witty discourse; but, being ejected from his vicarage during the civil wars, he retired to London; where, having no fifths paid him, his subsistence was but scanty. His verses "to Dean-bourn," however, on his "Return to London," I transcribe as characteristic. They are copied from "Hesperides, or the Works, both Humane and Divine, of Robert Herrick, Esq. London, 1648," in a thick octavo, with his picture (a shoulder-piece) before it, engraved by Marshall; which Granger describes as "a bust; two angels bringing chaplets of laurel, Pegasus on Parnassus, Helicon," &c.; and this compliment:

Tempora cinxisset soliorum densior umbra;
Tempora et illa tibi mollis redimisset oliva;
Scilicet excludis versibus arma tuis.
Admisces antiqua novis, jucunda severis:
Hinc juvenis discet, foemina, virgo, senex.
Ut solo minor es Phoebo, sic major es unus
Omnibus, ingenio, mente, lepore, stylo.

To this volume was appended, "His noble Numbers, or, his pious Pieces;" wherein (amongst other things) 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. He resided in St. Anne's parish, in Westminster, till the Restoration; when he again obtained his vicarage [author's note: Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy, p. 203]. He was author of a great number of poems, many of which are of the lyric and epigrammatic kinds. His "Christmas Carol, and his "New Year's Gift," were set to musick by Henry Lawes, and performed before the king. Several are addressed to his own relations — "to the reverend shade of his religious Father" — "to his dying brother, Master William Herrick" — "A Country Life, to his Brother Nicholas Herrick" — "to his Brother Nicholas Herrick" —"to his Sister-in-law, Mrs. Susannah Herrick" — "to his Brother-in-law, Mr. John Wingfield" — "upon his Kinswoman, Mrs. Bridget Herrick" — "to his Kinsman, Mr. Thomas Herrick, who desired to be in his Book" — "to his honoured Kinsman, Sir Will. Soame" — "to the most fair and lovely Mrs. Anne Soame, now Lady Abdie" — "to his Kinsman, Sir Thomas Stone" — "To his honoured Kinsman, Sir Richard Stone" — many "to Endymion Porter, a great friend and patron of poets" — and one to "Mrs. Katherine Bradshaw, the Lovely that crowned him with Laurel." — He was, perhaps, the first of the numerous translators of the "Dialogue betwixt Horace and Lydia;" which may be seen among his Works. His general character is not unaptly described in the lines quoted above; and in the following couplet, which concludes his volume:

To his book's end this last line he'd have plac'd;

Jocund his Muse was, but his life was chaste.

See more of him in the "Athenae Oxonienses," II. 122, where his "Divine Poems" are particularly commended.
EUGENIO.