Herbert was a member of an ancient and distinguished Welsh family. He was an outstanding scholar at Cambridge, and in 1619 was made orator of the university, a post that required him to express, in florid Latin, the sentiments of the university on public occasions. The post also required him to spend much time at court. However, it did not lead to the political advancement he had hoped for, and in 1630 he followed the practice of many younger sons from highly connected families and took holy orders. He accepted appointment as a country priest. Unlike many others, however, he actually did the work of a priest, preaching and praying, visiting the poor and sick, and rebuilt his church out of his own pocket. He died of consumption after a ministry of only three years. A collection of the religious poetry for which he is known was published after his death.