WHEN GEORGE HERBERT BECAME A RECTOR IN WILTSHIRE HE merely moved south, surrounded by friends and relatives, to settle near a large city and a kinsman's country estate. When Robert Herrick became a vicar in Devon he travelled the width of England, away from court and city and into a county as alien and self-contained as another land.
A seventh-century traveller spoke of "grim Devon," and even as late as the nineteenth century its inhabitants had a reputation for dourness. They mistrusted "foreigners," whom they defined as anyone from another neighborhood. Perhaps this was so in part because it was not an easy land for travelling. Every seventeenth-century traveller in Devon mentions the difficulty of getting about on the narrow, hilly roads, and even a hundred years after Herrick's arrival there were no carriages there. All the freight was carried on horseback -- hay and corn and fuel and even stones -- and the plowing was done by oxen. In the winter the mire was deep, and the wary inhabitants wore special boots attached to the saddle to keep their legs dry.
In the middle of south Devon was Dartmoor, a waste of land almost as lonely and strange as the great Salisbury Plain that lay near George Herbert's parsonage. Salisbury Plain had its Stonehenge, which the tourists looked at with awe, but no one visited Dartmoor except for turf or tin and to pasture cattle there in the summer. The granite tors of south Dartmoor were a special haunt of the pixies, and there grew up in that barren place a tribe called the gubbings, men and women who lived like savages and would not even bring their children for baptism.
Yet for all that, Herrick had come to a "goodly province." Devon was full of excellent farms, and its wool and mutton were