|Birth Day:||March 3, 1606|
|Death Date:||Oct 21, 1687 (age 81)|
As per our current Database, Edmund Waller died on Oct 21, 1687 (age 81).
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He studied briefly at King's College, Cambridge and later sat in the English House of Commons.
Edmund Waller was born on 3 March 1606 at Stocks Place, Coleshill, Buckinghamshire. He was the eldest son of Robert Waller (1560–1616) and Anne, his wife, daughter of Griffith Hampden. Edmund had familial connections with several prominent Parliamentarian figures; he was first cousin to John Hampden through his mother, second cousin to Oliver Cromwell by marriage, and brother-in-law to the future regicide Colonel Adrian Scrope, after Scrope married Edmund's sister Mary in 1624. On his father's side of the family Waller was related to the Parliamentarian generals Sir Hardress Waller and Sir William Waller.
Waller was baptised in the parish church of Amersham on 9 March 1606, but early in his childhood his father retired from business as a barrister and moved the family from Coleshill to Beaconsfield, to manage their extensive estates. By Waller's own account he "was bred under several ill, dull and ignorant schoolmasters, until he went to Mr Dobson at Wycombe, who was a good schoolmaster and had been an Eton scholar". This refers to his time at the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe, under the tutelage of Gerard Dobson. Waller's father died in 1616, and his mother Ann sent him to Eton between 1618 and 1621, and to the University of Cambridge. He was admitted a fellow-commoner of King's College, Cambridge on 22 March 1620, he left without a degree, before completing his education at Lincoln's Inn in 1622. The family settled at Hall Barn, Beaconsfield in 1624, and on reaching his majority in 1627 Edmund Waller inherited an estate estimated to be worth up to £3,500 a year.
Waller claimed that he entered parliament for Amersham in 1621, but this is unlikely as the constituency was not re-enfranchised until May 1624 by which time he was already the sitting Member of Parliament for Ilchester after one of the members chose another seat. In 1626 he was elected MP for Chepping Wycombe. He was elected MP for Amersham in 1628 and sat until 1629 when King Charles decided to rule without parliament for eleven years. He made virtually no impact on the records of these parliaments.
Waller's first marriage was to Anne Banks, or Bancks, daughter of John Banks, a mercer of London, and took place at St Margaret's, Westminster, on 5 July 1631, in defiance of orders of the Privy Council of England and the Court of Aldermen of the City of London. John Banks had died in 1630, leaving his wealth, some £8,000, to Anne, who was a ward of the Court of Aldermen, and Waller had previously carried her off and been forced to return her. The Aldermen made a complaint to the Star Chamber, seeking that for the offence of marrying Anne without the court's permission the whole of the Banks fortune should be forfeited to the City of London, but they were denied such an outcome by a pardon from King Charles, who took a more tolerant view of the matter. Waller was then summoned to appear before the Court of Aldermen in December 1631, when he agreed to make a jointure of £1,000 a year to his wife, also giving her the power to spend £2,000 of her inheritance, and the Court accepted this proposal but fined him 500 marks. His own fortune was large, and Waller was a wealthy man. After bearing him a son and a daughter at Beaconsfield, Anne Waller died in childbirth in October 1634.
Waller married his first wife, Anne Banks, on 15 July 1631. She died in childbirth, and was buried on 23 October 1634, leaving a son, Robert, and a daughter, named either Elizabeth or Anne. Robert was tutored for a time by his father's friend, Thomas Hobbes, and later studied at Lincoln's Inn, like his father, but died sometime in the 1650s.
In about 1635 Waller met Lady Dorothy Sidney, eldest daughter of Robert Sidney, 2nd Earl of Leicester, who was then eighteen years of age, and formed a romantic passion for her, referring to her in a number of his poems under the name of 'Sacharissa'. He spent much of the next decade courting her, but was rejected. She eventually married Henry Spencer, 1st Earl of Sunderland, in 1639. Disappointment is said to have made Waller temporarily insane. However, he wrote a long, graceful, and eminently sober letter to the bride's sister on the occasion of the wedding.
In April 1640 Waller was again elected MP for Amersham, in the Short Parliament, and made certain speeches which attracted wide attention. He was then elected MP for St Ives in the Long Parliament. Waller had previously supported the party of John Pym, but he now left him for the group of moderates led by Falkland and Edward Hyde. They were "conservative, distrustful of innovation and extreme measures", and opposed the principle of absolute monarchy over the rights of Parliament. Waller was however careful to avoid directly criticising the king. His speeches were much admired, and were separately printed; they are academic exercises very carefully prepared. Hyde, later Lord Clarendon, wrote that Waller spoke "upon all occasions with great sharpness and freedom". His rising profile in Parliament led to him taking charge of the impeachment of judge Sir Francis Crawley over the issue of ship money. Though opposed to absolutism, Waller was concerned over the increasing pressure for parliament to interfere with the Royal prerogative. As tensions between King and Parliament increased, Waller gravitated towards support of the monarch, while urging Parliament to seek an accommodation with the king and so avoid open conflict.
By early 1643 Waller had become involved in what was later termed 'Waller's Plot'. Waller remained in Parliament after the outbreak of the English Civil War, still arguing on behalf of the Crown. He and several others, including his brother-in-law, Nathaniel Tomkins, and the wealthy linen draper Richard Chaloner, hoped to capitalise on the strong sentiments for peace in London, as well as the moderate factions in Parliament who were still hopeful of a reconciliation with Charles I. The plot seems to have begun as a plan to utilise passive resistance on the part of London's population in an attempt to force Parliament to seek a negotiated settlement. But it developed into plans for an armed rising, the seizure of key points, and allowing the Royalist army into the city.
Pym denounced the plot in Parliament and Waller was arrested on 31 May 1643. Waller admitted his guilt and made a full confession of "whatever he had said heard, thought or seen, and all that he knew... or suspected of others", and he certainly cut a poor figure compared to his fellow conspirators who were unwilling to betray their principles. Waller was called before the bar of the House in July, and made an abject speech of recantation. He paid several bribes to leading members of the House, and after spending a year and a half in the Tower of London without trial, was fined £10,000 and permitted to go into exile in November 1644. His fellow conspirators were less fortunate – Chaloner and Tomkins were executed on 5 July 1643. The controversy over the plot virtually annihilated the moderate party in Parliament and destroyed any immediate hopes of a peaceful settlement to the war. Those who had leaned towards a negotiated peace were forced to disavow any sympathy for the plotters' aims, and to reaffirm their support for military action.
Waller went into exile in France and Switzerland, taking with him his new wife Mary, née Bressy or Bracey, the daughter of a man settled in Thame, Oxfordshire. The two had married in 1644, during Waller's imprisonment for his part in the plot, and may have even married secretly in the Tower of London. In 1645 Waller's Poems was first published in London, in three different editions; there has been much discussion of the order and respective authority of these issues, but nothing is decidedly known. Many of the lyrics were already set to music by Henry Lawes.In 1646 Waller travelled with John Evelyn in Switzerland and Italy. During the worst period of his exile Waller managed to "keep a table" for the Royalists in Paris, although to do so he was obliged to sell his wife's jewels. He remained hopeful of a reconciliation with the Commonwealth government, and, probably through the support of his near-relations Oliver Cromwell and Adrian Scrope, secured the revocation of his sentence of banishment on 27 November 1651 through the Rump Parliament, and returned to England in January 1652.
Edmund Waller married Mary Bracey in 1644, whose father was resident in Thame. Mary and Edmund had thirteen children together. Among them were his son Edmund, MP for Amersham and Stephen, a doctor of law and Commissioner for the Union.
A collection of Waller's poems, entitled Poems, was published during his exile in 1645. Most are in the traditional classical style then popular, and include "Of the Lady who can Sleep when she Pleases", "Of her Passing through a Crowd of People", "On the Friendship betwixt Sacharissa and Amoret", "To a Lady from whom he Receiv'd a Silver Pen", and "In Answer of Sir John Suckling's Verses". Cherniak describes his love poems as tending to be "relatively formal, decorous, and impersonal". Other love poems by Waller include "To Flavia", "Song" (Go, lovely rose), "To a Lady in Retirement", "On a Girdle", and "The Story of Phoebus and Daphne Apply'd".
Waller's poems were widely read during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, with four separate editions being published in 1645, followed by new collected editions in 1664, 1668, 1682, and 1686. The interest continued after his death, with two volumes of previously uncollected writings, "The Maid's Tragedy Altered" and "The Second Part of Mr Waller's Poems" published in 1690. Gerard Langbaine considered his writings as "fit to serve as a Standard, for all succeeding poems" and Francis Atterbury called him "the Parent of English Verse, and the first that shew'd us our Tongue had Beauty and Numbers in it". Waller's popularity endured in the Restoration period, his style of writing, described as "sweet", "soft" and "smooth", lending itself to being set to music. John Dryden was an enthusiastic admirer, but by the nineteenth century his work was out of favour and his reputation declined, though a minor revival began in the late twentieth century.
Waller settled once more at Beaconsfield, and established good relations with Cromwell, to whom in 1655 he published A Panegyric to my Lord Protector, and was made a Commissioner for Trade a month or two later. He wrote several other poems in support of Cromwell and the Protectorate over the next few years, until the Restoration in 1660 re-established the monarchy and brought Charles II back to the throne. Waller commemorated the occasion, and expressed his own support for the new state of affairs, with his 1660 poem To the King, upon his Majesty's Happy Return. Being challenged by the king to explain why this latter piece was inferior to his eulogy of Cromwell, the poet replied, "Sir, we poets never succeed so well in writing truth as in fiction". Waller continued to compose verse for the royal family throughout the rest of his life, generally urging a policy of toleration and general amnesty.
Waller became famous for his 'Panegyricks', at first written in support of Cromwell, and later for succeeding monarchs after the Restoration. He followed Cromwell's panegyric with the pro-Protectorate "Upon the Present War with Spain, and the First Victory Obtained at Sea" (1658–9), and other flattering works. His "To the King, upon his Majesties Happy Return" in 1660 established his pro-monarchical sympathies, followed by works addressed to the king or other members of the royal family, including "On St James's Park as Lately Improved by his Majesty", "Upon her Majesties New Buildings at Somerset-House", "Of the Lady Mary, Princess of Orange", and "A Presage of the Ruine of the Turkish Empire, Presented to his Majestie on his Birth-Day". His longest and most ambitious work of this type, "Instructions to a painter, for the drawing of the posture and progress of his majesties forces at sea, under the command of his highness-royal; together with the battel and victory obtained over the Dutch" appeared in 1666, commemorating the Battle of Lowestoft of the previous year, and heaping praise on James, Duke of York. Waller's style and habit of effusively commemorating great events by praising court and royalty led to a backlash of parodies and refutations, including by the likes of Andrew Marvell in his "Last Instructions to a Painter".
Waller was returned to the Cavalier Parliament in 1661 as MP for Hastings, and Gilbert Burnet recorded that for the next quarter of a century "it was no House if Waller was not there". His sympathies were tolerant and kindly, and he constantly defended the Nonconformists. One famous speech of Waller's was: "Let us look to our Government, fleet and trade, 'tis the best advice the oldest Parliament man among you can give you, and so God bless you". He was an active member, making over 180 speeches and being appointed to 209 parliamentary committees between 1661 and 1681. Though close to the court party he was often independent, choosing not to support particular administrations, but allying with different sides in keeping with his belief in the national good. He was a moderate in parliament, often seeking to reconcile opposing political factions. He supported the traditional privileges of parliament, but opposed their extension into areas he felt members had no business interfering with, such as the royal prerogative. Waller was a fervent supporter of religious toleration and the growth of trade, with Warren Chernaik's biography of Waller in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography observing that "whether defending or attacking the government, Waller emphasized the primacy of the national interest, the importance of law, and common sense."
After the death of his second wife, in 1677, Waller retired to Hall Barn, the house he had designed and owned in Beaconsfield, and though he returned to London, he became more and more attached to the retirement of his woods, "where," he said, "he found the trees as bare and withered as himself." His collection Divine Poems was published in 1685, followed by another collection in 1686. Waller bought a cottage at Coleshill, where he was born, meaning to die there; "a stag," he said, "when he is hunted, and near spent, always returns home." He died at Hall Barn however, with his children and his grandchildren about him, on 21 October 1687, and was buried in woollen (in spite of his expressed wish) in the churchyard of St Mary and All Saints Church, Beaconsfield on 26 October. His tomb is now grade II* listed, while he is further memorialised by Edmund Waller Primary School, New Cross, South East London.
Waller, in keeping with his expressed preferences as a moderator and conciliator, attempted to act as a broker between the factions that developed around the Popish Plot between 1678 and 1681, but found little success. He opposed the Whigs over the Exclusion Crisis, and appears to have withdrawn from active politics for a time. He did not sit for the three exclusion parliaments (the Habeas Corpus Parliament, Exclusion Bill Parliament and Oxford Parliament). He returned to politics with the accession of James II, being elected to represent Saltash in the Loyal Parliament in 1685. He wrote two poems to the new king, both continuing to urge reconciliation and national unity.
Currently, Edmund Waller is 416 years, 6 months and 25 days old. Edmund Waller will celebrate 417th birthday on a Friday 3rd of March 2023.
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