Andrew Marvell, the Critical Heritage

By Elizabeth Story Donno | Go to book overview

81.

Sir E. K. Chambers’s review of Marvell in the Muses’ Library Series

1892

In contrast with No. 80, the review of Aitken’s edition by the critic and scholar E. K. Chambers (1866-1954) heralds the true beginnings of positive reassessment of the poetry. There is, first of all, concern for the lyrical poetry to the exclusion of the satires. There is, second, an emphasis on the nature poetry, particularly the Mower poems. Finally, there is an acceptance, when not ‘merely fantastical, ’ of the conceited style.

Extract from the Academy, 42 (17 September 1892), pp. 230-1.

The calling of the publisher, no longer merely a trade, begins to take place among the fine arts. Truly this is a thing to be thankful for, more than we are aware. The present book illustrates the blessings thereof. For the better part of the century Marvell was attainable only in the imperfect editions of incapable and ignorant men. So that he was represented to the ordinary reader by selections; and in especial by two ill-understood stanzas of the Horatian Ode, wherein is set forth the theatrical bearing of Charles I., ‘the royal actor, ’ upon his day of execution. About twenty years ago Marvell was edited—badly—by Dr. Grosart. Who, indeed, has escaped being edited—badly—by Dr. Grosart? And Dr. Grosart’s edition is moreover a limited issue, a thing dear to the bibliophile, and unspeakably hateful to the lover of literature…. For the historical side of his work, which must have meant considerable labour, and for the brief but perfectly sufficient biography, Mr. Aitken deserves great credit. His critical notes are not quite so happy, and at times he seems to have fallen into error by blindly borrowing from Dr. Grosart. And one would have been glad of some more elaborate attempt to appreciate the place of Marvell in English literature. That is a task which an editor has never a

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