‘Who would write?’ The seven-year itch

I should call it the ‘seven year itch’. Writing Privacy turned the ripe old age of seven this week. That’s how long the ‘public’ side of my old LiveJournal lasted.

It’s a coincidence that raises its head because of a number of comments I’ve recently received about this site. I paraphrase slightly, but they’re basically ‘it’s too academic’ or ‘it’s not academic enough’.

I could use such contradictory extremes as a example of why I shouldn’t base decisions on what others say. But identity is a big deal and I accept the failure of something that exists as neither one thing nor another.

So maybe I should address what it purports to be. WP is neither a pure research portal nor a personal journal, but something in-between.

Andrew Marvell Plaque of 'The Garden' by Lauderdale House

A few years ago, this was the headline blog for the term ‘Andrew Marvell’ and for most of its derivatives. Though much has changed since then, including the establishment of the Andrew Marvell Society page as the accredited resource for Marvell studies, I’m not without my own contribution to the field and there is much here to feel proud of.

The thought process behind the curious dissemination of ‘The Character of Holland’ has evolved into print. Work on Marvell and ekphrasis reflects a successful attempt to branch out further, and I look forward to seeing that into print in due course.

This blog has been cited by undergraduates at Oxford and beyond, and there may be many more instances that I’m unaware of.

My reflections on ‘Thrysis and Dorinda’ and ‘The Definition of Love’ still feel more true to me than almost anything else I’ve ever written. I’m outspoken on my interpretation of ‘To His Coy Mistress’ as a poem defined by its failure rather than by its intent.

But yes, much of all of this is housed – and sometimes slightly lost – within the real-life muddles, heartaches and catastrophes that inspired it. My fascinations are emotionally driven, and it makes sense that the crux of my work has been that way too.

What you find is a life story told through the lens of Marvell’s poetry, and a writer who found a dark and troubled poet through his own slightly dark and troubled life.

Norvikken Park

When this site started, for all I knew, my time with Marvell was over. I had just quit my life abroad. I had no institution, no job, no place to go. My research recommenced as a remedy for a broken heart, and eventually became a strange sort of encomium for it.

Now it’s at an impasse and the readership has dwindled away. Seven years is a long time, and maybe that’s just a natural cycle in the modern era.

But I titled this post for a reason. When Marvell notes ‘Who would write?’ in a 1676 letter to Edward Harley, I think we see two aspects of his character: a man with concerns about public writing and its consequences, and the man who privately enjoyed the freedom to express himself.

I find myself quite easily dictated to, and still more impressionable than I would like. But at the end of the day, this site will only exist if it means something to me. And you might find that you’re only able to enjoy it if I mean something to you.

I’m not ready to give up; I hope you’ll stick with me a little longer.

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