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11 - The royalism of Andrew Marvell

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  19 July 2009

Jason McElligott
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
David L. Smith
Affiliation:
University of Cambridge
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Summary

In the England of the 1640s, civil war was fought on two fronts: by the sword, and by the pen. The polemicist Marchamont Nedham, a figure with a large part in Andrew Marvell's literary career, remarked in 1652 that ‘in our late wars … the pen militant hath had as sharp encounters as the sword, and borne away as many trophies’. For while the sword may subdue men ‘by force’, ‘the pen it is which manifests the right of things; and when it is once cleared, it gives spurs to resolution, because men are never raised to so high a pitch of action, as when they are persuaded, that they engage in a righteous cause’. In the late 1640s, when the story to be told in this chapter begins, the pen was the principal instrument of defeated royalism, the cause which Nedham, the serial turncoat of the Puritan Revolution, served at that time. During the Second Civil War of 1648, it is true, it was briefly the ally and servant of the sword, but otherwise it was a substitute for it. Never was royalism more buoyant on the page than in the two years that preceded the execution of the king. The royalist cause, like the parliamentarian one, had always been a coalition of principles and temperaments. Royalist writing ranged from piety to hedonism, from Calvinism to paganism, from belligerence to Stoic resignation, from divine-right absolutism to moderate constitutionalism, from unquestioning commitment to the king to doubts about his conduct and policies.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2007

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