Robert Herrick, an English poet, born in London, Aug. 20, 1591, died in October, 1674. He studied at Cambridge, and for many years after leaving the university seems to have pursued a gay and dissipated career in London. He then took orders, and in 1629 was presented by Charles I. to the vicarage of Dean Prior, near Totness, in Devonshire. His poems written at this time abound in lively descriptions of the charms of a country life, and his fancy revelled in amatory verses, after the fashion of the day, to imaginary beauties, for his small household comprised only himself and his old housemaid Prudence Baldwin. Some of these pieces also contain curious illustrations of country customs, manners, and prejudices. From this humble retreat the long parliament ejected him in 1648, and he returned to London, where he gladly resumed the society of such of his old associates as were living, but led a somewhat precarious existence. In 1647 and 1648 he published his "Noble Numbers" and "Hesperides, or Works Humane and Divine," which he dedicated to "the most illustrious and most hopeful Prince Charles." On this occasion, in consideration of the class of readers who would peruse his works, he announced himself as "Robert Herrick, Esquire." At the restoration Charles II. reinstated him in his old living, where he passed the remainder of his days.
Herrick was essentially a lyric poet, and the facility with which he wrote is recognized in the multitude of little pieces, amatory, Anacreontic, and pastoral, which his works contain. His frequent indelicacy is the gravest charge which has been brought against him. In that, however, he but followed the fashion of the cavalier poets, and there is much hearty gayety and natural tenderness in his works. His serious pieces are morally unexceptionable, but have generally less poetical merit. For nearly a century and a half after Herrick's death his works lay neglected. In 1810 a selection from the "Hesperides" was edited by Dr. Nott, and since then several excellent editions have been published in England and America, including one by Prof. Child (2 vols. 12mo, Boston, 1856). A new edition of his poetical works was published in London in 1859. Many of his shorter songs, such as "Cherry Ripe" and "Gather ye rose-buds while ye may," have been set to music.