Andrew Marvell, 1621–1678

Biographical note

Poet and satirist, son of the Rector of Winestead, Yorkshire, where he was born, educated Cambridge, and thereafter travelled in various Continental countries. He sat in Parliament for Hull, proving himself an assiduous and incorruptible member, with strong republican leanings. In spite of this he was a favourite of Charles II., who took pleasure in his society, and offered him a place at Court, and a present of £1000, which were both declined. In his own day he was best known as a powerful and fearless political writer, and for some time from 1657 was assistant to Milton as Latin Sec. After the Restoration he wrote against the Government, his chief work in this kind being on the Growth of Popery and Arbitrary Government in England (1677). He was also the author of an Historical Essay regarding General Councils.

His controversial style was lively and vigorous, but sometimes coarse and vituperative. His fame now rests on his poems which, though few, have many of the highest poetical qualities. Among the best known are The Emigrants in the Bermudas, The Nymph complaining for the Death of her Fawn, and Thoughts in a Garden. Of the last Palgrave says that “it may be regarded as a test of any reader’s insight into the most poetical aspects of poetry,” and his Horatian Ode on Cromwell’s Return from Ireland.

The town of Hull voted him a monument, which was, however, forbidden by the Court. His appearance is thus described, “He was of middling stature, pretty strong-set, roundish-faced, cherry-cheeked, hazel-eyed, brown-haired.”

[From A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature by John W. Cousin, 1910]

Works

  • The Poems of Andrew Marvell
  • “The Rehearsal Transprosed” [1672]
  • “The Rehearsal Transprosed. The Second Part” [1673]
  • “Mr. Smirke, or the Divine in Mode. By Andreas Rivetus, Junior.” [1676]
  • “An Account of the Growth of Popery and Arbitrary Government in England.” [1677]
  • “Remarks upon a late disingenuous discourse writ by one T. D. under the pretence De Causa Dei and of answering Mr. John Howe’s Letter and Postscript of God’s Prescience. By a Protestant.” [1678]
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