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Nestled somewhere within the Age of Shakespeare and the Age of Milton is George Herbert.
There is no Age of Herbert: he did not consciously fashion an expansive literary career for himself, and his characteristic gestures, insofar as these can be gleaned from his poems and other writings, tend to be careful self-scrutiny rather than rhetorical pronouncement; local involvement rather than broad social engagement; and complex, ever-qualified lyric contemplation rather than epic or dramatic mythmaking.
(At one point Walton parenthetically describes an anecdote about Herbert rebuilding a church at his own cost—an event that is in fact documented by other sources besides Walton—as "a real Truth," as if to acknowledge that there are different levels of truth in his .) In addition, everything in Walton's story seems to be shaped according to a unifying theme: Herbert's disappointed "Court hopes" and his ensuing turn to the church.
While this is unquestionably a key topic, as a frame for an entire life it is too restrictive.
But his story is picturesque, compelling, and more than occasionally unreliable.
There is evidence of Herbert's deep attachment to, and even identification with, his mother throughout his works: his earliest surviving poems, which attempt to outline his direction as a poet, were written and sent to her as a gift; he mourned her death (and celebrated her life) with a collection of Latin and Greek poems, is filled with images of childlike submissiveness and maternal love, devotion, and authority.
But it would be safer to approach Walton's biography as one of the great works of seventeenth-century prose fiction.
All subsequent examinations of Herbert inevitably rely on Walton: he is the source of much valuable information available nowhere else.
Herbert's life and work are much more varied, complex, and in some respects inscrutable than Walton or the other early biographers imagined.
George Herbert was born on 3 April 1593 at Black Hall in Montgomery, Wales.
This is the stuff of humility and integrity, not celebrity.