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86Book Reviews Nick Page, George Herbert: A Portrait. Tunbridge Wells, Kent: Monarch Publications, 1993. 194 pp. $11.99 paper. by Sidney Gottlieb Amy Charles'sA Life ofGeorge Herbert, published in 1977, is just about all one could expect of a scholarly biography. It is based on a thorough and fresh investigation of the relevant sources of information, many of which are quoted or otherwise documented at length, and while one of her main purposes is revisionary — attempting to separate Herbert biography from Herbert hagiography — she is judicious and respectful, although not overly reverential, when it comes to dealing with the school of Walton and with others who have not done their Herbert homework. For our time, and perhaps for much longer, depending on what new material may be discovered, it deserves the title Charles, with characteristic humility, refused it: The Life ofGeorge Herbert. Perhaps the worst one can say about this book is that it is not, because of its patient argumentation and documentation, what one commonly thinks of as a "good read" (it was not, of course, intended to be) and is not available in paperback (a publisher's decision that limits the audience substantially). Nick Page's George Herbert: A Portrait addresses both of those eminently forgivable limitations. As he himself acknowledges, Page relies heavily on Charles. Chapter by chapter he surveys much of the same ground, adopts similar critical stances, and accepts similar conclusions regarding everything from Walton's unreliability to the path of Herbert's secular and then sacred career. He incorporates a few bits and pieces from current research (e.g., Daniel Doerksen on the family home in London, Diana Treviño Benêt on Herbert in Parliament, and Frank Huntley on Herbert's final sickness), but his story is basically laid out in Charles's Life. The best way of to evaluate Page's Portrait, though, is not to compare its originality or scholarship to Charles's but to recognize how readable, engaging, and accessible it is. Far more than a mere popularization — and there are not even many of these with Herbert as a subject — Page's study is reliable and well-informed, and may add appreciably to the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Herbert's birth by placing him before the eyes of common as well as scholarly readers. This is a book that can be recommended to Book Reviews87 students and general readers without reservation. Charles's Life will for some time remain the court of last resort for anyone interested in Herbert's biography, but Page's book will serve a considerable function as a court of first resort, a handy introduction to Herbert's life. One of Page's main strengths is his ability to explain details of seventeenth-century life clearly and concisely, without talking down to his modern readers. He does not assume, for example, that everyone will know about the Court of Wards, what "proroguing" Parliament means, what a deacon can and can't do, or what deism is. He explains not only by defining but also by contextualizing, and his chapters typically break down into useful mini-essays on such topics as education at Westminster and Cambridge, the rise and fall of the Virginia Company, life in London during the Essex Rebellion, the Gunpowder Plot, and the plague years, and the role of a country parson. A severe and sophisticated modern critic might describe Page's notion of history as unproblematic or oversimplified: he tends to write as though the early seventeenth-century had a clearly definable shape and was populated by public figures whose methods and motives are readily comprehensible. In any event, Page's "oldhistorical " insistence on outlining various public events and conditions that Herbert in one way or another lived with or within is valuable, even if only as a beginning point for more detailed study. Like Charles, Page also emphasizes the importance of Herbert's family and friends. Magdalene Herbert of course proves to be a key figure, but Page is also particularly interested in the relationship among the Herbert sons. In analyzing George's sense of himself and his vocation or career, Page rightly turns to the models provided...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-1192
Print ISSN
0161-7435
Pages
pp. 86-88
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-05
Open Access
No
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