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George Herbert

lunes, 29 de septiembre de 2014

George Herbert

From The Oxford Companion to English Literature, ed. Margaret Drabble:

Herbert, George (1593-1633), fifth son of Sir Richard and Magdalen Herbert and younger brother of Lord *Herbert of Cherbury, born in Montgomery into a prominent family. His father died when he was 3, and in 1608 his mother, the patron of Donne, remarried Sir John Danvers, who was 20 years her junior. Educated at Westminster School where he was named king's scholar, and Trinity College, Cambridge, George published his first poems (two sets of memorial verses in Latin) in a volume mourning Prince Henry's death in 1612. But he had already, according to his earliest biographer, I. *Walton, sent his mother at the start of 1610 a New Year's letter dedicating his poetic powers to God and enclosing two sonnets ('My God, where is that ancient heat towards thee?' and 'Sure, Lord, there is enough in thee to dry'). In 1616 he was elected a major fellow of Trinity, and in 1618 appointed reader in rhetoric. In 1620 he became public orator at the university (holding this distinguished position until his resignation in 1627). He seems at this period to have been rather pushing, keen on making the acquaintance of the great and conscious of his distinction of birth. F. *Bacon and Donne were among his friends, and the public oratorship introduced him to men of influence at court. Although he was obliged, by the terms of his fellowship, to take orders within seven years, he seems to have gravitated towards a secular career, leaving his university duties to be performed by proxies. In 1624, and again in 1625, he represented Montgomery in Parliament. This fairly brief experience of worldly ambition seems, however, to have disillusioned him. He was ordained deacon, probably before the end of 1624, and installed in 1616 as a canon of Lincoln Cathedral and prebendary of Leighton Bromswold in Huntingdonshire, near *Little Gidding, where *Ferrar, whom Herbert had known at Cambridge, had recently established a religious community. Once installed, Herbert set about restoring the the ruined church at Leighton. His mother died in 1627, and his Memoriae Matris Sacrum waas published in the volume containing Donne's commemoration sermon. In March 1629 Herbert married his stepfather's cousin, Jane Danvers, and they adopted two orphaned nieces of Herbert's. He became rector of Bemerton, near Salisbury, in April 1630, being ordained priest the following September. In his short priesthood he gained a reputation for humility, energy, and charity. He was also a keen musician, and would go twice a week to hear the singing in Salisbury Cathedral which was, he said, 'Heaven upon earth'. He died of consumption shortly before his 40th birthday. When he realized he was dying he sent his English poems to his friend Ferrar with instructions to publish them, if he though they might 'turn to the advantage of any dejected soul', and otherwise to burn them. The Temple, containing nearly all his surviving English poems, was published in 1633. Outlandish Proverbs (a collection of foreign proverbs in translation) in 1640, and Herbert's prose picture of the model country parson, A Priest to the Temple, in 1652, as part of Herbert's Remains. His translation of Luigi Cornaro's Trattato de la vita sobria appeared in 1634, and his 'Brief Notes' on Juan de Valdes's Hundred and Ten Considerations in 1638. He told Ferrar that his poems represented 'a picture of the many spiritual conflicts that have passed betwixt God and my soul'. They were much admired in the 17th cent. and 13 editions of The Temple came out between 1633 and 1679. In the 18th cent. Herbert went out of fashion, though J. *Wesley adapted some of his poems. The Romantic age saw a revival, and the appreciative note in Coleridge's Biographia Literaria (1817) enhanced Herbert's reputation. Modern critics have noted the subtlety rather than the simplicity of his poems, seeing them as an attempt to express the ultimately ineffable complications of the spiritual life. The precise nature of Herbert's relationship to Calvinism has also generated debate. See Works (ed. F. E. Hutchinson, 1941); Amy M. Charles, Life (1977).


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