The Works of George Herbert

By F. E. Hutchinson; George Herbert | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

I. Biography

GEORGE HERBERT, the fifth son of Richard and Magdalen Herbert, was born on 3 April 1593. As Walton candidly admits that Herbert, in his earlier years at Cambridge, 'put too great a value on his parts and parentage', something must be said of his ancestry. The Herberts, a family of Norman descent, had by 1210 taken root in Wales and by the beginning of the fifteenth century, through intermarriage with leading Welsh families and by favour of the Crown, had become the most conspicuous Border family. George's eldest brother Edward describes their great-grandfather, Sir Richard, a nephew of the first Herbert to become earl of Pembroke, as 'steward, in the time of King Henry the Eighth, of the lordships and marches of North Wales, East Wales, and Cardiganshire'.1 He states that Sir Richard and their grandfather Edward, who died a few weeks after George was born, 'lived in Montgomery Castle', an ancient Border fortress of which the Herberts were hereditary governors, but that 'my grandfather erected in his age' another house, Blackhall, 'a low building, but of great capacity',2 which is believed to have been in the north-east part of the town. Oley and Walton state that George Herbert was born in the Castle, and certainly it continued to be habitable until its demolition by the Parliamentarians in 1649, and was intermittently the residence of George's brother Edward from the age of 18,3 but the more commodious Elizabethan house may have been the birthplace of George; it is significant that a marginal note printed in Donne's sermon commemorating Herbert's mother describes her husband as 'Rich. Herbert of Blachehall in Montgomery, Esqu.'

The painted effigies of Herbert's parents are on the splendid Renaissance tomb in Montgomery Church.

____________________
1
Lord Herbert of Cherbury, Autobiography, ed. Sidney Lee, 1906, p. 5.

-xxi-

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