Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 133.djvu/355

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ROBERT HERRICK.

349

— if you have any vaguest suspicion that the Jew Jesus, who professed to have come from God, was a better man than other men — one of your first duties must be to open your ears to his words, and see whether they commend themselves to you as true: then, if they do, to obey them with your whole strength and might, upheld by the hope of the vision promised in them to the obedient. This is the way of life, which will lead a man out of the miseries of the nineteenth century, as it led Paul out of the miseries of the first."

There followed a little pause, and then a long talk about what the schoolmaster had called the old story, in which he spoke with such fervid delight of this and that point in the tale, removing this and that stumbling-block by giving the true reading or the right interpretation, showing the what and why and how — the very intent of our Lord in the thing he said or did — that, for the first time in her life, Clementina began to feel as if such a man must really have lived, that his blessed feet must really have walked over the acres of Palestine, that his human heart must indeed have thought and felt, worshipped and borne, right humanly. Even in the presence of her new teacher, and with his words in her ears, she began to desire her own chamber that she might sit down with the neglected story and read for herself. The schoolmaster walked with her to the chapel door. There her carriage was already waiting. He put her in, and, while the Reverend Jacob Masquar was still holding forth upon the difference between adoption and justification, Clementina drove away, never more to delight the hearts of the deacons with the noise of the hoofs of her horses staying the wheels of her yellow chariot.




From Macmillan's Magazine.

ROBERT HERRICK.[1]

BORN, 1591; DIED, 1674.

Robert Herrick's personal fate is in one point like Shakespeare's. We know or seem to know them both, through their works, with singular intimacy. But with this our knowledge substantially ends. No private letter of Shakespeare, no record of his conversation, no account of the circumstances in which his writings were published, remains: hardly any statement how his greatest contemporaries ranked him. A group of Herrick's youthful letters on business has, indeed, been preserved; of his life and studies, of his reputation during his own time, almost nothing. For whatever facts affectionate diligence could now gather, readers are referred to Mr. Grosart's "Introduction."[2] But if, to supplement the picture, inevitably imperfect, which this gives, we turn to Herrick's own book, we learn little, biographically, except the names of a few friends, — that his general sympathies were with the royal cause, — and that he wearied in Devonshire for London. So far as is known, he published but this one volume, and that, when not far from his sixtieth year. Some pieces may be traced in earlier collections; some few carry ascertainable dates; the rest lie over a period of near forty years, during a great portion of which we have no distinct account where Herrick lived, or what were his employments. We know that he shone with Ben Jonson and the wits at the nights and suppers of those gods of our glorious early literature: we may fancy him at Beaumanor, or Houghton, with his uncle and cousins, keeping a Leicestershire Christmas in the manor-house: or again, in some sweet southern county with Julia and Anthea, Corinna and Dianeme by his side (familiar then by other names now never to be remembered), sitting merry, but with just the sadness of one who hears sweet music, in some meadow among his favorite flowers of spring-time; — there, or "where the rose lingers latest." . . . But "the dream, the fancy," is all that time has spared us. And if it be curious that his contemporaries should have left so little record of this delightful poet and (as we should infer from the book) genial-hearted man, it is not less so that the single first edition should have satisfied the seventeenth century, and that, before the present, notices of Herrick should be of the rarest occurrence.

The artist's "claim to exist," is, however, always far less to be looked for in his life, than in his art, upon the secret of which the fullest biography can tell us little — as little, perhaps, as criticism can analyze its charm. But there are few of

  1. Essay prefixed to a selection from Herrick's poems, edited, with notes, by F. T. Palgrave, and nearly ready for publication.
  2. See the Herrick edited by this gentleman, and lately published by Messrs. Chatto and Windus. Looking to the care taken to collect all facts bearing on the poet's life and book, to the critical correctness of the text, and the fulness of annotation, it is not too high praise to say that these volumes for the first time give Herrick a place among books not printed only, but edited.