Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury


Moore Smith

The Poems of English and Latin of Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury, ed. G. C. Moore Smith (Oxford, 1923; reprinted 1968).

Occasional Verses (1665)

Occasional Verses of Edward Lord Herbert, Baron of Cherbury and Castle-Island, [ed. Sir Henry Herbert] (London, 1665).


Mario M. Rossi, La Vita, le opere, i tempi di Edoardo Herbert di Chirbury, 3 vols (Florence, 1947).


Herbert of Cherbury's papers have survived in considerable number, as have the archives of the Herbert family in general. Most of the main collection, formerly preserved at Powis Castle, Welshpool, is now in the National Library of Wales. A few of the Powis Manuscripts are in the National Archives, Kew, and a few items have been dispersed elsewhere.

There is no collected edition of Herbert's works and a number of his papers remain unpublished. The most extensive account of his work ever undertaken is Rossi's. A useful (though not absolutely accurate) checklist of his published works can also be found in J. M. Shuttleworth, ‘Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury (1583-1648): A Preliminary, Annotated Checklist of Works by and about him’, National Library of Wales Journal, 20 (1977), 151-68.


Most of Herbert's poems were first published posthumously by his brother, Sir Henry Herbert (1594-1673), in Occasional Verses (1665). This text is the basis of Moore Smith's edition (1923). Moore Smith collates fully one particularly important manuscript of Herbert's poems, now in the British Library (Add. MS 37157). This appears to have been Herbert's own ‘official’ collection of his poems, and is now bound up in a composite volume of Herbert family papers. It is a fair copy made by an amanuensis, who often left spaces for letters or words he evidently could not decipher in his copy-texts. Herbert then went through the manuscript filling in the lacunae and making a number of minor autograph corrections and revisions. The manuscript is dated by Herbert at the end (f. 25r) ‘1630’, although some of it must have been written a little later (see Moore Smith, pp. xxv-xxvi). Moore Smith also collates a few copies of particular poems in early miscellanies — notably, Bodleian, MS Rawl. poet 31. Some of Herbert's poems were evidently in circulation in the Inns of Court and other circles long before the edition of 1665 materialised. A number of manuscript copies not known to Moore Smith are recorded below, as are some additional autograph verses among the Powis Manuscripts.

Rossi (III, 393-8) has argued for the addition to the canon of several poems and verse fragments that were once preserved in a packet of ‘Poems: notes and draft[s]’ among the Powis Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales (formerly pressmarked ‘1959 deposit, Series II “(Envelope) Taken from Bundle 26)”’. The poems in this packet (a series of loose or detached leaves) are chiefly in Herbert's hand and include, as Rossi notes (III, 398-400), his copies of verses by others. In fact, it is likely that all the poems here are other men's compositions, and none should be accepted as Herbert's without further evidence of authorship. The doubtful or spurious poems that Rossi attributes to Herbert are as follows.

“Iris Caeruleo Fluore cingens” (14 lines, anon: now Powis MS E 4/9).

“My Lord, I suit my garments to my mind”’ (4 lines, probably the conclusion of a poem, anon.)

On ye Death of Sr Th. Pelham, beginning ‘Merely for Death to grieve and mourne’ (by William Strode: see StW 537-591).

An opposite to Melancholy, beginning ‘Returne my Joyes, and hither bring’ (also by Strode: see StW 641-663).

“The being yours can make even Vices good” (17 lines, probably the conclusion of a poem, anon.).

“Tis not enough for one that is a wife” (36 lines, anon.)

To Dianas earthly Deputesse of my Worthy Sister Mrs Jane Carye, beginning ‘When daies cleare light his compast course hath runne’ (23 lines, incomplete?, anon.).

A poem which can certainly be rejected from the canon is Echo to a Rock (beginning ‘Thou heaven-threat'ning Rock, gentler then she’) printed in Occasional Verses (1665) and consequently in Moore Smith (pp. 46-7). This poem was written by Henry Reynolds (c.1563/4-1635) and is clearly ascribed to him in the Stoughton MS (p. 73) owned by Rosemary Williams: see Mary Hobbs, ‘Drayton's “Most Dearely-Loved friend Henery Reynolds Esq.”’, Review of English Studies, NS 24 (1973), 414-28 (p. 426). It was mistaken in 1665 for one of Herbert's poems since he obviously had a copy among his papers, for he wrote a sequel to it, Echo in a Church, of which three autograph drafts survive (HrE 8-8.5).


The Prose section below (HrE 92-143) includes all those works expressly attributed to Herbert in Rossi's bibliography (III, 538-42). One of them, the English Religio Laici, has been previously known from two drafts (HrE 136-137), but what appears to be a more complete text, with two unpublished appendices, exists (HrE 138).

Titles are supplied in the entries for those works without a heading (HrE 92-3, HrE 128, HrE 139-143). The present reference for each of the relevant Powis Manuscripts is cited in this section as accurately as possible, but most have been rearranged, as well as relocated or renumbered, since Mario Rossi examined them in the 1940s, and indeed since they were catalogued in IELM in 1980. The general disorder of the various drafts, a number of which are not easily recognisable, means that the entries given here for the Powis Manuscripts in the National Library of Wales must be regarded at present as provisional.

It may be noted that one work sometimes attributed to Sir Timothy Baldwin (1620-96) — the Latin version of The Expedition to the Isle of Rhé — is proved to be Herbert's by the existence of his autograph manuscripts (HrE 117-118) and also by his own testimony. In a letter of 9 February 1638/9 to Secretary Windebank, now in the National Archives, Kew (SP.16/412/77), Herbert specifically refers to his expenses in ‘writing the Expedition to the Isle of Ré in Latin and in Englishe’. Another work that has been traditionally rejected from the canon is A Dialogue between a Tutor and his Pupil, a treatise published as Herbert's by Horace Walpole in 1768. Walpole's attribution has been supported by a mistaken belief that one of the five known manuscripts is in the hand of one of Herbert's amanuenses (see R. I. Aaron in Mind, 54 (1945), 355-6) and by the fact that another of the manuscripts was owned by a later member of the Herbert family. Rossi rejected the work in 1947 (III, 530-3) because of its inconsistency with Herbert's philosophy, and he did so again in ‘Herbert of Cherbury's Religio Laici: A Bibliographical Note’, Edinburgh Bibliographical Society Transactions, 4, Part 2 (1962), 45-52. On the other hand a case for Herbert's part-authorship has been made more recently by Julia Griffin. The five known manuscripts of the Dialogue are given entries here (HrE 113.2-113.8) since the matter of authorship is still open to debate.

The only prose work of Herbert's that seems to be represented (by extracts) in manuscript miscellanies and commonplace books is The Life and Reign of King Henry VIII, published in 1649 (see HrE 125.1-125.9). Several manuscript copies of the work made by or for Herbert himself also survive, as does his collection of historical documents used in its composition (HrE 121-125). In the letter of 9 February 1638/9 cited earlier, Herbert refers to these papers, noting his expenses in ‘keeping Schollers and Clerkes, for coppyinge Records, and making Transcripts of the History of king H.VIII’. Similar copies of historical documents used by Herbert when writing The Expedition to the Isle of Rhé, as well as his copies of the work itself, are also largely preserved among the Powis Manuscripts (HrE 114-120).

Dramatic Works

Although his brother Sir Henry Herbert had connections with the theatre in his capacity as Master of the Revels, Edward Herbert would never have been associated with anything theatrical until a discovery was made in Powis Castle in 2009. Herbert's autograph manuscript of a possibly unfinished dramatic entertainment, The Amazon, reveals at least one attempt by him at dramatic composition, even if the work was never actually staged. The previously unrecorded manuscript has now been acquired by the British Library (*HrE 143.5).


The Miscellaneous section of entries below includes a few items such as Herbert's lute-book (*HrE 144) and his will (HrE 147). Various other miscellaneous items among the Powis Manuscripts may have been associated with Herbert but have not been given separate entries. Some papers on state affairs which were owned though probably not composed by him would include works such as A short Narration of occurrences in……Scotland and Questions touching upon Obedience to Magistrate in eminency, both of which were edited in Rossi (III, 492-504). A Herbert manuscript of some peripheral interest which has received attention is the household book (1601) of his mother, Magdalen Herbert (d.1627), Lady Danvers, still in the possession of the Earl of Powis at Powis Castle. It is discussed, with a facsimile example, in Amy Charles, ‘Mrs. Herbert's Kitchin Booke’, English Literary Renaissance, 4 (1974), 164-73.

There are also several recorded exempla of the third edition of Herbert's De la verité (1639), that are bound in fine red or brown morocco bearing his own device in gilt and which therefore evidently belonged to him or his family or were his specially bound presentation volumes. One example is in the library of Robert Pirie, New York. This was sold at Sotheby's, 16 January 1956 (Powis Castle sale), lot 217, and a facsimile of the binding appears in the sale catalogue. Four other examples are cited, with yet another illustration of the binding, in G.D. Hobson, English Bindings, 1490-1940, in the library of J.R. Abbey (London, 1940), p. 40: namely, one with the bookplate of Basil Feilding, Earl of Denbigh, 1703, later in the library of the Rev. W.E. Buckley (sold at Sotheby's in 1893-4); another in Cambridge University Library (Rel. c. 63. 4); another in the British Library (C.46.g.4); and yet another that appeared in the S. W. Singer sale at Sotheby's, 24 May 1860, lot 119.


The Powis Manuscripts also contain a large amount of Herbert's correspondence. Some of these letters are edited in Rossi (III, 400-5, 408-9, 443-72, 487-8, 521-6), and some in Herbert Correspondence, ed. W.J. Smith (Cardiff, 1963), pp. 71-2, 79-80, 86-8, 97-9, 104-5, 107, 110-12, 117-18, 121-3, 125-30, 132. Thirteen volumes of Herbert family papers, containing the bulk of Lord Herbert's correspondence and diplomatic papers, are now in the National Archives, Kew (PRO 30/53). Those volumes containing his correspondence from 1615 to 1639, together with miscellaneous family papers between 1586 and 1735 (PRO 30/53/10-11), are described in HMC, 10th Report, Appendix IV (1885), pp. 378-99, and edited in part in Old Herbert Papers at Powis Castle and in the British Museum, ed. Morris Charles Jones, Montgomeryshire Collections Vol. 20 (London, 1886). This last publication also includes the text of Herbert's book of despatches for 1619, now in the British Library (Add. MS 7082). Numerous other letters and despatches of Herbert are in the National Archives, Kew, the British Library, the Sheffield Archives, and elsewhere.

Some eighty diplomatic letters written or signed by Herbert, between 1618 and 1624, to William Trumbull, English Resident at Brussels, are now in the British Library Add. MS 72293), a facsimile example appearing in Sotheby's sale catalogue The Trumbull Papers, 14 December 1989, lot 20 (p. 54). One of Herbert's letters in the British Library, written to Sir Dudley Carleton, 25 June 1617, is reproduced in facsimile in Sir Henry James, Facsimiles of National Manuscripts from William the Conqueror to Queen Anne, 4 vols (Southampton, 1865-8), IV, Plate XXI. A letter of 23 August 1644, apparently sent to Prince Rupert (British Library, Add. MS 18981, f. 229), is partly reproduced in facsimile in Greg, English Literary Autographs, Plate XLIX(c). Four letters sent to Sir George More, and now among the Loseley Manuscripts (Vol. 2014, Nos 98, 100-2) in the Surrey History Centre, Woking, are edited by Alfred John Kempe in The Loseley Manuscripts (London, 1836), pp. 347-59. Two letters to Gerard Voss bound in a presentation exemplum of Walpole's edition of Herbert's Autobiography are discussed in R. W. Chapman, ‘Lord Herbert of Cherbury and the Bodleian’, Bodleian Quarterly Record, 7 (1932-4), 174-5. These letters were in the library of the Cowper family at Panshanger, Hertfordshire — a library which was dispersed in 1953 before the house was demolished — but they are printed in Gerardi Joan. Vossii et clarorum virorum ad eum epistolae (London, 1690). Some correspondence of Herbert and his son Richard, now among the Ellesmere Manuscripts in the Huntington Library, is printed and discussed in James H. Hanford, ‘Lord Herbert of Cherbury and his Son’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 5 (1942), 317-32. An autograph letter by Herbert appealing to King Charles I for preferment, 8 May 1626, was reproduced in facsimile in British Literary Autographs, ed. Verlyn Klinkenborg et al., Series I (New York, 1981), Plate 30; in Christie's New York sale catalogue, 16 May 1986, lot 104; and in Dictionary of Literary Biography 121, Seventeenth-Century British Nondramatic Poets, First Series, ed. M. Thomas Hester (Detroit, 1992), p. 174. This letter is now in the library of Robert S. Pirie, New York. Three now untraced letters of 1643 owned in the early nineteenth century by Rebecca Warner are printed in her book Epistolary Curiosities (Bath, 1818), pp. 30-2. A Latin letter of 19/29 October 1625 to Hugo Grotius was once owned by Alfred Morrison (1832-97) and is recorded in the printed catalogue of his autograph collection, Vol. II (1885), p. 286. The same catalogue reproduces Herbert's signature on a receipt of 4 February 1646.

Lord Herbert's Library

As with Herbert's letters, separate entries have not been given to books from Herbert's library. Most of his Greek and Latin books (about 931 volumes, including many with his autograph annotations) were donated to Jesus College, Oxford. A complete catalogue of these can be found in C.J. Fordyce and T.M. Knox, ‘The Library of Jesus College, Oxford’, Appendix, Proceedings and Papers of the Oxford Bibliographical Society, 5, Part 2 (1937), 71-115; and see also Gwyn Walters, ‘The Herbert Libraries of Montgomery and Powis’, The New Welsh Review, 3/4 (Spring 1991), 10-13. About 230 of Herbert's other books, formerly at Powis Castle, have been dispersed in various sales — notably Sotheby's, 16 January 1956, and 20 March 1967, and see Maggs's catalogue No. 837 (1956); Dawson's catalogues Nos 208, 216, and 217; Hofmann & Freeman's catalogue No. 24 (May 1968), item 22; Sotheby's, 23 July 1987, lot 261, to Maggs; and Sotheby's, New York, 2 February 1985, lot 188. For Herbert's own catalogue of his Library, see *HrE 145.

Peter Beal