Vol. 4 No. 2 - Winter 2012
Items from this issue of the Newsletter
As you may already have noticed, this winter has seen the launch of the Society’s new website, put together with energy, imagination, and professionalism by our new Webmaster, Dr. Matthew Augustine of the University of St Andrews, with valuable support from his home institution. We welcome Matthew and thank him for his work. Along with the website, the Society’s Newsletter has also moved.
The 2013 SCRC “Exploring the Renaissance” gathering in Omaha March 21-23 promises to be yet another lively and stimulating event, particularly for the Andrew Marvell Society. Our members will present their scholarship in five sessions. “Restoration Marvell,” exploring Marvell’s activities, relationships, and writing during that period, will feature Emma Wilson, Amy Sattler, and Martin Dzelzainis. Nigel Smith, Matthew Augustine, and Bryan Herek will enlighten us on “Marvell Among the Satirists,” which will trace Marvell’s connections with the likes of Ben Jonson, Richard Flecknoe, and the Scriblerians. “Elegy and Endings” is the topic of Greg Miller, Gregory Chaplin, and Ryan Netzley, who find common ground in Marvell’s elegies and “Appleton House.” Nigel Smith’s National Humanities Center Summer Institute in Literary Studies, “Andrew Marvell: Lyric and Public Poems,” resulted in a fruitful session, “Rehearsal Transpros’d: Managing Decorum within Networks,” composed of Institute participants Blaine Greteman, Brendan Prawdzik, and Alex Garaganigo. In a panel analyzing Marvell’s “Bermudas,” George Klawitter, Timothy Raylor, and Joan Faust will attempt to elucidate this perplexing poem. In addition, our own Professor Nicholas van Maltzahn of the University of Ottawa will deliver the annual Louis Martz Lecture with his presentation, “Andrew Marvell’s Paper Work: The Secretary-Poet.”
On the evening of 28 June 2012, I had driven a very wiggly way around the fields of New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania from Princeton to Sellersville to see the great English ‘70s prog band Van der Graaf Generator. Only three of the original five were left, but with still magnificently doomy Hammond organ if no longer harpy-like double saxophones. In order to make the mid-morning plane from Newark to Raleigh-Durham the next day I was determined to be home by midnight, and so I left at about 11 p.m. when the set was still in full flow. The brilliant quixotic singer-songwriter and frontman Peter Hammill noticed me leave: “another exit from a song,” he said in a tone of patient mild disappointment. If only I could have told him why!
It is fair to say, I think, that Marvell has long been neglected in the biographies and seminal studies of Oliver Cromwell and Sir Thomas Fairfax. There is little or nothing of Marvell to be found in the vast majority of Cromwell biographies (Abbott, Ashley, Davis, Gaunt, Hazlitt, and Morley, to name a few). And where he is given more purchase, in studies by John Buchan and Pauline Gregg, for instance, it is almost exclusively in reference to the “Horatian Ode” and the detail cannot always be said to be accurate. In recent years, more has been evinced on Fairfax in the early 1650s by Marvellians than by Fairfacians, who, until Andrew Hopper’s recent biography of the Lord General, Black Tom: Sir Thomas Fairfax and the English Revolution (2007), had been noticeable by their absence.
At least since James Turner’s note “Upon Appleton House,” published 35 years ago, convincing evidence and arguments have accrued to establish that Andrew Marvell’s grand country house poem describes neither the present brick structure nor even the larger brick edifice it replaced (or of which it is the surviving central part), depicted in two engravings of 1655 or 1656, but a relatively small house of the 1540s built of stone salvaged from the site’s medieval nunnery, a house shortly to undergo drastic alteration or demolition even as the poet wrote, probably in 1651-52 . Nigel Smith’s introduction to the poem in his edition of The Poems of Andrew Marvell nicely summarizes the case.
Has any poet lived or written more between the lines than Andrew Marvell? Accused of fighting “backward and forward” in an insulting attack by Edmund Hickeringill that also counts as one of the earliest and most astute critical measures of his style, the protean Marvell and his works have recently been fixed as objects of critical scrutiny by a series of essential books that include Nigel Smith’s Longman edition and biography, Nicholas von Maltzahn’s chronology, and the Yale Prose Works edited by Annabel Patterson and others. This body of work informs Joan Faust’s project in Andrew Marvell’s Liminal Lyrics, but she also departs from it; her primary inquiry is aesthetic rather than historicist and it is premised on the suggestive notion that Proteus, counter to legend, speaks his most profound truths when unbound.
Andrew Marvell, Orphan of the Hurricane is a fascinating book. It is also a peculiar one. Derek Hirst and Steven Zwicker acknowledge in their very first sentence that “it is polemical and speculative and may not satisfy all readers, but we hope that it provides new ways of thinking about Marvell’s relations to his writings and new readings of his texts” (1). Their book is neither a literary biography nor a work of literary history, although it has recognizable elements of both of these forms. It is in effect a psychobiography. In a surprising turn of events, Hirst and Zwicker, long-established and highly respected historical and literary scholars of the seventeenth century, have become Freudians, and they apply the language and assumptions of psychoanalysis (though that term is never used, and Freud is never once cited) with impressive tenacity to the life and works of Marvell.
In a review of Joan Faust’s Andrew Marvell’s Liminal Lyrics: The Space Between published in these pages, Blaine Greteman cautiously praises Faust’s departure from the “impeccable and familiar historical method” which has characterized much of the best recent work on Marvell. Another volume reviewed in this issue, Derek Hirst and Steven Zwicker’s Andrew Marvell, Orphan of the Hurricane, might be praised in the same vein; while grounded in a searching historicism, their study takes high-wire risks in going beyond the safe precincts of historical method to reconstruct Marvell’s “imagined life” from the fragmentary glimpses of a self revealed in Marvell’s poetry. Takashi Yoshinaka’s valuable contextualist account of the poet, Marvell’s Ambivalence: Religion and the Politics of Imagination in Mid-Seventeenth-Century England, by contrast, resolutely stands or falls on its adherence to an “impeccable and familiar” historical approach.
Marvell Studies issues
- Vol. 6 No. 2 – Winter 2014 (5)
- Vol. 6 No. 1 – Summer 2014 (5)
- Vol. 5 No. 2 – Winter 2013 (5)
- Vol. 5 No. 1 – Summer 2013 (9)
- Vol. 4 No. 2 – Winter 2012 (8)
- Vol. 4 No. 1 – Summer 2012 (8)
- Vol. 3 No. 2 – Winter 2011 (3)
- Vol. 3 No. 1 – Summer 2011 (6)
- Vol. 2 No. 2 – Winter 2010 (5)
- Vol. 2 No. 1 – Summer 2010 (4)
- Vol. 1 No. 2 – Winter 2009 (6)
- Vol. 1 No. 1 – Summer 2009 (6)
Queries and submissions
Dr Matthew Augustine
School of English
University of St Andrews