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18 June 2014
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Myths and Legends
Andrew Marvell
Andrew Marvell, Hollis

© Courtesy of Hull Local Studies Library
Andrew Marvell: Man of contradictions

Political life

1640 Hull engraving
Hull engraving, Hollar, 1640
© Courtesy of Hull Local Studies Library
On 3rd September 1658, Oliver Cromwell died. Marvell wrote the poem 'A Poem upon the Death of O.C.' which portrays Cromwell as a reluctant leader who would have preferred a quiet life. Marvell continued in the post of Latin Secretary for some time after Cromwell’s death. Political aspirations followed with Marvell’s election, on the 10th January 1659, as an MP for Hull in Richard Cromwell’s government. However, this government was short lived, collapsing four months later when Marvell lost his seat; but this was not the end of Marvell’s political career. Charles II returned to London in triumph on the 29th May 1660 and the poet was re-elected as an MP for Hull on the 2nd April. This again emphasizes Marvell’s political ambiguity, throughout the 1650s he had been associated with the anti-Royalist cause, yet now he was serving in the restoration government. The post as MP, as far as Marvell was concerned, would enable him to advance the interests of Hull businessmen. MPs were expected to write letters to their Corporation constituents reporting on any legislation that would affect business interests, negotiate on the Corporations behalf and even arrange bribes. Over the next 18 years Marvell was appointed to 120 committees, acted as teller in eight divisions and made 14 speeches.

1640 Hull engraving
Hull engraving, Hollar, 1640
© Courtesy of Hull Local Studies Library
In 1664 Marvell travelled to Russia and Scandinavia as secretary to Lord Carlisle, who was acting as trade ambassador for England. The trips were not a success. The 1660s also saw Marvell writing anonymous verse satires on foreign affairs. The autumn of 1672 saw the publication of Marvell’s most famous prose work – 'The Rehearsal Transpros’d'. Another prose work, An Account of the Growth of Popery and Arbitrary Government in England, made Marvell a controversial figure by portraying him as a parliamentary man. It shows the workings of parliament and the belief that parliament had a necessary role to play in government. The work caused a stir, in 1678 its printer was imprisoned and a reward offered for identifying its author.

Words: David Smith - Hull Local Studies Library

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