‘Who would write?’ The seven-year itch


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

It’s a coincidence that raises its head because of the number of comments I’ve recently received about this page. I paraphrase slightly, but they run from the vein of ‘too academic’ to ‘not academic enough’.

I could use both these extremes as a prime example of why I shouldn’t take any notice of what people say, but identity is a big deal and I begrudgingly accept the failure of something that exists neither as one thing nor another.

So maybe I should address what it purports to be. W.P. is neither a research space 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 most of its derivatives. Though much has changed since then, including the establishment of the Andrew Marvell Society page as the accredited online resource for Marvell studies, I’m not without my own small contribution to the field and there is much here to feel very 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 reasonably 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 space 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. We did well.

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

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 a history of reluctance about writing and its consequences in public, and the man who privately enjoyed the free reign 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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