Edmund Waller

 

This portrait of Waller (1606-87) by Godfrey Kneller (1646-1723) post-dates considerably the period of The Best of Men.  Member of Parliament and a great friend of Lord Falkland, whose intellectual circle he attended before the Civil War, Waller is now perhaps most famous for his poetry, notably 'Go, lovely Rose'.  Not be confused with Sir William Waller, the Parliamentary General, he was among the moderates in the Commons, but was arrested by Parliament for his part in the Royalist plot to take over London for the King - often called 'Waller's Plot' - in 1643.  He recanted somewhat ignominiously, and was allowed exile abroad after paying an enormous fine of ten thousand pounds; two of the plotters, including his brother-in-law Nathaniel Tompkins, went to the gallows. He managed a reconciliation with Cromwell in 1651 and published 'A Panegyric to my Lord Protector' in 1655. In 1660 he wrote another poetic eulogy, this time to Charles II: 'To the King, upon his Majesty's Happy Return'. When Charles asked him why this piece was not as good as his poem about Cromwell, Waller was said to have answered, "Sir, we poets never succeed so well in writing truth as in fiction".  He re-entered the Commons in 1661, then retired from public life in 1677 after his second wife's death, and spent his remaining years quietly.