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2 - Print, Miscellaneity and the Reader in Robert Herrick's Hesperides

Ruth Connolly
Affiliation:
Newcastle University, UK
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Summary

The origins, organization and printing of Hesperides represent a striking and still under-examined moment in the history of authorship: one of the earliest attempts by a poet to supply a ‘perfected’ version of his lifework in a volume especially created for that purpose. Hesperides is an exemplary representative of the author-identified poetic collection. Its contents are gathered by Herrick and put into print during his own lifetime and its title, the Works of Robert Herrick, Esq, declares Herrick's privileged position in relation to his own poems. Hesperides demonstrably follows the path laid down by Ben Jonson's Works, which blazed a troubled trail for such authorial self-advertisement, and this reading is reinforced by Herrick's characterization of print as a medium uniquely equipped to perpetuate his legacy. In his poem ‘To Julia’, he explicitly links notions of print to ideas of possession and perfection:

Julia, if I chance to die

Ere I print my poetry;

I most humbly thee desire

To commit it to the fire:

Better ’twere my book were dead,

Then to live not perfected.

‘Perfected’ is not simply a promise that these are Herrick's final versions of his poems but also puns on the printing practice of reiteration, or ‘perfecting’, the process of printing the second form of type on the reverse of already printed sheets.

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Publisher: Pickering & Chatto
First published in: 2014

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