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World Enough and Time: The Life of Andrew Marvell Hardcover – February 9, 2000
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From Publishers Weekly
The most politically active of Metaphysical poets receives a sober portrait. Marvell (1621-1678), best known today for his lyric poem "To His Coy Mistress," was once most closely associated with the political satires he penned as an M.P. during the Restoration, and this new biography places his life squarely in the context of public affairs. The poet's ambiguous political career--most generously described as characterized by an independence of mind--reflects the fluid complexity of English politics in the wake of the civil war. Marvell gravitated early in life toward young aristocratic cavaliers, such as the preternaturally attractive Richard Lovelace, but during Cromwell's rule was appointed tutor to the young daughter of erstwhile New Model Army Gen. Thomas Fairfax (like the poet, an instinctively contemplative northerner). After Charles II's coronation, he settled into vaguely oppositional politics, loyal to the commercial culture of his provincial hometown of Hull, and remained deeply (if privately) suspicious of the crypto-Catholic court and its morally degenerate ways. Murray is eminently sensible in his appraisal of Marvell's possible homosexuality and Lolita-like dalliances, but his presentation of the love life lacks excitement. . More fun is his coverage of the mission to Muscovy, during which Marvell composed Latin speeches for the tsar (who didn't like them very much) and traveled in a barge pulled by Russian serfs--an experience that must have added to his characteristic conviction in the virtue of liberty. Eight pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (Mar.).
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
It has been over 30 years since the last biography of Metaphysical poet Marvell, and Welsh poet Murray takes full advantage of the intervening research in his new life of this intensely private yet highly public man. Marvell was a mercurial figure, a tempestuous man in a turbulent age, a poet and pamphleteer, a controversialist and a member of Parliament. Yet even given new information uncovered in the past three decades, little is known about long stretches of his life and career. Indeed, as Murray ruefully admits at one point, we cannot even be entirely sure of the pronunciation of Marvell's surname. Some things are certain, though. Marvell was a Puritan minister's son, born on March 31, 1621, educated at Eton, orphaned at 19 when his father drowned. Because, like so many men of letters of his era, he could not hope to support himself by writing, he found employment, after a period of about four years abroad, as a tutor to the children of the well-to-do. Both before and after his election to Parliament, he wrote verse and, eventually, prose; ironically, his topical prose writings were the mainstay of his reputation throughout his lifetime and for most of the century after his death in 1678. His poetry began to receive something like its current recognition only in the early 19th century. Murray's portrait of Marvell reveals a clever, gifted man who was willing to do whatever was necessary to survive the swift-running currents of the Cromwell era and the Restoration, yet a man of bedrock integrity. The author's analyses of the verse are workmanlike, if uninspired, and his grasp of the complexities of the period is impressive. The result is a solid popular biography of a secretive figure, bedeviled by the clouds of mystery still surrounding its subject. An intelligent but somewhat stolid life that captures (but is also imprisoned by) its heros enigmatic nature. -- Copyright ©2000, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.