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Edmund Waller - Biography & Selected Products

Edmund Waller, FRS was born on March 3rd, 1606 in Coleshill, Buckinghamshire.

Waller was educated at the Royal Grammar School, High Wycombe and thence on to Eton and King's College, Cambridge. His adult life is very colourful and displays a man whose adventures and experiences made poetry an obvious vessel to express the journey.

He entered Parliament early, at age 18, and was, at first, an active member of the opposition. (Waller was to sit in Parliament at various times from 1624-1679) In 1631 he married a London heiress, a surreptitious marriage to a wealthy ward of the Court of Aldermen. Waller was brought before the Star Chamber for this offence, and heavily fined. Waller was however, a wealthy man and stayed so throughout his life despite the many fines he became liable for.

His wife bore him a son and a daughter at Beaconsfield but died in 1634.

After her death he unsuccessfully courted Lady Dorothy Sidney, the 'Sacharissa' of his poems.

By 1643 he had now switched sides to the Royalists and was the leader in the plot to seize London for Charles I, which is known as "Waller's Plot". On 30 May he and his friends were arrested. In the terror of discovery, Waller confessed "whatever he had said heard, thought or seen, and all that he knew... or suspected of others".  His fellow conspirators were far braver and were unwilling to betray their principles or each other.

Waller was called before the bar of the House in July, and made an abject and complete speech of recantation. His life was spared and he was committed to the Tower of London, but, on paying a fine of £10,000, he was released and banished from the realm in November 1643.

It was now, in 1644 that he married Mary Bracey and together they took up residence at Rouen. She went on to bear him several children.

In 1646 Waller travelled with John Evelyn to Switzerland and Italy.

He made his peace with Cromwell in 1651 and returned to England but was only restored to favour with Cromwell’s death and the Restoration of Charles II.

By now experience had taught him to keep all sides happy.  Accordingly as he wrote poetic tributes to both Oliver Cromwell (1655) and Charles II (1660).

A precocious poet; he began to write, it is thought, in his late teens with a complimentary piece on His Majesty's Escape at St Andere written using the heroic couplet. Interestingly throughout his writing career he rejected the dense and intellectual verse of Metaphysical poetry.  His more relaxed style helped prepare the way for the emergence of the heroic couplet. By the end of the 17th century it had become the dominant form of English poetry.   His style is beguiling and of a polished simplicity. The great John Dryden thought him, along with Sir John Denham, as poets who brought about the Augustan age.

Edmund Waller died on October 21st, 1687 at the age of 81.  He is buried at St Mary and All Saints Church, Beaconsfield