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ANDREw MARVELL, the incorruptiblest of men and senators in an age when nearly all men and senators were corrupt, was in his lifetime a person much esteemed for his wisdom and his wit; and for his character and conduct has been since considered worthy of an honorable remembrance, being, indeed, now generally regarded as one of those true and faithful spirits that are born for the benefit and ornament of the world. As it is presumable that the acts and qualities of such a man are still possessed of interest, it shall be our present effort to show what manner of man he was, and to represent, in so far as present limits will admit, something of his actual life and conversation. The delineation will be necessarily imperfect, but such as it is it shall be accurate, and, if possible, entertaining.
Be it known, then, to all such as do not already know it, that Andrew Marvell was born at Kingston-upon-Hull, in these days of abbreviation commonly called Hull, on the 15th of November, 1620. His father, also called Andrew, was master of the Grammar School, and lecturer at the church of the Holy Trinity in that town. Fuller mentions him as being remarkable for his facetiousness, and says further, that “he was a most excellent preacher, who never broached what he had new brewed, but preached what he had pre-studied some competent time before, inasmuch as he was wont to say, that he would cross the common proverb which called Sunday the working day, and Monday the holiday of preachers.” But if his preaching was thus excellent, his life was not the less so; indeed, there seems reason to believe that he very much resembled the “Good Parson” drawn by Chaucer:“Rich he was in holy thought and work;
And thereto a right learned man. * * *
The lore of Christ, and his apostles twelve
Of young Andrew's early years there is nothing particular related. A bold imagina. tion may figure him as a frank and joyous boy, with probably a tinge of pensiveness, studying the Latin grammar under his father at the Grammar School, and spending his leisure time in such youthful recreations as were common to his age and country. Haw: ing given sufficient indications of ability, and obtained “an exhibition from his native town,” he was sent, when hardly fifteen
years of age, to Trinity College, Cambridge. '
Here he was presently ensnared by the prose: lytizing cunning of the Jesuits, who induced him to quit his studies and run away to Lon. don, but with what specific object is not distinctly stated. Thither, however, his father traced him, and after considerable searching and inquiry, discovered him acci. dentally in a bookseller's shop. He was restored to the University, and for the two succeeding years he pursued his studies with becoming diligence and success. While yet at College, Andrew lost his father under circumstances peculiarly sudden and affecting. It appears that among his intimate acquaintances there was a lady, re. siding on the other side of the Humber, and who had an only, interesting daughter, en: deared to all who knew her, and by her mother so idolized and passionately beloved, that she was scarcely ever permitted to pass an hour out of her presence. On one occo. sion, however, in compliance with the solicitations of Mr. Marvell, she was allowed to cross over to Hull to be present at the bap. tism of one of his children. The day after the ceremony the young lady was to return, The weather was unusually tempestuous, an on reaching the river side, accompanied by
her reverend friend, the boatmen endeavored to dissuade her from passing over. Afraid of alarming her mother by her prolonged absence, she unhappily persisted. Mr. Marwell, seconding the representations of the boatmen, urged the danger of the undertaking; but finding her resolved to go, he told her that as she had incurred the impending peril to oblige him, he felt “bound in honor and conscience” not to desert her; and having at length prevailed on some of the boatmen to hazard the passage, they embarked. As they were putting off, he flung his cane on shore, telling the bystanders that, in case he should never return, it was to be given to his son, with the injunction “to remember his father.” His apprehensions were very shortly realized: the boat was upset, and both were lost. Great was the grief of the bereaved mother, but when she had a little recovered from her first impressions, she sent for young Marvell, and signified a disposition to aid him in completing his education; and at her death, some time afterwards, she left him the whole of her possessions. Meanwhile, having taken his bachelor's degree, in or about 1638, he appears to have been admitted to a scholarship. This, however, he does not seem to have retained long. A lively, and perhaps riotous temperament exposed him to a variety of temptations, into some of which he evidently fell; for we learn that he became “negligent of his studies,” and absented himself from certain “exercises,” which rendered him amenable to discipline. The result of these irregularities was rather serious, inasmuch as on the 24th September, 1641, he was adjudged by the masters and seniors to be unworthy of receiving “any further benefit from the college,” unless he should show cause to the contrary within the space of three months; a gracious reservation, of which he does not appear to have availed himself. For that default he had, of 'ourse, to quit the University, and he accordingly girded up his loins for adventures in the open world. It seemed to Andrew that perhaps the best thing he could do was to “set out on his travels.” He therefore departed, probably about the beginning of 1642, and journeyed over a great part of Europe. On reaching Rome he fell in with his countryman John Milton, and here, it is believed, began their well-known and life-long friendship. It would be a pleasant accession to the biography of both, could one recover out of the depths of forgetfulness some of those
brilliant and stirring conversations in which they no doubt frequently engaged; but as there was no ready-writing Boswell there to do them such a service, this portion of their history remains, and will remain, extremely indistinct. The most of what we learn of them is this: that both being men of intrepidity, with a strain of the Puritan in their constitutions, they openly argued against the superstitions of the Romish Church, within the very precincts of the Vatican; and, what was hardly to be expected, came off scatheless. It would seem, however, that there was a certain kind of tolerance in the Popish authorities of the times, and that they could very well afford to let a pair of hot-tempered and noble-spirited strangers speak their minds. It was at Rome that Marvell began to try his hand at authorship; the “heir of his invention” being a lampoon on Richard Flecknoe. It is now pretty well forgotten, or remembered mainly as having suggested Dryden's famous satire on Laureate Shadwell. Going afterwards to Paris, Marvell made another satirical effort, designing thereby to bring into contempt a certain Abbé Manibou, who, after the manner of our present “graphiologists,” professed to interpret the characters and indicate the fortunes of individuals by an inspection of their handwritings. His piece was written in Latin, and in point of merit it is considered about equal to his first performance. What impression it made on the public has not been very certainly ascertained. For some years after this, Marvell's history is in great part a blank. We find, however, that having been “four years abroad, in Holland, France, Italy, and Spain,” he was some time subsequently engaged in the household of Lord Fairfax, for the purpose of giving “instructions in the languages” to the daughter of that nobleman. How long he remained in this employment is nowise clear or certain. In 1652 he offered himself as a candidate for the office of Assistant Latin Secretary to the existing government. In a letter of Milton's, dated the 21st of February in that year, and addressed to John Bradshaw, Marvell is described as a man of “singular desert,” and as being in point of learning and ability well qualified for the appointment he was then solititing. The letter concludes in these terms: “This, my lord, I write sincerely, without any other end than to perform my duty to the public in helping them to an humble servant; laying aside those jealousies and that emulation which mine own condition might suggest to me, by bringing in such a coadjutor.” Though thus strongly recommended, Marvell was unsuccessful in his application, and did not obtain the office till five years afterwards. The powers in high places seem nevertheless to have been well disposed to serve him; for in 1653 he was appointed tutor to Cromwell's nephew, Mr. Dutton. Marvell's mode of proceeding towards his pupil appears to have been distinguished by great sense and conscientiousness, and even by a touch of Yorkshire caution. “I have taken care,” says he, in a letter to the Protector, “to examine him several times in the presence of Mr. Oxenbridge, as those who weigh and tell over money before some witness ere they take charge of it, for I thought there might be possibly some lightness in the coin, or error in the telling, which hereafter I shall be bound to make good.” He adds further: “He is of gentle and waxen disposition; and God be praised, I cannot say he hath brought with him any evil impression, and I shall hope to set nothing into his spirit but what may be of good sculpture.”. How Marvell succeeded in building up the inner man of Mr. Dutton, or for what length of time he was so engaged, cannot here be certified, owing to the scantiness of the materials relating to this part of his life. But there seems reason to believe that, in whatsoever way employed, he remained connected with the person and family of Cromwell for a considerable period, as on the publication of Milton's “Second Defence of the People of England,” he was commissioned to present the work to the Protector, and in 1657 was promoted to the Assistant Secretaryship which he had formerly solicited. In 1658 Cromwell died, and we hear no more of Marvell till the opening of the Parliament in 1660. To that Parliament he was returned for his native town of Hull. He was one of the last members of the House of Commons that received wages from their constituents, and the duties which he performed were perhaps on that account more onerous than those of ordinary sen: ators. He appears to have carried on a regular correspondence with the Hull electors, giving them full particulars of the parliamentary proceedings, and of the part which he himself took in them. A great number of his letters are still preserved, and are valuable for the proofs which they afford of the writer's diligence and fidelity, and in some respects also throwing light on certain points of parliamentary history and usage. A few passages from these letters, inter
mingled with certain portions of his private correspondence, may serve to illustrate the character of Marvell's patriotism, and to show the unsparing criticism which he ap
plied to the public transactions of the times.
It is matter of notoriety that the court and administration of Charles II. were extremely unscrupulous and corrupt; it may not, however, be uninteresting to some to see a little of what Marvell noted close at hand. In a letter to a friend in Persia, he says: “The King having, upon pretence of the great preparations of his neighbors, demanded 300,000l. for his navy, (though in conclusion he hath not set out any,) and that the Parliament should pay his debts, (which the ministers would never particularize to the House of Commons,) our house gave several bills. You see how far things were stretched though beyond reason, there being no satis. faction how those debts were contracted, and all men foreseeing that what was given would not be applied to discharge the debts, which I hear are at this day risen to four millions; but diverted as formerly. Nevertheless, such was the number of the constant courtiers increased by the apostate patriots, who were bought off for that turn, some at six, others ten, one at fifteen thousand pounds in money, besides what offices, lands, and reversions to others, that it is a mercy they gave not away the whole land and liberty of England.” In the same letter he adds: “They have signed and sealed ten thousand pounds a year more to the Duchess of Cleveland, who has likewise near ten thousand pounds a year out of the new farm of the country excise of beer and ale, five thousand a year out of the Postoffice, and they say the reversion of all the King's leases, the reversion of all places in the Custom House, the green wax, and indeed what not ? All promotions, spiritual and temporal, pass under her cognizance.”
Of the King's unconstitutional visits to the House of Peers, Marvell gives the following account:—“Being sat, he told them it was a privilege he claimed from his ancestors to be present at their deliberations. That there: fore they should not, for his coming, interrupt their debates, but proceed, and be covered. They did so. It is true that this has been done long ago; but it is now so old that it is new, and so disused, that at any other but so bewitched a time as this, it would have been looked on as a high usurp: ation and breach of privilege. He indeed sat still, for the most part, and interposed very little. . . . . . . After three or four days
*Marvell's Letters, pp. 405, 406.
continuance, the Lords were very well used to the King's presence, and sent the Lord Steward and Lord Chamberlain to him, to know when they might wait as a house on him, to render their humble thanks for the honor he did them. The hour was appointed them, and they thanked him; and he took it well. So this matter, of such importance on all great occasions, seems riveted to them and us for the future, and to all posterity. . . . . The King has ever since continued his session among them, and says it is better than going to a play.” From this, one can perceive that, whatever might be his faults, Charles II. was a pleasant fellow. Of another kind of pleasantry, arising out of the peculiar relations between members of Parliament and their constituencies, we obtain some curious glimpses from these letters. On more than one occasion it appears that members had sued their constituents for arrears of pay; and that others had threatened to do the like, unless the said constituents would agree to re-elect them at the next election. “To-day,” says Marvell, (in a letter dated March 3, 1676–7,) “Sir Harbottle Grimstone, Master of the Rolls, moved for a bill to be brought in, to indemnify all counties, cities, and boroughs, for the wages due to their members for the time past, which was introduced by him upon very good reason, both because of the poverty of many people not able to supply so long an arrear, especially new taxes now coming upon them, and also because Sir John Shaw, the Recorder of Colchester, had sued the town for his wages; several other members also having, it seems, threatened their boroughs to do the same, unless they should choose them upon another election to Parliament.” We gather further, that electors of those days did not pride themselves very much upon the suffrage, and that there were even instances of unpatriotic boroughs begging to be disfranchised, to escape the burdensome honor of sending representatives | In such a state of things, it was hardly to be expected that the attendance of members should be very prompt or punctual. Such, indeed, was the difficulty of obtaining a “full house” that it was deemed advisable at varions times to threaten severe penalties against the absentees. In one of these letters we are told, "The House was called yesterday, and gave defaulters a fortnight's time, by which, if they do not come up, they may expect the greatest severity.” In another, “The House of
Commons was taken up for the most part yesterday in calling over their House, and having ordered a letter to be drawn up from the Speaker to every place for which there is any defaulter, to signify the absence of their members; and a solemn letter is accordingly preparing, to be signed by the Speaker. This is thought a sufficient punishment for any modest man ; nevertheless, if they shall not come up hereupon, there is a further severity reserved.” These reserved severities, however, could be rarely put in practice, so that the absenteeism of honorable gentlemen was for a long time more or less a standing hindrance to legislation. Among the other unpleasant perplexities incident to the House of Commons in those days, were the frequent disputes into which they were in the habit of falling with the House of Lords. The following is an amusing complication of their relations, and must have been extremely difficult of adjustment: “I have no more time than to tell you that the Lords having judged and fined the East India Company, as we think illegally, upon the petition of one Skyner, a merchant, and they petitioning us for redress, we have imprisoned him that petitioned them, and they have imprisoned several of those that petitioned us.” “It is,” adds Marvell, “a business of high and dangerous consequence,” as indeed it manifestly was, though nothing very serious resulted. As a curious example of the odd accidents on which important events may sometimes depend, the following singular anecdote may be cited. Sir G. Carteret had been charged with embezzlement of public money, “The House,” says Marvell, “dividing upon the question, the ayes went out, and wondered why they were kept out so extraordinary a time; the ayes proved 138, and the noes 129; and the reason of the long stay then appeared. The tellers for the ayes chanced to be very ill reckoners, so that they were forced to tell several times over in the house; and when at last the tellers for the ayes would have agreed the noes to be 142, the noes would needs, say that they were 143; whereupon those for the ayes would tell once more, and then found the noes to be indeed but 129, and the ayes then coming in proved to be 138; whereas if the noes had been content with the first error of the tellers, Sir George had been quit upon that observation.” It appears there is no evidence that Mar
* Ibid. pp. 417–419. WOL XXV, NO. II.
* Letters, pp. 125, 126. 18
well ever spoke in Parliament. He was nearly twenty years a member, and all the time a silent one. His influence in the House, nevertheless, seems to have been more than usually considerable. The strong and decided views which he took on public affairs, the severe, satirical things which he was constantly uttering in conversation, or publishing in pamphlets and addresses, and the stedfast and well-known integrity by which his entire conduct was distinguished, rendered him a formidable opponent to the government, and even gained for him the secret respect of some of the court party. Prince Rupert honored him with his friendship, and is said to have remained attached to him when “the rest of the party had honored him by their hatred,” and to have occasionally visited him at his lodgings. When he voted on Marvell's side of the House, as not unfrequently happened, it used to be said that he had been closeted “with his tutor.” Our patriot, however, was nowise without his enemies— as indeed every good man necessarily lives in antagonism with the bad; and there are no relations hitherto discovered under which they can with any permanence be amicably associated. We find it said that on more than one occasion, Marvell was threatened with assassination; so that in spite of conscious virtue he had need of walking guardedly, and with the strictest circumspection. Of his severe probity, his utter inaccessibility to bribery, and the manifold forms of flattery and temptation which the governing powers employed against him, there are many substantial evidences. The account of his memorable interview with the Lord Treasurer Danby, though it has often been repeated, and is, perhaps, generally familiar to historical readers, cannot properly be omitted in any relation having reference to Marvell's acts and character. It appears that he once spent an evening at Court, and very highly delighted the “ merry monarch” by his wit and other personal accomplishments. . In this there is nothing to astonish us; as it is known that Charles enjoyed wit and lively conversation almost more than anything. To his excessive admiration of wit and drollery he was indeed continually sacrificing his royal dignity. However, one morning after the above-mentioned interview, he sent Danby to wait on our patriot with a special message of regard. Charles perhaps might think that with a fellow of such humor it would not be impossible to come to an understanding. His lordship had some difficulty in finding Marvell's residence, but at
last discovered it on a second floor, in a dark court communicating with the Strand. It is said, that in groping up the narrow staircase, he stumbled against the door of the apartment, which, flying open, revealed to him the patriot writing at his desk. A little surprised, Marvell asked his lordship, with a smile, if he had not missed his way. “No,” said Danby, in courtly phraseology; “No; not since I have succeeded in finding Mr. Marvell.” He then proceeded to inform him that he came with a message from the King, who was impressed with a deep sense of his merits, and was anxious to serve him. Marvell replied pleasantly, “that his majesty had it not in his power to serve him." As Danby pressed him seriously, he told his lordship at length that he knew well enough that he who accepts court favors is naturally expected to vote in conformity with its interests. On his lordship's saying “ that his majesty only desired to know whether there was any place at court which he would ac: cept,” the patriot replied, “that he could accept nothing with honor; for either he must treat the King with ingratitude by refusing compliance with court measures, or be a traitor to his country by yielding to them." The only favor, therefore, he begged of his majesty, was to esteem him as a loyal subject, and truer to his actual interests in re
fusing his offers than he could be by accept:
ing them. His lordship having exhausted this species of persuasion, had recourse to what he probably considered more formidable logic, and told him that his majesty requested his acceptance of a thousand pounds. But this too was firmly and respectfully rejected, though, as it is related, soon after Danby left him, Marvell was compelled to borrow a guinea from a friend, to meet his immediate expenses. It has been already hinted, that though no orator in Parliament, Marvell was moderately ready with his pen; and there can be no one at all acquainted with English literature, who does not know that he was one of the most popular writers of his age. Most of his works, however, were written for temporary purposes, and have accordingly in great part passed out of mind with the circumstances that occasioned them. The production on which his fame as an author may be said principally to rest, is the Rehearsal Transprosed—a piece written in a controversy with Dr. Samuel Parker, afterwards Bishop of Oxford, a splendid impersonation of the High-Church militant. Parker, in a preface to a posthumous work of Archbishop Bram: