Andrew Marvell is becoming increasingly recognized as a poet who demonstrates a profound connection with the full range of visual arts. However, little attention has been paid to how the remarkable visual quality of Marvell’s work engages with traditional or contemporary debates about ekphrasis. This may seem surprising, as poems like ‘The Gallery’ tempt us into the sort of paragonal opposition between text and image that has become a central characteristic of ekphrastic critical orthodoxy. But Marvell’s work is well suited to revisionist debates that look beyond these binary divisions. Two barely known Latin poems that accompany an unusual portrait of Oliver Cromwell to the Queen of Sweden demonstrate ekphrasis as prosopopoeia, exposing boundaries of language and culture in both visual and verbal modes. When Marvell’s fascination with how lives are represented combines with glass and reflection, we embark upon his ekphrastic encounter: of specific visual and temporal moments that define human mortality.
This chapter examines Andrew Marvell’s transition from Republic to restored monarchy through his approach to manuscript circulation and print culture during this period. Mapping his output against Harold Love’s gradient of publication (where ‘strong’ implies a published text, and ‘weak’ implies anything less than private) presents a poet who took great care to limit the disclosure of his works. But Marvell’s ‘The Character of Holland’ presents a distinctive problem. Assumed to have been written in 1653 as part of a bid for preferment during the first Anglo-Dutch War, it may have remained completely private until an abridged version appeared anonymously in print in 1665. This chapter questions whether Marvell’s oft-disputed involvement with the abridged edition marks a carefully calculated return to print in a move of strategic opportunism.