ANDREW MARVELL, a very ingenious and witty English writer, was the son of Mr. Andrew Marvell, minister and schoolmaster of Kingston upon Hull, in Yorkshire, and was born in that town in 1620. His abilities being very great, his progress in letters was proportionable; so that, at thirteen, he was admitted of Trinity-college in Cambridge. But he had not been long there, when he fell into the hands of the Jesuits; for those busy agents of the Romish church, under the connivance of this, as well as the preceding reign, spared no pains to wake proselytes; for which purpose several of them were planted in or near the universities, in order to make conquests among the young scholars. Marvell fell into their snares, as Chillingworth had fallen before him, and was inveigled up to London; but his father being apprised of it soon after, pursued him, and finding him in a bookseller's shop, prevailed with him to return to college. He afterwards applied to his studies with great assiduity, and took a bachelor of arts degree in 1639. About this time he lost his father, who was unfortunately drowned in crossing the Humber, as he was attending the daughter of an intimate female friend; who by this event becoming childless, sent for young Marvell, and, by way of making all the return in her power, added considerably to his fortune. Upon this the plan of his education was enlarged, and he travelled through most of the polite parts of Europe. It appears that he had been at Rome, from his poem entitled "Flecknoe," an English priest at Rome; in which he has described with great humour that wretched poetaster, Mr. Richard Flecknoe, from whom Dryden gave the name of Mac-Flecknoe to his satire against Shadwell. During his travels, another occasion happened for the exercise of his wit. In France, he found much talk of Lancelot Joseph de Maniban, an abbot; who pretended to understand the characters of those he had never seen, and to prognosticate their good or had fortune, from an inspection of their hand-writing. This artist was handsomely lashed by out author, in a poem written upon the spot, and addressed to him. We know no more of Marvell for several years, only that he spent some time at Constantinople, where he resided as secretary to the English embassy at that court.
In 1653, we find him returned to England, and employed by Oliver Cromwell as a tutor to a Mr. Dutton; as appears from an original letter of Marvell to that usurper, still extant. His first appearance in any public capacity at home, was his being made assistant to the celebrated Milton, Latin secretary to the protector, which, according to his own account, happened in 1657. "I never had," says he, "any, not the remotest relation to public matters, nor correspondence with the persons then predominant, until the year 1657; when indeed I entered into an into an employment, for which I was not altogether improper, and which I considered to be the most innocent and inoffensive towards his majesty's affairs, of any in that usurped and irregular government, to which all men were then exposed. And this I accordingly discharged without disobliging any one person, there having been opportunity and endeavours since his majesty's happy return to have discovered, had it been otherwise."
A little before the Restoration, he was chosen by his native town, Kingston-upon-Hull, to sit in that parliament which began at Westminster, April 25, 1660, and afterwards in that which began May 8, 1661. In this station he acquitted himself so much to the satisfaction of his electors, that they allowed him a handsome pension all the time he continued to represent them; which was to the time of his death. This was probably the last borough in England that paid a representative. He seldom spoke in parliament, but had much influence without doors upon the members of both houses. Prince Rupert, particularly, paid the greatest regard to his counsels; and whenever he voted according to the sentiments of Marvell, which he often did, it used to be said by the opposite party, that "he had been with his tutor." Such certainly was the intimacy between the prince and Marvell, that when he was obliged to abscond, to avoid falling a sacrifice to the indignation of those enemies among the governing party whom his satirical pen had irritated, the prince frequently went to see him, disguised as a private person.
The first attack he made with his pen was in 1672, upon Dr. Parker, a man of parts and learning, but a furious partizan, and virulent writer on the side of arbitrary government, who at this time published "Bishop Bramhall's Vindication of himself, and the rest of the episcopal clergy, from the presbyterian charge of popery, &c." to which he added a preface of his own. This preface Marvell attacked, in a piece called "The Rehearsal transprosed; or, animadversions on a late book, intituled, A preface, shewing what grounds there are of fears and jealousies of Popery, the second impression, with additions and amendments. London, printed by J. D. for the assigns of John Calvin and Theodore Beza, at the sign of the king's indulgence, on the south side of the Lake Lemari; and sold by N. Ponder in Chancery-lane," 1672, in 8vo. The title of this piece is taken in part from the duke of Buckingham's comedy, called "The Rehearsal;" and, as Dryden is ridiculed in that play under the name of Bayes, Marvell borrowed the same name for Parker, whom he exposed with much strength of argument, and force of humour. Parker answered Marvell in a letter entitled "A Reproof to the Rehearsal transprosed;" to which Marvell replied in, "The Rehearsal transprosed, the second part. Occasioned by two letters the first printed by a nameless author, entitled A Reproof; &c. the second left for me at a friend's house, dated Nov. 3, 1673, subscribed J. G. and concluding with these words If thou darest to print any lie or libel against Dr. Parker, by the eternal God I will cut thy throat. Answered by Andrew Marvell," Lond. 1673, 8vo. Marvell did not confine himself in these pieces to Parker's principles, as they appear in the "Preface and the Reproof;" but he exposed and confuted likewise various opinions which the doctor had advanced in his "Ecclesiastical Polity," published in 1670, and in his "Defence" of it in 1671. Parker made no reply to Marvell's last piece: "He judged it more prudent," says Wood, "to lay down the cudgels, than to enter the lists again with an untowardly combatant, so hugely well versed and experienced in the then but newly refined art, though much in mode and fashion almost ever since, of sporting and buffoonery. It was generally thought, however, by many of those who were otherwise favourers of Parker's cause, that the victory lay on Marvell's side; and it wrought this good effect on Parker, that for ever after it took down his high spirit." Burnet, speaking of Parker, says that, "after he had for some years entertained the nation with several virulent books, he was attacked by the liveliest droll of the age, who wrote in a burlesque strain; but with so peculiar and entertaining a conduct, that from the king down to the tradesman, his books were read with great pleasure. That not only humbled Parker, but the whole party; for the author of the Rehearsal transprosed had all the men of wit on his side." Swift likewise, speaking of the usual fate of common answerers to books, and how short-lived their labours are, adds, that "there is indeed an exception, when any great genius thinks it worth his while to expose a foolish piece: so we still read Marvell's answer to Parker with pleasure, though the book it answers be sunk long ago." Several other writers fell with great fury and violence upon Marvell; but Parker being considered as the principal, Marvell took but slight notice of the others.
A few years after, another divine fell under the cognizance of Marvell's pen. In 1675, Dr. Herbert Croft, bishop of Hereford, published without his name, a discourse in 4to, entitled, "The Naked Truth; or the true state of the Primitive Church. By an humble Moderator." This was immediately answered by several persons, and among the rest by Dr. Turner, master of St. John's-college, Cambridge, in a book called "Animadversions upon a late pamphlet, entitled, The Naked Truth," &c. This animadverter being against moderation, which the author of "Naked Truth" had written his book on purpose to recommend, provoked Marvell to take him to task, in a piece entitled "Mr. Smirke, or the divine in mode; being certain annotations upon the animadversions on The Naked Truth, together with a short historical essay concerning general councils, creeds, and impositions in matters of religion. By Andreas Rivetus, junior. Anagrammatised, Res nuda veritas," 1676, 4to. The "Historical Essay" was afterwards printed by itself in folio. The last work of our author, which was published during his life, was "An account of the growth of Popery and arbitrary government in England; more particularly, from the long prorogation of Nov. 1675, ending the 15th of Feb. 1676, till the last meeting of parliament the 16th of July, 1677; 1678," folio: and reprinted in State tracts in 1689. In this the author, having imputed the Dutch war to the corruption of the court, asserts, that the papists, and particularly the French, were the true springs of all the councils at this time: and these, and other aspersions upon the king and ministry, occasioned the following advertisement to be published 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 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 hander 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, intituled, An account of the growth of Popery, &c. and another called, A seasonable argument to all the grand juries, &c. the discoverer shall be rewarded as follows: he shall have fifty pounds for such discovery, as aforesaid, of the printer or publisher of it from the press; and for the hander of it to the press, £100 &c."
Marvell, as we have already observed, by thus opposing the ministry and their measures, created himself many enemies, and made himself very obnoxious to the government: notwithstanding which, Charles II. took great delight in his conversation, and tried all means to will him over to his side, but in vain; nothing being ever able to shake his resolution. There were many instances of his firmness in resisting the offers of the court, in which he showed himself proof against all temptations. The king, having one night entertained him, sent the lord treasurer Danby the next morning to find out his lodgings; which were then up two pair of stairs, in one of the little courts in the Strand. He was busily writing, when the treasurer opened the door abruptly upon him; upon which, surprized at so unexpected a visitor, Marvell told his lordship, "he believed he had mistaken his way." Lord Danby replied, "Not now I have found Mr. Marvell;" telling him, that he came with a message from his majesty, which was to know, what his majesty could do to serve him? to which Marvell replied, with his usual facetiousness, that "it was not in his majesty's power to serve him." Coming to a serious explanation, our author told the treasurer, "that he knew full well the nature of courts, having been in many; and that whoever is distinguished by the favour of the prince, is always expected to vote in his interest." Lord Danby told him, that his majesty, from the just sense he had of his merit alone, desired to know, whether there was any place at court he could be pleased with? To which Marvell replied, "that he could not with honour accept the offer; since, if he did, he must either be ungrateful to the king in voting against him, or false to his country in giving into the measures of the court. The only favour therefore which he begged of his majesty was, that he would esteem him as faithful a subject as any he had, and more truly in his interest by refusing his offers, than he could have been by embracing them." Lord Danby, finding no arguments would make the least impression, told him, "that the king had ordered him £1000 which he hoped he would receive, till he could think of something farther to ask his majesty." This last offer he rejected with the same steadiness as the first; though, as soon as the treasurer was gone, he was forced to borrow a guinea of a friend.
Marvell died in 1678, in his fifty-eighth year, not without the strongest suspicions of being poisoned; for he was always very temperate, and of an healthful and strong constitution to the last. He was interred in the church of St. Giles's in the Fields; and ten years after (in 1688), the town of Kingston upon Hull, to testify her grateful remembrance of his honest services to her, collected a sum of money to erect a monument over him, and procured an epitaph to be written by an able hand: but the minister of the parish forbid both the inscription and monument to be placed in that church. Wood tells us, that Marvell in his conversation was very modest, and of few words; and Cooke, the writer of his life, observes, that he was very reserved among those he did not well know, but a most delightful and improving companion among his friends. After his death were published, "Miscellaneous Poems," in 1681, folio, with this advertisement to the reader prefixed:
"These are to certify every ingenious reader, that all these poems, as also the other things in this book contained, are printed according to the exact copies of my late dear husband, under his own hand-writing, being found since his death among his other papers. Witness my hand, this 15th day of October, 1680.
But Cooke says, that "these were published with no other but a mercenary view, and indeed not at all to the honour of the deceased, by a woman with whom he lodged, who hoped by this stratagem to share in what he left behind him: for that he was never married." This gentleman gave an edition, corrected from the faults of former editions, of "The works of Andrew Marvell, esq." Lond. 1726, in 2 vols. 12mo; in which, however, are contained only his poems and letters, and not any of the prose pieces above-mentioned. Cooke prefixed also the life of Marvell, which has been principally used in drawing up this account of him. A more complete edition of all his works was published by captain Thompson, in 1776, 3 vols. 4to; but some pieces are here attributed to him which were written by other authors. Marvell is now little read, but there are many descriptive touches in his poems of great beauty and delicacy. In his controversial works he was unquestionably the greatest master of ridicule in his time: it is only to be regretted, for his fame, that his subjects were temporary.