Andrew Marvell was born in Winestead-in-Holderness, Yorkshire, where his father was rector. When his father became Master of the Charterhouse (an almshouse) and lecturer in Holy Trinity Church in 1624 (3), the family moved to Hull.
He attended Hull Grammar School, then Trinity College, Cambridge where he had two poems printed in the Musa Cantabrigiensis in 1637 (16) and 1638 (17), one in Greek, the other Latin. He received his BA in 1638 (17), but abandoned his MA studies on his father’s accidental death by drowning in 1641 (20).
Travel and first employment
He then travelled abroad in France, Holland, Switzerland, Italy and Spain between 1642 (21) and 1646 (25), and in 1650 (29) became tutor to Mary Fairfax (later Duchess of Buckingham), the twelve year old daughter of the retired Lord General Thomas Fairfax.
It was during his time at the Fairfax’s Nun Appleton House that he wrote most of his English lyric poetry, including To His Coy Mistress.
Andrew Marvell, John Milton and Oliver Cromwell
By 1653 (32) he had met and befriended John Milton, who recommended him for government employment. No post was offered at this time, however, and he became instead tutor to Cromwell’s nephew, William Dutton. In 1656 (35) he was in Saumur in France with Dutton, at the Protestant Academy. He became assistant to Cromwell’s Secretary of State in 1657 (36), retaining the office until early 1660 (39).
Member of Parliament for Hull : diplomatic missions
Elected MP for Hull in 1659 (38), he continued to represent the town until his death. He visited Holland on clandestine business in 1662 (41), and travelled as secretary to the Earl of Carlisle to Russia, Sweden and Denmark between 1663 (42) and 1665 (44).
Politics, pamphlets and satirical verses
Back in England he became associated with the opposition to the king’s chief minister, the Earl of Clarendon, making speeches in the House of Commons, and writing satirical verses. In 1672 (51) he wrote the pamphlet for which he was best known in his own lifetime, The Rehearsal Transpos’d, in support of Charles II’s moves to extend toleration to religious dissenters. He wrote of the Civil War that the cause was too good to be the subject of a conflict, and he published A Short Historical Essay, concerning General Councils, Creeds, and Impositions, in Matters of Religion in 1676 (55), in which he commented that the truth usually lies somewhere in the middle, but that men generally look for it at the extremities. In 1677 (56) he published An Account of the Growth of Popery, and Arbitrary Government in England, in which he warned that there were plots afoot to bring about tyranny and restore ‘popery’, a circumstance that he saw as destructive to the happiness and interest of the country.
He died suddenly of a fever in 1677 (56). His poetry was published as Miscellaneous Poems posthumously in 1681 (d4), brought to print by a Mary Palmer, who claimed to be his wife. Though she succeeded in acquiring the administration of his estate, no other hard evidence has been found to support her claim that they were in fact married.
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