Andrew Marvell, the Critical Heritage

By Elizabeth Story Donno | Go to book overview

66.

George Gilfillan comments on Marvell

1860

Editor and critic George Gilfillan (1813-78) included Marvell in his three-volume anthology, but, not untypically, he omits lines from the poems he includes—‘Bermudas, ’ ‘The Nymph’ (where, in accord with other anthologists like William Cullen Bryant, he alters the rhyme in ll. 53-4), ‘On Mr Milton’s Paradise Lost, ’ ‘The Garden, ’ and ‘The Character of Holland. ’ In his biographical account, he calls Marvell the ‘nobleminded patriot and poet, the friend of Milton, [and] the Abdiel of a dark and corrupt age. ’

Extract from Specimens with Memoirs of the Less-Known British Poets. (Edinburgh, 1860), II, pp. 176-7.

Although a silent senator, Marvell was a copious and popular writer. He attacked Bishop Parker for his slavish principles, in a piece entitled ‘The Rehearsal Transposed’ [sic], in which he takes occasion to vindicate and panegyrise his old colleague Milton. His anonymous ‘Account of the Growth of Arbitrary Power and Popery in England’ [sic] excited a sensation, and a reward was offered for the apprehension of the author and printer. Marvell had many of the elements of a first-rate political pamphleteer. He had wit of a most pungent kind, great though coarse fertility of fancy, and a spirit of independence that nothing could subdue or damp. He was the undoubted ancestor of the Defoes, Swifts, Steeles, Juniuses, and Burkes, in whom this kind of authorship reached its perfection, ceased to be fugitive, and assumed classical rank….

‘Out of the strong came forth sweetness, ’ saith the Hebrew record. And so from the sturdy Andrew Marvell have proceeded such soft and lovely strains as ‘The Emigrants, ’ ‘The Nymph complaining for the Death of her Fawn, ’ ‘Young Love, ’ &c. The statue of Memnon became musical at the dawn; and the stern patriot, whom no bribe could buy and no flattery melt, is found

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