Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: British, Irish, & Commonwealth Poets)
George Herbert was born on April 3, 1593, into one of the most distinguished families of Montgomeryshire, active both in local politics and court service. The fifth son in a family of seven sons and three daughters, he was reared principally by his mother (his father died in 1596), by all reports a remarkable woman who left a deep impression on her children. Magdalene Herbert not only shrewdly managed an extremely large household—unlike the modern-day nuclear family, the upper-class household of the seventeenth century might contain upward of a score of children, relatives, servants, and visitors—but also supervised the education of her children. Perhaps more important, as Donne relates in his commemorative sermon on her, she was a model of piety and took a great interest in the spiritual development of her family. Herbert’s early childhood thus well prepared him for a life of distinction and devotion, two clusters of values that he later spent much time trying to reconcile.
Herbert’s formal education began at Westminster School, and upon entering Trinity College, Cambridge, he soon established himself as a young man of great promise. Moving quickly through A.B. and A.M. degrees and positions as a minor, then a major fellow, Herbert became the university orator in 1620. Such an appointment not only indicates the great verbal and oral skills that Herbert must have demonstrated, skills that he would later use to great advantage as both a poet and a...
(The entire section is 638 words.)
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
The fifth son of an aristocratic family, the poet George Herbert received his early education from his mother, whom he characterizes in his Parentalia, the only volume published in his lifetime. Between the ages of twelve and seventeen he studied at Westminster School. Winner of a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, he received his bachelor’s degree in 1613 and stayed on as minor fellow and later as major fellow until he received his master’s degree in 1616. While at Cambridge he distinguished himself as a Latin and Greek scholar and wrote Latin verses for publication. When he was twenty-three he became prelector in rhetoric, and in 1619 he became public orator. He distinguished himself in the service of James I and received many royal favors for his diligence. The death of the king and the reversal of policies set Herbert on the road that was to immortalize him—that of clergyman and Christian poet. On being ordained deacon in 1626, he resigned his post as orator of Cambridge and became prebendary of Layton Ecclesia.
In 1629 he married Jane Danvers, who was, according to Izaak Walton, Herbert’s first biographer, a most pious and pleasant person. In 1630 King Charles I presented him with a clerical post at Bemerton, near Salisbury. There Herbert not only rebuilt the church and parsonage but also became an admired preacher. Walton called him “holy Herbert.” During this time, he apparently wrote the “sacred poems” that depict...
(The entire section is 307 words.)
Biography (Poetry for Students)
George Herbert was born into a wealthy and titled family at Montgomery Castle, in Wales, on April 3, 1593, as one of nine children. His father, Sir Richard Herbert, died in 1596, when George was three years old. His mother, Lady Magdalen Newport Herbert, was a patron of the poet and clergyman John Donne, who presided at her funeral when she died in 1627. Herbert was educated privately until 1605, when he attended the prestigious Westminster School as a King's Scholar. In 1609, he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, earning his bachelor's degree in 1613 and a master's in 1616. Two years later, he became a teacher, with the title of "reader in rhetoric," at Trinity, and a year later, in 1619, he was appointed orator for the university, a post that he held until 1628. In this capacity, he represented the university on public occasions, such as by delivering the welcoming addresses when King James I visited Cambridge. In this way, Herbert became known to the King, who, delighted by his performances, awarded him a yearly stipend.
Herbert's first poems were Latin sonnets that he wrote for his mother. In them, he argued that a more fitting subject for poetry than love for a woman was love for God. His first published verses appeared in 1612. They were two poems, also in Latin, written in memory of King James's son Prince Henry, who had died that year. In 1624 and 1625, Herbert was elected to Parliament to represent Montgomery. However, rather than pursuing a...
(The entire section is 516 words.)