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This is the first edition for fifty years of one of the greatest of English lyric poets. Volume I concentrates on Herrick's large printed collection, Hesperides, published in 1648, and the product of nearly four decades of writing. The text is based on a collation of all fifty-seven known surviving copies of Hesperides. In addition it includes a much needed new biography, covering the suicide of his father, his apprenticeship as a goldsmith-banker, and his subsequent career in Cambridge, London, and Devon. It provides a survey of Herrick's fluctuating critical reputation-from 'the first in rank and station of English song-writers' to 'trivially charming'-and a detailed reconstruction of the original printing and publishing, just after the first Civil War, of a book which was the first 'Complete Works' to be published by an English poet. There is also a newly ordered sequence of Herrick's letters from Cambridge, his only surviving prose. An extensive commentary on Hesperides is placed in Volume II so that readers can use it side by side with the poems if they wish. The commentary gives new translations of Herrick's hundreds of classical allusions, and quotes his equally numerous Biblical ones, both of them far more extensive, and frequently far more playful, than has hitherto been realised. It also notes many parallels between Herrick's work and that of contemporaries, especially Jonson, Shakespeare, Burton, and John Fletcher, and his habit of echoing or quoting himself, a tendency which reinforces the strong sense of Herrick's persona dominating the collection. Full explanations are given of contemporary personal, political, and cultural references.
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