Andrew Marvell: The Chameleon

Andrew Marvell: The Chameleon

5.0 3
by Nigel Smith
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

The seventeenth-century poet Andrew Marvell (1621–1678) is one of the most intriguing figures in English literature. A noted civil servant under Cromwell’s Protectorate, he has been variously identified as a patriot, spy, conspirator, concealed homosexual, father to the liberal tradition, and incendiary satirical pamphleteer and freethinker. But while

See more details below

Overview

The seventeenth-century poet Andrew Marvell (1621–1678) is one of the most intriguing figures in English literature. A noted civil servant under Cromwell’s Protectorate, he has been variously identified as a patriot, spy, conspirator, concealed homosexual, father to the liberal tradition, and incendiary satirical pamphleteer and freethinker. But while Marvell’s poetry and prose has attracted a wide modern following, his prose is known only to specialists, and much of his personal life remains shrouded in mystery.

Nigel Smith’s pivotal biography provides an unparalleled look into Marvell’s life, from his early employment as a tutor and gentleman’s companion to his suspicious death, reputedly a politically fueled poisoning. Drawing on exhaustive archival research, the voluminous corpus of Marvell’s previously little known writing, and recent scholarship across several disciplines, Smith’s portrait becomes the definitive account of this elusive life.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

The Wall Street Journal

"Superlative. . . the fullest portrait we have to date."--David Yezzi, The Wall Street Journal

— David Yezzi

The Washington Post

"Nigel Smith. . . has certainly mastered everything that can be learned about this elusive, shadowy and very private man."—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

— Michael Dirda

The New York Times Book Review

"[A] worthy biography."—Megan Buskey, The New York Times Book Review

— Megan Buskey

The New Criterion

"He offers the fullest available account of Marvell''s political activities, fully contextualized. . . . [An] indispensible guide."—Paul Dean, The New Criterion

— Paul Dean

America

"Nigel Smith attends skillfully to the poetry, but he also provides extensive information about the period as well as the complicated development of Marvell''s political and religious views. . . . [Smith''s] is probably the most complete biography of Marvell we are likely to see."—Jerome Donnelly, America

— Jerome Donnelly

Bookforum

"[An] exhaustive, shrewd, wary new biography...Thepoet as craft chameleon in Smith''s smart and resonant readings is also the poet as skulking, threatened double agent."—Robert Polito, Bookforum

— Robert Polito

CHOICE

"It is an achievment of astonishing depth and equally impressive scope, covering a fascinating, complex period of English history. The book is must reading for early modern scholars."—M. Cole, CHOICE

— M. Cole

Library Journal
Writing during a period of great intellectual ferment and shifting political stresses that included the Civil Wars, Restoration, and Exclusion Crisis, English satirist and poet Andrew Marvell (1621–78) stood out among his contemporaries, including his friend and colleague John Milton. Like his successful peers, Marvell remained gainfully employed as a civil servant by deftly navigating the tumultuous political seas from Cromwell to Charles II, in the process becoming the "Chameleon." Drawing on an expansive knowledge of Marvell and his poetry, which he edited for the Longman edition, Smith (English, Princeton Univ.; Is Milton Better Than Shakespeare?) skillfully places the sometimes enigmatic author's great poems, such as "To His Coy Mistress," "Upon Appleton House," and "An Horatian Ode," in proper historical context, providing readers with valuable insight into Marvell's intellectual milieu. VERDICT Meticulously researched and scholarly in tone, this noteworthy study provides a suitable balance of historical context and literary criticism. Strongly recommended for students and general readers of 17th-century English literature and history.—Brian Odom, Pelham P.L., AL
Megan Buskey
Smith asks the right questions about Marvell's life and times, and he works assiduously in helping to lay "a new foundation of the documentary knowledge."
—The New York Times
Michael Dirda
Nigel Smith…has certainly mastered everything that can be learned about this elusive, shadowy and very private man.
—The Washington Post
The Wall Street Journal - David Yezzi
"Superlative. . . . The fullest portrait we have to date."—David Yezzi, The Wall Street Journal
The Washington Post - Michael Dirda
"Nigel Smith. . . has certainly mastered everything that can be learned about this elusive, shadowy and very private man."—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
The New York Times Book Review - Megan Buskey
"[A] worthy biography."—Megan Buskey, The New York Times Book Review
The New Criterion - Paul Dean
"He offers the fullest available account of Marvell's political activities, fully contextualized. . . . [An] indispensible guide."—Paul Dean, The New Criterion
America - Jerome Donnelly
"Nigel Smith attends skillfully to the poetry, but he also provides extensive information about the period as well as the complicated development of Marvell's political and religious views. . . . [Smith's] is probably the most complete biography of Marvell we are likely to see."—Jerome Donnelly, America
Barnes and Noble Review - Adam Kirsch
"Smith makes an excellent case for the enduring power of Marvell's occasional poems and satires."—Adam Kirsch, Barnes and Noble Review
Bookforum - Robert Polito
"[An] exhaustive, shrewd, wary new biography."—Robert Polito, Bookforum
CHOICE - M. Cole
"It is an achievment of astonishing depth and equally impressive scope, covering a fascinating, complex period of English history. The book is must reading for early modern scholars."—M. Cole, CHOICE
Books and Culture
“Insightful, provocative.”—Books and Culture
The Hudson Review - William H. Pritchard
"Nigel Smith's massive effort . . . obviates the need for any further such survey of Marvell's life and art . . . [Smith's] grasp of seventeenth-century English history, politics, religion, society, is beyond impressive, and he is also a sensitive reader of poetry."—William H. Pritchard, The Hudson Review
The Weekly Standard - Barton Swaim
“Nigel Smith… has now filled [a] void with this authoritative Life.”—Barton Swaim, The Weekly Standard
Huntington Library Quarterly - Curtis Whitaker
"Smith's meticulous archival research . . . allows a portrait of the young Marvell to form from relatively few life records. . . . Smith is able to identify relationships between [the political ideas of the prose and the depictions of love and sexuality in the lyric poems] in provocative ways."—Curtis Whitaker, Huntington Library Quarterly
Choice - Choice Outstanding Academic Title
Selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2011 in the English and American category.
Sunday Herald (Glasgow)
“This context of danger, where revelations of identity can mean a beheading, permeates the poet’s literary as well as his political work, as this scholarly biography shows.”—Sunday Herald (Glasgow)
Biographers' Club - HW Fisher Best First Biography Prize Shortlist
Shortlisted for the 2011 HW Fisher Best First Biography Prize
Times Literary Supplement - Helen Hackett
"Smith delivers fresh insights into Marvell’s experiences and character…. a fascinating psychological portrait of Marvell."—Helen Hackett, Times Literary Supplement
Annabel Patterson
"From reclusive poet to undercover pamphleteer, Andrew Marvell has always been a mystery man. But nobody knows him better than Nigel Smith, who now follows his definitive edition of the poetry with an up-to-date and state-of-the-art biography."—Annabel Patterson, Yale University
David Norbrook
"The remarkable depth of Nigel Smith's research makes new sense of a celebratedly elusive writer."—David Norbrook, author of Poetry and Politics in the English Renaissance
Gordon Teskey
‘Nigel Smith's definitive biography of Marvell is a gripping read, opening up a world of surprisingly intense interactions between poetry and politics in England's most turbulent modern century. Smith brilliantly illuminates the two sides of Marvell's poetical character—the engaged, parliamentary brawler and controversialist, and the weirdly detached observer of the world—but he also shows how the mysteriousness of Marvell's character resides at last in the very independence and privacy for which Marvell so publicly fought."—Gordon Teskey, Harvard University
Michael Wood
"Rich in detail and impeccably lucid, this remarkable study allows us to understand the subtle poet and elusive politician as we never have before. If Marvell was a mirror to the world, as one of the book's sources says, Nigel Smith is the perfect guide to the mirror and its world, master of the difficult art of looking-glass history."—Michael Wood, Princeton University
John Kerrigan
'The chameleon that emerges from this badly needed, deeply researched study is not just the subtle lyricist familiar from the anthologies but a vigorous verse satirist and an ambitious prose controversialist, whose views still resonate today. Historical sleuthing and literary analysis combine brilliantly in this landmark account - the fullest, most wide-angle picture of Marvell ever produced." —John Kerrigan, Professor of English 2000, University of Cambridge
Daily Telegraph - Nick Laird
"Engaging, intensely researched…. Smith is very good on the historical and political contexts surrounding Marvell…. Smith’s book is a welcome contribution to Marvell studies."—Nick Laird, Daily Telegraph
The Scotsman - Michael Kerrigan
"[An] illuminating study."—Michael Kerrigan, The Scotsman
Literary Review - John Stubbs
"The result of Smith’s scholarly close readings is a refreshed and refined sense of Marvell’s poetry, and his biography should be a standard point of reference for future Marvellians."—John Stubbs, Literary Review
Review of English Studies Vol.62 No.256 - A.D Cousins
“Smith’s comprehensive study of Marvell’s many guises will influence critical thinking for years to come.”—A.D Cousins, Review of English Studies Vol.62 No.256
Contemporary Review
"A highly laudatory biography of the republican poet who praised regicides, hated Catholics and exposed in memorable verse corruption in those places he chose to investigate."—Contemporary Review

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780300112214
Publisher:
Yale University Press
Publication date:
10/19/2010
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.70(d)

Meet the Author

Nigel Smith is professor of English and codirector of the Center for the Study of Books and Media at Princeton University.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >