Robert Herrick Analysis

Other literary forms

(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

The vast majority of the poetic works of Robert Herrick (HEHR-ihk) are included among the approximately fourteen hundred pieces contained in Hesperides, Herrick’s only known published book of verse. There are about forty poems from contemporary manuscripts and poetic miscellanies that have at various times been attributed to Herrick, but their authorship is not certain and has been the subject of much editorial speculation.

Herrick is known exclusively for his poems. All that survives of his writing apart from his poetry are some fifteen letters he wrote when he was a student at Cambridge University (1613-1620) and a few pieces of official correspondence. The only other piece of writing with which he has been linked is a manuscript of poems and prose of topical interest, part of which has been said to be in his handwriting; his role in its authorship and compilation, however, is not yet firmly established.


(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

In the more than three and a half centuries during which Robert Herrick’s poems have circulated, his reputation has fluctuated widely. The earliest reference to him places him as a young poet in the company of the much esteemed Ben Jonson and Michael Drayton. One of his editors, J. Max Patrick, argued in The Complete Poetry of Robert Herrick (2d ed., 1968) that there is evidence to believe that Herrick was sufficiently well regarded in certain circles to warrant a relatively copious first printing of his collected works in 1648. What does not seem in doubt, however, is the oblivion into which his poems appear to have fallen within fifty years of their publication. References to Herrick are scant in the eighteenth century, and it was only in 1796 that an inquiry about him in a literary magazine began to stimulate the interest that would lead to his poetic exhumation. In 1810, an edition of about three hundred of his poems restored Herrick to public attention, providing a preview of the public response that his work would generate throughout much of the nineteenth century. Herrick came to be read and extolled for his numerous delicate and euphonious lyrics, while his satiric and “gross” epigrams proved offensive to Victorian sensibilities and went largely unpublished.

Modern critics have attempted to assess Herrick’s achievements in a more balanced and integrated way; if they have generally been less rhapsodic over the “prettiness” and...

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(British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

Coiro, Ann Baynes. Robert Herrick’s “Hesperides” and the Epigram Book Tradition. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988. Argues for the structural integrity of Hesperides, insisting that the collection of poems be read as a whole. After exploring the cultural, political, and generic implications of the title of the book, Coiro provides a history of the epigram tradition and concludes with chapters on the epigrams of praise, mocking, and advice. Copious notes provide a rich bibliography to Herrick’s criticism.

Guibbory, Achsah. Ceremony and Community from Herbert to Milton: Literature, Religion, and Cultural Conflict in Seventeenth-Century England. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Offers new and original readings of Herrick, George Herbert, Thomas Browne, and John Donne in an examination of the relationship between literature and religious conflict in seventeenth century England.

Hammons, Pamela. “Robert Herrick’s Gift Trouble: Male Subjects ’Trans-shifting’ into Objects.” Criticism 47, no. 1 (Winter, 2005): 31-65. Discusses how Herrick’s portrayal of gift giving involves the male persona of the poem becoming absorbed into the item being given.

Landrum, David. “Robert Herrick and the Ambiguities of Gender.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language...

(The entire section is 452 words.)