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date: 10 July 2020

(p. v) Preface

(p. v) Preface

For much of the last century, Marvell’s reputation rested on a few hypercanonical lyrics: ‘The Nymph Complaining for the Death of her Fawn’, ‘To His Coy Mistress’, and ‘The Garden’. T. S. Eliot wrote that ‘the really valuable part consists of a very few poems’.1 But in recent decades the scope of Marvell scholarship has expanded vastly, and the full range of his literary achievements in verse and prose is finally being recognized. The Oxford Handbook of Andrew Marvell aims to reflect upon this phase of Marvell scholarship, and initiate new research and interpretation.

The year 2003 was something of an annus mirabilis in Marvell studies: it saw the publication of Nigel Smith’s Longman Annotated Poets edition of Marvell’s Poems and the two-volume annotated Prose Works, from Yale University Press, edited by Annabel Patterson, Martin Dzelzainis, N. H. Keeble, and Nicholas von Maltzahn, as well as a major conference at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, to launch these editions, and to consider the extensive new research which had gone into them. Since that year, newly discovered life records have been published by Nicholas von Maltzahn in his Andrew Marvell Chronology (2005), Derek Hirst and Steven N. Zwicker have published The Cambridge Companion to Andrew Marvell (2011), and Nigel Smith has published his widely acclaimed biography, Andrew Marvell: The Chameleon (2010). These publications, together with a number of scholarly monographs, have provided rich insights into the elusive continuities of Marvell’s career as a poet and a prose polemicist, and have opened up fresh contexts in which to read his works. New manuscripts and letters written by Marvell have also been discovered in recent years, and the Marvell canon has been expanded, as previously doubtful attributions have been secured (in particular, his authorship of the Second and Third ‘Advice to a Painter’ poems), and others suggested, including a 1672 translation of Suetonius’s History of the Twelve Caesars. The lively critical discussions which have been stimulated by these landmark publications and discoveries have prompted major conferences on ‘Marvell and London’ and ‘Marvell and Europe’, and a newly established journal, Marvell Studies. The editors of The Oxford Handbook of Andrew Marvell invited chapters from scholars who are well-established contributors to these discussions, as well as some relatively new names, with the intention of bringing together the variety of critical approaches which are currently employed in this vibrant field, and showing some of the new directions which are emerging. It was important too to reflect the interdisciplinary character of much recent Marvell scholarship, so the volume features chapters from researchers (p. vi) working across disciplinary boundaries in innovative ways. The chapters in this volume throw new light on connections between Marvell’s writing and the religious, political, and sexual identities of his time, as well as its relationships with the period’s literary and intellectual currents. They show too how his works speak powerfully to recent approaches in ecocriticism, and the study of affect and material culture.

This volume begins with Part 1 on ‘Marvell and his Times’, which reflects the importance of historically focused scholarship in the most recent phases of Marvell studies. Drawing on research for recent and forthcoming editions of Marvell’s poetry, prose, and letters, it places Marvell’s works in their chronological and biographical settings, and develops current discussion of the dating of Marvell’s poems. This section also sets out to read Marvell’s works against some of the historical and cultural contexts which shaped his work in important ways. The next section, Part 2, of ‘Readings’ focuses on Marvell’s engagement with particular genres and traditions in poetry, and discusses specific prose works. Here and throughout, the volume reflects the tendency of twenty-first century Marvell scholarship to pay close attention to Marvell’s prose works, panegyrics, and satires as well as to his lyric poetry. The section, Part 3, on ‘Marvell and his Contemporaries’ explores some of Marvell’s formative relationships with literary opponents and other important writers of his time. A final section, Part 4, ‘Marvell’s Afterlife’, addresses Marvell’s influence on Romantic, Victorian, and modern writers, and discusses the significance of contests over his political reputation to the later circulation, publication, and reception of his works.

In bringing together these forty-three chapters, the editors hope to provide a comprehensive account of the critical state of play in Marvell scholarship, but we are aware too that there are other topics which—given world enough and time—we might have included. Recent research has drawn attention to the ‘archipelagic’ and international horizons of Marvell’s writing, and while the latter is addressed in several chapters here, Marvell’s relationship with, and travels in, Europe is potentially a very rich, and perhaps timely, topic for future research. He also seems likely to prove increasingly attractive as a subject for practitioners of the developing field of cognitive criticism even as, year on year, the archive continues to yield something new.

The editors are very grateful to OUP for commissioning us to edit this Handbook, to Jacqueline Norton and our contributors for their patient support as we brought together a large collection of chapters, and to Steph Coster for her assistance in editing the chapters. We are grateful to the Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge, for permission to use the cover image: it shows a portrait described as being of Marvell and attributed to Sir Godfrey Kneller. We would also like to thank the Universities of Bristol and Leicester for support in preparing the index.


(1) T. S. Eliot, ‘Andrew Marvell’, in Selected Essays, 2nd edn (London: Faber & Faber, 1934), 292–304 (292).