has fire and fancy and was the owner and master of a precise vocabulary well fitted to clothe and set forth a well-reasoned and lofty argument. He knew how to be both terse and diffuse, and can compress himself into a line or expand over a paragraph. He has touches of a grave irony as well as of a boisterous humour. He can tell an anecdote and elaborate a parable. Swift, we know, had not only Butler’s Hudibras by heart, but was also (we may be sure) a close student of Marvell’s prose. His great fault is a very common one. He is too long. He forgets how quickly a reader grows tired. He is so interested in the evolutions of his own mind that he forgets his audience. His interest at times seems as if it were going to prove endless. It is the first business of an author to arrest and then to retain the attention of the reader. To do this requires great artifice.
Among the masters of English prose it would be rash to rank Marvell, who was neither a Hooker nor a Taylor. None the less he was the owner of a prose style which some people think the best prose style of all—that of honest men who have something to say.
(a) Extract from the Times Literary Supplement (22 September 1905), p. 303.
Each volume of the new issue of the English Men of Letters Series makes the sufficiency of Mr. Morley’s original programme increasingly clear; and a counsel of perfection to the publishers would have urged the postponement of their supplementary action for many years. Since, however, the new volumes are coming out with regularity and rapidity, it is idle now to criticize the movement; but we might just remark that among the poets Marvell is the thinnest edge of the wedge yet admitted. We do not see how,