William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke



The Poems of William Herbert, Third Earl of Pembroke, ed. Robert Krueger (B.Litt. thesis, Oxford, 1961) in Bodleian, MS B. Litt. d. 871.

Poems (1660)

Poems, written by the Right Honorable William Earl of Pembroke…many of which are answered by way of Repartee, by Sr Benjamin Ruddier, Knight. With several distinct Poems, written by them occasionally, and apart (London, 1660)


William Herbert, third Earl of Pembroke, became in the reign of James I a wealthy and powerful courtier and politician, rising to the high office of Lord Chancellor. He was also a cultivated and influential patron of the arts. Numerous printed books were dedicated to him by a variety of writers, artists and composers, the most famous being the Shakespeare First Folio of 1623. Pembroke's personal dealings with poets and dramatists such as Jonson and Chapman also extended to his cousin, the author Lady Mary Wroth, with whom he had an extended affair which produced two children, William and Katherine Wroth

The Verse Canon

Pembroke was himself a lyrical poet of no mean abilities, whose poems achieved a considerable measure of circulation in manuscript copies both before and after his death in 1630. While a number of them are clearly ascribed to him in manuscript miscellanies, a few sources (such as Huntington, HM 198) containing whole groups of poems by him, as well as the survival of one poem in his own hand (*PeW 13), the canon remains uncertain. Besides conflicting attributions for some poems in manuscript, the canon of his poems is permanently complicated by the nature and circumstances of the very first posthumous printed edition of them. This was Poems, written by the Right Honorable William Earl of Pembroke…many of which are answered by way of Repartee, by Sr Benjamin Ruddier, Knight. With several distinct Poems, written by them occasionally, and apart, published in London, 1660. The characteristically unreliable and incompetent editor of this whimsical compilation was John Donne Jr (1604-63), who, while signalling the supposed authorship of some of the contents with a superscribed ‘P’ (for Pembroke) or ‘R’ (for Rudyerd), also managed to incorporate a number of other miscellaneous poems of uncertain or spurious authorship, presumably to flesh out the volume for commercial purposes. This edition remains, therefore, the only early published collection of poems by either Pembroke or Rudyerd, unreliable as it may be.

Until a new edition is prepared, the only attempt hitherto to establish a canon of verse by Pembroke, as well as by Rudyerd, based partly on the edition of 1660 and partly on manuscript sources, is Robert Krueger's edition of these poems in his unpublished dissertation of 1961. He classifies them according to poems probably by Pembroke or by Rudyerd or by both, on the one hand, and poems of uncertain or spurious authorship on the other. Although certain poems in the latter category can indeed be attributed to other authors (and are here given appropriate entries accordingly), Krueger's canon is the basis for that adopted for present purposes, with one major difference. The Pembroke-Rudyerd poetical canon is here treated in much the same way as that of Beaumont and Fletcher, whose works are similarly linked by virtue of lack of distinction in the first posthumous collected edition of their works (even though modern editors have been able to identify the authorship of some individual works by stylistic analysis). The entries below therefore incorporate all currently known manuscript copies of all poems included in the 1660 edition, with cross-references or pointers as appropriate concerning their authorship status. Besides reflecting the unavoidable uncertainty of the canon, it is hoped that this decision puts the relevant poems in their publishing and also manuscript contexts, opens the way to textual comparisons, and presents at least some evidence for matters of attribution.

Letters and Speeches

Pembroke also wrote numerous of letters during his career, some of which survive in the National Archives, Kew, and elsewhere, and he also spoke on occasions in Parliament, his brief speeches or interjections recorded in various manuscript parliamentary journals. These sources have not been given separate entries below.

Sir Benjamin Rudyerd

While the verses attributed to Rudyerd in the 1660 Poems are given entries in the present section on Pembroke, other poems and an entertainment attributed to Rudyerd, as well as his parliamentary speeches, are treated separately below (RuB 1-206).

Peter Beal