In This Article Andrew Marvell

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Bibliography and Textual Studies
  • Biographies
  • Reputation and Afterlife

British and Irish Literature Andrew Marvell
by
Stewart Mottram
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 August 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846719-0005

Introduction

Andrew Marvell (b. 1621–d. 1678) is today one of the best known of English 17th-century poets, his poems frequently anthologized and studied in school and university syllabi. He was born on 31 March 1621 at Winestead-in-Holderness, fourteen miles southeast of Kingston-upon-Hull. Marvell’s family moved to Hull three years later when his father, a Church of England minister, was appointed master of the Charterhouse, an almshouse for the poor just north of Hull’s town walls. Marvell attended Hull Grammar School between 1629 and 1633, leaving for Trinity College, Cambridge, in December 1633 and traveling in mainland Europe throughout the civil war years in the 1640s. Marvell’s Yorkshire connections later led him to Nun Appleton, near York, where in 1650–1652 he worked as tutor to the daughter of Thomas, Lord Fairfax, the former general of the New Model Army. He also tutored William Dutton, ward of Oliver Cromwell, and worked as a civil servant in Cromwell’s Protectorate government, assisting the poet, John Milton, in Milton’s work at the post of Latin Secretary. In 1659, Marvell was elected a Member of Parliament for Hull, a post he held until his sudden death in August 1678 of a fever he had contracted on a visit to Hull “about the Towns affaires.” Marvell’s poetry has not always been as well received as it is today. Few poems were published in his lifetime, and in the 18th and 19th centuries he was better known as a political controversialist, the author of several prose pamphlets attacking establishment figures in church and state in the 1670s. T. S. Eliot’s influential essay, published in 1921, marked the rise of Marvell’s reputation as a metaphysical poet, but it also had the effect of sidelining Marvell’s political writings and parliamentary career. Recent scholarship has helped assemble a clearer picture of Marvell’s life and times, and a fuller understanding of his complex political and religious views has also helped forge better links between Marvell’s poetry and his political writings. Recent years have seen the publication of a new biography and new editions of Marvell’s complete poems and prose, helping new generations of students and scholars assemble a complete picture of this most complex of 17th-century writers.

Introductory Works

These resources have been selected for their particular accessibility to students and general readers unfamiliar with Marvell’s poetry and political writings. Patrides 1978 gathers together fifteen lectures first delivered to undergraduates to mark the 300th anniversary of Marvell’s death. The focus of these essays is almost entirely on the poetry, reflecting the preoccupations of the late 1970s, when Marvell’s reputation as a lyric poet was only just beginning to be challenged by a renewed emphasis on his political career and controversial writings. The collection is still useful to today’s students nonetheless, particularly when read alongside more recent essay collections in Chernaik and Dzelzainis 1999, Healy 1998, and Hirst and Zwicker 2011. Each volume reflects current critical readings of Marvell’s lyric poetry through the lens of his more explicitly political writings, namely his Restoration pamphlets and verse satires that have themselves been subject to much productive critical scrutiny in recent years. Wilcher 1985 offers a more dated discussion of Marvell’s major poems and prose pamphlets, although still useful as an introductory guide to the political, religious, and pastoral contexts of Marvell’s writing. Marvell Studies is an online, open-access journal showcasing some of the best research and scholarship informing Marvell studies today. It publishes a range of original notes, articles, and book reviews on the life and writings of Marvell and his contemporaries.

  • Chernaik, Warren, and Martin Dzelzainis, eds. Marvell and Liberty. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999.

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    An accessible collection of fifteen essays by leading scholars that integrate Marvell’s later writings and posthumous reputation with his earlier, ostensibly less political poetry. A good introduction to the ongoing movement to politicize Marvell exemplified in Patterson 2000 (cited under Intellectual and Cultural Contexts: Politics).

  • Healy, Thomas, ed. Andrew Marvell. Longman Critical Readers. London: Longman, 1998.

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    Aimed at students, this volume reprints ten influential scholarly essays on Marvell’s poetry, each showcasing significant directions in Marvell criticism since 1978. An introduction and headnotes assess each essay’s contribution to critical debate. Several of the essays appear in subsequent sections (Chernaik 1983 [cited under Intellectual and Cultural Contexts: Religion], Crewe 1994 [cited under the Mower and Pastoral Poems]; Hammond 1996 [cited under Poems: To His Coy Mistress and Lyric Poems], Norbrook 1990 [cited under Poems: An Horatian Ode and the Public Poems], Patterson 2000 [cited under Intellectual and Cultural Contexts: Politics], Zwicker 1990 [cited under Poems: Restoration Satires]).

  • Hirst, Derek, and Steven N. Zwicker, eds. The Cambridge Companion to Andrew Marvell. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

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    An invaluable student guide to recent trends in Marvell scholarship, its editors and eleven contributors—all acknowledged experts in the field—offer a cross-section of key themes and current critical approaches to Marvell’s life and legacy, his literary and visual influences, and his religious and political views.

  • Marvell Studies. 2009–.

    E-mail Citation »

    Formerly the Andrew Marvell Newsletter, Marvell Studies is an online, open-access, and peer-reviewed scholarly journal, and the official publication of the Andrew Marvell Society. An invaluable resource for scholars and students, it publishes book reviews and original articles on Marvell’s life and writings twice yearly.

  • Patrides, Constantinos A., ed. Approaches to Marvell: The York Tercentenary Lectures. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978.

    E-mail Citation »

    A collection of fifteen lectures on aspects of Marvell’s poetry and (in one case) prose, delivered to undergraduates at York to mark the tercentenary of Marvell’s death in 1978. Lectures are written in language highly accessible to undergraduates and offer a cross-section of critical approaches still relevant to students today.

  • Wilcher, Robert. Andrew Marvell. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

    E-mail Citation »

    An introductory undergraduate guide to Marvell’s major English works with discussion of individual poems and prose writings grouped thematically across eight chapters. A bibliography offers somewhat dated guidance for further reading. Still a good starting point for students, if read alongside more recent critical companions, such as Hirst and Zwicker 2011.

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