"Upon Appleton House": Marvell's creation of a liminal realm.
This structuring of the poem as a series of reflective tableaux with vague or nonexistent boundaries helps both to explain and to enact Marvell's purpose in describing his strange walk through the Fairfax estate and the Fairfax family tree: Not content to serve strictly as employee of the Third Lord Fairfax of Cameron, Marvell not only creates the reflective surfaces and underlying depths of meaning in the separate tableaux of his poem but also explores the transitional space between these portrayals to demonstrate his understanding of and value to the Fairfax circle. (3) Designing the poem as a type of mirror for magistrates, yet angling himself within the portrait/mirror, Marvell can present images of the Fairfax family and of the house and landscapes that reflect the family, creating a depiction that is both canvas and reflection, celebration and advice. The poet creates a place for himself as painter and as subject, not only inserting himself into this Fairfax portrayal but also empowering himself as its artist and exegete. (4)
The connection of Marvell to the visual arts is not a radical concept --critics have long noted his ability to blend "the conceptual and the pictorial" (Leishman 130). Harold Toliver believes the pictorial qualities in Marvell's poetry create a disengagement "not only from its subject but from the logic and the pressure of serial time," a quality that can be seen as both a strength and a weakness: "By stopping an action for contemplation, it frees the mind from time, but it also emphasizes even more the corporeality of surfaces and creates a problem of gaps that neither rhetoric nor music has," so that "the eye is left with teasing breaks in logic between parts of an exhibit" (113-14). This perfectly describes the various sections of gallery-like images that make up "Upon Appleton House." Like E. H. Gombrich's theory of the "Beholder's Share" in visual art, these gaps engage Marvell's patron, as well as his readers, as they attempt to fill in the liminal space between pictures. (5)
Marvell's first priority in creating a relationship with Lord Fairfax through the poem is to demonstrate their like-mindedness, necessary for Fairfax to appreciate the poet's praise and advice. Fortunately for Marvell, both he and his patron were at a liminal time in their lives and in their careers. Marvell probably wrote "Upon Appleton House" during his stay at Nunappleton in Yorkshire with the Fairfax family from late 1650 to the end of 1652, serving as tutor of languages for the Fair-faxes' only child, daughter Mary (Donno 246). These years fell after the poet's rather mysterious four-year period of travels in Holland, France, Italy, and Spain in the 1640s and before his distinguished career in public service. Likewise, Fairfax was experiencing an in-between time. In December 1644 the Parliament Commons majority amalgamated the three existing armies, and in 1645, after he commanded the parliamentarian forces to brilliant victories, Fairfax was named commander-in-chief of this new entity, soon to be known as the New Model Army (Gentles 935). Yet, Fairfax opposed the arrest of the king and refused to continue his position on the court of high commission that eventually condemned Charles as a traitor. In protest of a preemptive invasion of Scotland, Fairfax resigned his army commission and retired to Nunappleton in 1650, leaving much doubt as to whether he still supported the parliamentarian cause, a doubt that seemed resolved when, in 1660, Fairfax helped Charles II regain the throne: "It was a fitting symbol of Fairfax's role in bringing back the king that the chestnut-brown horse which Charles II rode at his coronation was a gift from Fairfax's own stable" (Gentles 940).
As with Marvell, other aspects of Lord Fairfax's personality and beliefs are hard to pin down. Even his religious beliefs indicate ambivalence. Marvell's very temporary and possibly coerced/seduced fall into Roman Catholicism is a well-known biographical anecdote (Bradbrook 205), matched by Fairfax's contradictory preferences. Though the general considered himself "a non-sectarian puritan" and believed "that the appetite for material things was one of the devil's snares," he intervened to save the largest collection of medieval stained glass in England at York Minster. John Aubrey later credits Fairfax with the preservation of the Bodleian Library when, during the parliamentarian occupation of Oxford, he installed a strong guard around the library to stop the theft and vandalism of books that had been tolerated by the royalists during their occupation (104). And, of course, there is his famous love for antiquaries. His impressive personal collection included engravings, curios, coins, and medals which Charles H. Hinnant believes "reflected the spirit of aristocratic connoisseurship and rivalry that brought into being the great Stuart collections" (28). (6) Fairfax also demonstrated interest in the technical aspects of painting, particularly landscapes. His library included a copy of Edward Norgate's early painting treatise, Miniatura, which was presented to his daughter Mary by her drawing teacher, Daniel King, who claimed the work as his own. (7)
Marvell's employment with this enigmatic patron as tutor is itself a liminal position, in-between companion and servant, yet as anthropologist Victor Turner has demonstrated, liminality is a realm of potential. Turner theorizes that because rules and expectations governing the previous stage no longer pertain, and those governing the subsequent stage do not yet apply, this liminal period is characterized by creativity and freedom from restraint. The site of "becoming," of possibility, of play, liminality generates myths, symbols, rituals, philosophical systems, and works of art as a culture attempts to reclassify reality and the individual's relationship to society, nature, and culture (Ritual Process 128-9). Classified by Arnold van Gennep as "rites of passage," these periods can be interpreted as negative, since individuals or society are no longer in the positive past nor in the positive future, but Turner counters that the liminal phase can be very positive and active, since it is during this interface between established cultural subsystems, during this "instant of pure potentiality when everything, as it were, trembles in the balance," that meaning is generated (From Ritual 41, 44).
Marvell uses his liminal position in the Fairfax household to create in "Upon Appleton House" a realm of mutual possibility in which the past is referenced, the future is promised, but the present is pure potential. In his in-between state, Marvell can assume a playful autonomy allowing him the freedom to socialize, fantasize, and even criticize his patron. The opening of the poem links it to the country-house poem tradition, appearing to praise the humility, and appropriateness of the house, traditionally representing the character of its owner, as in Jonson's "To Penshurst"; yet the play spawned by liminality soon predominates in Marvell's description, as he paints a cartoon-like picture subtly questioning the too-humble and premature retirement of the former commander-in-chief. Marvell admits some may "smile" (39) at the "dwarfish" house, a house that, "distressed" (53), has to swell (51) to accommodate its owner. (8) Though Marvell acknowledges "Honour better lowness bears, / Than that unwonted Greatness wears" (57-58), obviously the message is that a man of Fairfax's greatness has a duty to assert himself for the good of his nation. Thus, even in these opening lines, Marvell subtly paints a portrait of house and owner that mirrors the tensions created by the owner's retired presence there.
Appealing to his patron's interest in antiquaries, Marvell interrupts his picture of Appleton and its owner with an epic-like historical interlude of their origins in the priory that gave the estate its name and the ruins of which remained. The convent dated back to 1148 (Post 163). The account acknowledges Fairfax's "strong sense of his own family roots" (Hodge 136), indicated by the retainer he paid to Roger Dodsworth, an antiquarian, who composed the genealogy of the Fairfax family tree and who was compiling "what was to become the greatest of English monastic histories, the Monasticon Anglicanun" (Post 175). Fairfax also owned a table of "The Saxon-Monarchs, or ye Kings of England since the Year of Christ 800," which stops at Henry VII but indicates that the right of Charles I to the throne was hereditary, not based on conquest, and so helps to explain Fairfax's rejection of the parliamentarian cause (Hodge 136-7). (9)
The convent episode almost revels in ambiguity, hinting at the near-seduction and imprisonment of the "virgin Thwaites" (90) within the "gloomy cloister's gates" (89). (10) The convent inhabitants slyly promise Isabel Thwaites a protected existence, in-between "[d]elight" and "vice" (170), where "pleasure piety doth meet; / One perfecting the other sweet" (171-2). In probably their most persuasive argument, these "subtle nuns" (94) deceptively present their mode of life as a temporary, liminal experience: "Try but a little while, if you be wise: / The trial neither costs, nor ties" (195-6). In a direct message to his patron, Marvell portrays ancestor William Fairfax in an indecisive state, in-between action and retirement: "He would respect / Religion, but not right neglect" (225-6). William Fairfax, though, proves himself a man of action who rejects escape from duty, recognizing that these nuns, who boast of their embroidery skills (123-36), have deformed "sanctity" (203) into an "art by which [they] finelier cheat" (204), almost cheating the Fairfax family of their descendants. The comical rescue scene anticipates Marvell's subsequent portrayal of Appleton's gardens, a mixture of nature, art, and whimsy. The nuns employ sanctity in the art of war, opposing Fairfax with "wooden saints" (250) and an "old holy-water brush" (252), rosary "chain-shot" (254), and their "sharpest weapons," "their tongues" (256). In Marvell's account, as William whisks away his future bride, the sinister priory seems to disappear, "in one instant dispossessed" (272). (11)
The juxtaposition of this event with the description of the present gardens is carefully contrived to accentuate the poet's shared appreciation of Fairfax's interest in nature and landscaping, to link the stanzas to the playful theme of nature shaped by art, (12) and to offer again an ambiguous criticism of Fairfax's retirement there. Marvell sets up the estate as one that allows nature free reign: "Nature here hath been so free / As if she said, 'Leave this to me'" (75-6); however, we soon see the grounds are carefully structured and mirror the Lord General's past exploits. Because Fairfax "could not cease" his military role (284), he attempts to stay in-between action and contemplation, laying his "gardens out in sport / In the just figure of a fort" (285-6). (13)
Marvell playfully pursues this tactic by creating a picture of all nature sharing this liminal existence, as each morning dawn raises the "colours of the day" (290), the bee buzzes reveille (291-2), the flowers display "silken ensigns" (294) and reload their muskets with "odours new" (296) before they "let fly" the "fragrant volleys" (298) in salute of Lord Fairfax and of his daughter, who herself seems "a flower to be" (302). With his obvious interests in gardening and in collectibles, Fairfax would appreciate this mixture of art and nature.
By now, just as the reader is convinced that the poet creates his anthropomorphic plants in praise of his patron, Marvell inserts a lament accentuating Britain's loss in Fairfax's early retirement. Like Fairfax's lovely garden, England could have flourished with Fairfax's capable leadership, but without it, Marvell must move on to "the abyss" (369) of the Appleton estate meadows, about which he creates images that defy single-point perception and instead portray the liminal realm of possibility (the grass is, after all, "unfathomable" ). Yet if we consider Marvell's odd portrayals of giant grasshoppers towering over men (371-4) as visual art, the images make sense. In England before the seventeenth century, perspective was either not noticed or handled multiple ways, not with a uniform sense of space but more concerned with objects in the space. Thus, painting demonstrated multiple perspectives on some canvases (Fowler 7-10). Henry Hawkins's 1633 emblem book Partheneia Sacra displays an image that, because of lack of visual perspective, portrays a rose near a castle that R. I. V. Hodge estimates would be twenty feet high, with a bee next to it the size of an airplane (Hawkins, facing title page; Hodge 43). Fairfax would have understood the reference to the "deception" involved in painting, referred to by Norgate in Miniatura: "the end of all drawing [is] nothing else but soe to deceave the Eyes, by the deceiptfull juggling and witchcraft of lights and shadows, that round embost and sollid Bodyes in Nature may seeme round embost and solid in Piano" (80). This deception includes inventing new creations, like chimeras and griffons (Gent 44). (14)
The unfixedness of liminality allows Marvell to blend physical states: "unfathomable grass" (370) changes from solid to liquid as men become diving mariners, sounding the depth of the meadow (377-84), then Israelites parting the "green sea" (390), then cruel soldiers massacring the grass and the rail living there (393-400). (15) Marvell's depiction of violence intruding on the seemingly pastoral scene is not totally fanciful. Derek Hirst and Steven Zwicker explain that the summer of 1651 (which they demonstrate was the probable time depicted in the poem) was a time of crisis shown by renewed millennialism, trapping Fairfax and his family literally in-between since "to be situated at Nun Appleton in these weeks, between Levellers to the east of the estate and the massing English army at Ripon just to the west, was to live the contradictions as well as the physical dangers of scriptural politics" (253). Threats of Scottish invasion also remained. If Scottish forces moving toward the border in late July 1651 took the eastern road into England, they would pass within a few miles of the Fairfax estate (Hirst and Zwicker 250). (16)
Zooming in on one figure in the landscape, Marvell introduces "bloody Thestylis" (401), who scoops up the murdered rail to serve to the mowers, a reference, some think, to King Charles (Hodge 150). In directly addressing the reader and referring to Marvell's own words--"'He called us Israelites'" (406)--this character also serves as a liminal figure in the visual portrayal of the meadows. Probably familiar to both Fairfax and Marvell, Thestylis functions as a Sprecher figure, a character in Mannerist painting who exists in-between the world of the artist and that of the portrayal. Her equivalent in painting, Wylie Sypher explains, is often seen as "a sharply accented foreground figure who faces outward toward the spectator, yet twirls inward, gesturing or glancing toward the action behind him" (143). In drama the direct address of an intimate soliloquy performs the same function. As such a figure, Thestylis blurs the boundary between art and life, involving us, "by direct address, almost by shock tactics, ... shortening the aesthetic distance" between us and Marvell's poem (Sypher 144). The inclusion of this Sprecher makes us wonder if we are inside or out of the poem as we attempt to focus on a scene now turning kaleidoscope-like to a bloody battle (417-24), then a country dance (425-32), then hay islands in a sea (433-6), then hay pyramids in the desert (437-40), then back to the tabla rasa state before creation (446). Marvell can use this liminal space of potentiality (409-46) as a blank canvas (444) to create any landscape he desires: a bullring (447-8), a field of cattle (451-4), Davenant's image of creation (455-6), and, through the use of optical instruments, fleas (461-2). (17)
The subsequent flooding of the Denton River appropriately serves as an initiation rite, cleansing the initiate for a new role as he emerges from the liminal state. We attempt to visualize this seemingly violent scene of destruction as all blend into one self-reflecting watery state--"The river in itself is drowned" (471)--a liminal state spawning imaginative creations of every kind--eels bellowing within oxen (473-4), horses hanging on to leeches (475-6), boats sailing over bridges (477), and fish intruding on horses' stables. Even this fanciful depiction might refer to the General's military past. On September 14, 1643 Fairfax and his father Ferdinando cut the banks and opened the sluices from the Hull and Humber rivers (Gray 171), which, in Fairfax's own words, "drowned the Land two Miles about the Town," stopping the Royalist army (Fairfax 64). Thus the scene paints an anamorphic yet historical picture that reiterates the self-reflecting aspects of "Appleton House" and empowers Marvell as artistic creator and advisor.
These mirror images connect with Marvell's purpose in "Appleton" in several ways. The seventeenth century was fascinated with perspective and reflections/inter-reflections of the landscape, particularly in mirroring surfaces like water. The second edition of Norgate's Miniatura expanded his discussion on landscape and its importance in the visual arts (Muller and Murrel 12). Thus, use of reflective surfaces in describing the Appleton estate appeals to Lord Fairfax in his love of nature and gardening. Also, the mirror has been used as an indicator of truth, giving a pure image of reality (Goldberg 145). Mirrors then became associated with Holy Scripture since it gave one a true image of humankind, and then, as a "speculum," the mirror image began to be applied to any book that gave a true image of correct behavior, with topics from governing, such as A Mirror for Magistrates, to etiquette, such as The Mirour of Good Manners (Goldberg 127). In the description of the arrangement of Fairfax's gardens, "Appleton House" does give accurate description of the Fairfax estate, yet in his subtle criticisms of what Fairfax could offer his country, Marvell also offers frank advice. Mirror images in the poem also connect the work to visual art, since mirrors have long been used to reflect a three-dimensional image onto a two-dimensional plane, a practice advocated by Leonardo da Vinci: "When you wish to see whether your whole picture accords with what you have portrayed from nature, take a mirror and reflect the actual object in it ... You should take the mirror as your master, that is a flat mirror, because on its surface things in many ways bear a resemblance to a painting ..." (Leonardo 202). Finally, because of their use as indicators of truthful (or deceiving) self-image and interpretation, mirrors are linked to the period in one's maturity during which "the (infant) self attempts to fashion an individual identity by separating itself from otherness and then seeking to reincorporate this otherness within the new fictional identity" (Spariosu 91). Named by Jacques Lacan as the "mirror stage" (2), this stage of liminality, as in various liminal realms of "Appleton House," is a period of non-identity and possibility, shown in many scenes of the poem.
To this point, Marvell has served as painter; as he retires to the wood, he inserts himself ("myself embark" ) into the canvas as a type of Sprecher figure, bridging the gap between his patron and his portrayal and becoming a part of the picture. The wood has long been associated with unknown dangers and darkness, a place of initiation and trial with its "symbolic threshold, whose crossing enacts a rite of passage" as in Dante's "selva oscura" (Allue 463). Marvell seems to return to the essence of liminality--pure potential and non-differentiation (note his use of "green" in lines 484, 496 and 628, reminiscent of the state of pure imagination in "The Garden")--so that he can understand the universal language of nature and become a "great prelate of the grove" (592), bridging the gap between man, art, and nature:
Already I begin to call In their most learn'd original: And where I language want, my signs The bird upon the bough divines. (569-72)
In this liminal realm, Marvell can expand and experience the condition of pure potentiality, metamorphosing, as Milena Allue describes, into "a vegetal element belonging to the wood and, then, into an almost Arcimboldesque figure with chaff instead of hair ([line] 600)" (Allue 464). (18)
Marvell as Sprecher reminds Fairfax that this wood images his own ancestry, too, in the "double wood of ancient stocks" (489) that figures the "family trees" of Fairfax and Vere. As Fairfax artfully laid out his garden in the "Cinq Ports" (349) of defense, Nature reflects the owner here in the actions of the forest inhabitants. Commentators have long interpreted the actions of the hewel, who is able to fell a great oak because it was weakened by "A traitor-worm," to be a political allegory for the execution of Charles I (Auty 63-81, Wallace 232-57, Legouis 27-90, Patterson 95-110, Chemaik 28-42). In light of Marvell's canvas also serving as mirror, this interpretation has merit, particularly in the oak's "seem[ing] to fall content, / Viewing the treason's punishment" (559-60) and Fairfax's own disillusionment with the parliamentarian cause. However, Marvell's mirror instructs as well as reflects, so that, as "prelate of the grove" (592), Marvell can demonstrate to the retired Fairfax the temptation and even danger of remaining in a state of potential and not action: Marvell the Sprecher is forcedly taken by the wood, embroidered with oak leaves (587), clasped by ivy (589-90), bound by woodbines (609), chained by brambles (615), and nailed by briars (616). The imprisonment is not only physical: Marvell also has "encamped [his] mind" (602) and heart (603-4) behind the trees, hidden from the call of active thought and love. This type of retreat might seem enticing to a patron without a cause, but to remain so, undifferentiated from nature, is to remain in pure liminality, in permanent potentiality with no individuality at all, in a state "Where all things gaze themselves, and doubt / If they be in it or without" (637-8).
The call to action, both for Marvell, left suspended in-between the earth and sky idly fishing from the osier's tough branches, and for Fairfax, in retreat from an active military career, is not the Fairfax estate and ancestry but the Fairfax future, embodied in their only hope, daughter Mary. Her entrance brings all parts of the canvas from liminality to a focused stasis: Nature "recollect[s]" itself (658), the sun displays proper respect and modesty (661-4), and even the halcyon (19) is outdone by Mary, whose presence congeals the air and the stream, trapping "stupid fishes" (677) like "flies in crystal" (678)--"Nature is wholly vitrified" (688). As Toliver notes, under Mary's influence, "the topography becomes akin to landscape painting" (116). (20)
Marvell angles the mirror away from the playful, even anamorphic aspects of Nunappleton as a reflection of the liminal life of Fairfax to present it now as a much more focused reflection of Mary. She gives the "wondrous beauty" to the gardens (689-90) and sweetness to the meadows (692); she makes the river "crystal pure" (693-4) and bestows "straightness" (691) on the previously pure potentiality of the woods. And as the "gardens, woods, meads, [and] rivers" (696) reflect Mary's qualities, they give these natural gifts back to her in forms of art: grassy "carpets," (699), flower crowns (700), a brook-made looking glass (7012), and an arboreal privacy "screen" (704). Like nature, Mary possesses the universal language of beauty, "heaven's dialect" (712), but unlike Marvell in the wood and her own father in retirement, Mary will not remain in a state of potential but will marry and continue the Fairfax line. In referring to Mary as "a sprig of mistletoe / On the Fairfacian oak" (739-40), Marvell introduces a rather solemn message, even advice, to his patron. The Appleton House estate was entailed on his only daughter, who was to suffer an obviously unhappy match with George Villiers, Second Duke of Buckingham, and was forced to try to sell Nunappleton to pay off some of her dead husband's debts (Erickson 161-3, Semler 233). Whereas sons mythically follow the pattern of leaving but returning to take their father's place, daughters break family bonds, leaving to enter another family (Boose 62). Victor Turner calls them liminal "threshold" figures within a cultural space, "whose very presence asserts a breach in the genealogical fence of family enclosure.... She exists only to be lost" (Ritual Process 94-130). (21)
Likewise, the mistletoe is a liminal type of plant in legend as well as in science. A semi-parasitic plant, the mistletoe does undergo photosynthesis to produce organic matter but gets water and mineral nutrients from its host. Its seeds germinate and root between the bark and the inner wood of the host and form a "limen"--"a connection through which water and nutrients pass from the host to the mistletoe" (De Baar). The plant grows on oak but especially prefers old apple trees, both figuring in the poem (Grieve). The reference to the priest cutting the "sacred bud" (742) from the "Fairfacian oak" (740) alludes to the tradition, known from Pliny and repeated by John Selden and others, that the mistletoe was sacred to the Druids, whom seventeenth-century English believed were ancient inhabitants of Britain descended from Noah (Brooks-Davis 110-13). Selden reports it was used in Druidic rituals as "both preservative against all Poisons and a remedy against Barrennes" (172; long s updated). However, as a semi-parasitic plant that penetrates the bark of its host for survival, the mistletoe may be harmful to the tree and may contribute to its decline and death (DeBaar).
The rather ominous acknowledgement that at Mary's wedding, the Fairfaxes must "make their destiny their choice" (744) echoes the inevitability expressed by Cromwell's leadership in "An Horatian Ode" ("'Tis madness to resist or blame / The force of angry heaven's flame" ) and reminds Fairfax that often destiny controls choice. (22) Lord Fairfax may remain on his estate, an estate which mirrors the in-between stage of life for Fairfax now, but he should remember that the outside world exists; life on the Nunappleton estate is only a stage in the continuing legacy of Thomas Fairfax, Third Lord Fairfax of Cameron, a legacy carried by daughter Mary.
Marvell completes his canvas with a final nod at his intimacy with his patron and an image of the topsy-turvy aspects of liminality: salmon fishers wearing their canoes like shoes on their heads (771-3). Even in likening these "tortoise-like" men of the sea to "rational amphibii" (774), Marvell presents an in-between state and also appeals to his patron's passion for collecting: The tortoise recalls Fairfax's humility indicated by Appleton House, stretching to fit its owner in stanzas 4-7. Also, Ralph Thoresby decribes a "large Sea-Tortoise" among the collections in the Leeds Museum, which houses Fairfax's own artifacts, "brought from the Isle of Ascension in South America, by Dr. Midgley of this Town" who gave the shell to Thoresby: The shell "is near a Foot above three Yards in Circumference. The Natives make Boats of the Shells" (Thoresby 5). With Fairfax's penchant for rarities, he might well have owned a similar shell or at least saw those of others, increasing his appreciation of Marvell's final image. Perhaps more significantly, though the curved canoes modestly accommodating the heads of the salmon-fishers also resemble Fairfax's home, which "grows spherical" (52) to fit his greatness, these canoes do not function as permanent refuges but liminal ones: They are temporary means of passage from one state to another. Likewise the Fairfax estate, Marvell seems to advise, is not intended as a permanent retreat from social responsibility but "for an inn to entertain / Its Lord a while, but not remain" (71-2).
In presenting the house and estate of Lord Fairfax as a realm of imaginative whimsy and possibility that also mirrors the General's in-between state, neither in the world of action nor in a haven protected from violence, and by inserting himself into the portrait as a participant in the istoria, (23) Marvell succeeds in creating and deepening a relationship with his patron, empowering himself as artist and as advisor. Having led Fairfax on a tour of the playful potentiality of Fairfax's life and interests, of the realm of liminality, the poet can confidently invite his patron out of this transitive state, to join him in crossing the threshold, not into a refuge from the world, but into the beginning of the Fairfax future, a future that includes Andrew Marvell: "Let's in" (775).
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(1) Hunt summarizes these views and observes that "Marvell remains mysteriously hidden from us today behind much playful, artful refusal to commit himself to do anything that would help us in bringing a picture of an obviously complex character into some focus" (11).
(2) Commentators disagree whether "Appleton" is critical of Fairfax. Auty believes the poem's complexity suggests it was for someone the poet admired and notes Marvell remained "an ally of Fairfax after the Restoration and a friend of the Fairfaxes throughout his life" (65). Most, however, think Marvell presents at least subtle criticism of his patron, including Larson 59-70, O'Loughlin 127, Wilcher 150, and Hunt 98-99.
(3) Others have noted the importance of the spaces between Marvell's portrayals. Semler comments, "The uniqueness of Marvell's portraiture resides in the fact that his true subject is the gap between appearance and reality: he portrays the disjunction, the disconnection, the faultline" (225).
(4) Because of its subject matter and timing, "Appleton" could more easily be categorized as a landscape poem, a genre that easily blurs with painting. Early in the seventeenth century, Edward Norgate wrote that landscape painting was "an Art soe new in England, and soe lately come a shore, as all the Language within our fower Seas cannot find it a name, but a borrowed one, and that from a people that are noe great Lenders but upon good Security, the Duch" (42). The landscape poet, according to Richmond, "characteristically exploits circumstantial detail of persona, place, and atmosphere to give to this kind of poem the appearance of autobiographical realism: thus he normally uses his own name and that of a real place." This authenticity differentiates it from "the more oblique pastoral mode" (10). James Turner explains that the crisis years 1630-1660 witnessed an increase in the number and quality of retirement and garden poems (1), possibly because their purpose is to mediate "the cultural and the natural" as Mitchell speculates: Landscape "is not only a natural scene, and not just a representation of a natural scene, but a natural representation of a natural scene, a trace or icon of nature in nature itself, as if nature were imprinting and encoding its essential structures on our perceptual apparatus." Mitchell links this concept with the popularity of water in landscape and of Marvell's own use of reflection: "Perhaps that's why we place a special value on landscapes with lakes or reflecting pools. The reflection exhibits Nature representing itself to itself, displaying an identity of the Real and the Imaginary that certifies the reality of our own images" (15). The influence of landscape painting and landscape poetry was mutual: Renaissance landscape began to be constructed "according to clearly defined principles, guided by a body of theory whose influence can be traced in literature as much as in art" (James Turner 10).
(5) For Gombrich all representation, whether visual or literary, relies to some extent on "guided projection," the audience's filling in what is not given in a painting or other work of art from the memory. Sometimes, the viewer/reader expects something that is not there so compensates for what is missing, adding to or ignoring the original composition as "projection" takes over "perception" (203-08). As in Keats's concept of Negative Capability, omissions and uncertainties blur the boundaries of a work, spurring the reader to create closure that is not evident.
(6) After his death, Fairfax's collection was sold to the family of Ralph Thoresby, the Leeds antiquarian. Thoresby lists the contents of his museum in Ducatus Leodiensus.
(7) The copy exists in the British Museum, Add. 12461, dedicated to Mary Fairfax. On one of the pages before the dedication, signed by Daniel King, appears Thomas Fairfax's coat of arms, cut from the original cover (Norgate xviii-xix). Norgate editors Muller and Murrell comment that the unpublished Miniatura was fair game for plagiarizers: "For [Daniel] King and the rest of the scavengers who began to pick at it, Norgate's unpublished text was a useable scrap to tinker with and sell" (16). Owning the Norgate text placed Lord Fairfax into a "virtuoso culture" that included Elias Ashmole (1617-92), who performed "secret [al]chemical experiments" and mastered heraldry drawing, and Sir Thomas Hanmer (1612-78), former cupbearer to Charles I who fought for the king in the Civil War and retired to his estate during the Interregnum, devoting himself to gardening and writing a handbook on gardening (Muller and Murrell 16).
(8) All quotes from Marvell's poems are from Smith's edition. Post reports that the present remnants of Appleton House are not of the house described in Marvell's poem but "probably a remnant of a grander, double-winged house that Fairfax remodeled in the mid-1650s, after Marvell's departure" (168; also Erickson 163 if, Newman 99, Tait 157, and J. G. Turner 547-48). This later house is the subject of the "not-always reliable topographical etcher, Daniel King" in "An Orthographical Designe of Severall Views upon the Road in England and Wales" (c. 1660) (Post 168). For King's sketch of the later house (c. 1656; Bod Gough Maps 1, fol. 1), see Smith 211, Fig. 7. However, McClung thinks Marvell could have been describing the new house, citing the similarity of Marvell's lines 69-71, describing the house as a temporary "inn" for the General, to Fairfax's own poem "Upon the New-built House att Apleton": "Thinke not o Man that dwells herein / This House's a stay but as an Inn" (Bodleian M2S Fairfax 40, qtd. McClung 434).
(9) Johnson, editor of The Fairfax Correspondence, indicates the Fairfax family demonstrated an impressive care in preserving evidence of their lineage: "In no other collection are there to be discovered such a mass of letters and documents, public and private; pedigrees, not only of the different branches of their own family, but of all the families with whom they were connected by intermarriage; seals, mottoes, arms, and the varied paraphernalia of heraldic honours" (I:lviii).
(10) Both in inhabitants and size the nunnery was larger than most. The church of Nunappleton and the cloister measured larger than any other priory in Yorkshire (Harrison 18). Nineteen nuns were at Nunappleton at the time of its dissolution, while the other eleven Cistercian Priories averaged twelve, with Swine Priory the largest with twenty and Ellerton in Swaledale Priory the smallest with six (Cross and Vickers 556-98). Most were daughters of gentry and yeomen, so Isabel Thwaites's presence is not unusual. Though Post explains that Marvell "invented" her recruitment (175), the legend persists of William's dashing rescue of Isabel. Interestingly, existing records indicate several seemingly illegitimate births by residents of Nunappleton, one by Jane Fairfax, who confessed incest with Guy Fairfax in May 1555 (Dickens 18). The daughter of Robert Fairfax, gentleman, she was originally bequeathed to Sinningthwaite Priory by her father in July 1526 (Cross and Vickers 587). After the surrender of the Sinningthwaite on 3 August 1536, she moved to Nunappleton until its surrender on 5 December 1539, after which, according to records, Jane "contynewed for the moste parte with one Guye Fairfax at Laisthrope besides Gillinge and with hyme hath committed inceste" (Cross and Vickers 587). Two. points of interpretation should be made, however, as to the seriousness of this charge. As Dickens explains, the accusation of incest could mean that they "stood within the prohibited degrees" but the term was "very commonly used to denote any sexual relation by or with a nun" (18). However, Jane and Guy could indeed be closely related. According to Glover's genealogy in his Visitation of Yorkshire, Guy could be the fifth son of Sir Thomas Fairfax of Walton and Gilling (c 1475-1520), who became the owner of the Gilling Estate in c.1490 (39; Dickens 18, n. 50; "Visitations" 36-37). (This branch of the Fairfax family descended from Gabriel Fairfax, younger son of William Fairfax and Isabel Thwaites. See Wilson 5). According to Glover, Thomas Fairfax's sixth son was named Robert, very possibly Jane's father, making Guy her uncle. Because neither Robert nor Guy Fairfax inherited the estate, little is known about either (Glover 39; Dickens 18; Castelli, "Thomas"). After Nunappleton's dissolution, residents like Jane Fairfax would have few other options than an illicit relationship with a male. At the final closing of religious houses residents could apply for a capacity, a dispensation releasing them from their vows and permitting them to assume new careers in the secular world (Woodward 69). While monks could find employment as parish or chantry priests, as private chaplains, or as clerks in royal or noble service, female religious had no place to turn other than to their families, who often were not happy to take in a dependent daughter for whom they thought they had provided. Though released from their vows of poverty and obedience, the nuns were still bound by chastity so could not find security in legal marriage. In Jane Fairfax's case, she was forced to leave Nunappleton in 1539 but pleaded guilty to incest sixteen years later. She could have suffered many years of want before her relationship with Guy Fairfax.
(11) In 1518 Sir William Fairfax of Steeton married Isabel Thwaites, a wealthy orphan whose inheritance included Bishop's Hill in York and the estate at Denton (Castelli, "Sir William") mentioned in stanza 10. Marvell's account, however, falls between fact and fiction. Wilcher finds no documentary evidence for Marvell's story in stanzas 12-34 (150). Hodge calls the story "a Founder's myth for the House of Fairfax" (145). Though Markham's 1870 biography of Fairfax recounts the story as fact, he cites only Marvell's poem as evidence (4). Erickson concurs that Marvell's account in the poem is the only authority of Isabella's confinement and Sir William's rescue (160). Though Marvell indicates that the marriage of William Fairfax and Isabel Thwaites began a "simultaneous founding of a dynasty and acquisition of a country estate" (Patton 829), the "surrender" of the priory is recorded on 5 December 1539, a full twenty years after the marriage (Cross and Vickers 580). Harrison details the fate of Nunappleton, with many of the structures stripped or destroyed and only the steeple and churchyard reported intact when William Fairfax bought the site in 1553 (21-23). Harrison reports he "pulled down the nunnery buildings and built a house there," speculating he "may have adapted existing buildings, such as the hall and including possibly the prioress's accommodation, on a north-south axis utilising [sic] the stone and other materials from the site" (22).
(12) Post comments that Marvell's humorous account would have appealed to Fairfax, "whose own verse shows a penchant for anti-Romish and misogynistic themes" (176).
(13) The obvious source for confirmation of the accuracy of Marvell's description of the garden would be Markham's 1870 biography of Fairfax. Markham does appear to support Marvell's claim, noting the general took delight in his garden with flowers planted in masses "tulips, pinks, and roses, each in separate beds, which were cut into the shape of forts with five bastions" (366). However, the only source Markham identifies for this information is Marvell's poem.
(14) The unreliability of sight in portraying reality had been understood at least since Leonardo da Vinci's writings on painting. In 1608, George Hakewill commented on the diminishing of size by distance, an important feature of landscape: "from the topps of high mountains, heardes of cattell seeme to be but ants, and from a watch tower a farre of, shipps under saile, but as flying doves; large square towers like little round pigeon houses, and the sea and heavens to embrace & kisse each other. These things all men knowe, and the greatest part acknowledge, to be errors of the eie" (51; long s and u/v modernized). Similarly, James Turner likens the images of the bulging brain and arched eyebrows in stanza 1, and the distorted images in the meadow and the wood sections, to anamorphoses, "slanted portraits which seem normal when viewed from the side" (78). In these anamorphic figures, we can depend only on Marvell to indicate the correct angle of vision.
(15) Alvarez believes this scene is not so much metaphysical wit but "nearer the wit of Lewis Carroll" (120). Many believe the thoughtless killing of the rail has definite political overtones; the rail's significance is its amphibian-like existence. Identified by Allen as a rallus crex or Corn Crake, the bird exists in marshes, an environment in-between land and water (209). Toliver notes that the "nightmarish discord" of these images of violence intruding on this seemingly pastoral scene might be a special message to Fairfax that he cannot totally escape from outside threats (115-6).
(16) Hirst and Zwicker reason that the poem depicts summer, a time for mowing, and that it could not be summer of 1650, since Fairfax remained in London for the second half of July 1650. Marvell began tutoring in the late autumn of 1650, according to his "complimentary verses to the Hull physician Dr. Witty." In 1652, Lord and Lady Fairfax and probably Mary spent the summer in Surrey; also that summer experienced a drought that shriveled crops and dried up the river. Therefore, the summer of 1651 is the most probable time of "Appleton House" (Hirst and Zwicker 249; see Marvell's letter to Witty in Margoliouth I:307-8).
(17) Marvell's use of the term "Landskip" (458) established theoretically his use of the flea and other fanciful images, since Norgate explains in Miniatura, "Lanscape is nothing but Deceptive visions, a kind of cousning or cheating your owne Eyes, by your owne consent and assistance" (51). The flea reference also fits in with new concepts of relativity in the mid-seventeenth century. Hodge gives a reproduction of a flea from R. Hooke's engraving in Micrographia (1665). According to Hodge, Hooke's original plate folded out into a drawing nearly two feet long, "clearly intended to astonish, as well as to display the anatomical features of the louse" (44-45).
(18) post believes the wood section mirrored Fairfax's botanical interests and would have deepened the General's relationship with Marvell: Fairfax "would surely have been pleased by a poet who can enumerate, from so many different angles, the rich variety of native trees on his property-oak, elders, elm, ash, hazel, and willows (or osiers)--and its many birds, from 'heron,' to 'hewel,' to 'halcyon,' to stay with a single letter of the alphabet" (193). In the Leeds Museum, which houses Fairfax's collections, is found a manuscript that might have been Fairfax's own concerning the art of gardening: A Tretee of Nicholas Bollard departed in 3 Parties; 1. of gendrying of Trees; 2. of graffyinge, the third forsoth is of altracions (Thoresby 83).
(19) The halcyon is a fabled bird that ancients claimed bred at the time of the winter solstice in a nest floating on the sea and charmed the wind and waves to calmness during the period ("halcyon," OED def. la).
(20) "Flying betwixt the day and night" (670), the halcyon presents an amphibian image similar to the tortoise in stanza 97. Brooks-Davis links the halcyon to Mary, since the mythical bird can be seen as the Hermetic equivalent of the Virgin Mary (105).
(21) This belief that "the role of women in a patrilineal order is to serve as the medium through which that order replicates itself" is exactly why allowing a daughter to inherit was risky. Mary Fairfax was supposed to bridge the gap in the line and restore some continuity, passing the Fairfax estate to a grandson (Patton 834-5). Marvell, of course, was unaware that these hopes would be dashed, that Villiers, "the epitome of the Restoration rake" would turn out to be a "scheming, dissolute philanderer" and that Mary would not only have a miserable marital life but would be hounded by the Duke's creditors after he died, and would die childless in 1704 (Erickson 163).
(22) For an account of the negotiations surrounding Mary's wedding to Villiers, see Erickson.
(23) A key term in Leon Battista Alberti's influential 1435 treatise Della Pictura (On Painting), istoria has no present-day verbal equivalent. It was first used in the fifteenth century to refer to the complex new narrative and allegorical subjects growing popular among painters. As Alberti translator John R. Spencer explains, an accurate interpretation of the term must be derived from Alberti's treatise, but in his description of the istoria, Alberti advocates "new humanist art which will be capable of incorporating the finds of the literary and theological humanists while at the same time satisfying the demands of the artistic humanist" (24). The achievement of istoria was considered the "most ambitious and most difficult category of works a painter can attempt" (Emison 613). In describing the qualities necessary to produce the excellence of istoria, Alberti notes the painting should impress by its "monumentality and dramatic content" rather than massive size; figures in the painting should project their emotions onto the viewer; the painting, while possessing variety and richness, should avoid excess; the painter should employ visual, temporal, and spatial unity and should use light and shade, color and gesture effectively; and the painter should be well educated (Alberti 23-24). Achieving these, Alberti explains, "The istoria which merits both praise and admiration will be so agreeably and pleasantly attractive that it will capture the eye of whatever learned or unlearned person is looking at it and will move his soul" (75).
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|Title Annotation:||Andrew Marvell's Upon Appleton House: To My Lord Fairfax|
|Publication:||Explorations in Renaissance Culture|
|Article Type:||Critical essay|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2009|
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