Andrew Marvell, the Critical Heritage

By Elizabeth Story Donno | Go to book overview
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But Marvel is in no way typical of the great body of the Puritans. He stands, as Milton does, for the cultured section among them; but their preoccupations were religious rather than political, and Marvel, whose best known works in his own day were satires (now hard to read), did not write of religion. Milton wrote of religion, but from a standpoint of his own, and the poet of Paradise Regained attended no place of worship. The true expression of Puritan England is to be found in the writings of John Bunyan, tinker and Baptist preacher, who knew no books but the Bible and Fox’s Book of Martyrs.


Augustine Birrell on Marvell


Although devoting most of his energies to politics, Augustine Birrell (1850-1933) was much admired for his essays on literary topics written in a sprightly and humorous style that became characterized as ‘Birrellism. His volume Andrew Marvell appeared in the series ‘English Men of Letters’ and is largely biographical.

Extract from the final chapter entitled ‘Work as a Man of Letters, Andrew Marvell (1905), pp. 225-8, 231-2. (For his earlier remarks [p. 68] on the ‘Horatian Ode, see No. 92, where they are quoted. )

Marvell’s work as a man of letters easily divides itself into the inevitable three parts. First, as a poet properly so called; Second, as a political satirist using rhyme; and Third, as a writer of prose.

Upon Marvell’s work as a poet properly so called that curious, floating, ever-changing population to whom it is convenient to refer as ‘the reading public, had no opportunity of forming any real opinion until after the poet’s death, namely, when the small


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