Of Andrew Marvell, a patriot of the old Roman build, and a Poet of no vulgar strain, it is to be regretted that our notices are less ample and continuous than his personal merit deserves, or his exalted walk of public action would induce us to expect. His name, indeed, is generally known — a few anecdotes of his honesty are daily repeated — and a single copy of verses, no adequate sample of his poetic powers, keeping its station in the vestibule of Paradise Lost, records him as the friend and admirer of Milton. But the detail of his daily life — the simple background of the stirring picture — the intermediate transactions which would make up the unity and totality of his story — might indeed be easily supplied by imagination, but cannot be derived from document or tradition.
The mind of Marvell, like the street and the wall of Jerusalem, was built in troublous times. From his youth upwards, he was inured to peril and privation; and, though he does not appear to have been personally engaged in civil conflict, he could not escape the tyrannous trials of those "evil days" — reproach and wicked solicitation, and sundering of dearest ties, by violent death, and exile, and crueller estrangement. Yet if his heart was often wounded it was never hardened. He ever retained and cherished his love of the gentle, the beautiful, and the imaginative. His virtue, firm and uncompromising, was never savage; nor did his full reliance on his own principles make him blind to perceive, or slow to acknowledge, whatever goodness appeared in men of other faith and allegiance. He was a wit and poet, and as these qualities made him no worse a patriot or christian, so they probably made him a more amiable man.
The father of Marvell, who bore both his names, was a native of Cambridge, and M.A. of Emanuel College, a recent foundation, which was strongly embued with puritanism. Having taken orders, he was elected master of the Grammar School at Hull, and in 1624 became lecturer of Trinity Church, in that town, where his son Andrew was born, Nov. 15, 1620. The elder Marvell was a learned and pious man, who seemed to retain the principles of his college, and possessed a portion of that shrewd humour for which his son was so conspicuous; for Echard, in his history, calls him "the facetious Calvinistical minister of Hull." As Calvinism was then identified with the popular cause, he doubtless instilled into young Andrew's mind the early love of that liberty, to the support of which he devoted his life and talents. Of Andrew's school days little is recorded: at fifteen, an age which would now be esteemed at least two years too soon, he was admitted of Trinity College, Cambridge. His academical progress was proportionate to the growing powers and native energy of his mind. But error, which youth can never wholly escape, peculiarly besets the nonage of an active intellect. And none are more obnoxious to the attacks of the wicked spirits "that lie like truth," than the young and ardent, to whom Truth is a passion, and a Deity. The Jesuits, the subtlest spawn of the subtle serpent, who were then compassing sea and land to make one proselyte, and like all proselytists, religious and political, directed their machinations especially against boys and women, had stolen into the Universities. Young Marvell was a tempting prize; and their plausible equivocations so far prevailed over his inexperience, as to seduce him to London. It was one of the devices of Jesuitism, which held all means indifferent or laudable whereby the power of their church was to be sustained and enlarged, to pretend a zeal for civil liberty, to speak lightly of the "jus divinum," and to justify resistance. Probably by these means they ingratiated themselves with Marvell, who, in his innocence, might not perceive, that not popular freedom, but the despotism of an order was to be substituted for regal prerogative. Moreover, the Catholics, and the Catholic priesthood in particular, were at that time the objects of mob fury and legal pillage; sometimes timidly protected, and sometimes nearly given up by the Court. It is not the least evil of intolerance, that it often sets the martyr's crown on the brow of the bigot and the traitor. But all the Jesuits' craft could not sophisticate the filial piety of young Marvell; though their principles on that head were as lax as those of the Pharisees. He was, therefore, quickly subdued by the remonstrances of his excellent father, who pursued him to the metropolis, and restored him to sanity and his studies.
On the 13th of December, 1638, as appears by his own hand-writing, he was again received at Trinity College, and seems to have steadily applied himself to the pursuit of learning till 1640, when the loss of his revered parent again interrupted his academical course. The circumstances of the elder Marvell's death are somewhat variously related; but by all accounts he fell a sacrifice to his honour, and sense of duty. The less extraordinary tradition is as follows: — On the banks of the Humber, opposite Kingston, lived a lady, the only daughter, and main earthly stay of her mother, whose excellent qualities of heart and mind recommended her to the good pastor's especial regard. To perpetuate the friendship of the families, he requested her to become godmother to one of his children, — a relation then supposed to impose great and lasting duties. Her mother, who could scarcely live but in the company of her child, reluctantly consented. The lady came to Hull accordingly, the ceremony was performed, and she became impatient to return to her parent. Coming to the water side, she found the river so rough, and the weather so unpromising, that the watermen earnestly dissuaded her from attempting the passage. But no peril nor persuasion could prevail on her to violate the promise she had made to her mother. The worthy minister, honouring her virtuous resolution, though anticipating a fatal result, resolved to share the danger of which he had been the unwitting cause, — took charge of the duteous female, embarked along with her, and with her perished in the waters.
The other relation is so little in accordance with modern theories, that some apology may be deemed necessary for introducing it into our memoir. But wonderful tales, if not absolutely true, nevertheless are important documents, if they ever were generally believed: for they contribute to the history of opinion. Besides, "there are more things between heaven and earth than are dreamed of in our philosophy."
According to this account, Mr. Marvell's apprehension arose, not from the warning of watermen, nor from the threatenings of the sky, but from that prophetic presentiment, that second sight of dissolution, which, like the shadow on the dial, points darkly at the hour of departure. The morning was clear, the breeze fair, and the company gay; when, stepping into the boat, the reverend man exclaimed — "Ho for Heaven!" so saying, he threw his staff ashore, and left it to Providence to fulfil its awful warning. Of course we ask nobody to believe this unless he chooses; but we should as readily believe it, upon sufficient evidence, as any event in history. So many are the similar cases on record, that he who would reject them all, must be a person of indefatigable incredulity. The prophetic warnings have occurred to young and old, kings and rustics, saints and sinners: to Bentley, the orthodox; to Oliver Cromwell, the fanatic; to Littleton, the rake; to Nelson, the hero: and to Alexander Stephens, the buffoon.
Thus was young Marvell bereft of his natural guardian in his twentieth year, and left to find his way in the troubled world, to decide between warring opinions, and choose amid conflicting parties, unassisted by that voice of authority to which he would have paid most willing deference. The aged lady, with whose daughter the venerable man had dared to die, sent for his son from Cambridge, acted towards him as a mother, and at her decease bequeathed him her whole property.
The transactions which immediately succeeded this event, are not on record; but it would seem that Marvell, to whose ardent and liberal mind neither college discipline nor collegiate opinions were likely to be agreeable, became negligent of academic exercises when no longer restrained by parental care; and, in 1641, he, with four other youths, among whom was Maye, the parliamentary historian, and translator and continuator of Lucan, were conditionally dismissed from Trinity College.
Marvell probably never made the required submission, or returned to Cambridge, for soon after we find him on his travels in Italy.
That he was at Rome, appears from his poem, called "Flecnoe, an English Priest," which is supposed to have suggested to Dryden his famous satire of Mc Flecnoe, wherein he avenged himself on his old enemy Shadwell, whose politics had gained the Laureateship of which Dryden was deprived at the Revolution. Shadwell was fair game; but Flecnoe seems to have been innocuously dull. At Rome, it is supposed, Marvell first saw Milton, then a young and enamoured roamer in classic lands, who was soon to make "all Europe ring from side to side," already a poet, not of promise merely, but of high achievement, in the flower of manly beauty, in the vernal warmth of high and generous daring; not even in the proudest days of her Republic, had Rome to boast two nobler youths than Milton and Marvell. No doubt they sympathised in passionate indignation to see priestcraft throned on the seven hills. D'Israeli has written a book upon the "Quarrels of Authors," why does not he, or somebody else, write one about the "Friendships of Authors?" Why is it, that the little good that has been on earth has never found an historian? Whether Marvell ever went the full length of Milton's opinions in Church and State, is not very evident; probably not, for he seems to have been a much more cautious man, and was too young to take any decided part in the civil contest, which by suspending the regal power, made its resumption the more formidable. In this respect Andrew was a fortunate man, for he partakes fully in the fame of his illustrious friend, as a defender and promoter of true liberty, while he escaped all participation in the more questionable parts of his career. As tour writing was not quite so indispensable in the seventeenth century as at present, our account of Marvell's travels is necessarily scanty, the few incidental notices that may occur in his miscellaneous works not being sufficient to compose a regular narrative. He returned, however, between 1642 and 1643, and while at Paris, on his way homeward, he found occasion to exercise his satirical vein in a Latin Poem upon Lancelot Joseph de Maniban, a whimsical Abbe, who, by a new sort of Cheiromancy, pretended to forebode the fortunes of individuals, not by the lines of the hands, but by those of their hand-writing.
Little information can be obtained of Marvell's proceedings from his return to England, till the year 1652, one of the most important intervals in human history. How he thought and felt during this period we may easily conjecture, but we are at a loss to find out what he was doing. It is probable that he acted no conspicuous part, either civil or military, as he is not mentioned in the parliamentary papers, or other public documents, nor does he appear to have employed his pen on either side. Some incidental notices we may gleam from a letter of Milton to the President Bradshaw, that chief of the regicide Judges, who shared with Cromwell, Blake, and Ireton, the honour of being hanged after his death. It is inscribed to the Honourable the Lord Bradshaw. No apology can be required for inserting it entire.
But that it would be an interruption to the public, wherein your studies are perpetually employed, I should now or then venture to supply this my enforced absence with a line or two, though it were onely my business, and that would be noe slight one, to make my due acknowledgments of your many favoures; which I both doe at this time, and ever shall; and have this farder, which I thought my parte to let you know of, that there will be with you tomorrow, upon some occasion of business, a gentleman whose name is Mr. Marvile; a man whom, both by report, and the converse I have had with him, of singular desert for the state to make use of; who alsoe offers himselfe, if there be any imployment for him. His father was the Minister of Hull; and he hath spent four years abroad, in Holland, France, Italy, and Spaine, to very good purpose, as I believe, and the gaineing of those four languages; besides, he is a scholler, and well read in the Latin and Greek authors; and no doubt of an approved conversation, for he comes now lately out of the house of the Lord Fairfax, who was Generall, where he was intrusted to give some instructions in the languages to the Lady his daughter. If, upon the death of Mr. Weckkerlyn, the Councell shall think that I shall need any assistance in the performance of my place (though for my part I find no encumbrances of that which belongs to me, except it be in point of attendance at Conferences with Ambassadors, which I must confess, in my condition, I am not fit for,) it would be hard for them to find a man soe fit every way for that purpose as this Gentleman, one who I believe, in a short time, would be able to doe them as much service as Mr. Ascan. This, my Lord, I write sincerely, without any other end than to perform my dutey to the publick, 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; and remaine,
Your most obliged, and faithfull Servant,
Feb. 21, 1652."
The silence of this letter as to any diplomatic experience of Marvell sufficiently refutes the statement of certain biographers, that he was employed by the Commonwealth as Envoy to Constantinople. A diligent examination of the epistolary correspondence and private diaries of that eventful period would probably throw some further light on our subject's proceedings. Milton's recommendation to Bradshaw did not gain an appointment for his friend. As the times turned, it is probable that the patronage of the Lord President would rather have been injurious than beneficial to his prospects, for Bradshaw was opposed to Cromwell, by whom he was deprived of the Chief-justiceship of Chester. In 1654, when Milton's famous second defence of the people of England in reply to Salmasius appeared, Marvell was commissioned to present the book to the Protector. How he was received may be conjectured from his letter to Milton on that occasion, which we give entire:—
I did not satisfy myself in the account I gave you of presenting your book to my Lord; although it seemed to me that I wrote to you all which the messenger's speedy return the same night would permit me: and I perceive that, by reason of that haste, I did not give you satisfaction, neither concerning the delivery of your letter at the same time. Be pleased, therefore, to pardon me, and know that I tendered them both together. But my Lord read not the letter while I was with him; which I attributed to our dispatch, and some other business tending thereto, which I therefore wished ill to, so far as it hindered an affair much better, and of greater importance, — I mean that of reading your letter. And to tell you truly mine own imagination, I thought that he would not open it while I was there, because he might suspect that I, delivering it just upon my departure, might have brought in it some second proposition, like to that which you had before made to him, by your letter, to my advantage. However, I assure myself that he has since read it with much satisfaction.
Mr. Oxenbridge, on his return from London, will, I know, give you thanks for his book, as I do, with all acknowledgment and humility, for that you have sent me. I shall now study it, even to getting it by heart. When I consider how equally it turns and rises, with so many figures, it seems to me a Trajan's column, in whose winding ascent we see embossed the several monuments of your learned victories; and Salmasius and Morus make up as great a triumph as that of Decebalus; whom, too, for ought I know, you shall have forced, as Trajan the other, to make themselves away, out of a just desperation.
I have an affectionate curiosity to know what becomes of Colonel Overton's business, and am exceeding glad to think that Mr. Skinner has got near you: the happiness which I at the same time congratulate to him, and envy, there being none who doth, if I may so say, more jealously honour you than,
Your most affectionate humble Servant,
ETON, June 2, 1654.
For my most honoured friend, John Milton,
Esq., Secretary for Foreign Affairs,
At his house in Petty France, Westminster."
Grace and ease in letter writing is one of the last accomplishments at which literature arrives. Marvell's letters, from which we shall make copious extracts, are not cited as examples of composition, in which respect they are hardly worthy of his talents, but for the historical intelligence they convey, and the testimony which they bear to the writer's integrity. Seldom, however, was he guilty of such bad taste, as in the allusion to Trajan's Column, and never again uttered so uncharitable a surmise as that with regard to Morus and Salmasius. It is some consolation that neither of those grammarians followed the example of the Dacian Monarch, though Milton himself is said to have ascribed the death of Salmasius to chagrin at his defeat. Even good men seldom enter a controversy without making wreck of their peace of mind.
In 1657 Marvell became tutor to Cromwell's nephew. There is extant a letter of his to the Protector, rather more respectful than would please either a royalist or a determined republican. What part he took in the confused passages that ensued on Cromwell's death, we are not informed. He was elected member for his native town in 1660 — in that parliament which was destined to see the restoration of royalty. Though it is probable that he corresponded regularly with his constituents from his first election, whatever he may have written previous to the triumphal 29th of May, or in the busy aera of intoxication which followed, has never been discovered. We cannot tell how far he approved the recall of Majesty, which be must have seen it vain to oppose, or whether he laboured to obtain those securities against the encroachments of prerogative which the treacherous counsels of Monk induced the Convention to forego, — what he felt on the violent revulsion of public feeling whereby Charles the Second was enabled to establish a sway which nothing but his own indolence hindered from being despotic, — or how he judged of the vindictive proceedings of the reinstated royalists, which had well nigh bereft the world of Milton, and of Paradise Lost. He might not choose to trust his sentiments on such subjects to paper, or he might sedulously reclaim and destroy writings which endangered others as well as himself. It may be necessary to remind the reader, that it was only by the communications of Members, that provincial constituents could then be made acquainted with what passed in Parliament. The publication of debates was at that time, and long after, really and strictly forbidden. Even in Dr. Johnson's day, the standing order was evaded by reports under feigned names or initials. The Doctor himself published (if he did not compose) "Debates in the Senate of Lilliput." Has the publication of debates ever yet been legalised by express enactment? We fear not.
Middleton composed his life of Cicero, Jortin, his life of Erasmus, almost entirely from the epistles of their respective subjects. We shall make as free a use, though we cannot construct so regular a narrative, of the parliamentary epistles of Andrew Marvell. The earliest of these is dated November, 1660, in which he laments the absence of his partner, Mr. John Ramsden, and tells them he "writes but with half a pen, which makes his account of public affairs so imperfect; and yet he had rather expose his own defects to their good interpretation, than excuse thereby a total neglect of his duty."
Two of the most difficult questions that occupied the government immediately after the restoration, were, how to dispose of the standing army, which, during the suspension of the monarchy, had become a deliberative and most influential member of the body politic; and whether to continue or abrogate the excise, a financial offspring of the Long Parliament, which the restored monarch was not unwilling to adopt.
Confiding in the unorganised valour of the English nation, and in the capacity of discipline which exists in every people, he once and for ever opposed a standing army, a species of force, which, had Charles the First possessed, he might have been as despotic as he would; which Cromwell possessing, kept the realm at nurse for a Prince who, with equal means, could have done more than the worst of his legitimate or illegitimate predecessors. The purpose of the Puritans was, to turn the whole blessed island into a Presbyterian Paradise, in which there was to be nothing but churches, and church-yards; — one to be filled with the living bodies of the saints, and the other with the hanged carcases of their adversaries. The apostate royalists of the Restoration would have made England a bear garden, in which all vices were free, and from which nothing but piety was exiled. Marvell had seen a standing army, composed of more respectable materials than could easily be replaced, the instrument of one tyranny; and most wisely he opposed its continuance, when the same mass, compacted of baser atoms, might perpetuate a tyranny far worse than that which it succeeded. He conceived an army to be a giant body without a directing soul, — a house to let, in which the long-houseless daemon of despotism might live at a nominal rent. — But hear what Marvell said, nigh 200 years ago: — "I doubt not, ere we rise, to see the whole army disbanded; and according to the act, hope to see your town once more ungarisoned, in which I should be glad and happy to be instrumental to the uttermost; for I cannot but remember, though then a child, those blessed days, when the youth of our own town were trained for your militia, and did, methought, become their arms much better than any soldiers that I have seen since." Of the excise, he observed prophetically, "He wished it might not be continued too long."
We cannot but lament that Marvell's correspondence with his constituents, as far as can now be discovered, only commences in November, 1660. He appears to have been first chosen in the Short Parliament of 1658-9, summoned after the death of Oliver, during the brief Protectorate of Richard Cromwell, and soon after dissolved to make way for the restoration of the Rump. But it is not certain whether Marvell ever sat in this assembly. The Convention, or Healing Parliament met on the 25th of April, 1660, and Marvell paid an early attendance; but what he thought of the Restoration, or how the good townsmen of Hull (the first town which shut its gates against the sovereign, 1642, and which Governor Overton had but a little before refused to surrender till King James should come to claim it) were affected by the revival of royalty, his letters do not inform us. Perhaps it was not thought prudent that any record of his sentiments on that occasion should survive. We may be certain that he never contemplated a fruitless opposition to a measure which was the will of the people, and the necessity of the state; but surely he would, with the smallest chance of success, have demanded from the royal party such securities as civil and religious liberty required.
The most remarkable feature in his parliamentary dispatches is, that he scarcely ever speaks of himself. He says little or nothing of his own aid or opposition to any particular measure, though it is not difficult to perceive the drift of his opinions. To his private affairs he scarcely alludes, unless it be to thank the corporation for some present or enquiry. He, indeed, manifestly writes under some degree of restraint, knowing that the sanctity of a seal is not always respected by a jealous government in perilous times. The first letters, from November 20th to December 29th, refer chiefly to the settlement of the revenue; the excise, half of which was given to the King for life, and the other half granted in perpetuum to the Crown; the abolition of the Court of Wards; the £70,000 per month for the disbanding of the army; the tonnage and poundage; the £100,000 to be raised upon lands in the several counties, (the apportioning of which gave rise, as might be expected, to much and angry discussion), which £100,000 was afterwards levied upon the excise of ale and beer; and the £1,200,000 to be settled upon his Majesty. The Act of Indemnity, and the trial of the regicides, transpired before the commencement of the correspondence, and Marvell makes no allusion to either. Perhaps he could not have done so without committing both himself and his correspondents. Of ecclesiastical matters he says but little, though he speaks with approbation "of that very good Bill for erecting and augmenting vicarages out of all impropriations belonging to Archbishops, Bishops, Deans and Chapters, or any other ecclesiastical person or corporation, to £80 per annum, where the impropriation amounts to £120, and where less, to one moiety of the profits of such impropriations." He casually mentions, once or twice, the King's Declaration in religious matters, which it was proposed to pass into a law; but the bill to that effect was lost by 183 against 157. This declaration was intended to satisfy the Presbyterians; and would, in fact, had it been carried into effect, have grafted the Presbyterian system on Episcopacy, and reduced the Hierarchal power to little more than an honourable presidency.
On the rejection of this measure, Marvell observes, "so there's an end of that bill; and for those excellent things therein, we must henceforth rely only on his Majesty's goodness, who, I must needs say, hath been more ready to give, than we to receive." In all his earlier letters he speaks respectfully and favourably of Charles and the Royal Family, and seems to have entertained hopes of a just and equal government, a true and comprehensive amnesty of all past offences between Prince and subject, between all sects and parties, between each man and his neighbour.
In speaking of the measures then on foot for establishing the militia, he advises rather to "trust to his Majesty's goodness," than to "confirm a perpetual and exorbitant power by law." This sentiment not only shews that the patriot was not then ill-affected towards the restored line, but proves him to have been a truly wise and liberal statesman; unlike too many champions of liberty, who, in their dread of prerogative, have unwarily strengthened the tyranny of law, a thing without bowels or conscience, and overlooks the chronic diseases of custom, which slowly but surely reduce the body politic to a condition of impotence and dotage.
Andrew was never so much absorbed by politics as to forget business. He paid sedulous attention to the interests of his borough, and of each of his constituents, and watched narrowly the progress of private bills.
We cannot participate the surprise of some of Marvell's biographers at the tokens of respect which he and his partner received from the worthy corporation of Hull, or suppose that more modern senators would sneer at a cask of ale. Did not Joseph Hume graciously receive a butt of cider? And did not the Orthodox of Cheshire express their admiration of the late Duke of York's Anti-Catholic declaration by presenting him with a mighty cheese? In acknowledging a donation of British beverage, Andrew writes thus (Letter 7th, Dec. 8th): — "We are now both met together, and shall strive to do you the best service we are able. We must first give you thanks for the kind present you have pleased to send us, which will give us occasion to remember you often; but the quantity is so great, that it might make sober men forgetful."
On the 29th of December the King in person dissolved the Parliament with a most gracious speech. All hitherto had gone smooth. The King signified, at parting, a great satisfaction in what had been done, and that it was very shortly his intention to call another Parliament. This dissolution did not interrupt Marvell's correspondence with Hull, neither did he quit London, or take any measures to secure his re-election, which doubtless he knew to be sure enough. His letters during the intervals of Parliaments are chiefly taken up with news, among which the movements of the King and Royal Family occupy a conspicuous place. It would seem that the Mayor and Corporation of Hull did not take in a newspaper, though several had been issued during the civil war, particularly the Mercurius Aulicus, or Court Journal, and the Mercurius Rusticus, the reporter of the Republicans. It was, moreover, the practice of the Puritan clergy, in their prayers, to make a recapitulation of the events of the week, under the form of thanksgiving, or remonstrance. The pulpit, in its bearings upon the people, then exerted the power which now belongs to the periodical press.
Marvell complains of the stoppage of letters, and, that even under ordinary circumstances, the several porters carried them about in their walks, and that so much time was lost. The admirable arrangement and dispatch, with the general sacredness of epistolatory communication, is one of the highest blessings which England for many years has enjoyed. It is true that the commerce of the heart is still subject to heavy duties, which we would gladly see diminished, as they might be with advantage to the revenue. Thousands of letters are unwritten from regard to the expense of postage.
In January, 1661, took place the mad insurrection of Venner and the Millenarians. To this Marvell cautiously alludes in his letter of the 12th of January, as an insurrection of rude and desperate fellows. It only deserves notice as the first in that series of plots, real and imaginary, Popish, Millenarian, and Republican, which made the reign of the Second Charles as sanguinary as it was licentious.
Reports were already growing rife of conspiracies in various quarters. "Still it is my ill fortune," says Marvell, "to meet with some rumour or other, (as I did yesterday at the Exchange,) of a plot against Hull, (I think indeed those have so that divulge such falsehoods,) but I am not failing to suppress any such thing where I meet with it.... I saw, within this week, a letter from a person who dwells not in your town, but near, that your governor was turning out all the inhabitants who had been in the Parliament's service I believe one is as true as the other." It will not be forgotten, that Hull was a depot in which the Parliament placed much confidence, and where the Presbyterian interest was strong.
The high-church party, who had indeed the plea of retaliation, both for their present suspicions and for their meditated severities, interpreted the apocalyptic frenzy of Venner and the fifth-monarchy-men, as a sample of Presbyterian loyalty; although in the millenial reign of the saints, there were to be no more Presbyters than Bishops. But any pretext will serve a court to break its word if it be so inclined. It would seem that the good people of Hull, were anxious to retain their old ministers, or at least to have the choice of their new ones. Marvell, their honest counsellor, presses upon them the necessity of unanimity, and the imperative duty of providing, freely and liberally, a maintenance for their pastors. He also admonishes them that in case of the excise being "farmed," they should bid its fair value to Government, and not, by a niggardly offer, put it into the hands of a foreigner, "who" says he, "will not stick to outbid you, so he may thereby be forced to oppress you." He takes care to sprinkle his letters with loyalty; whether sincerely, or prudently, it matters not to enquire. Thus, Jan. 3, 1660-61, "The last of December here was an ugly false report got abroad, that his Majesty was stabbed, which made the guard be up in arms all night. I doubt not the same extraordinary hand that hath hitherto guided him, will still be his protection against all attempts of discontented persons or parties." Jan. 12, "The Queen having embarked, and at sea, was forced to put back, by the Princess Henrietta falling sick; so the Queen is landed again, and the Princess on shipboard in the port at Portsmouth, the meazles being thick upon her, and too dangerous to carry her ashore at present; but we hear that, God be praised, there is all good hopes of her recovery. I beseech God to stay his hand from further severity in that Royal Family wherein the nation's being and welfare is so much concerned."
Marvell does not seem to have sympathized with the anti-monarchal prejudices of Milton. He is said to have written a most pathetic letter on the execution of King Charles. Could it by no means be recovered? Certainly he expressed not pity merely, but admiration for that Prince, and that too in an ode addressed to Oliver Cromwell, but so worded, that it may pass either for a satire or an eulogy on the Protector. We shall give some extracts when we come to speak of Marvell as a poet.
The new Parliament met on the 8th of May, 1661. Marvell was re-elected seemingly without opposition; but instead of Mr. John Ramsden, (who was probably related to William Ramsden, the mayor of Hull, to whom the earlier letters are addressed,) his partner was Colonel Gilby, who seems to have started on the court interest. Some unrecorded heart-burnings took place between the associates at the election, which ended in an open rupture, which did not, however, prevent Marvell from co-operating with the Colonel, when the good of their constituents required. April 6th, (Letter 14th,) he thus acknowledges his election, which had passed without his appearing or haranguing from the hustings: — "I perceive you have again" (as if it were a thing of course) "made choice of me, now the third time, to serve you in Parliament; which as I cannot attribute to any thing but your constancy, so God willing, as in gratitude obliged, with no less constancy and vigour, I shall continue to execute your commands, and study your service." In his next communication, (May 16th,) he speaks of the bill for confirmation of ministers in a manner which shews him apprehensive that the Episcopal party might go to extremes. The inhabitants of Hull were especially desirous to obtain the patronage of their own churches. Their indefatigable member forewarns them of the difficulties likely to stand in their way, and of the small support he meets with in his suit. "I believe in this conjuncture I shall be left alone in attempting any thing for your patronage, notwithstanding the assistance you expected from some others, for so they signify to me, and I doubt you will hardly agree about the levying of your minister's maintenance. But in this thing, according as I write to you, you must be very reserved, and rest much upon your prudence. I would not have you suspect any misintelligence betwixt my partner and me, because we write not to you jointly, as Mr. Ramsden and I used to do, yet there is all civility betwixt us; but it was the Colonel's sense that we should be left each to his own discretion in writing." Yet misintelligence there certainly was, which by some means or other, ripened to absolute division before the 1st of June, when Marvell wrote like a patriot and a gentleman. "The bonds of civility betwixt Colonel Gilby and myself being unhappily snapped in pieces, and in such manner that I cannot see how it is possible ever to knit them again; the only trouble that I have is, lest by our misintelligence your business should receive any disadvantage.... Truly I believe that as to your public trust, and the discharge thereof we do each of us still retain the principles upon which we first undertook it, and that though perhaps we may differ in our advice concerning the way of proceeding, yet we have the same good ends in general; and by this unlucky falling out, we shall be provoked to a greater emulation of serving you. I must beg you to pardon me for writing singly to you, for if I wanted my right hand, yet I would scribble to you with my left, rather than neglect your business. In the mean time I beseech you pardon my weakness; for there are some things which men ought not, others, that they cannot, patiently suffer." Noble and clear as he was, he could not escape calumny; for in his next he requests his constituents to believe no little stories concerning himself, "for I believe you to know by this that you have lately heard some very false tales concerning me."
The temper of the new Parliament was different, and much less moderate than that of the assembly by which the King was restored. For though some decided Royalists had found their way into the Convention, the majority, though favourable to the restoration of limited monarchy, were of the Presbyterian party, and attached to the Presbyterian pastors. Hence Charles and his Ministers thought it necessary to temporize, to try their way, to hold out hopes, that a mitigated Episcopacy, an expurgate Liturgy, and an optional compliance with Canons and Rubrics, would leave the intruding ministers, (as the strict Episcopalians called them,) who had complied with the Commonwealth, in possession of their benefices. Calamy and Baxter, destined to be among the brightest ornaments of Non-conformity, were even appointed King's chaplains. They, and other leading pastors, were tempted with the offer of Bishoprics; an offer with which Sharp, in an evil hour for himself, for Scotland, and for Episcopacy, complied. But Calamy and Baxter had too much pride, too much virtue, or too ill an opinion of the hand that offered, to accept the mitre. But the second Parliament adopted all the principles, and cherished the resentments, of those highflying Prelatists, whose ill counsels had rendered the virtues of the first Charles unprofitable. The restoration of the Bishops to their seats in the House of Lords, and to their other temporalities, which considering the manner in which they had been deprived, was indeed an act of justice, had not been proposed to the convention, but was speedily carried by the Parliament of 1661.
The bill of conformity shortly followed, which by a strange coincidence, if it were not really concerted, took effect on St. Bartholomew's day, whereby 2000 ministers, unexpectedly conscientious, were ejected in one day. Were it not that the whole of Marvell's bold and consistent conduct forbids the supposition, it might be conjectured that he declined to contend against measures which he could not successfully have opposed. Between June 1661, and March 1663, there is an hiatus in his correspondence, occasioned by an absence of Andrew's that has never been satisfactorily accounted for. In his letters he speaks of his private concernments without specifying what those private concernments were. In the mean while there was talk of supplying his place. Lord Bellasis, the deputy governor of Hull under the Duke of Monmouth, seems to have exerted himself especially on this occasion, but without effect. Of the motives of Marvell's withdrawing we are utterly ignorant; but we cannot help thinking that he was glad to be away from proceedings to which he could not have put an effectual stop, which he saw necessitated a revolution, and could not foresee that it would be a bloodless revolution.
The representations of his constituents, or the apprehension of losing his seat, brought Marvell home perhaps sooner than he intended. He seems not to have taken the interference of Lord Bellasis in good part, for immediately after his return he writes thus
"Westminster, April 2, 1663,
Being newly arrived in town, and full of businesse, yet I could not neglect to give you notice that this day I have been in the House, and found my place empty; though it seems that some persons would have been so courteous, as to have filled it for me. You may be assured that as my obligation and affection to your service hath been strong enough to draw me over, without any consideration of mine own private concernments, so I shall now maintain my station with the same vigour and alacrity in your business which I have always testify'd formerly, and which is no more than is due to that kindnesse which I have constantly experienced from you. So at present, though in much haste, saluting you all with my most hearty respects,
Gentlemen, my very worthy friends,
Your most affectionate Friend to serve you,
In the few letters that follow this, previously to the 20th of June, there is little important matter. The hours of the House of Commons were very different then from what they are now, for in the twenty-third letter he mentions it as an unusual thing, that they had sat till six in the evening on the bill for discovery of buying and selling of places. It may be remarked, that notwithstanding the slavish and intolerant principles of that Parliament, they made a firm stand against the progress of corruption, and were by no means lavish in granting the public money. Charles the second was continually in need: his extravagance and indolence prevented him from taking advantage of their niggardly servility, that would have preferred a cheap slavery to an expensive freedom. Had Charles possessed the virtues of his father, and his father's zeal for the Established Church, England would have become the most absolute monarchy in Europe. Providence, ever at work to draw good out of evil, made Charles's mistresses the conservators of British liberty. Yet more are we indebted to the man, whoever he was, that converted James the Second to the Romish communion; for nothing but the dread of Popery would have reconciled the nobility and clergy to that resistance which the people were not yet strong enough to conduct successfully of themselves.
Marvell was not hitherto reckoned among the decided enemies of the court; for we find him appointed, in June, 1663, to accompany Lord Carlisle on an embassy to Russia, Sweden, and Denmark. He tells the Corporation of Hull, "that it is no new thing for members of our House to be dispensed with, for the service of the King and the nation in foreign parts. And you may be sure I will not stirre without speciall leave of the House, so that you may be freed from any possibility of being importuned or tempted to make any other choice in my absence." Shortly after he thus announces his departure: — "Being this day taking barge for Gravesend, there to embark for Archangel, so to Moscow, thence for Sweden, and last of all for Denmark, all which I hope, by God's blessing, to finish within twelve months' time: I do hereby, with my last and most serious thoughts, salute you, rendering you all hearty thanks for your great kindness and friendship to me upon all occasions, and ardently beseeching God to keep you all in his gracious protection, to your own honour, and the welfare and flourishing of your Corporation, to which I am, and shall ever continue, a most affectionate and devoted servant. I undertake this voyage with the order and good liking of his Majesty, and by leave given me from the House, and entered in the journall; and having received, moreover, your approbation, I go, therefore, with more ease and satisfaction of mind, and augurate to myself the happier success in all my proceedings. Your known prudence makes it unnecessary for me to leave my advice or counsell with you at parting; yet can I not forbear, out of the superabundance of my care and affection for you, to recommend to you a good correspondence with the garrison, so long as his Majesty shall think fit to continue it; unto which, and all your other concerns, as Colonel Gilby hath been, and will be, always mainly instrumentall, and do you all the right imaginable; so could I wish, as I do not doubt that you would, upon any past or future occasion, confide much in his discretion, which he will never deny you the use of. This I say to you with a very good intent, and I know will be no otherwise understood by you."
It is to be regretted that the practice of tour writing was less in vogue in the seventeenth century than at present. How interesting would have been Marvell's observations on the northern courts — on the deep politics of Sweden, then ruled by the sagacious and unprincipled Charles the Eleventh — and the barbaric splendour of Russia, which had hardly begun to be considered as a member of the European system. But no notes or letters relative to this period of his life have been preserved. One thing is certain; he had but little reason to be satisfied with what was doing in England during his absence. Perhaps he was not sorry to be spared the pain of witnessing ruinous and treasonable measures which he could not have opposed. The besotted Parliament, in treacherous compliance with the King's ill purposes, had relinquished the Triennial Act without any security except a powerless clause, "that Parliaments should not be interrupted more than three years at the most." In weak compliance to a popular clamour, excited by that love of plunder which the English have inherited from the Scandinavian pirates, and aided by the King's desire to be fingering the supplies, they had engaged in a needless and impolitic war with Holland, a state whose friendship we ought to have cultivated, both from our interest as a mercantile, and our duty as a Protestant people. But the prosperity of a Republic is an abomination in the eyes of the liberty-haters even unto this day. We are sorry that Marvell had, by a satirical piece (published probably during the Protectorate), contributed to influence the national prejudices of the vulgar against the Dutch, and what is still worse, he makes the natural disadvantages which it was the glory of that industrious race to have surmounted, a topic of ridicule and insult:—
Holland, that scarce deserves the name of land,
As but the offscouring of the British sand,
And so much earth as was contributed
By English pilots when they heav'd the lead,
Or what by the ocean's slow alluvion fell,
Of ship-wreck'd cockle and the muscle shell.
This indigested vomit of the sea
Fell on the Dutch by just propriety:
Glad, then, as miners who have found the ore,
They with mad labour fish'd the land to shore,
And dived as desperately for each piece
Of earth as if it had been of ambergrease,
Collecting anxiously small loads of clay,
Less than what building swallows bear away,
Or than those pills which sordid beetles roll,
Transfusing into them their dunghill soul.
Yet still his claim the injured ocean laid,
And oft at leap-frog o'er their steeples play'd;
As if on purpose it on land had come,
To shew them what's their mare liberum.
A daily deluge over them does boil;
The earth and water play at level coyl.
The first oft times the burgher dispossess'd,
And sat, not as a meat, but as a guest
And oft the tritons and the sea nymphs saw,
Whole shoals of Dutch serv'd up for cabillau.
Nature, it seem'd, asham'd of her mistake,
Would throw their lands away at duck and drake;
Therefore necessity, that first made kings,
Something like government among them brings.
For, as with pygmy's, who best kill the crane,
Among the hungry he that treasures grain,
Among the blind the one-ey'd blinkard reigns,
So rules among the drowned he that drains,
Not who first see the rising sun commands:
But who could first discover the rising lands.
Who best could know to pump an earth so leak,
Him they their Lord and Country's Father speak.
To make a bank was a great plot of state;
Invent a shov'l, to be a magistrate.
Hence some small dyke grave uuperceiv'd invades
The pow'r, and grows, as twere, the king of spades....
'Tis probable Religion, after this,
Came next in order, which they could not miss.
How could the Dutch but be converted, when
The Apostles were so many fishermen?
Besides, the waters of themselves did rise,
And as their land, so them did re-baptize.
Though herring for their God few voices missed,
And poor John to have been the Evangelist....
Sure when Religion did itself embark,
And from the east would westward steer its ark;
It struck, and splitting on this unknown ground,
Each one thence pillaged the first piece he found;
Hence Amsterdam, Turk-Christian-Pagan-Jew,
Sample of sects, and mint of schism grew.
That bank of conscience, where not one so strange
Opinion, but finds credit and exchange.
In vain for Catholics ourselves we bear,
The universal church is only there.
Surely this last reproach comes with a very ill grace from an Englishman of Cromwell's days.
Marvell returned to his parliamentary duties in 1665, when the Parliament was sitting at Oxford, on account of the plague then raging in London. On the 23d of October, in that year, he thus writes: — "There is a bill in good forwardnesse to prohibit the importation of Irish cattle; the fall of lands and rents being ascribed to the bringing them over into England in such plenty." And again, a few days after, he writes: — "Our bill against the importation of Irish cattle was not passed by his Majesty, as being too destructive to the Irish interest." But it appears the bill did afterwards pass, for he writes, — "Our House has returned the bill about Irish Cattle to the Lords, adhering to the word nuisance, which the Lords changed to detriment, and mischief: but at a conference, we delivered the reasons of our adhering to the word nuisance."
November 2, he says, — "The bill for preventing the increase of the plague could not pass, because the Lords would not agree that their houses, if infected should be shut up!!!"
The short sessions of 1665 was closed on the 31st of October. Marvell thus enumerates the ten bills passed, to some of which, particularly the five-mile act as it was called, he must have been strenuously opposed. But the high-church faction had all their own way. — "For £1,250,000 to his Majesty; for £120,000 to his Majesty to be bestowed on his Royal Highness (qr. the Duke of York?) for attainder of Bamfield, Scott, and Dollman, Englishmen that acted in Holland against his Majesty; for debarring ejected Nonconformists from living in or neare corporations, unless taking the new oath and declaration; for speedier recovery of rents; for preventing suits and delays in law (a very inefficient act); for taking away damage clear after three years; for restraining of printing without license; and for naturalizing some particular persons." But with his customary reserve, Andrew makes no allusion to the proposal for making the non-resistance oath obligatory on the whole nation, which was rejected by a majority of three voices only. We may be sure that Marvell was among them.
The autumn of 1666, Dryden's Annus Mirabilis, distinguished by several indecisive actions against the Dutch, which the poet magnifies into great victories; and far more memorably by the fire of London, which was so merciful in its severity, that we are more inclined to attribute it to Divine goodness than to the malice of Papist or Puritan, seeing that it fairly burned out the plague, and only destroyed six lives, — found Marvell at his post in Parliament, and corresponding as usual with his grateful constituents, whom he has to thank for another present of Yorkshire ale. The principal business transacted in this session was financial. A supply of £1,800,000 was voted, to be raised partly by assessment, and partly by a poll-tax. It may not be wholly uninteresting to state how the latter was apportioned. — "Then for the poll-bill the committee hath prepared these votes — that all persons shall pay one shilling per poll; all aliens two; all Nonconformists and Papists two; all servants one shilling in the pound of their wages; all personal estates for so much as is not already taxed by the land tax shall pay after twenty shillings to the hundred; cattel, corn, and household furniture shall be excepted, and all such stock for trade as is already taxed by the land tax, but the rest to be liable." Some alterations were subsequently admitted. The Lords, to their great honour, rejected the double taxing of Nonconformists, and made an effort to deliver Aliens also from that oppressive impost. Some discussion took place between the houses on the power of the purse; the Lords endeavouring to insert a clause, implying a right in the nobility to tax themselves independent of the Commons; which clause the Commons of course rejected. This Parliament, notwithstanding their intolerant and ultra-royalist principles, had a laudable care for the property of the subject, which was indeed very needful in that age of public poverty and court extravagance. The depreciated value of estates and personal effects may appear from the circumstance, that the poll-tax, heavy as it was, was not expected to raise above £540,000. The fire must have ruined thousands; the Dutch war was doubtless injurious to trade; the prodigality of the nobility could not be supported without oppressing agriculture; and the distressful effects of the civil wars were still keenly felt in the country. Newer was economy more necessary, and yet the necessary expenses of Government were yearly increasing. England was then at war with Holland, France, and Denmark, and the Scotch Covenanters were once more in arms. The fatal experience of so many years of blood and misery had not taught the nation the folly and wickedness of interfering between man and his Maker. The law against conventicles, sufficiently tyrannical even in England, where a large portion of the population, wealth, and intelligence were sincerely attached to the episcopal church, was forced with additional cruelty and insult upon Scotland, where the best part of the people were dutifully affectionate to their Presbyterian pastors, and where the curates or prelatical clergy were, by the admission of all parties, too often low, ignorant, profligate, and brutal. In fact, so mercilessly had the Church of Scotland been stripped at the Reformation, that she could not afford an episcopal establishment. If ever it be lawful to use the sword against the powers that be, the Covenanters of the Raid of Pentland were justified in their resistance; and it might have been expected that Andrew Marvell would have sympathized with their sufferings, and admired, if he could not approve, their enterprize.
But whatever his real sentiments might be, he did not think fit to communicate them to the corporation of Hull; for in his letter of the 1st December, 1666, he says, — "For the Scotch business, truly, I hope this night's news is certain of their total rout." But his cautious manner of writing is ever remarkable. He never mentions how he himself or any other member voted; but speaks of the proceedings of the House as if he had always been of the majority. He even talks in one place of the princely prudence of Charles. This might be necessary; but we are afraid that Andrew entered more heartily than might have been wished, into the scheme of fixing on the Papists the guilt of the great fire.
By the 35th letter, which relates to an exchange of prisoners taken in the Dutch war, it would seem that Marvell had renewed his intercourse with Colonel Gilby, for both names are subscribed to it.
The Parliament of 1666-7 was prorogued on the 8th of February, but re-assembled on the 25th of July, to consider the articles of the peace of Breda. The Dutch war, commenced without necessity, and prosecuted, bravely indeed, but with ill-judged parsimony, and a striking want of combination, had closed with a greater disgrace than England had suffered since the days of Bannockburn. The Dutch Fleet entered the Thames, took Sheerness, advanced with six men of war and five fire ships as far as Upnore Castle, where they burned the Royal Oak, the Loyal London, and the Great James, and then fell down the Medway, with almost perfect impunity. Not that the English courage failed; but improvidence or treachery had left our shores defenceless. The loss was considerable, the consternation fearful, the affront intolerable. Yet was there no reprisal; for by the end of July the treaty of Breda was concluded, whereby we obtained the territory of New-York, so named from the King's brother. Marvell's correspondence contains scarce an allusion to these occurrences; but among his poems is a tribute to the memory of Captain Douglas, the Commander of the Royal Oak, who, sacrificing life to honour, had refused to quit the vessel when it was in flames, declaring, that "never had a Douglas been known to leave his port without orders." Marvell's address is entitled, "The Loyal Scot, by Cleveland's Ghost" upon the death of Captain Douglas, who was burned on his ship at Chatham. Like most copies of verses produced on the spur of some public wonder, or last week's heroism, it is very indifferent. There is something humorous, certainly, in putting a panegyric on Scotch loyalty into the mouth of Cleveland, who had been as severe on our northern neighbours as Churchill or Byron; but almost all that relates to the subject consists of conceits, neither new nor good, and extravagancies strangely out of keeping with the subject. About the best lines are these:
That precious life he yet disdains to save
Or with known art to try the gentle wave:
Much him the honour of his ancient race
Inspir'd, nor would he his own deeds deface;
And secret joy in his calm soul does rise,
That Monk looks on to see how Douglas dies.
But their effect is sadly marred by what follows:—
Like a glad lover the fierce flames he meets,
And tries his first embraces in their sheets
His shape exact, which the bright flames infold,
Like the sun's statue stands, of burnish'd gold;
Round the transparent fire about him glows
As the clear amber on the bees does close;
And as on the angels' heads their glories shine,
His burning locks adorn his face divine.
We fear that Andrew was more inspired by aversion for prelacy than by admiration for the young Douglas, and only chose the latter for his theme, in order to lay the whole blame of certain national antipathies on the Bishops. We do not quote the following passages for the reader's approbation, but to show the utter inefficiency of licencing laws, (for such were then in force,) to restrain the licentiousness of the Pen:
Prick down the point, whoever has the art,
Where nature Scotland does from England part,
Anatomists may sooner fix the cells
Where life resides, and understanding dwells,
But this we know, tho' that exceeds our skill,
That whosoever separates them does ill....
What ethic river is this wondrous Tweed,
Whose one bank virtue, t' other vice does breed?...
'Tis Holy Island parts us, not the Tweed,
Nothing but clergy could us two seclude....
All litanies in this have wanted faith,
There's no "Deliver us from a Bishop's wrath,"...
What the ocean binds, is by the Bishops rent,
As seas makes Islands in the Continent.
Nature in vain us in one land compiles,
If the Cathedral still shall have its isles.
Nothing, not bogs, nor sands, nor seas, nor Alps,
Separate the worlds so, as the Bishop's scalps,
Stretch for the line their circingle alone,
'Twill make a more unhabitable zone;
The friendly loadstone has not more combined,
Than Bishops cramp't the commerce of mankind.
Though thus severe on the Hierarchy, the poet had not yet lost all respect for the Monarch:—
Charles, our great soul, this only understands,
He our affections both, and wills commands.
It must be remembered that Charles had hitherto shewn many good dispositions, and in particular had interfered to save some of the Scotch Nonconformists from the vengeance of Sharpe: notwithstanding the insolent tyranny with which he had himself been treated by the Kirk in its days of sovereignity. He had, on several occasions, exerted himself to procure liberty of conscience, both for catholic and protestant dissenters, to little effect indeed, during the influence of Clarendon; but the secret inclination towards his mother's religion, which probably prompted this insidious toleration, was not yet more than vaguely suspected.
The year 1667 is a great epoch in the history of the human mind, for then was Paradise Lost first given to the world. According to the custom of those times, Marvell accompanied the work of his illustrious friend with a copy of commendatory verses: but it is a truly absurd surmise, that either Marvell's English couplets, or Dr. Barrow's Latin Elegiacs, preserved the production of Milton from obscurity. This is about as probable, as that a sealed and unopened epistle should reach its destination, if directed only in the inside. More plausibly has it been asserted that Marvell united with Sir Thomas Clarges, Mr. Secretary Morrice, and Sir William Davenant to prevent the mighty poet's being excepted out of the act of indemnity; but is it likely that he, who had himself held office under Cromwell, would possess any influence at Court?
Though his Parliamentary correspondence continues with little or no interruption, between the years 1667 and 1670, and as a series of historical documents is of high value, yet it throws no light on his private transactions; nor does it elucidate his personal character, except by affording additional proof of his indefatigable industry; his unwearied spirits; his attention to the minutest, as well as to the weightiest matters that came before the House. Rarely does he utter an opinion on any subject, unless it bore expressly upon the interests of his constituents. We cannot find any clue to discover, for example, his sentiments on the prosecution of Clarendon, which later historians have represented as a conspiracy between an ungrateful King, and a misguided nation, to ruin the most loyal and immaculate of statesmen; but it is most probable that he concurred in it. As we are not writing the history of Andrew Marvell's Times, we cannot be expected to dilate on all the public measures which he has noticed in his letters, but shall content ourselves with a few extracts which may serve to illustrate the Parliamentary life of the Patriot, or at least the manners, temper, and politics, of the Parliament in which he sat.
Jan. 22, 1666-7: — "Heard the report of the fire of London, full of manifest testimonies that it was by a wicked design, and ordered the report of the insolence of Papists to-morrow."
Dec. 22, 1666: — "To-day the Duke of Buckingham and Marquis of Dorchester were upon their petitions freed from the Tower, having been committed for quarrelling and scuffling the other day when we were at the Canary Conference."
Feb. 9, 1667: — "I am sorry to hear of several fires of late in your town, but by God's mercy prevented from doing much harm. Though I know your vigilance, and have been informed of the occasions, I cannot but, out of the earnestness of mine own sense, advise you to have a careful eye against all such accidents. We have had so much of them here in the South, that it makes me almost superstitious. But indeed, as sometimes there arise new diseases, so there are seasons of more particular judgments, and such as that of fires seem of late to have been upon this nation: but God's providence in such cases is well pleased to be frustrated by human industry, but much more his mercies are always propitious to repentance."
July 25: — "Yesternight, at one o'clock, a very dangerous fire happened in Southwark, but blowing up the next house in good time, there were but twelve consumed or ruined. I cannot but advise you to have especial care in your town of any such accident, or what will you call it; for I am sorry we can yet see no clearer by so many lights."
October 25th: — "This morning several members of our House did in their places move the House to proceed to an impeachment against the Earl of Clarendon, and laid very high crimes to his charge."
Nov. 14: — "Really the business of the House hath been of late so earnest daily, and so long, that I have not had the time, and scarce vigour left me by night to write to you; and to-day, because I would not omit any longer, I lose my dinner to make sure of this letter. The Earl of Clarendon had taken up much of our time till within this three days. But since his impeachment hath been carried up to the House of Lords, we have some leisure from that; and now this is the third day that they have, without intermission of any other business, continued upon the question, 'Whether, upon our desire, to commit him to custody before we sent up (which yet we have not done) the particular articles of our charge against him." — P.S. of the same date: — "I hear the Lords are at last come to a resolution to desire a conference to-morrow with our House, to show us reason why they should not commit the Earl of Clarendon before special articles."
"Nov. 23d: — "The Lords and we cannot yet get off the difficulties risen betwixt us on occasion of our House's demanding the Earl of Clarendon's imprisonment upon a general charge of treason."
Dec. 3d: — "Since my last to you we have had a free conference with the Lords, and so a mutual debate on the reasons for, and for not, committing the Earl of Clarendon on our general charge. The Lords yesterday sent a message by Judge Archer and Judge Morton, that, upon the whole matter, they were not satisfied to commit him, without particular cause specified or assigned; whereupon our House, after very long debate, voted, 'that the Lords not complying with the desires of the House of Commons in committing and sequestring from their House the Earl of Clarendon, upon the impeachment carried up against him, is an obstruction of the public justice in the proceedings of both Houses of Parliament, and is the precedent of evil and dangerous consequences.' To-day the Lords sent down another message to us, that they had to-day received a large petition from the Earl of Clarendon, intimating that he was withdrawn. Hereupon our House forthwith address his Majesty, that care might be taken for securing all the seaports, lest he should pass there. I suppose he will not trouble you at Hull."
March 7, 1668: — "On Wednesday last the House resumed the debate occasioned by the informations of several members concerning the insolencies of Nonconformists in some parts of the nation, disturbing ministers in their churches, and setting up their own preachers. The House hereupon came to a resolution, that they would in a body attend his Majesty, desiring him to reinforce by his proclamation the laws against conventicles, and that care might be taken to secure the peace of the nation against the unlawful meetings of Nonconformists and Papists." With this request Charles, who — half Catholic and half Infidel — hoped, under the mask of toleration, either to be rid of all religion, or to smuggle in that which he found most convenient, was obliged reluctantly to comply, though the petition was meant to imply a severe censure on himself and his favourite, Buckingham, who was now playing the same game with the Nonconformists as Leicester had played with the Puritans under Elizabeth.
Several letters after this are taken up almost entirely with the proceedings against the supposed authors of the miscarriages in the late Dutch war. The public vengeance had better been directed against the authors of the war itself. Of all wars, surely the least profitable have been those which grew out of commercial squabbles.
The privileges and jurisdiction of the two Houses were as undefined as the prerogatives of the crown. We continually find the Peers at variance with the Commons, and their Lordships generally forced to submit at last with no very good grace. An attempt of the Lords to act as a criminal court directly, and not on appeal from the courts below, was strongly resented by the Lower House; and Marvell, though he expresses himself gravely and coolly, no doubt entered fully into the indignation of his fellow members.
May 25, he writes thus: — "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 Skinner, 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; and we, on Monday, send to the Lords severe votes against their proceedings: it is a business of very high and dangerous consequence." On the 9th he informs the Mayor of Hull (then Mr. Anthony Lambert) that there had been a conference between the Houses, — the Commons having voted that the Lords' "taking cognizance and proceeding originally upon the petition of Skinner against the East India Company, was contrary to law. It was Friday in the afternoon before the Lords desired a conference, wherein, with a preamble in writing of a very high and severe sense, they gave us two votes in exchange: that our entertaining a scandalous paper of the East India Company, and proceeding thereon, was a breach of the privilege of the House of Peers, and the good union that ought to be betwixt the two Houses: that what the Lords had done upon Skinner's petition was agreeable to law, and consonant to precedents both ancient and modern. We went from thence back to our House, where we sat without intermission till five o'clock this morning." The honest country gentlemen and burgesses had not yet generally fallen into the late hours of the courtiers, and seem to have grown passionate for, want of sleep, for they voted, "that whosoever shall be aiding or assisting in the execution of the Lords' sentence or order against the East India Company, shall be deemed a betrayer of the liberties and rights of the Commons of England, and an infringer of the privileges of Parliament." The King adjourned the Houses in consequence, or under pretext, of these differences; but not till the Lords had taken severe measures against Sir Samuel Barnardiston (whom they sentenced to pay £300 on his knees) and other leading members of the East India Company. But it does not appear that Sir Samuel ever submitted to this degrading punishment. Parliament did not meet again for dispatch of business till the 19th of October, 1669. The dissention between the Houses still continued. Marvell records the several stages of the affair, which ended by the two Houses, at the King's desire, erasing "all records in their journals of that matter, that all memory thereof might be extinguished." Feb. 22, 1670.
Every session brought forth some new bill, some forced proclamation, against conventicles. The general disposition of that long-protracted Parliament (which obtained the name of the Pension Parliament) in all things, except its rigid and jealous economy, and severe prosecution of delinquents, coincided with the temper of the better sort of modern Tories. An evil eye on all sectaries, a perfect horror of the Church of Rome, a high devotion to abstract royalty, and to the Protestant Episcopal Church as a vital organ of the state, a vindictive sense of national honour, a restrictive and prohibitory system of commerce, were, for many years, the leading features of their policy.
During the year 1668, 69, 70, the public business becoming continually more pressing, and the King's wants more urgent, Marvell's letters bear more and more on the history of the period, and have less and less of biographical interest. Parliament refusing to grant more than £40,000, to be raised on wines (an imposition very grievous to a monarch who sympathized with the privations of his wine-bidding subjects), the King, dissatisfied with so scanty a supply, and yet more with the curious inquiries instituted as to the manlier in which former grants had been applied, prorogued the House on the 11th of December, on which occasion Andrew piously prays, "God direct his Majesty further in so weighty resolutions." Parliament met again on the 14th of February, 1669-70. About this time there occur several epistles from Marvell to his friend William Ramsden, which, though almost wholly political, express his observations on public affairs with a circumstantiality, and his opinions with a freedom, which the nature of his official correspondence precluded. It may not be unamusing to compare a few passages referring to the same occurrences: the businesslike brevity and caution of the public document is admirable. If ever he takes a little flight, it is to pay a compliment to Majesty, which no one need understand ironically. Thus of the King's gracious recommendation to put a stop to time differences of the Houses in Skinner's business. — To Mr. Humphrey Duncalf, Mayor: — "Our House thereupon did unanimously vote the entry of this speech in our journal, and to go in a body on foot to give the King thanks, and to erase the records in our journal. A message was forthwith sent to desire leave to wait on the King, so that we have been twice at Whitehall in one morning, all infinitely satisfied with the King's justice, prudence, and kindness in this matter, and I doubt not but all good Englishmen will be of the same mind." To Mr. William Ramsden: — "When we began to talk of the Lords, the King sent for us alone, and recommended an erasure of all proceedings; the same timing you know that we proposed at first. We presently ordered it, and went to tell him so the same day. At coming down (a pretty ridiculous thing), Sir Thomas Clifford carried speaker and mace, and all members there, to drink the King's health, into the King's cellar. The King sent to the Lords more peremptorily, and they, with much grumbling, agreed to the rasure." Writing to the corporation, he gives the heads of the conventicle bill minutely, in the style of one who saw nothing objectionable in them. To his friend he says, — "The terrible bill against conventicles is sent up to the Lords. They are making mighty alterations in the conventide bill (which, as we sent it up, is the quintessence of arbitrary malice), and sit whole days, and yet proceed but by inches, and will, at the end, probably affix a Scotch clause of the King's power in externals;" (i.e. give the King a dispensing power to make the Parliament malice nugatory). "So the fate of the bill is uncertain, but must probably pass, being the price of money." During the spring session of 1670, Charles, under pretence of seeking amusement, thought fit to frequent the debates at the House of Lords. This, though not expressly against rule, was against recent custom, and supposed to be a restraint on the freedom of speech. Marvell announces the circumstance to his constituents with some surprise, but without comment, in his letter of the 26th March: — "That which is most extraordinary is, that his Majesty hath for this whole week come every day in person to the House of Lords, and sat there during their debates and resolutions; and yester-day the Lords went in a body to Whitehall, to give their thanks for the honour he did them therein." To Mr. Ramsden he tells the story more at large: — "The King, about ten o'clock, took boat with Lauderdale only, and two ordinary attendants, and rowed awhile, as towards the bridge, but soon turned back to the Parliament stairs, and so went up into the House of Lords, and took his seat. Almost all of them were amazed, but all seemed so; and the Duke of York especially was very much surprised. Being sat, he told them it was a privilege he claimed from his ancestors to be present at their deliberations; that therefore 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 upon as a high usurpation, and breach of privilege. After three or four days' continuance, the Lords were very well used to the King's Presence. The King has ever since continued his session among them, and says it is better than going to a play."
The prospect of public affairs was then sufficiently bad; for Charles, who, like all men whose amiable qualities are not grounded in sound principles, grew worse as he grew old, had now given himself up to the notorious Cabal, and to a set of creatures besides, — French, Scotch, Irish, and, alas, some English, priests and laymen, bigots and atheists, male and female, among whom it is no injustice to say, that Nell Gwyn was considerably the best. But a patriot should never despair of the Republic. He should "brook no continuance of weak-mindedness," but should "hope even against hope." No wonder, however, if sometimes his jaded spirits give way, and he utter the language of despondency. Andrew Marvell more than once verges on this extreme. Many a man, under such circumstances, would have concluded that "the world was made for Caesar," and since he could do no good for his country, think of doing the best he could for himself. In the private communication from which we have borrowed so much, he gives a character to his fellow representatives which, considering their stern frugality, and bold defence of their own privileges, they do not appear, as a body, to have deserved: — "In this session the Lords sent down to us a proviso for the King, that would have restored him to all civil or ecclesiastical privileges which his ancestors had enjoyed at any time since the conquest. There never was so compendious a piece of absolute universal tyranny. But the Commons made them ashamed of it, and retrenched it. The Parliament was never so embarrassed beyond recovery. We are all venal cowards except some few." Now the successful opposition to the Lords' proviso should have convinced him that, though there were some few venal cowards, there were more bold and honest men.
The Parliament, which was prorogued before the end of April, met again on the 2nd of October, 1670. The King, who was now the contented, though concealed, instrument of the French court, partly won over by the arts of the Duchess of Orleans, and her ally Louisa de Querouaille, (the Duchess of Portsmouth,) partly by money in hand, and the promise of French troops, in case that the people's patience should be worn out. A second Dutch war was meditated with the secret purpose of aiding the French to overrun and subjugate the United Provinces. But these designs were not yet ripe for disclosure. A supply was first to be had: £800,000 were demanded and granted, and more would have been granted, but fresh dissension between the upper and lower Houses, owing to the Lords taking upon them to make amendments in the money bills, occasioned a sudden prorogation, April 2, 1671. If these facts be kept in mind, the following passages, from Marvell's public and private correspondence, will be sufficiently intelligible. October 25. He gives at some length, the preamble of the Lord Keeper's opening speech, (for Charles had still grace enough left to be ashamed of appearing personally as a beggar for money on false pretences,) the most remarkable feature of which is, that the increased power of France is alleged to justify a grant which was to be used in increasing the power of France. Then comes an enumeration of the advantageous treaties which the King had concluded, particularly with Sweden and Holland, (while he knew that the money was wanted to make war upon Holland,) with Spain, whereby we had gained the sovereignty of Jamaica, &c., with Denmark, Savoy, &c. Next his Lordship prepares a spell for that national vanity, which in time past has cost us so dear, alleging "in short that all the Princes of Christendom sought at present to his Majesty, if not for their security, yet as to one without whose friendship they could not promote their affairs." Andrew Marvell was no orator; it does not appear upon record that he ever made a set speech at all; yet one might almost wonder that neither he nor any other Englishman got up to remind my Lord Keeper that whatever consideration his master might have obtained from foreign powers, was taken up solely on old Oliver's credit. But now comes the drift. "After touching on the insufficiency of the wine duties to the public occasions; the expense of the navy since 1660, (£500,000 per annum,) and the King's debts, which were immense and at heavy interest, he desired that the Parliament would supply him (the King) with £800,000 for his navy, as also that they would pay off all those debts which he owed at interest, and that they would finish this before Christmas, as well that he might have time in hand to mature his preparations for the season of the year as that men might attend their own occasions in the country, and make their neighbours taste of their hospitality, and keep up their authority and interest there, which is so useful and necessary to the public." It is a proof that the promises contained in this speech were never intended to be performed; that neither it nor the King's short introductory address were allowed to be printed.
Several letters follow, containing nothing but lists of the commodities it was proposed to tax, and other devices, for raising the supplies. One of these proposals produced effects so ludicrously characteristic of the brutality of even the highest orders in that reign, that we must extract the passage of Andrew's private correspondence, which contains the story:—
"An accident happened which had like to have spoiled all. Sir John Coventry having moved for an imposition on the play-houses, Sir John Berkenhead, to excuse them, said they had been of great service to the King. Upon which Sir John Coventry desired that gentleman to explain whether he meant the men or the women players. Hereupon it is imagined that, the House adjourning from Tuesday before till Thursday after Christmas day, on the very Tuesday night of the adjournment twenty-five of the Duke of Monmouth's troop, and some few foot, laid in wait from ten at night till two in the morning, by Suffolk-street, and as he returned from the Cock, where he supped, to his own house, they threw him down and cut off almost all the end of his nose." Feeble attempts were made by the court to protect the actors in this cowardly piece of loyalty, but the House of Commons displayed a proper spirit, and not only insisted on the punishment of the present offenders, but passed an act which makes cutting and maiming capital without benefit of clergy. From this incident alone, we might credit what Andrew says at the conclusion of his letter — "the court is at the highest pitch of want and luxury, and the people full of discontent." The circumstance is often alluded to in the ballads and epigrams of the time, and is the subject of one which has been given to Marvell. We hope he had too much decency and dignity to have written it, as he certainly had too much wit and good taste to have approved of it. It contains nothing worth extracting, and much that is unfit to be read. Not but that the court deserved every word of it.
In another letter, about the same date, he mentions to Mr. Ramsden, (whom he calls dear Will,) how Monmouth, Albemarle, Dunbane, and seven or eight gentlemen, fought with the watch, and killed a poor bedle. They have all their pardons for Monmouth's sake; but it is an act of great scandal." In the same letter: — "The King of France is at Dunkirk. We have no fleet out, though we gave the subsidy-bill, valued at £800,000, for that purpose. I believe indeed he will attempt nothing on us, but leave us to die a natural death. For indeed never had poor nation so many complicated, mortal, incurable diseases."
We have more than once had occasion to allude to Charles's disposition to mitigate the rigour of the conformity laws, which may be ascribed part to his good nature, more to his good sense, and most to his secret Romanism. But a letter of Marvell's (private of course,) suggests a fourth influence, not weaker than the rest: — "The King had occasion for £60,000, sent to borrow it of the City.... Could not get above £10,000. The Fanatics, under persecution, served his Majesty. The other party, both in court and city, would have prevented it. But the King protested money would be acceptable. So the city patched up, out of the chamber and other ways, £20,000. The Fanatics, of all sorts, £40,000." This was just after a sanguinary attack of the "bold train-bands" upon a congregation of non-resisting Quakers, of whom they killed some and wounded many. But it is more worthy of remark, that the Protestant Dissenters, like the Jews of the middle ages, however harassed by fines, double taxes, and civil disabilities, have always had more ready money than other persons of the same station, and unlike the Jews, have generally been ready to part with it on public occasions.
With all this orthodoxy on one side, and saintship on the other, there was little respect even for the external forms of the established religion. The following would appear, in these days, utterly incredible. — "Feb. 7, 1670-71: Yesterday, upon complaint of some violent arrests made in several churches, even during sermon time, nay, of one taken out betwixt the bread and the cup in receiving the sacrament, the House ordered that a bill be brought in for better observing the Lord's day."
The letters from this time to the prorogation of the 22d of April, are chiefly taken up with financial details, and dissensions between the two Houses, originating in alterations made by the Lords in a money-bill, which the Commons contended was an infringement of their privilege: — "To speak in short, the two Houses were so directly contradictory in their assertions concerning the power of the Lords in altering of rules, &c., that his Majesty (there being no present medium of reconciliation to be found) thought fit to-day to prorogue us, so that the bill of foreign commodities is fallen to the ground." Andrew announces this to his constituents the very same evening; and this (the 126th) is the last public communication extant before Oct. 20th, 1674, an interruption of nearly three years.
From his letter "to a friend in Persia," we are tempted to make some extracts, though we cannot inform the reader who that friend was. It is dated August 9, 1671, — no place specified. It begins in a strain of pious friendship, expressed in terms of the mystic philosophy: — "God's good providence, which hath through so dangerous a disease, and so many difficulties preserved and restored you, will, I doubt not, conduct you to a prosperous issue, and the perfection of your so laudable undertakings, and under that, your own good genius, in conjunction with your brother here, will, I hope, though at the distance of England and Persia, in good time, work extraordinary effects; for the magnetism of two souls rightly touched, work beyond all natural limits, and it would indeed be too unequal, if good nature should not have at least as large a sphere of activity as malice, envy, and detraction, which are, it seems, part of the returns from Surat and Gombroon.... In this world a good cause signifies little unless it be well defended. A man may starve at the feast of a good conscience.... I know your maxim, 'Qui festinat ditescere, non erit innocens.' Indeed, while you preserve that mind, you will have the blessing both of God and man.... I am sorry to perceive that mine by the Armenian miscarried. Though there was nothing material in it, the thoughts of friends are too valuable to fall into the hands of a stranger." Scanty as are the notices of Marvell's domestic history, it is delightful to read these issues of a wise and noble heart, not corrupted by the necessity of evil communications, nor hardened by the duty of striving against corruption. But the patriot could not long forget politics, and, as Swift confessed that he could preach nothing but pamphlets, so Marvell declares himself fit for nothing but a Gazetteer. It must have been with painful sensations that an Englishman in Persia perused the following account of his Fatherland: — "The King having, upon pretence of the great preparations of his neighbours, demanded £800,000 for his navy, (though in conclusion he hath not sent 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 beyond reason, there being no satisfaction how these 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. 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 at 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. The Duke of Buckingham is again £140,000 in debt, and, by this prorogation, his creditors have time to tear all his lands in pieces. The House of Commons has run almost to the end of their time, and are grown extremely chargeable to the King, and odious to the people. They have signed and sealed £10,000 a year more to the Duchess of Cleveland, who has likewise near £10,000 out of the excise of beer and ale; £5,000 a year out of the post-office; and, they say, the reversion of all the King's leases; the reversion of all places in the custom-house; and, indeed, what not? All promotions, spiritual and 'temporal, pass under her cognizance. We truckle to France in all things, to the prejudice of our alliance and honour. Barclay is still Lieutenant of Ireland, but he was forced to come over to pay £10,000 rent to his landlady Cleveland." The letter concludes with a brief statement of one of the most extraordinary, if not most important incidents, in English history; one of those stories which we should imagine to he impossible, if we did not know them to be true. "One Blood, outlawed for an attempt to take Dublin Castle, and who seized on the Duke of Ormond here last year, and might have killed him, a most bold, and yet sober fellow, some months ago seized the crown and sceptre in the Tower, took them away, and, if he had killed the keeper, might have carried them clear off. He, being taken, astonished the King and court with the generosity and wisdom of his answers. He and all his accomplices, for his sake, are discharged by the King, to the wonder of all." Andrew does not seem to be very angry with Blood for stealing the crown, nor (what is more extraordinary) with King Charles for pardoning him. In an epigram, found both in Latin and English, he even commends the desperado, but it is for the sake of a stab at an order of men, against whom he entertained an unfortunate prejudice:—
When daring Blood, his rent to have regain'd,
Upon the English diadem distrain'd;
He chose the cassock, circingle, and gown,
The fittest mask for one that robs the crown:
But his lay-pity underneath prevail'd,
And whilst he sav'd the keeper's life, he fail'd.
With the priest's vestment had he but put on
The prelate's cruelty, the crown had gone.
Whether admiration of "his wise and generous answers" had much to do with Blood's pardon and pension, (for he was rewarded with an estate of £500 in Ireland), may justly be doubted. Charles was likely enough to be amused with his audacity, and was as void of resentment as of gratitude. Having persuaded himself that all men, in all their actions, are equally constrained by interest or appetite, he consistently made no difference between friend and foe, and would prefer the man who stole his crown, to him who had preserved it, if the latter happened to be the pleasanter companion. But we suspect something deeper in the favour shewn to Blood than mere caprice. He was rumoured, on good grounds, to be a creature of Buckingham, and, at his instigation, to have made his desperate attempt upon the Duke of Ormond. What motive either could have for seizing the Regalia, it is difficult, at this time, to conjecture, but it is exceedingly probable that Blood, who in England could not be immediately silenced with the bowstring, knew more than it was convenient for either the favourite or the monarch to have known. For though dead men tell no tales, dying men, even felons at the gallows, may tell horrible tales, and the words of dying men are heard afar, and long remembered, and deeply believed, without much consideration of previous character. Besides, a hanged villain is of no use but to the dissectors: a living one, properly managed, may be of a great deal to a bad government.
One other epistle, addressed to William Ramsden, Esq., occurs in this interval of Marvell's public correspondence, dated June, 1672. It is short, and not important, though it mentions the assassination of the Pensionary De Wit, and the low state of the Dutch Republic: — "No man can conceive the condition of the state of Holland, in this juncture, unless he can, at the same time, conceive an earthquake, an hurricane, and the deluge." Of the last it did indeed present a pretty tolerable miniature, for the sluices being cut, a great part of the country was under water.
We have not the means of determining whether Marvell's correspondence with the Borough was actually discontinued during these years, whether the papers have been carelessly lost, or, which is most probable, purposely destroyed. For when we consider the character of public measures in that interval, the infamous Dutch war, in which the pensioned Charles and ministers conspired with the French despot to extinguish the poor remains of liberty in Holland, and to destroy the strength of protestantism in Europe, on an implied condition of receiving French assistance to bring about the same end in England, — the prospect of a reign of Jesuits succeeding a reign of harlots, — of absolute power transmitted from the good-natured, unprincipled Charles, to the vindictive, superstitious James, — and the other monstrous abuses of that calamitous aera, we may suppose that even Marvell's caution could not always avoid expressions which might have exposed the town and corporation of Hull to serious inconveniences in the days of Judge Jeffreys and quo warrantos. In one letter he hints at a probability of his being employed in Ireland, but we cannot discover that he ever went thither.
Where ever he was there is abundant proof that he was not idle. It was in the year 1672, that he first avowedly appeared in the character of a political satyrist, wherein he gained a high and dangerous reputation, as unblemished as the fame of a Polemic can be; but we believe that no man, divine, politician, or critic, ever thought of his controversial writings with calm satisfaction on his death-bed. Yet there are times when the sword must be unsheathed. Whether Marvell's quarrel was just or not, we shall not decide, for it involves theological questions which it were worse than folly to treat extemporaneously and incidentally; but his bitterest enemies were compelled to admire the mixture of brilliant wit and sterling argument which he displayed in the conduct of it.
The circumstances which gave rise to his once famous "Rehearsal Transprosed" were briefly these: Dr. Samuel Parker, who from a Commonwealth saint had been converted to a High Church and King man, published, in 1670, a book called "Ecclesiastical Polity," the substance of which had been preached at Lambeth, and printed by order of Archbishop Sheldon. We never read it, nor do we know any one that has; and indeed we trust that no enemy of the Church and Monarchy will fish it out of Lethe. Of its principles, however, two or three sentences are a sufficient sample: — "It is better to submit to the unreasonable impositions of a Nero or a Caligula, than to hazard a dissolution of the state;" and, "that it is absolutely necessary to the peace and government of the world, that the supreme magistrate of every Commonwealth should be vested with a power to govern and conduct the consciences of subjects in affairs of religion." And he asserted that "Princes may with less hazard give liberty to men's vices, than to their consciences." And speaking of the different Sects then subsisting, he lays it down as a fixed rule for all Princes to act by, that "tenderness and indulgence to such men, were to nourish vipers in our bowels, and the most sottish neglect of our own quiet and security."
Well was it said by a Grecian sage — Beware of the calumnies of your Friends; and well might it have been said to the Church of England — Beware of Dr. Samuel Parker's Ecclesiastical Polity. What the church at large thought of this preposterous dressing of old Hobbes's Leviathan in episcopal robes, we know not, for Sheldon's imprimatur only signified the approbation of the court. But as it was manifestly intended to prepare the way for the King's religion, we cannot but think that every sincere Protestant with half an eye must have seen through it.
Baxter declining to undertake the defence of the Nonconformists, Dr. Owen replied to Parker in his "Liberty and Truth vindicated." Parker made rejoinder next year, in "A Defence and Continuation of Ecclesiastical Polity, against Dr. Owen;" and in 1672 renewed the attack in a preface to a posthumous work of Bishop Bramhall. This it was which brought on the aspiring divine the perilous wrath of Marvell. "The Rehearsal," that famous comedy of Buckingham's, which has been praised to the full extent of its merit, was then in vogue, and as a tempting title, in literary warfare, is half the battle, Marvell came out with his "Rehearsal Transprosed," of which the full title runs thus: "The Rehearsal Transprosed; or, Animadversions on a late Book entitled a Preface, shewing what grounds and apprehensions there are of Popery. London: printed by A. B., for the Assignees of John Calvin and Theodore Beza, at the Sign of the King's Indulgence, on the South side of the Lake Lemane, 1672." As we have no wish to revive the controversy, we shall merely give a few extracts, as specimens of Marvell's prose style, — of his indefatigable wit, which approaches in quality to that of Butler, while he has, at times, a majesty of anger which entitles him to the appellation of a prose Juvenal. His reading was great and miscellaneous, and he lays it all under contribution. Of the invention of printing, he writes in the following cutting train of irony: — "The press (that villainous engine), invented much about the same time with the Reformation, hath done more mischief to the discipline of our Church than the doctrine can make amends for. It was a happy time, when all learning was in manuscript, and some little officer, like our author, did keep the keys of the library. When the clergy needed no more knowledge than to read the liturgy, and the laity no more clerkship than to save them from hanging. But now, since printing came into the world, such is the mischief, that a man cannot write a book, but presently he is answered. Could the press but at once be conjured to obey only an imprimatur, our author might not disdaine, perhaps, to be one of its most zealous patrons. There have been wayes found out to banish ministers, to find not only the people, but even the grounds and fields where they assembled, in conventicles; but no art yet could prevent these seditious meetings of letters. Two or three brawny fellows in a corner, with meer ink and elbow grease, do more harm than a hundred systematical divines, with their sweaty preaching. And, what is a strange thing, the very spunges, which one would think should rather deface and blot out the whole book, and were anciently used for that purpose, are become now the instruments to make them legible. Their ugly printing letters look but like so many rotten tooth drawers; and yet these rascally operators of the press have got a trick to fasten them again in a few minutes, that they grow as firm a set, and as biting and talkative, as ever. O, printing how hast thou disturbed the peace of mankind! — that lead, when moulded into bullets, is not so mortal as when formed into letters! There was a mistake, sure, in the story of Cadmus; and the serpent's teeth which he sowed were nothing else but the letters which he invented. The first essay that was made towards this art, was in single characters upon iron, wherewith, of old, they stigmatized slaves and remarkable offenders; and it was of good use, sometimes, to brand a schismatic; but a bulky Dutchman diverted it quite from its first institution, and contriving those innumerable syntagmes of alphabets, hath pestered the world ever since, with the gross bodies of their German divinity. One would have thought in reason, that a Dutchman might have contented himself only with the wine-press."
For his transferring the name of Bayes from Dryden to his antagonist: — "But before I commit myself to the dangerous depths of his discourse, which I am now upon the brink of, I would with his leave make a motion, that, instead of author, I may henceforth indifferently call him Mr. Bayes as oft as I shall see occasion; and that, first, because he hath no name, or at least will not own it, though he himself writes under the greatest security, and gives us the first letters of other men's names before he be asked them. Secondly, because he is, I perceive a lover of elegancy of style, and can endure no man's tautologies but his own, and therefore I would not distaste him with too frequent repetition of one word; but chiefly because Mr. Bayes and he do very much symbolize in their understandings, in their expressions, in their humour, in their contempt and quarrelling, of all others, though of their own profession; because our divine, the author, manages his contest with the same prudence and civility which the poets and players of late have practised in their divisions; and lastly, because both their talents do peculiarly lie in exposing and personating the Nonconformists." (Here, by the way, Andrew identifies Mr. Bayes with Dryden, and so pays the intellects of Parker a high though unintended compliment). "Besides, to say Mr. Bayes is more civil than to say villain and caitiff."
As the Nonconformists were continually and injudiciously opposing to the Church of England the Protestant churches abroad (which had certainly departed further from Rome, whether or no they came any nearer to Heaven), so the High-Church Polemics, with equal lack of temper and judgment, were always reflecting on the foreign reformers and their followers; as if, indeed, the essentials of a church had no where been preserved except in the English episcopal establishment. Parker probably pushed this doctrine to extremes, for which folly he received severe castigation. — "Mr. Bayes, ye know, prefers that one quality of fighting single with whole armies, before all the moral virtues put together; and yet I assure you he hath several times obliged Moral Virtue so highly, that she owes him a good turn wherever she can meet him. But it is a brave thing to be the ecclesiastical Drawcansir: he kills whole nations, — he kills friend and foe. Hungary, Transylvania, Bohemia, Poland, Savoy, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and a great part of the Church of England, and all Scotland (for these, besides many more, he mocks under the title of Germany and Geneva), may perhaps rouse up our mastiff, and make up a danger worthy of his courage. A man would guess that this giant had promised his comfortable importance a simarre of the beards of all the orthodox theologues in Christendom." "There is risen up this spiritual Mr. Bayes) who, having assumed to himself an incongruous plurality of ecclesiastical offices, one most severe of the penitentiary universal to the reformed churches; the other most ridiculous, of buffoon general to the Church of England, so that he may henceforth be capable of any other promotion.... And not being content to enjoy his own folly, he has taken two others into partnership, as fit for his design as those two that clubbed with Mahomet in making the Alcoran.... But lest I might be mistaken as to the persons I mention, I will assure the reader that I intend not Hudibras; for he is a man of the other robe, and his excellent wit hath taken a flight far above these whifflers: that whoever dislikes the choice of his subject, cannot but commend his performance of it, and calculate, if on so barren a theme he were so copious, what admirable sport he would have made with an ecclesiastical politician."
It is pleasant to read this acknowledgment of an enemy's merits, which shews that Andrew loved wit for its own sake, without looking at the party from which it proceeded. But it must be recollected that his "withers were unwrung." He was no Puritan, — no new-light man. If he inclined to one mode of church discipline rather than another, he chose that which he conceived most favourable to liberty.
Here he rises to a more solemn indignation: — "Once perhaps in a hundred years there may arise such a prodigy in the University (where all men else learn better arts and better manners), and from thence may creep into the church (where the teachers, at least, ought to be well instructed in the knowledge and practice of Christianity); so prodigious a person, I say, may even there be hatched, who shall neither know nor care how to behave himself to God or man; and who, having never seen the receptacle of grace or conscience at an anatomical dissection, may conclude, therefore, that there is no such matter, or no such obligation, among Christians, who shall persecute the scripture itself, unless it will conform to his interpretation; who shall strive to put the world into blood, and animate princes to be the executioners of their own subjects for well-doing."
Of the correctness and elegance of Parker's style, the following passage, which Marvell quotes from page 663 of his Defence (what a book his defence must be!) which Marvell cuts up scientifically, may be a fair specimen: — "There sprung up a mighty bramble on the south side of the Lake Lemane that — such is the rankness of the soil — spread and flourished with such a sudden growth, that, partly by the industry of his agents abroad, and partly by its own indefatigable pains and pragmaticalness, it quite overrun the whole Reformation." (The bramble, of course, is Calvin.) "You must conceive that Mr. Bayes was all this while in an extacy, in Dodona's grove; or else here is strange work — worse than 'explicating a post,' or 'examining a pillar? A 'bramble' that had agents abroad, and itself 'an indefatigable bramble.' But straight our bramble is transformed into a man, and he 'makes a chair of infallibility for himself' out of his own bramble timber."
The account of Parker's rise and progress as a chaplain and a popular preacher is rather personal, and too long to be extracted; but there are some things in it which deserve to be remarked for their universal application: e.g. "Having soon wrought himself dexterously into his patron's favour by short graces and short sermons, and a mimical way of drolling upon the Puritans; he gained a great authority likewise among the domestics: they listened to him as an oracle, and they allowed him, by common consent, to have not only all the divinity, but more wit too, than all the rest of the family put together." The short graces and sermons, all candidates for preferment will do well to imitate; but mimical ways should cautiously be avoided. But this is still better: — "Being of an amorous complexion, and finding himself the cock-divine and the cock-wit of the family, he took the privilege to walk among the hens; and thought it not impolitic to establish his new-acquired reputation upon the gentlewomen's side: and they that perceived he was a rising man, and of pleasant conversation, dividing his day among them into canonical hours, — of reading, now, the common-prayer, and now the romances, — were very much taken with him. The sympathy of silk began to stir and attract the tippet to the petticoat, and the petticoat to the tippet. The innocent ladies found a strange unquietness in their minds, and could not distinguish whether it were love or devotion.... I do not hear that for all this he had practised upon the honour of the ladies, but that he preserved always the civility of a Platonic knight-errant. For all this, courtship had no other operation but to make him still more in love with himself; and if he frequented their company, it was only to speculate his own baby in their eyes."
There are some who could not do better than attend to the following: "He is the first minister of the Gospel that ever had it in his commission to rail at all nations. And though it hath long been practised, I never observed any great success by reviling men into conformity. I have heard that charms may even invite the moon out of Heaven, but I could never see her moved by the rhetoric of barking."
But we must make an end of our extracts, (though could willingly extend them further,) with a few of those curious thoughts, which constitute the resemblance we have asserted to exist between Marvell and Butler.
Page 57. "This is an admirable dexterity our author has, to correct a man's scribbling humours without impairing his reputation. He is as courteous as the lightning, which can melt the sword without ever hurting the scabbard."
61. "Is it not strange, that in those most benign minutes of a man's life, when the stars smile, the birds sing, the winds whisper, the fountains warble, the trees blossom, and universal nature seems to invite itself to the bridal, when the lion pulls in his claws, and the aspic lays by its poison, and all the most noxious creatures grow amorously innocent: that even then, Mr. Bayes alone should not be able to refrain his malignity. As you love yourself, Madam, let him not come near you; he hath all his life been fed with vipers instead of lampreys, and scorpions for cray-fish; and if any time he eat chickens they had been crammed with spiders, till he hath envenomed his whole substance, that it is much safer to bed with a mountebank before he hath taken his antidote."...
140. "Bayes had at first built up such a stupendous magistrate as never was of God's making. He had put all Princes on the rack to stretch them to his dimension. And as a straight line continued grows a circle, he had given them so infinite a power, that it was extended into impotency. For although he found it not till it was too late in the cause, yet he felt it all along (which is the understanding of brutes,) in the effect."
187. "For I do not think it will excuse a witch to say that she conjured up a spirit merely that she might lay him, nor can there be a more dexterous and malicious way of calumny, than by making a needless apology for another in a criminal subject. As suppose I should write a preface shewing what grounds there are of fears and jealousies of Bayes's being an atheist."
Though our quotations have already extended too far, we cannot leave behind the following passage, because it states the just principles of the patriot in the clearest point of view. Speaking of Laud's unhappy attempt to force a form of worship upon the Scotch, and the consequent insurrection, he says, "Whether it be a war of religion or of liberty, is not worth the labour to enquire. Whichsoever was at the top, the other was at the bottom; but considering all, I think the cause was too good to be fought for. Men ought to have trusted God; they ought and might have trusted the King with the whole of that matter. The arms of the church are prayers and tears, the arms of the subject are patience and petitions. The King himself being of so accurate and piercing a judgment would soon have felt where it stuck. For men may spare their pains when nature is at work, and the world will not go the faster for our driving. Even as his present Majesty's happy restoration did itself, so all things else happen in their best and proper time, without our officiousness."
Such an attack may naturally be supposed to have called forth a host of answers, some of which attempted to vie with the quaintness of Marvell's title.
As Marvell had nicknamed Parker "Bayes," the quaint humour of one entitled his reply "Rosemary and Bayes;" another, "The Transproser Rehearsed, or the Fifth Act of Mr. Bayes's Play;" another, "Gregory Father Greybeard with his Vizard off." "There were no less than six scaramouches together upon the stage, all of them of the same gravity and behaviour, the same tone, and the same habit, that it was impossible to discern which was the true author of 'The Ecclesiastical Polity.' I believe he imitated the wisdom of some other Princes, who have sometimes been persuaded by their servants to disguise several others in the regal garb, that the enemy might not know in the battle whom to single."
Parker certainly did answer, or attempt to answer, his adversary, in "A reproof of the Rehearsal Transprosed," in which he hints the propriety of Marvell's receiving a practical reproof from the secular arm. About the same time Andrew found in his lodgings an anonymous epistle, short as a blunderbuss: — "If thou darest to print any lie or libel against Dr. Parker, by the eternal God, I will cut thy throat," which pious expressions of High-church zeal was adopted as the motto to the "Second part of the Rehearsal Transprosed," printed in 1673. From this second part we must be content with a single extract. Parker had reproached Marvell with the friendship of Milton, then living, in terms calculated to draw fresh suspicion on the aged poet, in an age when many would have deemed it a service to the church, if not to God, to assassinate the author of Paradise Lost. Of his great and venerable friend, Marvell speaks thus honourably:—
"J. M. was, and is, a man of great learning and sharpness of wit as any man. It was his misfortune, living in a tumultuous time, to be tossed on the wrong side, and he writ, 'flagrante Bello,' certain dangerous treatises of no other nature than that which I mentioned to you writ by your own father, only with this difference, that your father's, which I have by me, was written with the same design, but with much less wit or judgment. At his Majesty's happy return, J. M. did partake, even as you yourself did, of his regal clemency, and has ever since lived in a most retired silence. It was after that, I well remember it, that being one day at his house, I there first met you accidentally. But there it was, when you, as I told you, wandered up and down Moorfields, astrologizing on the duration of his Majesty's government, that you frequented J. M. incessantly, and haunted his house day by day. What discourses you there used he is too generous to remember."
Perhaps it was well for Marvell, that Milton could not read this, and we hope no one was so injudicious as to read it to him, for he would most angrily have spurned at anything like an extenuation of deeds in which he never ceased to glory. The very constitution of Milton's mind, his defect and his excellence, forbad him to conceive himself to have been in the wrong: in this, as in all else, but his genius and his nobility of soul, he was the very antipodes of Shakspeare. He that relented not, when he saw Charles the First upon the scaffold, was little likely to turn royalist, when he heard of Charles the Second in his haram.
Marvell, in all his authentic works, speaks with respect and tenderness of Charles the First, whose errors and misfortunes he attributed mainly to the rash counsels of the Prelates. In religion, he appears to incline to the Calvinistic doctrines, but without bitterness against the contrary opinions. He was truly liberal without indifference.
In October, 1674, his correspondence with his constituents was resumed, (or rather from this date it has been preserved,) and continued to within a few months of his death. The first letter of this renewed series has been often quoted as an instance of his incorruptibility and Caution. The people of Hull had thought fit to propitiate with a present their governor, the Duke of Monmouth, then highly popular, and the hero, if not head of a certain party, who, to avert the dangers of a catholic succession, would gladly have washed the stain of illegitimacy from Charles's favourite offspring, though neither the law nor the Church of England permitted this ex post facto legitimation. They manage these things better at Rome. However Monmouth was the man of the day, and Marvell was to officiate in offering to the Duke the good town's oblation. But let him tell his own story: — "To-day I waited on him, and first presented him with your letter, which he read over very attentively, and then prayed me to assure you, that he would, upon all occasions, be most ready to give you the marks of his affection, and assist you in any affairs that you should recommend to him; with other words of civility to the same purpose. I then delivered him the six broad pieces, telling him I was deputed to blush on your behalfe for the meanness of the present, &c.; but he took me off, and said he thanked you for it, and accepted it as a token of your kindness. He had, before I came in, as I was told, considered what to do with the gold; but that I by all means prevented the offer, or I had been in danger of being reimbursed with it. I received the bill which was sent me on Mr. Nelehorpe; but the surplus of it exceeding much the expense I have been at on this occasion, I desire you to make use of it, and of me, upon any other opportunity."
As these letters relate wholly to the confused and unhappy politics of the time, and do not throw any new light on what is generally known, much less lead to the discovery of what is obscure, we shall make no further selections from them. We do, however, earnestly desire to see them republished in a convenient form, with whatever historical elucidation they may require to render them intelligible. It is right to mention that they testify favourably to the general accuracy of Hume, with whose account of the same transactions we have had occasion to compare them. The last date is June 6th, 1678, about two months before his death. He died, perhaps happily for his fame, before the explosion of the Popish plot.
In the latter years of his life Marvell frequently appeared as a political writer, and perhaps excited more animosity in that capacity, than by his firmness as a senator. In 1675 was seen the novel spectacle of a Bishop (and one who had been a confessor for his church) assailed by a plain priest, for over-toleration, and defended by a Calvinistic layman. Dr. Herbert Croft, Bishop of Hereford, had published a book called the "Naked Truth, or the true state of the Primitive Church," which, unlike most theological tracts in the seventeenth century, was in a moderate spirit, and of a moderate size, being no more than a quarto pamphlet of four or five sheets. As it was hostile to the high pretensions of the Hierarchy, as well as against the forcible interposition of the civil power in matters of belief or worship, it probably was resented by the more violent clergy as the treason of a false brother. Dr. Francis Turner, Master of St. John's College, Cambridge, published his "Animadversions on the Naked Truth," wherein, unluckily for himself, he indulged in a sort of prim facetiousness not quite in unison with the subject. Marvell had already made one divine "sacred to ridicule," by a dramatic nick-name: he now anabaptized Dr. Turner as "Mr. Smirke, or the Divine in Mode," alluding to a chaplain in Etherege's comedy, — "Sir Fopling Flutter, or the Man of Mode," — thus holding him up as the model "of a neat, starched, formal and forward divine." There is a passage near the commencement which we must transcribe for the benefit of all would-be-wits in orders:—
"And from hence it proceeds, that, to the no small scandal and disreputation of our church, a great arcanum of their state hath been discovered and divulged; that, albeit wit be not inconsistent and incompatible with a clergyman, yet neither is it inseparable from them. So that it is of concernment to my Lords the Bishops henceforward to repress those of them who have no wit from writing, and to take care that even those that have, do husband it better, as not knowing to what exigency they may be reduced; but however, that they the Bishops be not too forward in licensing and prefixing their venerable names to such pamphlets. For admitting, though I am not too positive in it, that our episcopacy is of apostolical right, yet we do not find, among all those gifts there given to men, that 'Wit is enumerated; nor yet among those qualifications requisite to a Bishop. And therefore should they, out of complacency for an author, or delight in the argument, or facility of their judgments, approve of a dull book, their own understandings will be answerable, and irreverent people, that cannot distinguish, will be ready to think that such of them differ from men of wit, not only in degree, but in order. For all are not of my mind, who could never see any one elevated to that dignity, but I presently conceived a greater opinion of his wit than ever I had formerly. But some do not stick to affirm, that even they, the Bishops, come by theirs, not by inspiration, not by teaching, but even as the poor laity do sometimes light upon it, — by a good mother. Which has occasioned the homely Scotch proverb, that 'an ounce of mother wit is worth a pound of clergy.' And as they come by it as do other men, so they possess it on the same condition: that they cannot transmit it by breathing, touching, or any natural effluvium, to other persons; not so much as to their most domestick chaplains, or to the closest residentiary. That the King himself, who is no less the spring of that, than he is the fountain of honour, yet has never used the dubbing or creating of wits as a flower of his prerogative; much less can the ecclesiastical power conferre it with the same ease as they do the holy orders. That whatsoever they can do of that kind is, at uttermost, to impower men by their authority and commission, no otherwise than in the licensing of midwives or physicians. But that as to their collating of any internal talent or ability, they could never pretend to it; their grants and their prohibitions are alike invalid, and they can neither capacitate one man to be witty, nor hinder another from being so, further than as they press it at their devotion. Which, if it be the case, they cannot be too exquisite, seeing this way of writing is found so necessary, in making choice of fit instruments. The Church's credit is more interested in an ecclesiastical droll, than in a lay chancellor. It is no small trust that is reposed in him to whom the Bishop shall commit 'omne et omni modum suum ingenium, tam temporale quam spirituale'; and, however it goes with excommunication, they should take good heed to what manner of persons they delegate the keys of laughter. It is not every man that is qualified to sustain the dignity of the Church's jester, and, should they take as exact a scrutiny of them as of the Nonconformists through their dioceses, the numbers would appear inconsiderable upon this Easter visitation. Before men be admitted to so important an employment, it were fit they underwent a severe examination; and that it might appear, first, whether they have any sense; for without that, how can any man pretend — and yet they do — to be ingenious? Then, whether they have any modesty; for without that they can only he scurrilous and impudent. Next, whether any truth; for true jests are those that do the greatest execution. And lastly, it were not amiss that they gave some account, too, of their Christianity; for the world has hitherto been so uncivil as to expect something of that from the clergy, in the design and style even of their lightest and most uncanonical writings."
Few Bishops seem to have honoured Marvell with their correspondence: but Dr. Croft did not think it derogatory to the mitre to thank his sarcastic avenger. We must give his letter, though it is not the ideal of epistolary or episcopal composition. Marvell's work, it must be remembered, was published under the name of Andreas Rivetus, Jun.:
I choose to run some hazard of this (having no certain information), rather than incur your censure of ingratitude to the person who hath set forth Mr. Smirke in so trim and proper a dress, unto whose hands I hope this will happily arrive, to render him due thanks for the humane civility and christain charity shewed to the author of Naked Truth, so bespotted with the dirty language of foul-mouthed beasts, who, though he feared much his own weakness, yet, by God's undeserved grace, is so strengthened, as not at all to be dejected, or much concerned with such snarling curs, though sett on by many spightfull hands and hearts, of a high stamp, but as base alloy. I cannot yet get a sight of what the Bishop of Ely (Turner) hath certainly printed; but keeps very close, to put forth, I suppose, the next approaching session of Parliament, when there cannot be time to make a reply; for I have just cause to fear the session will be short. Sir, this assures you, that you have the zealous prayers and hearty service of the author of Naked Truth, your humble Servant,
In answer to this letter from Bishop Croft, Marvell says:—
Upon Tuesday night last I received your thanks for that which could not deserve your pardon; for great is your goodness to profess a gratitude, where you had a justifiable reason for your clemency; for notwithstanding the ill-treatment you received from others, 'tis I that have given you the highest provocation. A good cause receives more injury from a weak defence, than from a frivolous accusation; and the ill that does a man no harm, is to be preferred before the good that creates him a prejudice: but your Lordship's generosity is not, I see, to be reformed by the most exquisite patterns of ill nature; and while perverse men have made a crime of your virtue, yet 'tis your pleasure to convert the obligation I have placed upon you into a civility.
Indeed, I meant all well, but 'tis not every one's good fortune to light into hands where he may escape; and for a man of good intentions, less than this I could not say in due and humble acknowledgment, and your favourable interpretation of me; for the rest, I most heartily rejoice to understand, that the same God who hath chosen you out to bear so eminent a testimony to his truth, hath given you also that Christian magnanimity to hold up, without any depression of spirit, against its and your opposers; what they intend further, I know not, neither am I curious; my soul shall not enter into their secrets; but as long as God shall send you life and health, I reckon our church is indefectible; my he, therefore, long preserve you to his honour, and further service, which shall be the constant prayer of,
My Lord, Your Lordship's most humble
and most faithful Servant,
London, July 16, 1676."
To this work of Marvell's was added a short "Historical Essay concerning general Councils, Creeds, and Impositions, in Matters of Religion, by Andreas Redivivus, Jun., 1671, quarto." Of Turner, it is but fair to say that, whether his opinions were right or wrong, he proved his integrity under severe and repeated trials. He was among the seven Bishops who were imprisoned for refusing to authorize the Declaration of Liberty of Conscience; yet he stuck to James in his adversity, and died a Non-juror and an Exile.
These strong and deep-thoughted satires gained for Marvell the reputation of a wit, even in the court where wit was one of the few good things admissible. Charles himself forgave the Patriot for the sake of the Humourist. Loving ridicule for its own sake, he cared not whether friend or foe, church or conventicle, were the object of derision. Burnet, who vilifies Marvell by calling him the "liveliest droll of the age," declares, that "his books were the delight of all classes, from the King, to the tradesman:" a sentence which accidentally points out the limits of reading in those days. As neither wits nor poets have been always remarkable for moral firmness, and are as vulnerable in their vanity and fears as politicians in their avarice and ambition, no means were omitted to win over Marvell. He was threatened, he was flattered, he was thwarted, he was caressed, he was beset with spies, and, if all tales be true, he was way-laid by ruffians, and courted by beauties. But no Delilah could discover the secret of his strength: his integrity was proof alike against danger and against corruption; nor was it enervated by that flattery, which, more frequently than either, seduces those weak, amiable creatures, whom, for lack of better, we are fain to call good. Against threats and bribes, pride is the ally of principle; but how often has virtue pined away to a shadow, by too fondly contemplating its own image, reflected by insidious praise; as Narcissus, in the fable, consumed his beauty by gazing on its watery shade. In a Court which held no man to be honest, and no woman chaste, this soft sorcery was cultivated to perfection; but Marvell, revering and respecting himself, was proof against its charms.
There is a story told of his refusing a bribe, which has been heard and repeated by many, who perhaps did not know in what king's reign he lived, and which has been so often paralleled with the turnips of Curius, and the like common places, that some sceptical persons have held that there is as little truth in the one as in the other. However, we believe it to have been founded in fact, and that the mistake has been in the dulness of those who took a piece of dry English humour for a stoical exhibition of virtue. At all events, a life of Andrew Marvell would be as imperfect without it, as a history of King Alfred without the neat-herd's cottage and the burnt cakes. It is related with various circumstances, but we shall follow the narrative of a pamphlet printed in Ireland, A.D. 1754: — "The borough of Hull, in the reign of Charles II., chose Andrew Marvell, a young gentleman of little or no fortune, and maintained him in London for the service of the public. His understanding, integrity, and spirit, were dreadful to the then infamous administration. Persuaded that he would be theirs for properly asking, they sent his old school-fellow, the Lord Treasurer Danby, to renew acquaintance with him in his garret. At parting, the Lord Treasurer, out of pure affection, slipped into his hand an order upon the treasury for £1000, and then went to his chariot. Marvell, looking at the paper, calls after the Treasurer, 'My Lord, I request another moment.' They went up again to the garret, and Jack, the servant boy, was called. 'Jack, child, what had I for dinner yesterday?' 'Dont you remember, sir? you had the little shoulder of mutton that you ordered me to bring from a woman in the market.' 'Very right, child.' 'What have I for dinner to-day?' 'Dont you know, sir, that you bid me lay by the blade-bone to broil.' ''Tis so, very right, child, go away.' 'My Lord, do you hear that? Andrew Marvell's dinner is provided; there's your piece of paper. I want it not. I knew the sort of kindness you intended. I live here to serve my constituents; the ministry may seek men for their purpose; I am not one.'"
One mark of authenticity the story certainly wants: — it has no date. As, however, it mentions Lord Danby as treasurer, it must have occurred within the last four years of Marvell's life: for Sir Thomas Osborne, afterwards first Duke of Leeds, was not appointed treasurer till the 19th of June, 1673; nor was he created Earl Danby till the 27th of June, 1674. The fact of his having been Marvell's schoolfellow rests, as far as we have discovered, upon the Irishman's credit alone, though it is not impossible, as his family estates lay in Yorkshire and Lancashire.
In addition to the circumstances mentioned above, it has been customary to enhance the merit of Marvell by relating how, after refusing the King's thousand pounds, he was obliged to borrow a guinea of his bookseller. But the story is better without this heightening touch. The very familiarity with which the word guinea is employed, points to a period when a guinea was the lowest sum which a gentleman could think of accepting. Now guineas were first coined in 1673, and it is by no means likely that the term became immediately familiar. Marvell was more likely to have borrowed a broad piece. Borrowing of a bookseller is an expedient very likely to occur to an author of later days; but Andrew Marvell never was a bookseller's author, nor were booksellers likely to be liberal lenders, when the copyright of Paradise Lost was transferred for £15.
Marvell was far from affluent, but there is no ground for supposing that he ever was, in the proper sense of the word, poor. His paternal estate, though small, was unimpaired; his mode of living simple and frugal, but not sordid. His company was sought by the great, as well as the witty; notwithstanding his politics, he was admitted into the company of the merry Monarch, (but so to be sure was Colonel Blood,) and he was on so intimate a footing with Prince Rupert, that whenever the Prince dissented from the court measures, it was usual to say "he has been with his tutor." It is said, that when Marvell had become so obnoxious to the Court, or rather to the Duke's party, that it was dangerous for him to stir abroad, Rupert visited him at his humble apartment, in a Westminster attic.
That Marvell was exposed to assaults from the drunken insolent followers of the Court, such as those that revenged the cause of Nell Gwyn on Sir John Coventry's nose, is almost certain. Homicide, in a midnight scuffle, was then esteemed as venial as adultery. The habit of bloodshed, contracted in civil warfare, had choked up the natural remorse of hearts which had either no religion, or worse than none. But that any settled design of assassinating him was meditated by any party, cannot be proved, and therefore ought not to be believed.
So long indeed, as he condescended to write in masquerade, and to veil his serious purpose with a ridiculous vizard, it seems to have been the wish of the government to let him escape. But when at last he dared to be once for all in earnest, and set forth the dangers of the constitution plainly and without a parable, the ruling powers were afraid to laugh any longer, and began to think of prosecuting. In the early part of 1678, appeared "An Account of the growth of Popery and arbitrary Government in England," ostensibly printed at Amsterdam, which though without his name, was well known to be the work of Marvell, for none else could and would have written it. Shortly after, the following proclamation appeared in the Gazette.
"Whereas there have been lately printed and published, several seditious and scandalous libels, against the proceedings of both Houses of Parliament, and other his Majesty's Courts of Justice, to the dishonour of his Majesty's government, and the hazard of the public peace: These are to give notice, that what person soever shall discover unto one of the Secretaries of State, the printer, publisher, author, or bander to the press, of any of the said libels, so that full evidence may be made thereof to a jury, without mentioning the informer; especially one libel, entitled 'An Account of the growth of Popery,' &c., and another called 'A seasonable Argument to all Grand Juries,' &c.; the discoverer shall be rewarded as follows: — he shall have £50 for the discovery of the printer, or publisher, and for the hander of it to the press, £100," &c.
So little was Marvell alarmed at this movement, that he writes to his friend Popple in a strain of jocular defiance about it. The letter is dated 10th of June, 1678, and is perhaps the latest of his extant writings: — "There came out, about Christmas last, a large book, concerning 'The growth of Popery and arbitrary Government.' There have been great rewards offered in private, and considerable in the Gazette, to any who would inform of the author. Three or four books, printed since, have described, as near as it was proper to go, the man, Mr. Marvell, being a member of Parliament, to have been the author; but if he had, surely he would not have escaped being questioned in Parliament, or some other place." No prosecution, however, ensued, but dark and desperate menacings hovered round him; he was obliged to be cautious of going abroad, and was sometimes obliged to secrete himself for several days. Perhaps he found it prudent to absent himself from Town, and seek security among his constituents; for in an extract from the books of the Corporation of Hull, we find this notice: "This day, 29th July, 1678, the court being met, Andrew Marvell, Esq. one of the burgesses of Parliament for this Borough, came into court, and several discourses were held, about the Town affairs." We know not, whether like his father, he was possessed with a presentiment of approaching mortality, and felt that this was to be his last visit to the scenes of his childhood; but certain it is, he was destined to see them no more. He returned to London, and with scarce any previous illness, or visible decay of constitution, on the 16th of August, he expired.
No wonder if so sudden a decease, in an age when all were disposed to believe, and too many to execute, the worst that evil thoughts suggest, were ascribed to the effects of poison; but since all men are liable to be called away every hour, it is better not to add horrid surmises to the woeful sum of horrid certainties.
It is somewhat singular, that the Parliament, in which Marvell had sat so long, itself the longest which ever sat under the monarchy, survived him but one session, as if its dissolution were deferred as long as it numbered one righteous man. The pension Parliament was dissolved on the 30th of December, 1678.
It has been said that Marvell was the last member that received wages from his constituents. Others, however, his contemporaries, maintained the right, and suffered their arrears to accumulate as a cheap resource at the next election. More than once in the course of Marvell's correspondence, he speaks of members threatening to sue their boroughs for their pay.
Aubrey, who knew Marvell, and may be trusted when he describes what he saw, says that he was "of a middling stature, pretty strong set, roundish cheeked, hazel eyed, brown haired. In his conversation he was modest, and of very few words. He was wont to say he would not drink high, or freely, with any one with whom he could not trust his life." Heaven be praised, we live in times when such a resolution would seldom interfere with the circulation of the bottle. If a gentleman take care that the liquor does not injure him, he need apprehend no bodily hurt from his compotators.
As a Senator, his character appears unimpeachable. He was a true representative of his constituents; not slavishly submitting his wisdom to their will, nor setting his privilege above their interests. How he would have acted, had he been a member of the Long Parliament, which presumed to command the King in the name of the nation, and levied forces against the Monarch, under his own Great Seal, we can only conjecture. The sphere of his duty was far different; for the Commons, on the Restoration, necessarily resumed their pristine character, which was not that of a ruling Committee, but a simple representation of the third estate. There was then no need of a monarchical, or of an aristocratical party in the lower House, for the monarchy and aristocracy still retained ample powers of their own. A member of Parliament had therefore only one duty to attend to, as a counsellor is only obliged to serve the interests of his clients, leaving to the Judge and Jury the justice of the general question. We are convinced, that a restitution of the tribunitial power, originally vested in the Commons, should be accompanied with the restoration of the just prerogatives of the Peerage, and of the Crown. "Give the King his own again," and the people will get their own too.
Of his poetic merits, we would gladly speak at large, but our limits allow not of immoderate quotation, and his works are too little known, and in general too inaccessible, to be referred to with confidence. It is disgraceful to English booksellers, (we say not to the English nation,) that they find not a place in our popular collections. The writer of this notice can truly say that he met with them only by accident, and was astonished that they were not familiar as household words. But probably the same causes which retarded the poetic fame of Milton, went nigh to extinguish that of Andrew Marvell. The classical Republicans were few and inefficient. The Puritans would not read poetry. The High-Church Bigots would read nothing but what emanated from their own party. The common-place roystering Royalists were seldom sober enough to read, and the mob-fanatics did not know their letters.
Moreover, the mere celebrity of a man, in one respect, sometimes throws a temporary shade over his accomplishments in a different line. Milton had produced Poems in his youth, that alone would place him high among Poets, yet no one remembered that the author of the "Defensio populi Anglicani" had ever written Comus; and Roscoe was perhaps the first to remind the people of England, that Lorenzo di Medici ranks high among the bards of Italy. It is not without effort that we remember that Caesar's Commentaries were written by the same man who conquered at Pharsalia. And what reader of Childe Harold thinks of Lord Byron's speech about the Nottingham Frame-breakers? Lord John Russell's Tragedies are obscured by the lustre of his Reform Bill, and should Paganini produce another Iliad, it would only be read as the preposterous adventure of a fiddler. Hence we may fairly conclude that Marvell's fame would have been greater, had it been less; that had he been as insignificant a being as Pomfret, or Yalden, Dr. Johnson might have condescended to rank him among the Poets of Great Britain.
We took occasion to allude to Marvell's sentiments on the death of Charles the First, expressed in his Horatian Ode to Oliver Cromwell. The lines are noble:
AN HORATIAN ODE
UPON CROMWELL'S RETURN FROM IRELAND.
... Though justice against fate complain,
And plead the ancient rights in vain:
But those do hold or break,
As men are strong or weak.
Nature, that hateth emptiness,
Allows of penetration less;
And therefore must make room
Where greater spirits come.
What field of all the civil war
Where his were not the deepest scar
And Hampton shows what part
He had of wiser art:
When twining subtle fears with hope,
He wove a net of such a scope,
That Charles himself might chace
To Carisbrook's narrow case;
That thence the royal actor borne,
The tragic scaffold might adorne,
While round the armed bands,
Did clap their bloody hands:
He nothing common did, or mean,
Upon that memorable scene;
But with his keener eye,
The axe's edge did trye.
Nor call'd the Gods with vulgar spight,
To vindicate his helplesse right:
But bow'd his comely head
Downe, as upon a bed.
This was that memorable houre,
Which first assured the forced power;
So when they did designe
The capitol's first line,
A bleeding head where they begun
Did fright the architects to run.
The poems of Marvell are, for the most part, productions of his early youth. They have much of that over-activity of fancy, that remoteness of allusion, which distinguishes the school of Cowley; but they have also a heartfelt tenderness, a childish simplicity of feeling, among all their complication of thought, which would atone for all their conceits, if conceit were indeed as great an offence against poetic nature as Addison and other critics of the French school pretend. But though there are cold conceits, a conceit is not necessarily cold. The mind, in certain states of passion, finds comfort in playing with occult or casual resemblances, and dallies with the echo of a sound.
We confine our praise to the poems which he wrote for himself. As for those he made to order, for Fairfax or Cromwell, they are as dull as every true son of the muse would wish these things to be. Captain Edward Thomson, who collected and published Marvell's works in 1776, has, with mischievous industry, scraped together, out of the state poems, and other common sewers, a quantity of obscene and scurrilous trash, which we are convinced Marvell did not write, and which, by whomsoever written, ought to be delivered over to condign oblivion.
With less injury to Marvell's reputation, but equal disregard of probability, Captain Thompson ascribes to him the hymns or paraphrases, "When all thy mercies, Oh my God," "Thy spacious firmament on high," which were published in the Spectator, and afterwards in the works of Addison, to whom they undoubtedly belong. He was not the man to claim what was not his own. As to their being Marvell's, it is just as probable that they are Chaucer's. They present neither his language, his versification, nor his cast of thought.
We cannot better conclude, than with the following beautiful extract from a letter to a friend in affliction, which is novel on a trite subject, — that of consolation:
Having a great esteem and affection for you, and the grateful memory of him that is departed being still green and fresh upon my spirit, I cannot forbear to enquire, how you have stood the second shock, at your sad meeting of friends in the country. I know that the very sight of those who have been witnesses of our better fortune, doth but serve to reinforce a calamity. I know the contagion of grief, and infection of tears; and especially when it runs in a blood. And I myself could sooner imitate than blame those innocent relentings of nature, so that they spring from tenderness only, and humanity, not from an implacable sorrow. The tears of a family may flow together like those little drops that compact the rainbow, and if they be placed with the same advantage towards heaven, as those are to the sun, they, too, have their splendour; and like that bow, while they unbend into seasonable showers, yet they promise that there shall not be a second flood. But the dissoluteness of grief — the prodigality of sorrow — is neither to he indulged in a man's self, nor complied with in others. Though an only son be inestimable, yet it is like Jonah's sin, to be angry at God for the withering of his gowrd. He that gave his own son, may he not take ours? It is pride that makes a rebel; and nothing but the overweening of ourselves, and our own things, that raises us against Divine Providence. Whereas, Abraham's obedience was better than sacrifice. And if God please to accept both, it is indeed a farther trial, but a greater honour. 'Tis true, it is a hard task to learn and teach at the same time. And where yourselves are the experiment, it is as if a man should dissect his own body, and read the anatomy lecture. But I will not heighten the difficulty, while I advise the attempt. Only, as in difficult things, you would do well to make use of all that may strengthen and assist you; the word of God, the society of good men, and the books of the ancients: there is one way more, which is, by diversion, business, and activity, which are also necessary to be used in their season."