Andrew Marvell, the Critical Heritage

By Elizabeth Story Donno | Go to book overview

38.

Captain Edward Thompson on Marvell’s works

1776

Captain Edward Thompson (?1738-86) was the first to publish the complete works of Marvell in poetry and prose and the first to make generally available the three major poems on Cromwell which had been cancelled in most copies of the 1681 Folio. (He also included much that was spurious in his three-volume edition. ) Like Cooke (No. 33), his main motive was political: ‘One of my first and strongest reasons for publishing the works of Marvell, was the pleasing hopes of adding a number of strenuous and sincere friends to our Constitution; but alas! what is to be expected in this degenerate age, when virtue does not even nominally exist amongst us, when arbitrary power, by her baneful engines of venality and corruption, is daily putting a check to every notion of rational and manly liberty!’ (I, p. lvi). Although he acknowledges the excellence of the lyrical poetry, it is clearly the ‘witty and intrepid’ character of Marvell that he most admires.

Extract from The Works III, pp. 466-72.

The compositions of our author are of various sorts, and not less excellent in verse than prose; especially any of those pieces with which he has taken pains: but in general they appear to be the warm effusions of a lively fancy, and are very often thrown off in the extempore moment of their conception and birth, whether begotten in satire or humour. The poem of Paradise Lost, that literary ornament of dignity to our most copious language, which a bookseller bought for fifteen pounds, (and which booksellers hitherto, in virtue of true and just copy-right, have made fortunes by) had lain in lifeless rust and obscurity longer, but for Mr. Marvell and Dr. Barrow, who wrote two complimental poems in English

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