Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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HERBERT , EDWARD ( 1583 - 1648 ), 1st baron Herbert of Cherbury ;

b. 3 March 1583 , at Eyton-on-Severn , son of Richard (d. 1596 ; see under Herbert of Montgomery ) and Magdalen Herbert , of Montgomery . He entered University College , Oxford , in May 1596 , m. Mary Herbert in 1599 , living at first in London but returning in 1605 to Montgomery where he was appointed magistrate and sheriff . In 1608 he made the first of many journeys to Europe which he describes so vividly in his Life , one of the earliest autobiographies in the English language. In 1619 he was appointed English ambassador at Paris and lived there in great state until his dismissal in 1624 . Created lord Herbert of Cherbury in 1629 , he seems to have been disappointed by the rewards which followed his services to the Crown . In the Civil War he remained neutral and refused repeated invitations to join the Royalist cause. His castle falling to the Parliamentarians , Herbert moved to London and d. there 20 Aug. 1648 .

A handsome, vain, sensitive man, a bold and profound thinker, Edward Herbert was a strange mixture of philosopher and buffoon. His is a rich personality moulded by an age of transition from the activity of the Elizabethan age to the rationalism of the late Stuart period. His De Veritate , 1624 , bridges the gulf between Renaissance thought and that of the modern age, and his writings on religion point the way to deism and to the liberal theology of a later period. [His Life informs us that he could speak Welsh .]


  • The life of Edward Lord Herbert of Cherbury. Written by himself (London, 1886) (ed. Lee ) (Gregynog Press, 1928 );
  • The Poems, English & Latin, of Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury (Oxford 1923) (ed. Smith ), 1923 ;
  • De Veritate (1624, 1937) , 1624 (trs. and ed. M. H. Carre ), 1937 ;
  • De Causis errorum una cum tractatu de Religione Laici, et appendice ad Sacerdotes nec non quibusdam poematibus. (De vita humana disquisitio (1645) , 1645 ;
  • Lord Herbert of Cherbury's De religione laici (1944) , 1645 (trs. and ed. by H. R. Hutcheson ), 1944 ;
  • De Religione Gentilium, errorumque apud eos causis (1663) , 1663 ;
  • Religio Laici (ed. Wright );
  • Modern Language Review , 28, 1933 ;
  • R. I. Aaron , in Modern Language Review , 36, 1941 , and Mind , 54, 1945 (dealing with Herbert MSS.)
  • On Herbert's philosophy cf. introduction to M. H. Carre and H. R. Hutcheson (above) and Sorley , in Mind , iii, 1894 .


Professor Richard Ithamar Aaron, D.Phil. F.B.A., (1901-87), Aberystwyth

Published date: 1959