Henry King Analysis

Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Henry King’s significant literary remains other than poetry are his Latin verses and his surviving sermons, which span almost a half-century and provide an excellent record of his ministerial concerns. They have not, however, been collected.

Henry King Achievements

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

A full assessment of Henry King’s poetic stature has been slow to evolve. It appears that among his contemporaries, King was renowned less as a poet than as a churchman, as an eminent preacher and respected bishop of Chichester, and there is no evidence to suggest that King would have preferred to be viewed in any other way. It was only in the period during which for political reasons he was forcibly denied his bishopric that King, at a rather advanced age, published his poetry, and his output is relatively modest—by the reckoning of his most modern editor, Margaret Crum (Poems, 1965), only eighty-six poems, exclusive of his little-read and little-esteemed metrical transcriptions of the Psalms. Though the widespread appearance of a number of King’s poems in various manuscripts both during his life and for several decades after his death would attest to some popularity, King’s poetic achievement as a whole was left to rest in oblivion throughout the eighteenth and much of the nineteenth centuries.

Newly edited and republished in 1843, King’s poems attracted some of the attention paid in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to England’s poetic antiquities and seventeenth century divines, and when King’s good friend and religious associate John Donne came to be “rediscovered” and reacclaimed as one of England’s great poets, King’s poetic canon began to receive its first sustained critical study. Comparisons with Donne’s verse have been inevitable and not wholly to King’s advantage. King’s personal association with Donne and a general resemblance between the cerebral and sometimes recondite imagery that King employs and the ingeniously involved “conceits” made famous by Donne have led to King’s being labeled one of the lesser disciples of Donne’s “school,” or what Samuel Johnson dubbed the Metaphysical mode of poetry. That King’s imagery is less “knotty” and philosophically adventurous than Donne’s and that King’s verse lacks the dramatic impact so conspicuous in Donne’s have made it easy to confuse difference with inferiority and to view King not as a poet...

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Henry King Bibliography

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Berman, Ronald. Henry King and the Seventeenth Century. London: Chatto & Windus, 1964. King is presented in this study as embodying some of the paradoxes of the seventeenth century. It includes a biography and an in-depth look at King’s world, his political and social philosophies, as well as an analysis of his poetry. Examples are used extensively, and notes and bibliography follow the text.

Crum, Margaret, ed. The Poems of Henry King. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1965. The introduction to this collection provides a biography, a short discussion of the poems, and notes on the original texts. The poems themselves are followed by notes and appendixes.

Keeble, N. H. Review of The Sermons of Henry King (1592-1669), Bishop of Chichester, edited by Mary Hobbs. Notes and Queries 40, no. 4 (December, 1993): 550. Keeble provides some biographical and historical information in an assessment of Hobbs’s collection of King’s sermons.

Tuve, Rosamund. Elizabethan and Metaphysical Imagery. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1947. This is a study of the imagery employed by the Elizabethan and Metaphysical poets of the English Renaissance. The analysis stresses the intellectual, sensual, and charming aspects of the imagery. King and other poets as recent as William Butler Yeats are covered in the discussion.

Wallace, John M., ed. The Golden and the Brazen World: Papers in Literature and History, 1650-1800. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985. This collection contains an essay by Cleanth Brooks on King’s “The Exequy” and “The Legacy” titled “Need Clio Quarrel with Her Sister Muses? The Claims of Literature and History” (pp. 1-15). The essayist takes a biographical approach and gives a close reading of “The Exequy.” He discusses seventeenth century theological beliefs, burial customs, and King’s life and literary career to illuminate the poem in the light of its historical roots.