THE severe tracts which he was continually publishing against the state and popery, and the inflammatory literary fight which he had with Parker and others, often made his life in danger; but no bribes, no offers of fortune or situation, though so very contrary to his private interest, could make him swerve from the virtuous path he had first set out upon, and in which he continued to walk invariably to the last.
A man of such excellent parts and facetious converse could not be unknown to Charles the Second, who loved the company of wits so much that he would suffer the severest jokes, rather than not enjoy them. Mr. Marvell had been honoured with an evening's entertainment by His Majesty, who was so charmed with the ease of his manners, the soundness of his judgement, and the nimbleness of his wit, that the following morning, to show him his regard, he sent the Lord Treasurer Danby to wait upon him with a particular message from himself. His lordship with some difficulty found his elevated retreat, which was in a second floor in a court in the Strand, the very gradus ad Parnassum. Lord Danby, from the darkness of the staircase, and the narrowness thereof, abruptly burst open the door, and suddenly entered the room, wherein he found Mr. Marvell writing. Astonished at the sight of so noble and so unexpected a visitor, he asked his lordship with a smile, if he had not mistook his way. 'No,' replied my Lord, with a bow, 'not since I have found Mr. Marvell'; continuing, that he came with a message from the King, who wished to do him some signal service, to testify his high opinion of his merits. He replied with his usual pleasantry that kings had it not in their power to serve him; he had no void left aching in his breast. But becoming more serious, he assured his lordship that he was highly sensible of his mark of His Majesty's affection; but he knew too well the nature of courts to accept of favours, which were expected to bind a man in the chains of their interest, which his spirit of freedom and independence would not suffer him to embrace. To take a place at the hands of His Majesty would be proving him guilty of the first sin, ingratitude, if he voted against him; and if he went in the smooth stream of his interest, it might be doing injustice to his country and his conscience. He therefore begged that His Majesty would allow him to enjoy a state of liberty, and to esteem him more his faithful and dutiful subject, and more in the true interest of his welfare, by this refusal of his munificence, than if he had embraced his royal bounty.
These royal offers proving vain, Lord Danby began to assure him that the King had ordered him a thousand guineas, which he hoped he would be pleased to receive till he could bring his mind to accept of something better and more durable. At this Mr. Marvell renewed his usual smile, and said,
'Surely, my good Lord, you do not mean to treat me ludicrously by these munificent offers, which seem to interpret a poverty on my part. Pray, my Lord Treasurer, do these apartments wear in the least the air and mark of need? And as for my living, that is plentiful and good, which you shall have from the mouth of the servant. — Pray, what had I to dinner yesterday?'.—'A shoulder of mutton, sir.'—'And tomorrow, my Lord Danby, I shall have the sweet blade-bone broiled; and when your lordship makes honourable mention of my cook and my diet, I am sure His Majesty will be too tender in future to attempt to bribe a man with golden apples who lives so well on the viands of his native country.'
The Lord Treasurer, unable to withstand this, withdrew with smiles; and Mr. Marvell sent to his bookseller for the loan of one guinea.
From The Works of Andrew Marvell, Esq.... With a new life of the Author, by Capt. Edward Thompson (1776), iii. 460-3.
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