Lot 24
  • 24

Marvell, Andrew.

10,000 - 15,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Autograph letter signed at the head ("Andr: Marvell"), to Sir Henry Thompson

writing in a satirical tone about court gossip as well as Parliamentary and political news, including the admission of Giles Strangways to the Privy Council, the rumour that Lord Arundell of Trerice would be similarly honoured, and that "Shaftesbury, Candish, & Dik Nuport are forbidden the Court", 1 page, 4to, [London], 26 June 1675, integral address leaf with postal markings and red wax seal impression, docketed, seal tear repaired 

Catalogue Note

"...But Scaramuccio acts in the Hall at Whitehall and every man pays his mony. The Blades in the Privy gardens on Wensday night broke all the cureous Diall to pieces & cut the Sentinell that always attended it..."

Letters by Marvell are exceptionally rare at auction: only two have been sold at auction in the past fifty years, a 1675 letter (sold in these rooms in 1964), and a 1678 letter (sold in these rooms in 1979, and again in our New York rooms, 26 June 2000, lot 225, $16,000).

Henry Thompson of Escrick was a York merchant well known to Marvell through his Popple family relations. The political outlook shared by the two men is evident in the sceptical tone to Marvell's comments on those seeking political office and the unmistakable note of satire when he recounts the frivolities of the royal court. This letter shares two topical references with Marvell's late satire, 'The Statue at Charing Cross', suggesting both were written at a similar date. The presence of a clown at Whitehall was a gift to the satirist, so it is perhaps unsurprising that the news that Scaramuccia (usually anglicised as Scaramouche), the black-masked clown from the commedia dell'arte, was attracting crowds there nightly was also referred to in Marvell's poem. Both texts also mention the destruction of the sundial in Whitehall Palace Privy Garden (an extraordinary pyramidal structure designed by the natural philosopher Francis Line), which was vandalised by the Earl of Rochester in a fit of late-night drunken exuberance.