My work on Andrew Marvell and private lives has been a hauntingly introspective process. The way I’ve linked our biographies together has given me licence to think as deeply and darkly as I please.
But now that I come to wrap this up, there’s something that doesn’t add up.
Marvell often strikes the reader as the shy, demure sort, weaving threads of complicated desire behind fantastical themes.
There’s little sign that he placed a great deal of value on the majority of his own poems. He may even have been embarrassed by them.
Perhaps that’s because his life and works reflect different sides of his character. For all his privacy, secrecy, and eloquence in writing, Marvell exhibited enough quiet confidence in his endeavours.
A reminder of some of his accomplishments:
- He disappeared off to Europe in the mid-1640s, and mixed with a troupe of royalist poets on his return.
- He worked in private and public capacities for the most important men in the land, Lord Fairfax, Oliver Cromwell and John Thurloe, throughout the 1650s.
- He sought a place in government in 1653, and eventually received it in 1657.
- He became an MP in 1659, a position he held until his death 19 years later.
- He travelled on embassies as a diplomat in the 1660s, and may have been involved in the expedition to the Netherlands in the early 1650s.
- He wasn’t shy of saying (or demonstrating) what he thought, home or abroad.
There are obviously reasons for his intense privacy and secrecy, but a lack of confidence isn’t a straightforward one.
Back in the day, I imagined Marvell and Lord Fairfax (with whom he lived for a short spell in the early 1650s) as a socially awkward friendship – one that communicated more in writing than it did in voice.
But there seems to have been plenty of substance to it. Marvell writes with care and diligence about landmarks within the vicinity of the Nun Appleton estate.
The connection between land and self in Marvell’s verse assumes that Marvell knew the character of Fairfax well enough to formulate the epic Upon Appleton House with the presence and power that it eventually assumed.
The origins of confidence
Confidence is flighty and fickle Where it comes from and what governs it are mysteries, as it continues to elude me. It shows its absence in such a way that allows me to witness it, like viewing treasures through a window.
It’s confusing, because I’ve been the exhibitionist in my time: singing, dancing, featuring on a DVD, performing a lead role, speaking on radio, and even compering a three-hour show. But professionally, it seems a real challenge to move forward. Some recent examples:
- Three months ago, I spotted a tremendous opportunity that would have presented me with a prestigious international client. I didn’t take it.
- Last month, I offered to write up minutes of an event I attended concerning internal university politics. I didn’t send them.
- Last week, I was invited to do this class again. It’s already prepared, with no travel involved and good money. I’ve turned it down.
- Last night, I left a good crowd after just one hour. A house-party invite tomorrow has been declined too.
Crowds, communication, couples, are all difficult at the moment. It’s a place of increasing insularity and deterioration that makes me less comfortable all the time.
We should base our lives on reward for effort, not punishment for effort. I spent December wanting to stay out, drink, and not come home. Now, I’d rather not drink and just be home alone. Dreams of being a sociable, appealing, being will have to be shelved for the moment.
I recoil to my garret, as Marvell always did, consoled that keeping myself away is doing less harm than good.
The gorgeous secluded music of Crazyshow. I’m dedicating this post to a lovely friend from the US whose courage in speaking from the heart about difficult subjects inspires me to write these days when it would be so much easier and safer not to. X