Herbert, Henry (1595-1673) (DNB00)

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HERBERT, Sir HENRY (1595–1673), master of the revels, born at Montgomery in 1595, was sixth son of Richard Herbert of Montgomery, by his wife Magdalen, and was the brother of Edward Herbert, the well-known lord Herbert of Cherbury [q. v.], of George Herbert the poet [q. v.], and of Thomas Herbert [q. v.] After a good education at home he was sent to France, and gained a thorough knowledge of French. In 1618 his brother George sent him at Paris a letter full of sound moral advice, and Henry shortly afterwards sent George some books. On returning to England at the end of 1618, he spent much time with his brother Edward; acted as his second when Sir Robert Vaughan challenged him to a duel early in 1619; and went to Paris immediately afterwards to arrange for the reception of his brother, who had been appointed English ambassador there (Herbert of Cherbury, Autob. 1886, pp. 186-7, 343). On settling again in England, his kinsman, William Herbert, earl of Pembroke [q. v.], lord chamberlain, introduced him to the King, and on 20 March 1621—2 he was sworn in as King James's servant. He carried a bannerol at James's funeral in 1625 (Nichols, Progresses, iii. 1047). According to his brother's account ‘he gave several proofs of his courage in duels and otherwise, being … dexterous in the ways of the court’ (ib. p. 23). A rich marriage improved his prospects, and in 1627 he obtained for 3,000l. full possession of a fine house at Ribbesford, Worcestershire, which had been granted by the crown jointly to himself and his brothers Edward and George. In 1629-1630 he was living at Woodford, Essex, and his brother George spent that year with him there in order to recruit his health. He liberally helped George to restore the church of Leighton Bromswold. In 1633 he was visited by Richard Baxter [q. v.], whom he introduced to court.

Herbert was staying in Pembroke's house at Wilton in August 1623, when James paid the earl a visit. The king knighted him (7 Aug.), and, according to Herbert's account, not only ‘bestowed many good words’ on him, but ‘received’ him as master of the revels (Warner, Epist. Curiosities, i. 3). The date of Herbert's appointment to the latter office presents many difficulties. From 1610 to 22 May 1622 the post had been filled by Sir George Buc [q. v.], but during Buc's term of office two reversions to the office had been granted, the first to Sir John Ashley in 1612, and the second on 5 Oct. 1621 to Ben Jonson (Halliwell, Anc. Documents, p. 41). On 22 May 1622 Ashley succeeded Buc, but Herbert seems to have acted as Ashley's deputy before July 1623, and was practically in unchallenged possession of the office from August 1623 to June 1642. On 7 Nov. 1626 he is styled ‘master of the revels’ without qualification in an order issued under the privy seal directing the officers of the exchequer to supply him with all that was necessary for the court revels. But on 13-23 Aug. 1629 he formally received, jointly with Simon Thelwall, a grant of the reversion on the death both of Jonson and Ashley. Jonson died on 20 Nov. 1635, and Ashley on 13 Jan. 1640-1. A document quoted by Malone (Hist. Account, iii. 268) suggests that Herbert purchased Ashley's interest at an early date, and probably secured Jonson's reversionary interest in the same way.

His ‘place,’ according to Walton, ‘required a diligent wisdom, with which God [had] blessed him’ (Lives, ed. Bullen, p. 264). He took an ambitious view of his duties, and claimed the right of licensing every kind of public entertainment throughout England. The earliest entries in his register deal with exhibitions of elephants, beavers, and dromedaries, and the public performances of quack doctors. He seems to have asserted some control over the practice in public of games like fencing, billiards, and ninepins (cf. Halliwell, Anc. Documents, p. 54). Books he contrived occasionally to take under his cognizance; he licensed Cowley's first volume for the press in 1633, and on 14 Nov. 1632 was summoned before the Star-chamber to explain his reasons for having licensed Donne's ‘Paradoxes’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1631-3, p. 437). But Herbert's chief work lay in arranging dramatic performances at court and in licensing plays for the public theatres. He exacted his fees—2l. for every new play performed, and M. for every old play ‘revived’—with unvarying regularity; required that a box at each theatre should always be at his disposal, and between 1628 and 1633 obtained from the king's company two benefit performances yearly, one in summer and one in winter, which brought him on an average 8l. 19s. 4d. from each performance. He read conscientiously all plays submitted to him, but in 1624 his judgment in licensing Middleton's ‘Game of Chesse’ was called in question (ib. 1623-5, p. 329). He was very careful to excise all blasphemous language. Charles I, who interested himself in Herbert's duties, went over with him his corrections in the manuscript of D'Avenant's ‘Wits’ (9 Jan. 1634), and ‘allowed “faith,” “death,” “slight,” for asseverations, and not oaths.’ Herbert submitted with serious misgiving. On 8 June 1642 he made for the time his last entry in his register, subsequently adding the words, ‘Here ended my allowance of plays, for the war began in August 1642.’ Twenty shillings weekly were allowed him for a lodging (Warner, i. 180), but he noted in 1643 that the crown owed him 2,025l. 12s. l0d. for personal expenses since 1638 (ib. p. 182).

Herbert was a zealous royalist, and was personally liked by Charles I. He was a gentleman of the privy chamber, and in May 1639 joined the expedition against the Scots at Berwick. In 1643 he was at Ribbesford, and had some correspondence with his only surviving brother, Edward, who declined a request to let him send his horses into Montgomeryshire while the civil war raged in the midland counties. His estates were sequestrated, and his plate, which he valued at 448l. 18s., was seized in May 1646. But he compounded for his land for 1,330l., and in 1648 he was acting as high sheriff of Worcestershire (Hist. MSS. Comm. 5th Rep. p. 299). Shortly before the king's execution he met his kinsman, Sir Thomas Herbert, in Hyde Park, and bade him advise the king to study the second book of Ecclesiasticus. Sir Thomas carried the message to the king, who commended Sir Henry's ‘excellent parts’ as scholar, soldier, and courtier. At the time he was much persecuted by the committee for advance of money, because when giving them an account of his property he was said to have concealed the fact that his stepfather, Sir John Danvers [q. v.],owed him 3,000l Cal. of Committee, ii. 832). Under the Commonwealth he lived much in London, at first in the Strand, and afterwards at Chelsea. In March 1651-2 he presented his friend Evelyn with a copy of his brother Edward's ‘De Veritate’ (Diary, ii. 38); on 18 March 1657-8 he received permission from the council to visit York (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1657-8, p. 553).

At the Restoration Herbert resumed his office of master of the revels. On 30 July 1660 he licensed at the Duke of York's request a trial of skill with eight weapons between two performers at the Red Bull playhouse. He received 200l. for his expenses in October 1660. But his endeavours to exercise all his former powers were thwarted at every step. The mayor of Maidstone (9 Oct. 1660) disputed his claim to license plays in a provincial town (Warner, i. 59-60). On 11 July 1663, when a similar case was in dispute with the corporation of Norwich, the king distinctly withdrew puppet and other shows from Herbert's control. In June 1661 he sought to suppress an unlicensed exhibition of ‘strange creatures’ in London (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1661-2). But Herbert was involved in more serious quarrels with the chief London managers and actors. In August 1660 Charles II granted licenses to Thomas Killigrew and Sir William D'Avenant to erect two new playhouses, and to form two new companies, with authority to license their own plays. Herbert petitioned against the grant, and his case was referred to the attorney-general, Sir Geoffrey Palmer (Halliwell, Anc. Doc. pp. 21 -3). D'Avenant openly defied Herbert, and Herbert brought two suits-at-law against him to recover fees due to his office. He gained one action and lost the other, and the contradictory verdicts led D'Avenant to appeal once again to the king, with the result that Lord Clarendon and the Earl of Manchester, lord chamberlain, were ordered in July 1662 to arbitrate between the litigants. Herbert drew up an elaborate statement of the privileges which he had exercised earlier (Malone,ii. 266-8), but the arbitrators apparently decided against him. Meanwhile he endeavoured to close the Cockpit playhouse in Drury Lane, which John Rhodes had opened without a license from him (Halliwell, p. 26), and when Michael Mohun, Charles Hart, and other members of the king and queen's company, persisted in ignoring his rights, brought an action against them, in which he was successful (December 1661) (ib. p. 44; Malone, iii. 262). On 31 July 1661 Charles II issued an order generally confirming his privileges. On 4 June 1662 Herbert came to terms with Thomas Killigrew, who promised to pay him a royalty on all plays produced, to support his authority, to dissociate himself from D'Avenant, and to pay all the sums which Herbert had claimed from Mohun and their friends. In the same year Herbert brought an action against Betterton for 100l., the amount of royalties due on the production of ten new plays and one hundred ‘revived’ plays, between 15 Nov. 1660 and 16 May 1661. By these actions and by loss of fees Herbert asserted that he was deprived of 5,000l. On 21 July 1663 he put forward a claim to license all plays, poems, and ballads for the press, and suggested that all entertainments at which music was performed, even extending to village wakes, should be liable to his fees (Warner, i. 185). But to avoid further strife he leased out his office in 1663 to two deputies, E. Hayward and J. Poyntz, who were to pay him an annual salary. They soon complained that they lost heavily by the arrangement, and begged him to renew his endeavours to assert the ancient rights of the office.

Herbert sat in parliament as member for Bewdley, Worcestershire, from 8 May 1661. On 8 Feb. 1664-5 Evelyn dined with him (Diary, ii. 177). In 1665 he prepared for the press his brother Edward's poems, which he dedicated to his grandnephew, Edward, third lord of Cherbury. He died in April 1673, and was buried at St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden. His fortune by that date was much reduced. His brother Edward, who did not live to witness the troubles of Herbert's later years, wrongly says that he ‘attained to great fortunes for himself and his posterity to enjoy.’ A portrait by Dobson, painted in 1639, is at Powis Castle.

The name of Herbert's first wife is not known. By her he had a son William (b. 1 May 1626), who died young, and two daughters, Vere (b. 29 Aug. 1627), who married Sir Henry Every, bart., of Egginton Hall, Derbyshire, and Frances (b. 29 Dec. 1628),who died young. By his second wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Robert Offley of Dalby, Leicestershire, whom he married about 1650, Herbert had a son Henry, created Lord Herbert of Cherbury [q. v.], and two daughters, Magdalene (b. 12 July 1655), who married George Morley of Droxford, Hampshire, son of George Morley, bishop of Winchester; and Elizabeth, who married Charles Hore of Cagford, Devonshire, in 1694, and died 30 July 1695. Herbert's second wife died 7 July 1698.

Herbert's papers passed with his house at Ribbesford to Francis Ingram, esq., of Bewdley about 1786. Ingram's son restored most of them to the Earl of Powis. While they were in the possession of the Ingram family, several of Herbert's letters, his ‘praiers and meditations in old age,’ and a diary which he kept at Berwick in 1639, were printed by Mrs. Rebecca Warner in her ‘Epistolary Curiosities,’ 1818. Herbert's papers included an original manuscript of Edward, lord Herbert of Cherbury's, autobiography, and Herbert's office-book while he was master of the revels (1623–42). Neither of these valuable documents are now known to exist. Malone declares that in 1799 they were both mouldering in one chest at Ribbesford. He borrowed the office-book, and printed many extracts in his ‘Historical Account of the English Stage,’ first printed in 1799, and forming vol. iii. of the variorum edition of Shakespeare of 1821. George Chalmers also examined it, and printed some additional excerpts in his ‘Supplemental Apology,’ 1799. All the extracts dealing with stage history known to Malone or Chalmers are reprinted with some notes in Mr. F. G. Fleay's ‘History of the Stage,’ 1890 (pp. 300 sq., 333 sq., and 359 sq.) An imperfect transcript in Baron Heath's library was purchased by J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps in 1880. The accessible portions of the work throw valuable light on an important epoch in the history of the English drama. Some notices of plays licensed by Herbert between 1660 and 1663 appear in Malone's ‘Account,’ iii. 273, and in Halliwell's' Ancient Documents,'pp. 33-5,47.

[Powysland Club Collections, vii. 151 sq., xi. 344 sq.; Warner's Epistolary Curiosities, 1818; Halliwell's Collection of Ancient Documents respecting the office of Master of the Revels, 1870; Cal. State Papers, Dom.; Lord Herbert of Cherbury's Autobiography, ed. Lee, 1886; F. G. Fleay's Chronicle History of the London Stage, 1890; J. P. Collier's Hist. of Dramatic Poetry ; Prolegomena to Shakespeare Variorum, 1821, vol. iii.]

S. L. L.