Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 36.djvu/333

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Marvell
Marvell
327


iv. 321; cf. Grosart, iv. 338-53). The anger of the supporters of the bill is the best testimony to the effectiveness of this speech. Two days later, on the pretext that Marvell had struck another member and disputed the Authority of the speaker, it was moved that he should be sent to the Tower, but there proved to be so little foundation for the charge that the motion was dropped (Grey, iv. 328).

Marvell's political influence was due more to his writings than to his action in parliament, and the value of his parliamentary position consisted in the unequalled opportunities it gave him for observing contemporary politics. His letters to his constituents Are, as a rule, simply a colourless record of facts, but in a few to private friends he speaks out. He notes the king's continual demands for money and his squanderings of the public treasure. One of his happiest pieces of prose satire is a sham speech of Charles II on the state, of his finances (Grosart, ii. 431). In one letter he complains that all promotions, spiritual and temporal, pass under the cognisance of the Duchess of Cleveland; in another, that those ministers are most in favour who, like Lauderdale, deserved a halter rather than a garter. Abroad, he says, 'we truckle to France in all things to the prejudice of our honour;' at home 'the Court is at the highest pitch of want and luxury, and the people full of discontent. Never had any poor people so many complicated mortal incurable and dangerous diseases' (ib. pp. 314, 390, 392, 395).

Parliament, which should have cured these ills, had become the subservient tool of the government. ' In such a conjuncture,' writes Marvell in 1670, ' what probability is there of my doing anything to the purposeĀ ? ' He came to despair of effecting anything by parliamentary action. ' We are all venal cowards except some few,' The old 'country party,' which he had celebrated in his ' Last Instructions to a Painter ' (11. 240-306), was now broken up, and the ranks of the ' constant courtiers' had been so swelled by ' apostate patriots ' that it ' was a mercy they give not away the whole land and liberty of England' (Grosart, ii. 317, 320, 394).

Wrath at the degradation of his country and at the seeming hopelessness of the struggle explains the bitterness of Marvell's satires. Any weapon seemed legitimate, and every scandal was pressed into his verses. The satires show the development of his political opinions. In 1667 he attacked Clarendon and the court party, and hoped that with a change of ministers all would jet go well again. By 1674 he had discovered that the secret of the misgovernment of England was the king's character: 'for one man's weakness a whole nation bleeds.' In 1672 he held that Charles, with all his faults, was preferable to his bigoted brother, but in 1675 he had come to the conclusion that things would never be better till the reign of the house of Stuart was ended. Instead of constitutional monarchy he preached republicanism, and held up the republics of Rome and Venice as patterns to England.

Satires so outspoken were necessarily printed in secret or circulated in manuscript, but on one question Marvell found opportunity to appear more openly and reach a wider audience. The oppressive ecclesiastical policy of the government was notoriously the work of the ministers and the episcopal-cavalier party rather than the king, and it might be assailed with less danger and more prospect of success than civil tyranny. The most prominent champion of intolerance was Samuel Parker [q. v.], afterwards bishop of Oxford, who published in 1670 'A Discourse of Ecclesiastical Polity, wherein the Authority of the Civil Magistrate in matters of External Religion is asserted, the mischiefs and inconveniences of Toleration are represented, and all pretences pleaded in behalf of Liberty of Conscience fully answered.' This was followed by two other anti-non-conformist pamphlets, 'A Defence and Continuation of Ecclesiastical Polity,' 1671, and in 1672 by a preface to Bramhall's ' Vindication of himself and the Episcopal Clergy from the Presbyterian Charge of Popery.' Parker wrote, as Baxter complains, ' the most scornfully and rashly and profanely and cruelly against the nonconformists of any man that ever yet assaulted them.' Marvell undertook to answer Parker, and not to merely defend the principle of liberty of conscience, but, in Wood's phrase, ' to clip the wings ' of Parker for the future. With this intent he published in 1672 and 1673 the two parts of the 'Rehearsal Transprosed.' The title was suggested by the Duke of Buckingham's ' Rehearsal,' and Parker is throughout dubbed Mr. Bayes, on account of his supposed resemblance in character and style to the hero of Buckingham's play. In this, as in all Marvell's pamphlets, there are occasional passages of grave and vigorous eloquence, out in dealing with Parker he 'relied more on ridicule.' This pen-combat between our author and Marvell,' says Wood, 'was briskly managed, with as much smart cutting and satirical wit on both sides as any other perhaps of late hath been, they endeavouring by all the methods imaginable,