A Biographic Outline of Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

Provider: Julia Hsieh / ¨

I.  Early Life

A.     Family Background

B.     Education

II.  Later Life

A.     A Servant to His Highness

B.     Writing Performance

III.   Last Years

l      Reference

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I.        Early Life

A.     Family Background

Born on August 24, 1591, Robert Herrick was the fourth son in the seven children of Nicholas Herrick and Julian Stone Herrick.  A year later Herrick's birth, Nicholas fell from a window of his house and died.  Though this accident was in a way suspected as a suicidal act, this goldsmith and banker left his widow and children pretty much legacy that had somehow promised the living quality of the Herrick family.  However, Widow Julian Herrick was not able to maintain the household and turned to her relatives and her dead husband's relatives for help.  The Herrick's wealthy relatives who were possibly prominent merchants, goldsmiths or of other professions did give a big hand in taking care of the children; they not merely educated them but found them jobs.

B.     Education

The schooling of Herrick before 1607 is a mystery.  What we know is that Herrick was an apprentice to Sir William Herrick, his uncle who was a wealthy and prosperous goldsmith.  Nonetheless, the 16-year-old lad soon found out his real interest, despite his admiration of the uncle's status and wealth.  Herrick entered St. John's at Cambridge first at the age of twenty-two; then transferred to Trinity Hall, also at Cambridge, to continue his study later.  The reason for his transferring may be to save the expenses.  Herrick received a B.A. degree in 1617, and his M. A. degree three years after that.  From his letters to his uncle, his revealed his active participation in school life, circle of friends and also a faithful student of Henry Peacham who wrote The Compleat Gentleman.  Herrick's much affected by his learning from his schoolmasters and friends among who Clipseby Crew and John Wickes remained his lifelong friends.

II.     Later Life

A.     A Servant to His Highness

It was possibly Wickes' influence, in the spring of 1623, Herrick decided to answer Bishop Dove of Peterborough's appointment of a curate, and hence began his career of priest.  Before he joined the expedition led by Duke of Buckingham, Herrick enjoyed his life fully with his friends in London.  In many of Herrick's poetry, the merriment and pleasure of feasting, drinking, singing and sharing poetry that composed by Herrick himself and his clergymen friends were prominent features and main themes.  And before long, Herrick's name appeared parallel to other famous poets of his time, such as Ben Jonson, Drayton, and etc.  In 1629, Herrick received the job of being a vicar in the west of the country.  On his first long living abroad, Herrick firstly seemed to be unable to adjust into the rural village in Devonshire.  But soon he opened up to the beauty of the view of countryside and country life.  For ten years, Herrick stayed in Devonshire and made use of the inspiration out of the nature and small things in composing his poems.  It was ten years later that Herrick left for London for getting his poems published.  This incident eventually caught him in trouble for his leaving his parish without the permission of his bishop. 

B.     Writing Performance

Despite of an investigation of his departure without application and an illegitimate child by Tomasin, Herrick not only had his The Severall Poems published but was found not guilty.  When the war between King Charles and the Parliamentarians and Puritans broke out in 1642, Herrick was out of the center of the storm and continued to live his life and composing poems in the country.  Though later his loyalty to the king caused his lost of his position of a priest in 1647, Herrick returned to London and had his poems printed out, again, one year later.  In Hesperides, Herrick included 1400 poems.  This might be the last that the poet published and composed.

III.   Last Years

After Hesperides, there was hardly any evidence showing the poet involving in active poetry writing.  As to his job, Herrick had been restored to his old position at Dean Prior as a vicar when King Charles II returned to England.  From then to his death in 1674, Herrick was not known for any eminent poetry but some epitaph.  To his ripe age at eighty three, Herrick left the world his particular interesting writing technique of short, clear, observant and vivid poems.

 

l      Reference:

Rollin, Roger B.  Robert Herrick.  New York: Twayne Publishers, 1966.

MaxPatrick, F.  Ed.  The Complete Poetry of Robert Herrick.  New York: The Norton Library, 1968.

Ishii, Shonosuke.  The Poetry of Robert Herrick.  Tokyo: The Renaissance Institute, 1974.