George Herbert, Magdalene Herbert, and literary biography

Janis Lull


Readers of George Herbert often make the not unreasonable
assumption that Magdalene Herbert, the only parent the poet knew during his childhood, must have had some influence on his poetry. While the Greek and Latin memorial verses Herbert wrote when his mother died were undoubtedly written about her or at least for her, no documentary evidence survives to show how Mrs. Herbert may have
inspired or affected her son’s English poems. In the absence of such evidence, biographical writers have tried to reconstruct the connections between Mrs. Herbert and The Temple in several ways, none of them completely satisfactory. A closer look at some of these writers suggests
that literary biography may have brought us no closer to understanding how, if at all, George Herbert’s mother influenced The Temple than we were when Izaac Walton published his Life of Herbert at the end of the
seventeenth century.


English Language; English


Copyright (c) 1998 Janis Lull

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