George Herbert

Chauncey Wood

in British and Irish Literature

ISBN: 9780199846719
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:
George Herbert


A few months after George Herbert’s death in 1633 his friend Nicholas Ferrar took a manuscript of his English poems to the Cambridge University Press, where they were published as The Temple. The book never went out of print during the remainder of the century, and versions of it continued almost without interruption up to the present day. In 2007, some three hundred seventy-four years after the first edition, Cambridge University Press brought out a new edition of The Temple along with Herbert’s other English poems. While the first edition was a small, modest book, interest in Herbert, both scholarly and general, has increased enormously, and this later edition, by Helen Wilcox, extends over more than seven hundred pages with text and apparatus. Herbert’s prose work, The Country Parson (sometimes called A Priest to the Temple), has also enjoyed success and is now included with several popular editions of the poems. The major modern edition of Herbert’s entire works, including Latin poems, letters, his will, and more, is by Canon F. E. Hutchinson and was first published in 1941. Herbert’s life has also attracted attention, and there have been three biographies of him published in the past sixty years, as well as a deeper study in the Literary Lives series. In addition, there is a book about the entire Herbert family. Scholarly interest in Herbert has grown substantially since the 1950s. More than forty books on Herbert have appeared in that time, and chapters on Herbert have appeared in a great many books on poetry in the early modern period. In 1977 the George Herbert Journal began publication, and it continues to the present day. Regular academic conferences devoted solely to Herbert began in 2007 and are now held on a three-year cycle—the next scheduled for 2014. That the priest of a rural parish, whose English poetry was circulated but not published in his lifetime, should make such a mark is astonishing in one way but understandable in another. His devotional poetry is technically brilliant and emotionally powerful—clear on first reading, yet dense enough to draw the reader back for further contemplation. His prose treatise on The Country Parson has forceful prose, practical advice, and conveys a strong sense of commitment to his purpose. Simply put, Herbert was a great writer, and great writers last.

Article.  10404 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (British and Irish)

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