Authors: Nicholas Murray
The Reverend Andrew Marvell was a busy man, with plans for the improvement and development of the Charterhouse. In particular he planned to institute a library for the use of the Master, âas an incouragement unto me in mine imployments', and for any other approved scholars in the town. âScholers,' he wrote to the Corporation, in a conceit worthy of his son, âare like other tradesmen, they cannot worke w'thout tooles, nor, spider like, weave their web out of their own bellyes.'
He offered to donate Â£35 worth of his own books to start the library off. In his dealings we can see the liberal outlook and shrewd practical spirit, the sheer competence in the administration of affairs that would be passed on to his son. Unfortunately, his life was cut short before his plans could be realised.
The account of the death of the Reverend Andrew Marvell has been improved in the telling and has no independent verification. Fuller's account was the first:
It happened that,
1640 [1641 in the modern calendar] Jan 23, crossing
the same was
and he (with Mrs.
(daughter to Sir
a very religious Gentlewoman) drowned therein, by the
(not to say
of the boat-men, to the great grief of all good men.
Thomas Gent, in his
History of Hull,
adds a further detail about âa violent storm' that upset the boat and swept away all remains of the preacher and Mrs Skinner. He also introduces into the account, and the boat, âa young beautiful couple who were going to be wedded'.
A later biographer, Hartley Coleridge, attempting to deal with the historical fact that Mrs Skinner did not die in this incident, suggests that it was her daughter who did so. He writes that Mrs Skinner was âa lady whose virtue and good sense recommended her to the esteem of Mr Marvell' with a dutiful daughter to whom she was so attached that she could not bear to be parted from her. Nonetheless, she agreed to allow her daughter to cross the Humber with the preacher so she could stand godmother to one of his children, an implausible detail since his last living child, Andrew, had been baptised on 5 April 1621, nineteen years previously. On her return the boatmen advised that the weather would make a crossing dangerous, but the young woman, thinking of how anxious her mother would be, insisted. The Reverend Andrew Marvell felt bound to accompany her and, before entering the boat, threw his gold-headed cane ashore with the cry: âHo for Heaven!' and, scenting the danger, asked his friends who had come to see him off to ensure that if anything happened to him his son would receive the cane in memory of his father.
There is no mention in this account of âthe beautiful couple', unless Mrs Skinner's daughter was accompanied by her betrothed. The only certain fact is that the Reverend Andrew Marvell died, leaving his nineteen-year-old son, then in his last year at Cambridge, fatherless.
Cringes and Genuflexions
Mr Marvell at this excentrick period was not exempt from imprudenceÂ â¦
Andrew Marvell entered the University of Cambridge in December 1633 at the age of only twelve. The Praelector's record in the Cambridge University Archive shows that he matriculated at Trinity College on 14 December, one of five new admissions, described as subsizatores, each of whom paid 4d for the privilege. Marvell has traditionally, but inaccurately, been described as a sizar (one of three categories of student, the other two being fellow commoners and pensioners). The sixty sizars allowed for by College Statutes paid for their board and education partly by carrying out menial tasks for their wealthier fellow students for which they received an allowance of 6s 8d every year, called liberatura, plus a further 4d a week for food and other necessities. The subsizars, as the name suggests, were an even more inferior form of undergraduate life, unspecified in numbers, who had no allowance for food but who were required to pay only a minimal fee to receive instruction from a tutor known as the Lector Primarius.
Five days after Marvell's matriculation, on 19 December, his eldest sister, Anne, married James Blaydes, the son of a Yorkshire JP, in the chapel of Charterhouse in Hull. Their son Joseph Blaydes would later become Mayor of Hull, as would their son-in-law, Robert Nettleton, whose own son, also called Robert, would present to the nation the portrait of Marvell that now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.
More significant for Cambridge and for the religious life of England at the time had been the appointment that year of William Laud as Archbishop of Canterbury. Laud would eventually die on the scaffold in 1645, but in 1633 he was starting to engage on a policy of enforcing conformity in the Church of England. âHappy had it been for the King, happy for the Nation, and happy for himself, had he never climbed that Pinacle,' Marvell later wrote, adding: âThough so learned, so pious, so wise a Man, he seem'd to know nothing beyond
Marvell felt that Laud's authoritarian and intolerant style of ecclesiastical government had helped to provoke the conflict. During the Civil War the town of Cambridge would embrace the Parliamentary cause but the University in the 1630s, although more resistant than Oxford to Laud's reforms, was not uniform in its religious politics. The Cambridge Platonists â preachers like Benjamin Whichcote and John Sherman, the latter preaching in Marvell's own college chapel during his years as an undergraduate â probably won Marvell's allegiance. Together with the Latitudinarians, they were probably nearer to the family Puritan tradition. His father, however, in selecting Trinity in preference to either his old college of Emmanuel, âthe seminary of Puritans', or the Ritualist stronghold of Peterhouse, was perhaps deliberately choosing a halfway house, though how much even a precocious twelve-year-old boy would make of all this ecclesiastical fine distinction is moot.
In the years immediately preceding Marvell's matriculation, the contemporary historian Thomas Fuller, in his
History of the University of Cambridge,
reported: âit now began to be the general complaint of most moderate men, that many in the University, both in the schools and pulpits, approached the opinions of the Church of Rome nearer than ever before'. This was accompanied by a rebirth of church architecture and ritual which aroused the suspicions of the Puritan temperament:
Now began the University to be much beautified in buildings, every college either casting its skin with the snake, or renewing its bill with the eagle, having their courts, or at leastwise their fronts and gatehouses repaired and adorned. But the greatest alteration was in their chapels, most of them being graced with the accession of organsÂ â¦ Yet some took great distaste thereat as attendency to superstition.
Marvell left no record of his undergraduate regime but it is likely that it did not differ greatly from the account of Milton's student days at Christ's College, Cambridge only a few years earlier, given by David Masson in his nineteenth-century life of the poet. There were three terms: Michaelmas from 10 October to 16 December; Lent from 13 January to the second Friday before Easter; and Easter or Midsummer Term from eleven days after Easter to the Friday after Commencement Day in July. Students would probably remain in college during the Christmas and Easter vacations. The day began at Christ's with a 5 a.m. assembly in the college chapel â an hour-long morning service â then breakfast, followed by college studies in Latin, Greek, logic, mathematics and philosophy, then University Exercises at the âpublic schools' to hear the University professors. These lasted four hours and were followed by lunch in hall at noon, then an hour or two of listening to âthe declamations and disputations of contending graduates'. The rest of the day was free except for evening service in chapel and supper in hall at 7 p.m. Undergraduates were not allowed out of college after 9 p.m. without special permission and except in hours of official relaxation were required to speak to each other in Latin, Greek or Hebrew. Taverns were forbidden, as were âboxing-matches, skittle-playing, dancings, bear-fights, cock-fights and the like; or frequenting Sturbridge Fair'. Dogs and âfierce birds' were not allowed in undergraduate rooms and cards and dice were also banned. Marvell's college, Trinity, held a regular service of corporal punishment in the hall every Thursday at 7 p.m. in order to deal with those who had infringed such statutes. In practice these rules, derived from Elizabethan statutes, were regularly broken and bathing in the Cam or frequenting taverns like the Dolphin, Rose or Mitre was common. It is probably safe to assume that the tavern-banter was not conducted in Greek or Hebrew.
Marvell's seven-year undergraduate career â an initial four-year quadriennium leading to the degree of BA, followed by a three-year period leading to MA â was not unusual, though some students left earlier to pursue studies elsewhere, for example, at the Inns of Court. Oliver Cromwell left Sidney Sussex College to do this after only a year.
On 18 August 1636, during the summer vacation, Marvell probably attended the wedding of his second oldest sister, Mary, again at the Charterhouse Chapel. She married a local man, Edmund Popple, described in the marriage register of Holy Trinity as
He would become one of the Wardens of Trinity House, Hull, and a Sheriff, in which capacity he would ensure that his brother-in-law was made a âfree Burgesse' of the Corporation of Hull. He also acted as Marvell's banker and business adviser.
The couple's only son, William, born two years later, would become Marvell's favourite nephew and the recipient of some of his more relaxed and personal letters, as well as being himself a poet whose verses are preserved in manuscript in the British Library.
The following year, Marvell wrote his first published verses. King Charles I's fifth child, Anne, was born on 17 March 1637 and the University assembled a collection of verses in Latin and Greek to celebrate the event. Preparation began early, which might explain Marvell's failure to refer to the sex of the royal offspring. These compilations were customary and gave clever young undergraduates and dons the opportunity to display both their skill and their loyalty. During the decade many well-known Cambridge poets contributed to such collections, celebrating royal births or public events such as the King's return from Scotland. In 1632 even the King's recovery from an outbreak of pustules prompted the
Anthologia in Regis Exanthemata.
Cambridge at this time was extraordinarily rich in poetic talent. Poets, some now less well remembered than others, included Richard Crashaw, Francis Beaumont, John Cleveland, Robert Wild, John Saltmarsh, Clement Paman, William Hammond, Thomas Stanley, Nathaniel Whiting, Francis Kynaston, Edward King and Abraham Cowley. Much of this work circulated in manuscript, although many important collections of seventeenth-century poetry were published around this time. Marvell's contribution to the 1637 volume, presented to the King in a specially bound copy, consists of the Latin verses
âAd Regem Carolum Parodia'
and the Greek Î£Ï Î½ÏÎ´Î¹Î±. The term âparodia' in the title has a more neutral connotation than âparody', suggesting imitation (in this case of Horace,
I.2), but the verses, which contain an allusion to the recent plague in Cambridge, are, as might be expected from such an exercise, of little poetic interest. The Greek verses contain an elaborate play on the word five (Anne would be the King's fifth child) with allusions to two plots against the life of James I on 5 August 1600 and 5 November 1605.
On 13 April the following year, on the same day that Marvell was admitted to a scholarship at Trinity, his mother, Anne Pease, died in Hull. She was buried on 28 April at Holy Trinity Church. Unfortunately, nothing is known of her, and seven months later the Reverend Andrew Marvell remarried. His new bride was Lucy Harris, whose third marriage this was and who came from Derbyshire, where the couple were married on 27 November in the parish church of Norton. Lucy had long been known to her new husband because she was the daughter of John Alured, whose family lived in the old Carthusian priory in Hull, next door to the Charterhouse where the Reverend Andrew Marvell was Master. When the Marvell family arrived in Hull from Winestead in 1624, Lucy's brother Henry Alured was the squire. They were minor gentry and John Alured had been twice MP for Hull. Pauline Burdon, who has written extensively about the Marvell kindred,
suggests that the two families were brought close through common experiences of bereavement and the similar ages of their children. This could have resulted in shared lessons. It has been suggested that a woman twice widowed might bring a useful dowry to enable the Reverend Andrew Marvell to support his son at Cambridge and his unmarried daughter, the twenty-year-old Elizabeth, at home.
But Burdon's picture of her as âa courageous and intelligent woman' suggests a more natural foundation for the relationship. Less than two years later she would be widowed again. She lived on as Marvell's stepmother until 1664, though she would have seen little of him in the years after Cambridge, when he was travelling abroad.
The Admission Book of Trinity College, Cambridge records Marvell's signature among the names of thirty-nine scholars on 13 April 1638 after the annual Easter Term elections:
Andreas Marvell discipulus.
The scholarship entitled him to draw an annual stipendium of 13s 4d, with a further shilling each week for food. When he graduated as a BA in the Lent Term of 1639, the latter sum would be raised by 2d a week.
Another signature, now in the Cambridge University Archives, dated 27 February 1639 records the occasion when, according to a statute of 1613, Marvell had to sign articles promising to recognise the royal supremacy in ecclesiastical and temporal matters and give unqualified acceptance to the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-Nine Articles before he could âsupplicate' for the degree. He was already a year late in doing so for usually only four not five years elapsed before supplicating. Marvell had perhaps been considered too young the previous year, or had been absent from the University for some reason. The most obvious explanation was the strange episode of his seduction by Jesuits.