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From Tell-Truth's Answer to Tell-Troth's Letter, c. 1680

From Tell-Truth's Answer to Tell-Troth's Letter, c. 1680

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21. John Dryden’s comments

1681, 1682

The sharp comments by the poet laureate and royal

historiographer John Dryden (1631–1700) can be accounted

for in part by his shifting political and religious allegiances and

in part by his personal and literary controversies. His elegy on

the death of Cromwell (in a volume that was to have included

Marvell’s as well, entered in the Stationers’ Register 20 January

1659) was later to be countered by his two celebrations of the

return of Charles II; his satire Absalom and Achitophel (1681)

was a vigorous attack on the Earl of Shaftesbury, whose policies

Marvell had favoured, as were also His Majesties Declaration

Defended (since 1935 accepted as Dryden’s) and The Medal;

and in 1686 he was to become a Roman Catholic.

For his share in inciting personal antagonism, Marvell had given

additional currency to the characterization of Dryden as ‘Bayes’

in Buckingham’s Rehearsal by derogatorily applying the term

to the high churchman Samuel Parker, and he had mockingly

alluded to Dryden as ‘the Town-Bays’ in his commendatory

poem on Paradise Lost.

(a) Extract from His Majesties Declaration Defended, 1681 (in answer

to A Letter from a Person of Quality to His Friend, which had

attacked the Declaration), pp. 3–4, 13.

Accordingly, upon the first appearance of it in Print, five several

Pens of their Cabal were set to work; and the product of each having

been examin’d, a certain person of Quality appears to have carried

the majority of Votes, and to be chosen like a new Matthias [Acts

1:23–6], to succeed in the place of their deceas’d Judas.1 …


The allusion to the ‘deceas’d Judas’ is generally accepted as a reference to Marvell;

cf. Parker’s earlier reference to him (No. 2) as Judas.



Popish and Arbitrary, are words that sound high amongst the

multitude; and all men are branded by those names, who are not for

setting up Fanaticism and a Common-wealth.

And when Papists are to be banished, I warrant you all Protestants

in Masquerade must go for company; and when none but a pack of

Sectaries and Commonwealths-men are left in England, where indeed

will be the danger of a War, in a Nation unanimous? After this, why

does not some resenting Friend of Marvel’s, put up a Petition to the

Soveraigns of his party, that his Pension of four hundred pounds per

annum, may be transferred to some one amongst them, who will not

so notoriously betray their cause by dullness and insufficiency?1

(b) Extract from ‘Epistle to the Whigs’ prefacing The Medal,

1682, A3 v.

I have perus’d many of your Papers; and to show you that I have, the

third part of your No-protestant Plot2 is much of it stolen, from

your dead Authour’s Pamphlet call’d, the Growth of Popery, as

manifestly as Milton’s defense of the English people, is from

Buchanan, de jure regni apud Scotus.

(c) Extract from the preface to Religio Laici, 1682, b1.

And Martin Mar-Prelate (the Marvel of those times) was the first

Presbyterian Scribler, who sanctify’d Libels and Scurrility to the use

of the Good Old Cause.


There is no record of Marvell’s having received a pension in addition to the

standard pay of 6s.8d. as an MP for Hull (see No. 41).


The third part of the No-protestant Plot, 1682, generally ascribed to ‘the plotter’

Robert Ferguson, is a vindication of the Earl of Shaftesbury.


22. Bishop Parker on the Growth of

Popery and the ‘First Anniversary’

c. 1687

Many years after their flyting, Bishop Parker was still rankled

by Marvell’s attack. In commenting in general on the author

of the Growth of Popery in his De rebus sui temporis

commentariorum (pub. 1727), he also makes clear that Marvell

was acknowledged as the author of the ‘First Anniversary,’

which had appeared anonymously in January 1655.

Extract from Bishop Parker’s History of His Own Time,

translated by Thomas Newlin (1727), pp. 332–7.

Amongst these lewd Revilers, the lewdest was one whose name was

Marvel. As he had liv’d in all manner of wickedness from his youth,

so being of a singular impudence and petulancy of nature, he exercised

the province of a Satyrist, for the use of the Faction, being not so

much a Satyrist thro’ quickness of wit, as sowerness of temper; of

but indifferent parts, except it were in the talent of railing and

malignity. Being abandon’d by his father, and expell’d the University,

he afterwards made his conscience more cheap than he had formerly

made his reputation. A vagabond, ragged, hungry Poetaster, being

beaten at every tavern, he daily receiv’d the rewards of his sawciness

in kicks and blows. At length, by the interest of Milton, to whom he

was somewhat agreeable for his ill-natur’d wit, he was made Undersecretary to Cromwell’s Secretary. Pleas’d with which honour, he

publish’d a congratulatory poem in praise of the Tyrant; but when

he had a long time labour’d to squeeze out a panegyrick, he brought

forth a satyr upon all rightful Kings; saying that Cromwell was the

sun, but other Monarchs were slow bodies, slower than Saturn in

their revolutions, and darting more hurtful rays upon the earth. That

if each of their reigns were to be continued to the Platonick age, yet

no King would ever do any good to the world: That it was the purpose

of them all to bring their subjects into slavery: That they pursue no



enemy but their own countrymen: That they wage war against

foreigners unwillingly, and because they are forc’d to it, but

voluntarily and freely against their own people; neither do they cease

from it, till they can treat them as conquer’d slaves; nor do they fight

against them only, but also against God: That they are all drunk

with the enchantments of the Whore of Babylon: That they fight for

Antichrist, against the Lamb: That they serve the Roman Whore:

That they not only desert, but hinder the work of the Lord, begun in

this age by his saints, under the auspicious conduct of Cromwell.

But the King being restor’d, this wretched man falling into his

former poverty, did, for the sake of a livelihood, procure himself to

be chosen Member of Parliament for a Borough, in which his father

had exercis’d the office of a Presbyterian teacher, and done notable

service in the Rebellion: For there was an ancient custom, that the

expences of those that were elected into Parliament, should be born

by the Borough for which they were chosen, at the rate of five shillings

a day. This custom had a long time been antiquated and out of date,

Gentlemen despising so vile a stipend, that was given like alms to the

poor;1 yet he requir’d it for the sake of a bare subsistence, altho’ in

this mean poverty he was nevertheless haughty and insolent. In all

Parliaments he was an enemy to the King’s affairs, being one of those

Conspirators, who being sixty in number, of the remains of the

Rebellion, had bound themselves by oath, from the beginning, to

give all the trouble they could to the King, and especially never to

vote for granting any taxes. But these men had little weight in that

Assembly, being look’d upon with shame and disgrace; so that if

they would do no good, they could do no hurt; for they were hardly

ever suffer’d to speak without being hiss’d at; and our Poet could

not speak without a sound basting: Wherefore, having frequently

undergone this discipline, he learn’d at length to hold his tongue.

But out of the House, when he could do it with impunity, he vented

himself with the greater bitterness, and daily spewed infamous libels

out of his filthy mouth against the King himself.

If at any time the Fanaticks had occasion for this libeller’s help,

he presently issued forth out of his cave, like a gladiator, or a wild

beast. But this Bustuarius, or fencer, never fought with more fury,


For this long-lived canard, see No. 41.


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From Tell-Truth's Answer to Tell-Troth's Letter, c. 1680

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