The greatest Marvell poems
Andrew Marvell (1621-78) is widely regarded as one of the greatest English poets of the seventeenth century. His work is often associated with the Metaphysical Poets. But which are Marvell’s best poems? Below we’ve selected ten of Andrew Marvell’s most famous and popular poems and said a little bit about them. Click on the title of each poem to read the poem – and, in several cases, to access more information about it.
‘To His Coy Mistress’. As well as being a seduction lyric, ‘To His Coy Mistress’ is also a carpe diem poem, which argues that we should ‘seize the day’ because life is short. Marvell, addressing his sweetheart, says that the woman’s reluctance to have sex with him would be fine, if life wasn’t so short. But such a plan is a fantasy, because in reality, our time on Earth is short. Marvell says that, in light of what he’s just said, the only sensible thing to do is to enjoy themselves and go to bed together – while they still can. Read the rest of this entry
The interesting life of a classic American novelist
In his Lives of the Novelists: A History of Fiction in 294 Lives, John Sutherland calls Edith Wharton’s life ‘fascinating’. It certainly is. The novelist best-known for The Age of Innocence led an interesting life, and in this very short biography we aim to cover the most curious aspects of Edith Wharton’s life and work.
Edith Wharton was born Edith Jones in 1862, into the ‘leisure class’ of New York. As Karen Farrington observes in her compelling book of short biographies Great Lives: As heard on Radio 4, Wharton ‘wasn’t so much born with a silver spoon in her mouth as the entire cutlery set.’ Read the rest of this entry
A summary of a classic short story
‘The Lumber-Room’ is a classic short story about a child who is too clever for the adults. Specifically, it is about how one clever but mischievous boy, Nicholas, seeks to outwit his aunt so he can gain access to the lumber-room with its hidden treasures and curiosities. But the story might also be viewed as an analysis of the nature of obedience, and the limited adult view of the world, when contrasted with the child’s more expansive and imaginative outlook. You can read ‘The Lumber-Room’ here.
In his Biography, Saki – real name Hector Hugh Munro – recalled his childhood of the 1870s, in which ‘the flower and vegetable gardens were surrounded by high walls and a hedge, and on rainy days we were kept indoors’ where the ‘windows [were] shut and shuttered’. It may be, then, that the adult Munro – reinvented as the Edwardian fiction-writer Saki – was recalling his own upbringing in ‘The Lumber-Room’, which sees the young Nicholas being kept indoors as punishment, deprived of the ‘treat’ of a trip to Jagborough Sands and denied access to the gooseberry garden outside the house. Read the rest of this entry