Edmund Waller Analysis

Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

In 1664, Edmund Waller collaborated with Charles Sackville, the earl of Dorset, Sir Charles Sedley, and several other young wits in translating Pierre Corneille’s play as Pompey the Great (c. 1642). He also had a hand in a Restoration adaptation of Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher’s play The Maid’s Tragedy (pr. 1610-1611); his revisions were printed in the second 1690 edition of the Poems. Three of Waller’s speeches before the Short and Long Parliaments are reprinted by Elijah Fenton in The Works of Edmund Waller, Esq., in Verse and Prose (1729); extracts from speeches made in the Restoration parliaments can be found in Anchitell Grey’s ten-volume Debates of the House of Commons, from the Year 1667 to the Year 1694 (1763). Waller’s extensive correspondence, both personal and political, has not been collected in any one edition.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Although his poems were circulating in manuscript form from the late 1620’s, Edmund Waller garnered little critical attention until nearly twenty years later. The discovery of his plot against Parliament in 1643 pushed him into the political limelight; the publication of his poems in 1645 in four separate editions is in part attributable to the desire of the booksellers to capitalize on his public notoriety. The innovations of Waller’s poetry—his peculiar style of classical allusion and his perfection of the heroic couplet—were fully appreciated only with the Restoration. As Francis Atterbury remarked in his “Preface to the Second Part of Mr. Waller’s Poems” (1690), Waller stands “first in the list of refiners” of verse and ushers in the Augustan Age of English poetry. John Dryden’s comment in the “Preface to Walsh’s Dialogue concerning Women”—“Unless he had written, none of us could write”—pays full tribute to Waller’s role in charting the public mode so essential to Restoration and eighteenth century poetry. The Augustans continued to laud Waller; as late as 1766, the Biographica Britannica described him as “the most celebrated Lyric Poet that ever England produced.”

With the Romantic reaction against neoclassical taste, Waller’s reputation plummeted. Critics condemned his poetry as vacuous and artificial; doubts about the probity of his actions during the civil war reinforced the aesthetic...

(The entire section is 525 words.)


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Chernaik, Warren L. The Poetry of Limitation: A Study of Edmund Waller. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1968. Vividly depicts the political, cultural, and literary context in which Waller wrote his Cavalier lyric poetry, formal occasional poems, and heroic satire, but there are few extended analyses of his works. Contains a chapter accounting for the rise and fall of Waller’s literary reputation.

Cummings, R. M., ed. Seventeenth-Century Poetry: An Annotated Anthology. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2000. Contains a short biography of Waller and a selection of his poems, with annotations that inform and analyze.

Davison, Sarah. “Ezra Pound’s Esteem for Edmund Waller: A New Source for Hugh Selwyn Mauberley.” Review of English Literature 60, no. 247 (November, 2009): 785. Davison argues that Pound may have had a more favorable impression of Waller than is generally thought and that Edmund Gosse’s work on Waller may have influenced Pound.

Gilbert, Jack G. Edmund Waller. Boston: Twayne, 1979. Gilbert explores the complex relationship between Waller’s political career and poetry, devotes separate chapters (with extended analyses of some poems) to the lyric and the political poems, and concludes by defining Waller’s view of art and fixing his position in English literature. Includes...

(The entire section is 432 words.)