It is not necessary to justify any effort to make Marvell’s Poems more widely known. The sole object of this Preface is to acknowledge my indebtedness to my predecessors, who have, in a greater or less degree, done good service by keeping the poet’s name and character in the minds of his countrymen.
In 1681, more than two years after Marvell’s death, his widow published a collection of his miscellaneous poems. Nearly half a century later Cooke brought out an edition which included the political satires. These pieces could not, of course, be given in the volume of 1681, but they had been printed among other State Poems after the Revolution. Another half century passed before Thompson published an edition of the whole of Marvell’s works. Thompson was a Hull captain, and a connection of the poet’s family, filled with enthusiasm for his subject, but wanting in the critical training necessary for complete success. In spite, however, of all his shortcomings, it is not to be forgotten that we owe to him some of Marvell’s finest poems, and that he was the first to print a large number of Marvell’s letters, which are of great assistance in studying his life and writings. Errors in the text grew in number in subsequent cheap editions of the poems, until, in 1872, a century after Thompson, and when I was a scholar at the old Granmiar School at Hull which claimed Marvell as one of its most distinguished pupils, Dr. Grosart published the first volume of a limited edition of Marvell’s works. It may be said that that edition was the first in which any serious attempt was made to give an accurate text, or to explain the constant allusions to contemporary events. But greatly as I have been indebted to Dr. Grosarfs work, much remained to be done. Many allusions remained unexplained, while some of the notes upon historical events or persons were written under misapprehension, and the errors in identification led to mistakes in the dating of the poems. In so difficult a field it is not probable that I have entirely escaped pitfalls; and I do not forget that it is far easier to correct others than to be a pioneer.
In the Introduction I have incorporated the few facts relating to Marvell that have come to light during the last twenty years, and the poems have been printed after a fresh collation with the earliest texts. My best thanks are due to Mr. C. H. Firth, who has kindly read most of the proof-sheets and made many valuable suggestions; and to the Rev. R. Sinker, D.D., Mr. W. Aldis Wright, and Mr. J. W. Clark for information respecting Marvell’s career at Cambridge. Mr. Firth has contributed a valuable article on Marvell to the “Dictionary of National Biography.”
G. A. A.
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