Andrew Marvell, the Critical Heritage

By Elizabeth Story Donno | Go to book overview

constituents, and to parliamentary business in general, might make him a model for parliamentary men, now that gross and direct corruption at least has ceased.


60.

John Greenleaf Whittier on Marvell

1848

As a popular American poet and ardent liberal, John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-92) was attracted to Marvell by the dual appeal of poetry and politics, as his essay, first published in the National Era for 18 May 1848, indicates.

Extract from Old Portraits and Modern Sketches in the collected works (Cambridge, Mass., 1888-9), VI, pp. 87-8, 92-103. In his citations, Whittier ‘improves’ the texts at will.

Among the great names which adorned the Protectorate, —that period of intense mental activity, when political and religious rights and duties were thoroughly discussed by strong and earnest statesmen and theologians, —that of Andrew Marvell, the friend of Milton, and Latin Secretary of Cromwell, deserves honorable mention. The magnificent prose of Milton, long neglected, is now perhaps as frequently read as his great epic; but the writings of his friend and fellow secretary, devoted like his own to the cause of freedom and the rights of the people, are scarcely known to the present generation. It is true that Marvell’s political pamphlets were less elaborate and profound than those of the author of the glorious Defence of Unlicensed Printing. He was light, playful, witty, and sarcastic; he lacked the stem dignity, the terrible invective, the bitter scorn, the crushing, annihilating retort, the grand and solemn eloquence, and the devout appeals, which render immortal

-196-

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