Imágenes de página

year. During this period he participated, with two of his brothers, in the instruction of a private tutor. He was now removed to Westminster school, and, through the kindness of Dr. Neale, the Dean of Westminster, was particularly recommended to the notice of Mr. Ireland, the Head-Master. Here the powers of his mind, and the virtues of his heart, were rapidly developed; his progress in classical learning obtained for him the respect and esteem of the tutors, and the amenity of his manners won the affection of his companions.

About fifteen, being then a King's scholar, he was elected to Trinity College, Cambridge; and from an anecdote related in Plume's Life of Bishop Hacket, the schoolfellow of Herbert, we discover that, even at this time, his acquirements were deemed full of promise. Mr. Ireland assured them, on their leaving Westminster, "that he expected to have credit from them two at the University, or would never hope for it afterwards while he lived." It is recorded of Archbishop Laud, that in his boyhood he gave so many indications of rare genius, that his master, as if with a prophetic certainty of the future eminence of his pupil, used frequently to say, " He hoped he would remember Reading School when he became a great man." It is gratifying to know that both of these anticipations were nobly fulfilled.

So material a change in Herbert's mode of life excited the ever-wakeful anxiety of his parent, and she prevailed on the excellent Dr. Nevil, then Dean of Canterbury, and Master of the College, to take her son under his protection, and provide a tutor to superintend his studies. Ellis, in his brief notice of Herbert, has remarked that nature intended him for a knight-errant, but that disappointed ambition made him a saint; but if the editor of the Specimens had even glanced over the poet's history, he would soon have seen the injustice of his opinion. An extract from a letter, written to his mother in his first year at Cambridge, will throw an interesting light on the state of his youthful feelings. "But I fear the heat of my late ague hath dried up those springs by which scholars say the Muses used to take up their habitations. However, I need not their help to reprove the vanity of those many love-poems that are daily writ and consecrated to Venus; nor to bewail that so few are writ that look towards God and heaven. For my own part, my meaning (dear mother) is, in these sonnets, to declare my resolution to be, that my poor abilities in poetry shall be all and ever consecrated to God's glory."

I confess my inability to discover any traces of knighterrantry in these sentiments. Jeremy Taylor says, that some are of age at fifteen, some at twenty, and some never. The life of Herbert, even from his boyhood, had been a ministration of purity and peace. The amiable Dr. Hammond, when at Eton, frequently stole away from his companions to the most sequestered places, for the purpose of prayer; and Dr. More, the author of the Song of the Soul, was wont to declare that in his childhood he was continually sensible of the presence of the Deity.

The society of his mother, and the innocent amusements that beguiled his infancy, had exercised a beneficial influence on the young poet's disposition. He had much cause for thankfulness, also, in the fatherly solicitude of Dr. Nevil, who invited him to his own house, and assisted him with counsel and advice. Perfection, however, is not given to any man, and it is not surprising that the condescending intimacy of the Master, gave birth to sensations of pride in the breast of the high-born Undergraduate. To this cause we may attribute the seclusion in which he lived, and his dislike to the formation of indiscriminate friendships. His few companions were selected for their worth and talents, and among them may be mentioned Nicholas Ferrar, who afterwards rendered himself so notorious by the eccentric enthusiasm of his religious conduct; he was then a member of Clare Hall, of which he had been entered in 1606.

Among the prevalent follies of the young students of the University, at this period, was a love of expensive clothes; and Herbert did not escape the infection. When courtiers placed flowers behind their ears, and one of the most elegant noblemen of the age, William Earl of Pembroke, wore ear-rings, the extravagances of fashion must have been widely disseminated *. To what a height they had attained at Cambridge may be learnt from an " Item" in the amusing regulations issued by "the Vice-Chancellor and Caput," before the King's visit in 1614-15 :—

"Item.—Considering the fearful enormitie and excesse of apparell seene in all degrees, as namely, strange pekadivelas, vast bands, huge cuffs, shoe-roses, tufts, locks, and topps of hare (hair) unbeseeminge that modesty and carridge of Students in soe renowned an Universitye, it is straightlye charged, that noe Graduate or Student in the Universitye presume to weare any other apparell or ornaments, especially at the tyme of his Majestie's abode in the towne titan such onely as the statutes and laudable customs of this Universitye do allowe, uppon payne of forfeiture of 6s. Hd. for every default; and if any presume, after this publique warninge, to offend in the premises, such his willfull offence shal be deemed a contempte, and the party so offending shal be punished, over and besides the foresaid Mulct, a month's imprisonment accordinglie."—Nichols's Progresses of King James the First, vol. iii. p. 43-5.

The month's imprisonment was more effectual in deterring offenders than the mulct of 6s. 8d., although that was not a sum to be despised.

The King and Prince Charles entered Cambridge on the 7th of March, with "as much solemnity and concourse of gallants," as the severity of the weather per

* See Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, passim.

mitted. The Earl of Suffolk had been recently appointed Chancellor of the University, in the place of his relation, Lord Northampton, and his arrangements for the reception of the royal visitors were marked by the most magnificent liberality. He was established at St. John's, where his expenses are said to have amounted to a thousand pounds daily. Lady Suffolk entertained her party, consisting principally of the Howards, at Magdalen College. Herbert was now a Minor Fellow of Trinity, having taken his Bachelor's degree in 1612; but I do not find that he took any active part in the preparation of the various amusements with which the University endeavoured to enliven the visit of the monarch. In 1616 he was made Master of Arts; and it appears, from a letter he addressed to Sir John Danvers, in the March of the following year, that his income was not equal to his wants.

Sir John Danvers was the second husband of Mrs. Herbert, who married him about the February of 1608-9. The match is mentioned by that lively gossip, Chamberlain, in a letter dated March 3, 1608-9: "Young Davers (Danvers) is likewise wedded to the widow Herbert, mother to Sir Edward, of more than twice his age *." Sir John Danvers was High Sheriff of Northamptonshire in 1626, M.P. for the University of Oxford from 1625 to 1640, and Gentleman of the Privy Chamber to Charles the First. He subsequently became an active partizan of Cromwell, and was named one of the Council of State. His public life seems to have justified the character given of him by Clarendon, who says that he was a "proud, weak, formal man;" but to Herbert he always behaved with kindness and generosity t.

* Birch's MSS., Brit. Mus. 4173.

t Vide Noble's Lives of the Megieides, vol. i. p. 163—176; and Nichols's Progresses of Jumes the First, vol. iii. p. 979.

To Sir John Danvehs. Sih,—I dare no longer be silent, least while I think I am modest, I wrong both myself and also the confidence my friends have in me; wherefore I will open my case unto you, which, I think, deserves the reading at the least; and it is, I want books extremely. You know, Sir, how I am now setting foot in divinity, to lay the platform of my future life, and shall I then be fain always to borrow books, and build on another's foundation? What tradesman is there who will set up without his tools? Pardon my boldness, Sir, it is a most serious case, nor can I write coldly in that wherein consisteth the making good of my former education, of obeying that Spirit which hath guided me hitherto, and of achieving my (I dare say) holy ends. This also is aggravated in that, I apprehend, what my friends would have been forward to say, if I had taken ill courses, "Follow your book, and you shall want nothing." You know, Sir, it is their ordinary speech, and now let them make it good; for since, I hope, I have not deceived their expectation, let not them deceive mine. But, perhaps, they will say, "You are sickly, you must not study too hard." It is true (God knows) I am weak, yet not so but that every day I may step one step towards my journey's end; and I love my friends so well, that if all things proved not well, I had rather the fault should lie on me, than on them. But they will object again—"What becomes of your annuity?" Sir, if there be any truth in me, I find it little enough to keep me in health. You know I was sick last vacation, neither am I yet recovered, so that I am fain, ever and anon, to buy somewhat tending towards my health, for infirmities are both painful and costly. Now, this Lent, I am forbid utterly to eat any fish, so that I am fain to diet in my chambers at my own cost; for in our public halls, you know, is nothing but fish and white-meats. Out of Lent also, twice a week, on Fridays and Saturdays, I must do so, which yet sometimes I fast. Sometimes also I ride to Newmarket, and there lie a day or two to refresh me ; all which tend to avoiding costlier matters if I should fall absolutely sick. I protest and vow I even study thrift, and yet I am scarce able, with much ado, to make one half year's allowance shake hands with the other; and yet, if a book of four or five shillings come in my way, I buy it, tho' I fast for it; yea, sometimes of ten shillings. But alas, Sir, what is that to those infinite volumes of divinity which yet every day swell and grow bigger. Noble Sir, pardon my boldness, and consider but these three things. First, the bulk of divinity; secondly, the time when I desire this (which is now when I must lay the foundation of my whole life); thirdly, what I desire, and to what end, not vain pleasures, nor

« AnteriorContinuar »