Andrew Marvell, the Critical Heritage

By Elizabeth Story Donno | Go to book overview

had plague, fire, and the Dutch in the Medway, but we had the couplet; and there were also the measures of those more poetic poets, hitherto called somewhat slightingly the Cavalier poets, who matched the wit of the Puritan with a spirit simpler and less mocking.


85.

George Saintsbury’s comments on Marvell

1898

Journalist, critic, and academician, George Saintsbury (1845-1933) published extensively on English and French literature. His Short History of English Literature, published in 1898, was to be reprinted many times.

Extract from A Short History of English Literature (New York, 1919), pp. 425-6.

The life of Andrew Marvell and his work both fall into two sharply divided and curiously contrasted sections. In the first he is a quiet student, a passionate lyrical poet of love and nature, and if of Puritan learnings and surroundings, gently inclined to what is noble in the other side; in the second he is, perhaps an austere patriot, certainly a violent politician, and poetically a ferocious lampooner in rough couplets. We may confine ourselves here to his earlier, and as literature better, period He was born in 1621 at Winestead, not far from Hull, and went early to Cambridge, where he took his Bachelor’s but not his Master’s degree. He seems to have travelled a good deal, but we find him in 1649 at home, contributing to the collection of elegies on Lord Hastings which saw Dryden’s first work, and being the friend of Richard Lovelace. Indeed, the splendid lines on the execution of Charles I., and

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