On This Day In Literary History~

March 21, 1678

Reward offered for identity of pamphlet author

The London Gazette offers a reward to anyone revealing the author of a pamphlet called An Account of the Growth of Popery. The pamphlet, it was later revealed, had been published anonymously by Andrew Marvell in 1677.

Although today Marvell is best remembered as the gifted metaphysical poet who composed witty works like To His Coy Mistress (1681), during his own time he was known as a political figure and pamphleteer. Educated at Cambridge, Marvell supported himself as a tutor both abroad and at home in England for many years. After tutoring the ward of Sir Oliver Cromwell, head of the English government after the overthrow and execution of King Charles I, Marvell went to work as assistant to John Milton, a secretary to the government. Milton, who had recently gone blind, would not write his masterpiece Paradise Lost until 1667.

While Marvell had been skeptical of Cromwell, his admiration for the man grew until Cromwell’s death in 1659. After his death, however, Marvell became a supporter of the Restoration movement that brought Charles II to the throne. In 1659, Marvell ran for Parliament from his hometown of Hull and won the position, which he held for the rest of his life. Marvell wrote several political pamphlets in the 1670s, including the anonymous Account of the Growth of Popery. Three years after his death in 1678, Marvell’s housekeeper, claiming to be his widow, published Miscellaneous Poems, the only collection of Marvell’s poetic works.

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