Andrew Marvell, the Critical Heritage

By Elizabeth Story Donno | Go to book overview

39.

John Aikin on Marvell

1799-1815

Dr John Aikin (1744-1822) retired from medical practice in 1798 to devote himself to various literary pursuits, including the editing of the Monthly Magazine and the Athenaeum. His General Biography; or Lives of the Most Eminent Persons was published in ten volumes, 1799-1815. Although largely biographical, the account of Marvell was much pillaged, particularly the concluding succinct evaluation of his poetic style.

Extract from the grangerized version in twenty-two volumes (1818) with the assistance of William Enfield and others, XIV, pp. 607-9,

MARVELL, ANDREW, a witty writer and incorruptible patriot, was born in 1620, at Kingston-upon-Hull…. From the records of Trinity college, it appears, that in 1641, Marvell with some others was excluded from its benefits on account of non-attendance. Possibly he might then have begun the course of travels which we find he pursued through Holland, France, and Italy, and which doubtless contributed to that enlargement of mind which distinguished him from the mere party writers of the time. His propensity to ridicule was displayed by a humorous though carelessly-written satire upon one Flecknoe, an English priest and poetaster at Rome; and in a burlesque poem addressed to an abbot de Maniban at Paris, a pretender to fortune-telling. Of his residence and employment for many subsequent years, we have very little information. From a letter of his to Oliver Cromwell, dated in 1653, it appears that he was engaged by the protector to superintend the education of a Mr. Dutton, who was lodged with Mr. Oxenbridge at Eton…. If some of the poems attributed to him in the last edition of his works be genuine, he was a greater panegyrist of that usurper than might be wished; but the vigour with which Cromwell ruled contending factions, and the honour acquired by the nation under his government, seem to have dazzled men of

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