This week marked the fourth anniversary of Writing Privacy. Time for a long-overdue makeover, I thought. And perhaps more importantly, time for a change.
It’s the time of the year when, either in pleasure or platitude, we are naturally drawn to reflect upon companionship (or the absence of it). And though I’m rather at a loss after an already tribulation-filled February, it almost goes without saying that the good poet finds such a beautiful way of coming to terms with this absence.
These end-of-year epilogues have become invariably sad affairs. Of course, I would prefer that it was different, but I still believe that they help me channel energies in a better way. Last year – in what I still believe to be my best ever contribution here – I said that structural positives had been offset by surface negatives. Now, the poles have changed.
It feels like the final chapter of my thesis, on Andrew Marvell’s ‘Poetics of Privacy’, has been a traumatic experience. Not simply because writing by day and by night on different subjects is gruelling, but because the private internal negotiations that Marvell constantly faced and the impossibility of choice he so often found himself with leave a man permanently trapped in a life that offers so little solace and almost nothing except a desperate rush towards the end.
New material on Marvell’s ‘Horatian Ode’ excites me more than any other subject, I would wager. It is one of the iconic poems upon which every Marvellian faces his or her own judgement day.
I’ve thought many times before that Andrew Marvell’s life and my own show distinct traces of overlap, and it’s never escaped me that this may be one of the reasons why I identify so closely with his writing.
The Fairfax 400 Conference took place at the Centre for English Local History, University of Leicester, on June 30th and July 1st, commemorating the 400th anniversary of the birth of Thomas, Lord Fairfax (1612-1671).
More people than ever are still looking for a philosophy on life that offers any comfort. During the New Year, a time when we deliberately parse our minds for retrospection and hope, I thought about the paradox of interconnectedness: how, by superficially feeling closer together than ever before, we might never feel further apart.
The problem with Marvell is that he tests the limit of our modern standards of biography. Writing this particular life – much like Marvell’s own work, ironically – ends up just as wary of the literary mechanics of the exercise as the exercise itself.
By the time Andrew Marvell turned 28 (as I recently did) in March 1649, Charles I had been executed. The regicide inspired one of the best political poems ever written, and ended up shaping a history that would define Marvell’s fascinating future career.