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Uncloistered VirtueEnglish Political Literature, 1640-1660$

Thomas N. Corns

Print publication date: 1992

Print ISBN-13: 9780198128830

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198128830.001.0001

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(p.307) Appendix A: Dating Hesperides

(p.307) Appendix A: Dating Hesperides

Uncloistered Virtue
Oxford University Press

WE do not know exactly when Hesperides was published. George Thomason collected a copy but, as sometimes happened, he failed to date exactly when it came into his possession, and the Stationers Register is similarly unhelpful. Its only reference to an anthology of Herrick’s verse comes from 1640, when Andrew Crooke entered for his copy ‘The severall Poems written by Master Robert Herrick’. The entry has been variously interpreted as pertaining to the subsequently delayed Hesperides, or else to some other collection which was either withdrawn or perhaps did not survive. The publishers of the 1648 volume, John Williams and Francis Eglesfield,1 seem to have registered nothing in 1647 and 1648.

Many of the poems in Hesperides were written long before publication. Martin assigns dates to forty-five in the collection (leaving aside Noble Numbers), and of these four are from the second decade of the century, five from the third, and thirteen from the fourth, and, as we know, a collection was at least planned for publication in 1640. Yet Hesperides is not simply a great retrospective: it is, in some senses, a product of the late 1640s. Where earlier manuscripts exist, Martin has demonstrated that Herrick revised assiduously and ‘to good purpose’.2 Moreover, while Hesperides almost certainly represents the culmination of decades of creativity, it is no mere repository for the uncritically assembled totality of his output. Herrick would seem to have excluded quite a few items: he may, perhaps, have mislaid them, but their omission could, just as coherently, be regarded as manifestation of his editorial control and discrimination in the production of his book.3

Hesperides should be regarded both as a product of many years and as a product of the late 1640s which takes its political significance from the peculiar circumstances of that period. When did Herrick put the parts into a whole? The terminus a quo may be fairly easily fixed. The latest (p.308) contemporary references are to his own ejection and return to London— their precise date has not been determined, but it was in 1647—and to the removal of the captive Charles I to Hampton Court, which occurred on 24 August, 1647.4 So the editorial process, which may have been continuing for some time, was finalized during the period from late autumn, 1647 to some undetermined point in 1648. The evidence of the secondary title- page suggests that publication was effected fairly early in 1648.

Hesperides, like many seventeenth-century collections of poetry,5 is arranged and printed in sections. The first and longest, consisting of 1,130 almost entirely secular poems, follows the general title-page, dedication, and errata; the second, the text of which has a discontinuous signature,6 contains 273 divine poems, and follows a secondary title-page, which entitles them His Noble Numbers, or, His Pious Pieces, and the imprint of which reads ‘LONDON, Printed for John Williams, and Francis Eglesfield. 1647’ The secondary title-page is printed on sig. Cc8r, that is, the last leaf of the last gathering of the first part. The general title-page, dedicatory poem, and errata, which must have been printed last since the errata refer to the other sheets, are contained on the half-sheet [A1]-A2-A4. So it seems quite likely that all except the prolegomenous material was printed before the end of 1647 or at least shortly afterwards.7 As such, Hesperides was produced in a period of quite extraordinary ambivalence for supporters of the king.


(1) Introductory Note to Hesperides; Moorman, Herrick, 124; Herrick, Poetical Works, pp. xv-xvi. A number of copies bear the imprint ‘Printed for John Williams, and Francis Eglesfield, and to be sold by Tho: Hunt, Bookseller in Exon’: so some were evidently intended for sale by an Exeter bookseller in the conurbation nearest Herrick’s Dean Prior living.

(2) Ibid, xxxii.

(3) Ibid, xxxii–xxxiii; L. Schleiner notes that a number of poems are extant in song settings but do not appear in Hesperides, which suggests that rather more poems were in circulation than Herrick chose to include (‘Herrick’s Songs and the Character of Hesperides’, ELR 6 (1976), 77–8).

(4) Hesperides (London, 1648), 356; Gardiner, iii. 187.

(5) Compare e.g. the differentiation of the English poems and the poems in other languages in Milton’s Poems (1645).

(6) The first part ends with gathering Cc; the second begins with Aa (bibliographical description based on examination of B/L copies E.1090 and G11495, which have variant title-pages).

(7) Printers and booksellers in the early modern period tended, for purposes of determining the date to go on title-pages, to regard 1 January as the start of the year, though Thomason, himself a bookseller, regarded 25 March, for other purposes, as the start of the year.