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

By Marchette Chute | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER SIXTEEN

ROBERT HERRICK WAS BAPTIZED ON THE TWENTY-FOURTH OF August, 1591, in the parish church of St. Vedast in Foster Lane, where his six older brothers and sisters had been christened before him. His uncle Robert of Leicester was named as his godfather and must therefore have been in London that day, to stand beside the baby at the font and to assume the obligations that were laid upon him by the Church of England.

Around the corner from the church was Cheapside, the handsomest and most prosperous business street in London, and here Robert's father had his home. Nicholas Herrick lived in what was called Goldsmiths' Row, a series of houses just east of Foster Lane and so magnificently decorated that they were one of the main tourist attractions of London. A wealthy goldsmith named Thomas Wood had built them a century before to glorify his trade and his name, and they consisted of "ten fair dwelling houses and fourteen shops, all in one frame, uniformly built four stories high, beautified towards the street with the Goldsmiths' arms, and the likeness of woodmen . . . riding on monstrous beasts; all which is cast in lead, richly painted over and gilded." Within the fourteen shops an array of gold and silver was for sale, and when Robert Herrick referred to the place of his birth he rightly called it "golden Cheapside."

Nicholas Herrick was one of the most prosperous goldsmiths in London, with a clientele that included several noble families. Apparently the only grief he had encountered was the death of his first-born, William, who would have been seven in 1592 if he had lived. The youngest, Robert, was fourteen months old by then and another baby was coming, when Nicholas Herrick made his will on a November day in 1592. It was a short will,

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