Robert Herrick

Picture of Author Robert Herrick
The frontispiece to Herrick's Hesperides (1648),
showing a bust of the poet.

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About the author

Robert Herrick (1591–1674) was without doubt the greatest poet to have worked in Devon. Born in London, the son of a goldsmith, he studied at Cambridge and later fell in with the London poets who had gathered around the magnetic figure of Ben Jonson. In order to make a living—since he had not pursued the family trade—he entered the Church and in 1627 was appointed chaplain to the Duke of Buckingham, whom he accompanied on an unsuccessful military expedition in 1627. In 1629 he was appointed to the living of Dean Prior, a village on the edge of Dartmoor, about half way between Exeter and Plymouth. He was to remain there for the rest of his life, with the exception of the Cromwellian period from 1647-1660, during which he was expelled for his royalist sympathies and, no doubt, also doctrinal disagreements.

His only book, Hesperides, was published in 1648. This is a large collection of lyrics and odes, coupled under one set of covers with a book of religious poems (His Noble Numbers), but it would seem that his work was already somewhat out of date by this time and the edition took some time to sell out. His reputation recovered in the 19th Century, and decisively in the 20th, when he was finally recognised as one of the greatest lyric poets of the Caroline era, an era, moreover, when England was well supplied with fine poets—Herrick’s contemporaries include Jonson, Marvell, Donne, Herbert, Vaughan, Lovelace, Suckling, Carew and many others.

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