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Robert Herrick
1591-1674

Robert Herrick

In Cheapside, London in 1592, Nicholas Herrick, a prosperous goldsmith, and wife Julian Stone Herrick had their seventh child Robert. In November of the following year Nicholas Herrick created a will and two days later killed himself by jumping from the fourth floor window of his house. The Almoner of the Queen at that time was paid 220 pounds so that he would not confiscate the Herrick estate for the crown, which was customary during that time.

Robert became apprentice to his uncle Sir William Herrick in 1607 as a goldsmith. In 1613, he began his studies at St. Johns College, Cambridge. In 1617 he graduated a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in 1620. During this time his love for poet Ben Jonson whom he later wrote five poems about. Herrick was considered the eldest of the Sons of Ben which was a group of young men that idolized Jonson in the literary circles of London. On April 24, 1723 he was ordained an Episcopal minister and acted as chaplain to Buckingham on an expedition. In 1629 he was appointed by Charles I to Dean Prior in the diocese of Exeter, a job which he accepted unenthusiastically. During this time he lived in the secluded countryside of Devonshire and wrote some of his greatest works. However, he never stopped longing the leisure of London. Herrick felt it was merely social pressure that drove him to the Church.

In 1647 he was expelled from the priory by the Protectorate government during the Great Rebellion for his Royalist sympathies. He returned to his long lost London and in 1648 published his first major collection of works called Hesperides. It consisted of more than 1200 works ranging from epistles, epigrams, eclogues, and love poems. Most of the works had pastoral themes that dealt with English country life (like that in Devonshire) and village customs. The collection included a subsection called Noble Numbers that headed all the poems with sacred subject matter. Charles II returned Herrick as Dean Prior in 1660. In 1674 he died a bachelor at the age of eighty-three.

Herricks work is renowned for its style, melody, and sentiment. He was influenced heavily by Roman poetry, and many of his works were so lyrical they were set to music. Because Herrick never married it was believed that most of the women he wrote about were fictional. He had a plethera of bewitching, imaginary mistresses most often named "Prudence," however he also had an abundance of love poems to someone named "Julia." He was noted for being a quiet individual, who had a terrible time dealing with decisiveness. Although his poems tended to speak for him, he rarely voiced his opinion.

Robert Herrick

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