Andrew Marvell, the Critical Heritage

By Elizabeth Story Donno | Go to book overview

82.

Richard Garnett on Marvell

1895

Biographer, critic, and minor poet, Richard Garnett (1835-1906) published The Age of Dryden in 1895.

Extract from The Age of Dryden (1932 reprint), pp. 49-53.

Andrew Marvell was a virtuous man whose good qualities contrast so forcibly with the characteristic failings of his age, that he appears by contrast even more virtuous than he actually was. His integrity made him the hero of legend, for, although the Court would no doubt have been glad to gain him, it is hardly credible that the prime minister should by the king’s order have personally waited upon him ‘up two pair of stairs in a little court in the Strand. ’ But the apocryphal anecdote attests the real veneration inspired by his independence in a venal age. Born in the neighbourhood of Hull on March 31st, 1621, he studied at Cambridge, travelled for some years on the Continent, and settled down about 1650 as tutor to the daughter of Lord Fairfax. At this period he wrote his exquisite poem, The Garden, and other pieces of a similar character. He also wrote in 1650 the poem on Cromwell’s return from Ireland, which may have gained for him in 1653 the appointment of tutor to Cromwell’s ward, William Dutton. Other pieces of a like description followed, and in 1657 Marvell became joint Latin secretary with Milton, an office for which Milton had recommended him four years previously. His poem on the Protector’s death in the following year is justly declared by Mr. Firth to be ‘the only one distinguished by an accent of sincerity and personal affection. ’1 He was elected for Hull to Richard Cromwell’s Parliament, and continued to sit for the remainder of his life. He was the last Member of Parliament who received a salary from his constituents, to whose interests he in return attended so

1 C. H. Firth (1857-1936), historian and literary critic, contributed the article on Marvell to the DNB.

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