Andrew Marvell was born on March 31, 1621, at Winestead-in-Holderness, Yorkshire. He was the fourth child and only surviving son of Andrew Marvell, Sr., a clergyman. In late 1624, the Reverend Marvell became lecturer at Holy Trinity Church in Hull, to which the family moved. The poet grew up there and was for the rest of his life associated with Hull, representing the city in Parliament for the last eighteen years of his life. On December 14, 1633, the young Marvell entered Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1637, Marvell was converted by Jesuits and ran away to London, whence his father retrieved him and returned him to Cambridge. Sometime in 1641, Marvell left Cambridge, having received the B.A. degree but without completing the requirements for the M.A.
Marvell may then have spent some time working in the commercial house of his brother-in-law, Edmund Popple, in Hull. His activities during the turbulent 1640’s are not well recorded, but it is known that during that period he spent four years abroad, learning Dutch, French, Italian, and Spanish. He studied the gentlemanly art of fencing in Spain, and in Rome, he paid a visit to the impoverished English Catholic priest, Flecknoe, whom John Dryden would make the butt of a satiric poem. Engaged in this Grand Tour, Marvell seems to have avoided any direct part in the English Civil War. Marvell returned to England in the late 1640’s, publishing a congratulatory poem (probably written in 1647) for a volume of Richard Lovelace’s verse in 1649, and contributing one poem to a volume lamenting the death of the young Lord Hastings in June, 1649. From 1650 to 1652, Marvell was tutor to Mary Fairfax, daughter of the parliamentary general, Lord Fairfax, whose resignation in June, 1650, left Cromwell dominant. That same month, Marvell must have composed “An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland,” in which he applauds Cromwell’s activities up to that point and anticipates his success in the coming campaign against the Scots. Because the poem also shows great sympathy and regard for the late King Charles in the brief passage dealing with his execution, a good deal of critical attention has been paid to the question of whether Marvell’s praise of Cromwell is genuine, ironic, or intended to create an image toward which it might be hoped that the real Cromwell would gravitate. Marvell is elsewhere so prone to see more than one side of a question that it does not really seem remarkable that he may have recognized good...
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