John Stubbs

Coy Poet

Andrew Marvell: The Chameleon


Yale University Press 352pp £25 order from our bookshop

Late one night in December 1671, a band of soldiers fell upon a man outside his London lodgings. He was ambushed returning from a late supper. Having beaten and pinned him to the ground, the troopers made a point of disfiguring him – slitting his nose – before neighbours and passers-by drove them away. The victim, Sir John Coventry, was an MP. Shortly before the incident, he had made an unwise, if well-received, joke in the Commons about the salacious tendencies of Charles II. The king, it seemed, made his feelings on the matter clear in the street.

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