Two Gentle Men: The Lives of George Herbert and Robert Herrick

By Marchette Chute | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER TWO

GEORGE HERBERT WAS BORN ON THE THIRD OF APRIL, 1593, IN the Welsh countryside that his ancestors had done so much to make safe and orderly. The green land that had once bristled with fortresses had now grown tame, and the comfortable homes of the Tudor gentry dotted the Vale of Montgomery. Through it ran the river Severn, and near the east bank of the Severn rose the bill on whose slope the town of Montgomery had been built.

Overhanging the town on a much higher rock stood Montgomery Castle, still complete with moats and drawbridge. Some of its east rock had been used to wall the town, but now there was no need of defenses and the town walls were crumbling away. Montgomery was like any prosperous little English community, with the inevitable High Street leading past the market and the town hall, and with Cherry Street turning into Orchard Street as it rambled towards the open countryside.

There is no record of George Herbert's baptism, and no proof that he was born in Montgomery Castle. But he was probably brought up there, since the birth of the next child, Henry, is recorded in the Montgomery parish records. The castle no longer exists but in Tudor times it was a "Most romancey seat" with a magnificent view of England and Wales.

The only available information about Herbert's childhood comes from Izaak Walton, who wrote a series of short Lives with the same affectionate care he lavished on fishing. The biography of Herbert was written nearly forty years after his death as a product of Walton's old age, and it is deliberately designed to be the life of a saint. According to Walton even Herbert's childhood was holy. "The beauties of his pretty behavior and wit shined and became so eminent and lovely in this his innocent

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