Andrew Marvell, the Critical Heritage

By Elizabeth Story Donno | Go to book overview

12.

Isaac Disraeli on the Parker controversy

1814

Styled by Byron ‘that most entertaining and researching writer, ’ Disraeli the elder (1766-1848) wrote a number of anecdotal works on literary matters. His essay on Marvell and Parker first appeared in 1814 in Quarrels of Authors and was then reprinted in 1859 under the title The Calamities and Quarrels of Authors. Although he was not, in fact, an altogether exact researcher and quite cavalier in his handling of quotations, frequently telescoping or juxtaposing disparate passages, his work was much pillaged by later writers.

Reprinted from The Works, ed. by his son (1880-1), IV, pp. 391-402, with one selection from the notes. There are minor textual variants from the first edition.

One of the legitimate ends of satire, and one of the proud triumphs of genius, is to unmask the false zealot; to beat back the haughty spirit that is treading down all; and if it cannot teach modesty, and raise a blush, at least to inflict terror and silence. It is then that the satirist does honour to the office of the executioner.

As one whose whip of steel can with a lash
Imprint the characters of shame so deep,
Even in the brazen forehead of proud Sin,
That not eternity shall wear it out.

[Randolph’s Muses’ Looking-glass, I. iv. ]

The quarrel between PARKER and MARVELL is a striking example of the efficient powers of genius, in first humbling, and then annihilating, an unprincipled bravo, who had placed himself at the head of a faction.

Marvell, the under-secretary and the bosom-friend of Milton, whose fancy he has often caught in his verse, was one of the

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