1769 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Andrew Marvell

James Granger, in Biographical History of England (1769; 1824) 5:107-08, 252.



Andrew Marvell, a merry, yet an indignant satirist, an able statesman, and an uncorrupt patriot, was chosen member of parliament for Kingston-upon-Hull, before and after the restoration. The people of that place, who honoured his abilities, but pitied his poverty, raised a contribution for his support. This was, probably, the last borough in England that paid a representative. As even trivial anecdotes of so ingenious and honest a man are worth preserving. I shall subjoin the following, taken from a manuscript of Mr. John Aubrey, who personally knew him: "He was of a middling stature, pretty strong set, roundish-faced, cherry-cheeked, hazel-eyed, brown-haired. He was, in his conversation, very modest, and of very few words. He was wont to say, he would not drink high or freely with any one, with whom he would not trust his life."

Andrew Marvell was an admirable master of ridicule, which he exerted with great freedom in the cause of liberty and virtue. He never respected vice for being dignified, and dared to attack it wherever he found it, though on the throne itself. There never was a more honest satirist. His pen was always properly directed, and had some effect upon such as were under no check or restraint from any laws human or divine. He hated corruption more than he dreaded poverty; and was so far from being venal, that he could not be bribed by the king into silence, when he scarce knew how to procure a dinner. His satires give us a higher idea of his patriotism, parts, and learning, than of his skill as a poet. His poem entitled, Flecno, an English priest at Rome, is remarkable for a humorous character of that poetaster. The name of Mac-Flecno was afterward applied by Dryden to Shadwell. He died the 16th of August 1678. His death was generally believed to have been occasioned by poison.