Andrew Marvell was born at Winestead-in-Holderness, Yorkshire, on March 31, 1621 to the Rev. Andrew Marvell, and his wife Anne. When Marvell was but three years of age, the family moved to Hull, where Rev. Marvell became lecturer in Holy Trinity Church. He was educated at the Hull Grammar School, and in 1633 he matriculated as a Sizar of Trinity College, Cambridge. Two poems by Marvell, one in Greek, one in Latin, were printed in the “Musa Cantabrigiensis” in 1637. In 1638 Marvell was admitted a Scholar of Trinity College, and took his B.A. degree in the same year. A few days after receiving his scholarship, Marvell’s mother died. He remained a few more years in residence, leaving Cambridge only after his father’s death, by drowning, in 1640.
It is uncertain what Marvell did in the years that followed. It is possible that he held a clerkship in his brother-in-law Edmund Popple’s trading house from 1640-1642. He travelled abroad in France, Holland, Switzerland, Spain, and Italy from 1642-46. In 1650, Marvell became the tutor of twelve-year-old Mary Fairfax (later Duchess of Buckingham), daughter of Sir Thomas Fairfax, retired Lord General of the parliamentary forces. At the Yorkshire seat of the Fairfax family, Nun Appleton House, Marvell seems to have written, over a period of about three years, most of his non-satiric English poems. The sojourn provided material for Marvell’s most profound poem, “Upon Appleton House,” a poem crucial to his development both as man and as poet. Here he examines the competing claims of public service and the search for personal insight. To the same period probably belong Marvell’s “To his Coy Mistress” and “The Definition of Love.”
Marvell had befriended John Milton by 1653, when Milton wrote a glowing recommendation for Marvell for the post of Assistant Latin Secretary to the Council of State, a post he eventually secured in 1657. Marvell, who had been a supporter of the King, under the Commonwealth, became an adherent of Cromwell. In the summer of 1657, Marvell tutored Cromwell’s nephew and ward, William Dutton, living at Eton.
In September, 1657, Marvell was appointed assistant to John Milton, Latin Secretary for the Commonwealth. Marvell was paid a salary of £200, the same as Milton, although his was not a life pension. In his quiet way he seems to have been helpful after the Restoration (1660) in saving Milton from an extended jail term and possible execution. Starting in 1659, Marvell was elected M. P. for his hometown of Hull, and he continued to represent it until his death During his last twenty years of life, Marvell was engaged in political activities, taking part in embassies to Holland and Russia and writing political pamphlets and satires. Marvell’s Miscellaneous Poems were printed posthumously in 1681. Marvell died on 16 August, 1678 of tertian ague, and the malpractice of the attending physician. He was buried in the church of St. Giles-in-the-Fields.