This Newsletter was published on Wednesday 12 February 2014

A Religious House: Marvell’s “Upon Appleton House,” Laudianism, and Exodus

By Patrick J. McGrath

Abstract: In his recent edition of the poems of Andrew Marvell, Nigel Smith writes, “despite its length and its centrality in M.’s canon, Upon Appleton House has not occasioned the critical debate that surrounds M.’s most famous lyrics.” More and more, though, scholars are turning their attention to this complex and brilliant poem. Recent studies have focused on how Upon Appleton House (1651) responds to early modern politics, military theory, literary networks, and environmental issues. Scholarship on religion and Upon Appleton House has illuminated the poem’s engagement with anti-Catholic polemic, the Catholic history of the Fairfax family, and Protestant views of sacrilege. An account of how the poem responds to the religious upheavals of the 1630s and 40s, however, remains lacking. This essay provides such an account by showing how Upon Appleton House pursues a subtle and yet devastating critique of Archbishop William Laud (1573-1645) and the policies of High Church Anglicanism. In the end, it is the triumph over a Laudian anti-Christ that determines how Marvell depicts the controversial resignation of his patron, Thomas Fairfax, as commander-in-chief of the Parliamentary forces in 1650.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Download complete text of “A Religious House” by Patrick J. McGrath