WALTON'S BIOGRAPHY OF HERBERT
IZAAK WALTON PUBLISHED HIS LIFE OF GEORGE HERBERT IN 1670, when he was in his late seventies and living as a guest in the palace of the Bishop of Winchester. Unlike his earlier Lives, which were written on request, this one was "a free-will offering . . . writ chiefly to please myself." His other motive in writing the little book on Herbert was to show the Restoration clergy what the life of a minister in the Church of England ought to be. Walton was troubled when he considered "how few of the clergy lived like him then, and how many live so unlike him now," and he wrote the biography to supply "a pattern of virtue to all posterity, and especially to his brethren of the clergy."
Since this was Walton's intention, he naturally placed his chief emphasis on the three years during which Herbert was a minister at Bemerton. The information and stories about Herbert which he collected with "great diligence" focus on Bemerton, and Walton's account of the last three years of Herbert's life takes up more than half the book.
The period of Herbert's life to which Walton paid the least attention was the time during which he was in politics. All the information that Walton has to offer about this is contained in a few lines, and he does not even mention the fact that Herbert served in two Parliaments. No doubt the information would have been available to him if he had pursued it as energetically as he did the Bemerton material, but Walton was not interested in politics.
Only a serious interest in facts for their own sake would have led a man like Walton to do research on Herbert's political career, and this was a quality that Walton did not possess. The four biographies he wrote are riddled with minor inaccuracies