Marvell was born in 1621 and, three years later, his family moved to Hull where his father (Andrew Senior) was appointed as lecturer in Hull’s Holy Trinity Church. It is likely that Marvell attended Hull grammar school. Although he mainly lived in London Marvell maintained many links with his hometown. He returned to public service there during the collapse of the Commonwealth and he wrote nearly 300 letters to the Hull Corporation about parliamentary dealings during the political turmoil that ravaged his country and in 1659 he was elected to the House of Commons as joint member for Hull.

Marvell attended Trinity College, Cambridge from the age of twelve. In 1639 he graduated with a BA, however it is believed that after his father’s accidental drowning in 1641 he abandoned his studies for his MA. We cannot be sure but it is certainly possible that Marvell left England in 1642 due to the outbreak of the civil war, what we are aware of is that he travelled for five years (1642-47) around Holland, Italy, Spain and France.

Although it has been argued that before going away Marvell might have had slight sympathy with the Royalists, perhaps illustrated by his friendship with the cavalier poet Richard Lovelace, it is clear that on his return he was whole heartedly republican. When returned from his foreign travels Milton recommended him as Assistant Latin Secretary to the new republic, unfortunately for Marvell he was rejected and not selected until 1957. In 1651 he was appointed by Sir Thomas Fairfax (a great republican general) to tutor his daughter Mary and stayed in Nunappleton House (the subject of one of his epic poems and Fairfax’s retirement home after the civil wars) for nearly two years. In 1653 Marvell moved to Eton and became tutor to Cromwell’s prospective son-in-law, William Dutton. It wasn’t until September 1657 that Marvell was finally appointed to the Latin secretaryship alongside Milton, under John Thurloe, Secretary of State. Perhaps ironically it was only a year later that the Lord Protector Cromwell died. He was succeeded by his son Richard and Marvell’s allegiances were transferred entirely to the younger Cromwell despite the fact that he was less politically strong and charismatic than his father. In May 1659 Richard Cromwell fell from power and John Thurloe lost his political position, however Marvell maintained his position for a further six months. He forfeited his seat when Monck restored the Rump Parliament, however, in April 1660 he was re-elected as a member for Hull to the ‘Convention’ parliament who restored Charles II and in this position he was extremely active.

In August 1678 Marvell died of a ‘tertian ague’ perhaps somewhat incongruously whilst on a visit to Hull. By this time he was disillusioned with politics and the Parliament of Charles II who he saw as intolerant and untrustworthy. Nonetheless his deep and active interest in politics does illustrate that there was more than just metaphysical wit and satire within his work – it was ridden with political contempt and passion.

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