H. C. Beeching (1859-1919) was a churchman and a man of letters. His essay with its historical survey of Marvell’s fortuna signals in his own words ‘the recent rise into fame’ of the lyric poet. Despite an occasional idiosyncratic judgment (as on the ‘Horatian Ode’), he is a sensitive critic.
Extract from the National Review, 37 (July 1901), pp. 747-59.
Any one who wished to defend the thesis that our own generation, however it may fall below its predecessors in outstanding poetical genius, is markedly their superior in poetical taste, might find matter for his argument in the recent rise into fame of the lyrical verse of Marvell. It may be interesting to trace the progress of this growth of appreciation.
In 1681, three years after Marvell’s death, a well printed folio was brought out by his widow containing all his poetry that existed in manuscript, except the political pieces, which, as the Stuarts were still upon the throne, could not be published with safety. Of this book no second edition was called for. In 1726 a literary hack, one Thomas Cooke, who translated Hesiod, and for attacking Pope was rewarded with immortality:
From these the world will judge of men and books,
Not from the Burnets, Oldmixons, and Cookes,
[Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, ll. 145-6]
issued an edition of Marvell’s poems including the political satires, and rests Marvell’s fame almost exclusively on political grounds. ‘My design, ’ he says, ‘in this is to draw a pattern for all freeborn Englishmen, in the life of a worthy Patriot, whose every Action has truely merited to him, with Aristides, the surname of the Just.’ How little capable Cooke was of appreciating any of the distinctive qualities of Marvell’s verse may be judged from