This posthumous edition of Andrew Marvell’s (1621–1678) Miscellaneous Poems was the first collected volume of his poetry to appear in print. Prior to the book’s publication in 1681, Marvell had been known as MP for Hull and as a surreptitious writer of political commentary and satire.
Without this text the majority of Marvell’s lyrical poems – for which he is celebrated today – may have been lost to history.
The mystery of Mary Marvell
Mary Marvell, editor and endorser of Miscellaneous Poems (‘To The Reader’, digital p. 3), was probably not Marvell’s wife despite her insistence to the contrary. Mary Marvell, or Mrs Palmer as she was commonly known, had been Marvell’s housekeeper and came forward as his widow in 1680 in an attempt to claim £500 that was owed to him in a legal dispute.
No one knew about their marriage, because, according to Mary, the difference in their social positions and the scandal caused by their union would have jeopardised his political career. She stated in court that they were married on or about 13 May 1667 at Holy Trinity Minories, one of the few churches in London able to perform secret marriages. However, there was no record kept of the relevant Holy Trinity register in the court proceedings, and that register has since been lost.
Her involvement with the publishing of Miscellaneous Poems may have been part of a strategy to add authority, and documentation, to her claimed status as Marvell’s spouse.
What’s special about this copy?
This is one of only two known copies of the first edition of Poems to include Marvell’s works on Oliver Cromwell: ‘An Horation ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland’ (pp. 115–18), ‘The First Anniversary of the Government under O.C.’ (pp. 119–29) and ‘A Poem upon the Death of O.C.’ (pp. 140–44). In other surviving copies the pages containing these controversial poems were removed during printing for political reasons. The next time these three poems were published together was in 1776, almost 100 years after Marvell’s death.
Which poems are digitised here?
- ‘The Coronet’ (pp. 7–8)
- ‘Bermudas’ (pp. 10–11)
- ‘The Nymph complaining for the death of her Faun’ (pp. 14–17)
- ‘To His Coy Mistress’ (pp. 19–20)
- ‘The Definition of Love’ (pp. 32–33)
- ‘The Mower against Gardens’ (pp. 40–41)
- ‘Damon the Mower’ (pp. 41–44)
- ‘The Mower to the Glo-Worms’ (pp. 44–45)
- ‘The Mower’s Song’ (pp. 45–48)
- ‘The Garden’ (pp. 48–51)
- ‘On Mr Milton’s Paradise Lost’ (pp. 61–62)
- ‘An Horation ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland’ (pp. 115–18)
- ‘The First Anniversary of the Government under O.C.’ (pp. 119–29)
- ‘A Poem upon the Death of O.C.’ (pp. 140–44)