Marvell at Hull, in 2021

Hull is set to host 400th anniversary celebrations for one of the leading English 17th-century poets, but who was better known during his lifetime as an MP who championed political liberties and religious toleration.

Andrew Marvell (1621-78) may today be regarded as one of the best-known poets of his generation, but his poetry was only brought to widespread attention centuries later by the poet and critic, T.S. Eliot.

Born on 31 March 1621 just outside Hull, Marvell moved to the city when he was three and educated at Hull Grammar School, before later becoming the MP for his home city in 1659.

While Marvell’s poetry has never been entirely forgotten, he was chiefly remembered as an MP and political writer, a patriotic champion of political liberties and religious toleration in the tradition of William Wilberforce, who, like him, hailed from Hull.

It was T.S. Eliot’s essay ‘Andrew Marvell’, published in the Times Literary Supplement on 31 March 1921, which brought his poetry to a much wider audience, and saw his enigmatic poetry finally receiving significant academic interest.

Now a century on from Eliot’s essay, 2021 will see Hull marking the 400th anniversary of Marvell’s birth with a range of events, talks, and poetry writing workshops. Celebrating Marvell’s life and literature, and reflecting on his legacy for the future, ‘Marvell 400’ events include a live broadcast via Zoom on 31st March 2021, and an online 360-degree film, ‘By the Rising Tide of the Humber’, part of Hull’s Freedom Festival in September, in tribute to the poet who often wrote about flooding (

Elsewhere in the UK, the Hull poet’s anniversary will also be celebrated at Scotland’s University of St Andrews, which will be running ‘Reimagining Andrew Marvell: The Poet at 400’, 6-8 May 2021, (

In his home city, a statue of Marvell can be found in Trinity Square, outside the Old Grammar School that he attended as a child. Built in 1583 and a school until 1878 – where fellow Hull local William Wilberforce, the anti-slavery campaigner, was also taught – the building is now the ‘Hands on History’ Museum.

Born at Winestead-in-Holderness, near Hull, he moved to the city when his father became master of Hull Charterhouse and lecturer at Holy Trinity Church. After attending Hull Grammar School, he left for Trinity College Cambridge before returning to Yorkshire in 1650.

Moving to Nun Appleton, near York, he worked as tutor to the daughter of Thomas, Lord Fairfax, the former general of the New Model Army. The following year he became tutor to Oliver Cromwell’s ward, William Dutton, and in 1654 became Cromwell’s unofficial Laureate.

While chiefly revered for one of the most famous of metaphysical poems, ‘To his Coy Mistress’, his works also include ‘The Garden’, ‘An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland’, ‘The Mower’s Song’ and the country house poem ‘Upon Appleton House’.

In 1659, Marvell was elected MP for Hull, a post he held until his sudden death in August 1678, and he is buried in St. Giles-in-the-Fields, London.

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