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date: 29 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

In what is probably the most influential essay ever written on Marvell, T. S. Eliot suggested that Marvell was among those men who ‘supported the Commonwealth’ but who were not stereotypically Puritan: they were rather ‘men of education and culture, even of travel, [and] some of them were exposed to that spirit of the age which was coming to be the French spirit of the age’. This chapter seeks to develop a more contextualized sense of the ways in which a ‘French spirit’ animates Marvell’s poetry, particularly the early lyric and pastoral verse. It does so by reconstructing the cultural and social contexts, both in France and England, in which Marvell would have encountered French libertin poetry of the mid-seventeenth century—a poetry characterized by its engagement with sceptical and Epicurean philosophies and its openness to varieties of sexual experience.

Keywords: Andrew Marvell, Anglo-French culture, Charles Cotton, Epicureanism, libertin poetry, lyric poetry, Richard Lovelace, Thomas Fairfax, Thomas Stanley, T. S. Eliot

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