Marvell’s Baltic career followed from his efforts to gain a government job. Those efforts fall into three episodes. First Marvell offered literary contributions at the time of Bulstrode Whitelocke’s embassy to Sweden in 1653–4, which poetic overtures to Queen Christina have been much illumined by Edward Holberton.1 Second, Marvell had a role in government from 1657 to 1660, when Sweden and Denmark so figured in European geopolitics and the foreign relations of the Cromwellian Protectorate, and hence in Marvell’s work in John Thurloe’s office. His part in then fostering the Swedish interest I have described in an essay comparing Milton and Marvell’s state service late in the Protectorate.2
The third episode took Marvell to Sweden and Denmark as secretary to the English embassy led by the Earl of Carlisle. That embassy spent the better part of three months in Sweden or Swedish territory (from late July to mid-October 1664), before staying in Denmark for two months (late October to late December), as it visited Stockholm and Copenhagen on the way home from Muscovy to England. The lively account of the embassy by Guy Miège supplies ample descriptions of its Scandinavian experience, whether in the relief of arriving in Riga and the embassy’s warm reception there; or the much grander and also warm reception of the embassy in Stockholm in September, with the diversions to be enjoyed in that rapidly growing capital of the emerging Swedish empire. In Denmark too the hospitality was welcome with celebrations including the christening of the Carlisles’ son born now in Copenhagen. But these latter stages of the embassy were ‘speedily performed’, by Miège’s account, in part because other English diplomats newly dispatched were now taking up the longer work of negotiation with those kingdoms.3 Miège may have chosen to dwell less on the diplomacy here because his Relation was published late in the 1660s, after events had gone some way to discredit ‘that unhappy War, which so long afflicted both England and Holland’, the Second Anglo-Dutch war that Carlisle’s embassy was, in its Baltic phase, so promoting.4 In scanting that, Miège left much unsaid. The result has been that the Russian part of the embassy has attracted much more attention from Marvell’s biographers with Miège as guide, with some use made too of reports from Russia, by Carlisle in Marvell’s hand, held in the Public Record Office and the Bodleian.5
But much was at stake in the diplomacy in which Marvell now took part in Scandinavia, indeed more than in Moscow. Underlying such ceremony in Stockholm was the political interest of the English and the Swedes alike in achieving some better alliance, in concert, it was hoped, with the Danes. Now in the prelude to the Second Anglo-Dutch War, the English aim was to wrest from the Dutch their lucrative control of Baltic trade, while denying them access to materiel and naval stores from Sweden and parts east. Here ambitious commercial and military alliances were to frustrate ‘the Dutch political strategy to engross all the world’s trade’, with commercial pressure a prelude to hotter war.6 What Miège represents as a commercial treaty was justified by its chief negotiator as in fact conceding some points of trade for geopolitical gain, so much so that ‘though it hath the name but of a defensiue league, yet … the Dutch will find the effects as if it were an Offensiue one.’7 For the English, not least in Carlisle’s embassy, gaining more of a role in the Baltic might also console them for their recent discomfiture in Moscow. There they had learned that their loss of privileges in the White Sea trade was to be permanent. After that failure in Russia, might their diplomacy yet meet with some reward in Sweden? Might the generous Swedes even be encouraged to go to war with the ungenerous Russians? Or at least cooperate if the English closed the port of Archangel to force the Muscovy trade through Narva and the Baltic instead?8 That might be a fair foundation whereon to build the Muscovites’ ruin and that of the Dutch as well.
‘New’ documents from the Stockholm archives and the Coventry papers (at Longleat House) shed light on the negotiations that so engaged the English diplomats. They much augment what was available heretofore from the State Papers (especially files for Sweden and for Denmark) and the Clarendon State Papers at the Bodleian Library. They supply a significantly fuller context for Carlisle’s embassy, which was the subject of much correspondence between fellow diplomats and also the secretaries of state. The rich store of documents centers in the diplomacy conducted as and after Carlisle ceded the negotiations to his successors, most of all in the business driven then by the duly instructed envoy extraordinary in Stockholm, Henry Coventry.
More specifically, the further examples that here surface of Marvell’s own ‘paper work’ speak to his secretarial role, especially in the dozen hitherto unrecorded documents in his hand. This should have been the zenith of his career thus far as a state servant. On one hand his duties were ceremonial, aided by his fine Latin and French, helping to foster the English diplomatic presence and defend it. On the other, he served Carlisle as translator and scribe. But such record as we have of his work in Stockholm and Copenhagen shows his limits in such business after offering ‘the Complements, which the Ambassador made in the behalf of his Royal Master to the Kings and Queens of Sweden and Denmark.’9 Whatever his literary acumen, which in Stockholm met with a much happier reception than in Moscow, it was otherwise chiefly trained on smaller claims. In such cases of less moment, Marvell applies his polish as Latinist to the crooked grain of everyday life. In diplomacy, this did not prove to count for that much. (But it may suggest how Marvell came soon after in the 1660s to apply his polish as poet in his Restoration satires, whether in verse or later in prose.) His English writing was reserved chiefly for reports home to Charles II and his ministers (Clarendon and the secretaries of state, Sir Henry Bennet [soon to be Baron Arlington, and later Earl] and Sir William Morice); for the more private business of the embassy; and, with the arrival of envoys extraordinary to replace Carlisle in Sweden and Denmark, for communication especially with Henry Coventry.
After its long winter in Russia, the embassy arrived in Sweden the following summer, 1664, a full year after its departure from England. The lapse of time changed Carlisle’s role as ambassador to one more ceremonial, without more present instructions, thus disabling his ‘powers’ to conclude arrangements independently.10 In Stockholm Carlisle aimed to initiate negotiations more than to conduct them, offering ‘first Complements,’ and engaging his hosts with a view to having ‘sounded [their] Inclinations.’11 In short, it might be reported that ‘the buisinesses now in designe at Stockholme & Copenhagen are new & beyond the instructions he [Carlisle] hath.’12 Hence the need for the new English envoy there, Henry Coventry, equipped with very ample instructions indeed and eventually powers too.13 Like Marvell, Coventry was an MP now on state service.14 They were about the same age but Coventry enjoyed some advantages in a generation of Stuart loyalists getting late starts on such careers in the Restoration. Son of a former Lord Keeper, he was a wholehearted supporter of the Earl of Clarendon; he had, moreover, already cut an impressive figure in the House of Commons. For Coventry’s initiation as diplomat it had at first been planned that the present English resident in The Hague, Carlisle’s brother-in-law Sir George Downing, should lend him a practiced hand.15 Downing took a lively interest in Carlisle and Coventry’s mission, about which he wrote revealingly, not least when he imagined his own part in it.
Some nice considerations arose in close consultation between Downing and the Earl of Clarendon about Carlisle’s likely response to being thus supplanted. Downing disavows the title of Ambassador for this purpose, preferring that of ‘Envoy Extraordinary’: ‘Ambassades especially extraordinary ones are more for parade and Complement’, Downing reasons, whereas ‘the greatest buisinesses are comonly done with lesse or no character’. And, Downing forecasts, should he go under some better title, ‘Jealousys might arise or be put into Ld Carlisle’, adding ‘I have seen very good friends when in joint Comission fall into great differences.’16 But Downing had sharp elbows and was quick to explain why Carlisle’s embassy was doomed. He viewed it as belated, as insufficiently instructed, as expensive, and as running out of time (his dark forecast proving on the mark, moreover, including the delays the embassy would endure getting from Moscow to Stockholm and to Copenhagen and the likelihood of winter then trapping it in Denmark). All the while, as Downing made sure to note, the French and the Dutch were assiduous in their diplomacy as they sought to wrest from the English any present advantage.
Nor does Downing omit to observe against his brother-in-law Carlisle, and against Marvell, that ‘it would be found to be no small impediment to Ld Carlisle that he hath no language & so must wholy trust his Secretary and act by him.’17 As well as his closer relation to Carlisle, Downing knew Marvell too, first from their shared Protectoral careers, and more newly from Marvell’s visit to him in Holland in the autumn and perhaps winter of 1662–63.18 Were Downing more involved in the Swedish embassy, so he promises Clarendon, Carlisle’s role might become more ceremonial still. And Downing confirms that Marvell too would be out of the picture: ‘who if I should meddle should not so much as know any thing of the intrigues of those buisinesses.’ In comparison with the leaky vessel that is Carlisle-with-Marvell, Downing declares his own more secure method.19
So the value to the ambassador Carlisle of Marvell’s languages and penmanship was compromised by the urgency and secrecy that high-stakes diplomacy required. Testimony to Marvell’s part in Carlisle’s business, but also to the problems this created, finds confirmation from the next and final stage of the embassy when it moved on to Copenhagen. In Denmark, the difficulty lay with the Danes’ fears that any part of the treaty they sought with England be discovered, by the Swedes or by the ever-inquisitive Dutch. The Danes were terrified lest the least provocation lead Holland to send a fleet against them when they lay defenseless. The result was that the envoy there, Sir Gilbert Talbot, worked in the greatest secrecy, as the Danes demanded.20 ‘All this is under soe greate a tye of secrecy,’ Talbot writes Coventry, in a letter he urged him to burn, ‘that my Ld and I advertise it all wth our owne hands not admitting either of our secretarys to the knowledge of it.’21 Specifically Marvell was to be kept out of the loop. Talbot reassures Clarendon that ‘We have tyed up my Lord of Carlile from communicating any thing to his Secretary’ though Talbot adds that this secrecy was to be maintained ‘(although his Excellency [Carlisle] have a strong persuasion of his [Marvell’s] trusts).’ The unwelcome result for Carlisle was that he could no longer rely on his secretary’s hand: ‘soe that he must write what concerneth this matter with his owne pen.’22 Carlisle then wrote little.
For the English the rewards of successful diplomacy might be great. As Talbot projected: ‘if the Swedes ioine with his Majesty to (as they seeme freely to offer) the Dutch will be forced to abandon the whole Baltick trade; or accept of such termes as his Majesty would vouchsafe them.’ ‘If we can work the 2 northern Crownes fast to us,’ as was the envoys’ errand, ‘we shall make the butterboxes [Dutch] melt in the depth of winter.’23 Talbot favored the Danish case for England helping Denmark to a better equality with Sweden, with reference to English mercantile interests, especially in the Sound. It is both Charles II’s ‘interest’ and ‘noe less the reall interest of the King of Denmark’ thus to proceed; and Talbot views it as evidently ‘the English interest to keep equally poised’ the balance between the two northern kingdoms Sweden and Denmark. With so much at stake, Marvell might well be excluded from proceedings.24
Whatever their previous inexperience, their Russian travails had brought home to Carlisle and to Marvell what a minefield languages and translation might present in diplomacy. We may note that Marvell, who had been lengthily faulted in Moscow for failing to style the czar ‘Serenissimus’, now applies that epithet to the Swedish king at every turn. In Russia, which never had a Renaissance, Marvell’s skillful Latin had proven but an impediment, with opportunities for confusion the Russians were eager to exploit. But even in Sweden linguistic protocol might remain an issue. Henry Coventry reports that it at first seemed to him in Stockholm that Latin and French might here operate as ‘indifferent’ languages, as he terms them – that is, that negotiations might proceed in those without translation, with neither the English nor the Swedes benefiting unduly. Miège does convey the embassy’s delight at polite Swedish society and the French spoken there, which allowed the visitors a better entrée. But Marvell’s usefulness as a master of both those tongues appears chiefly in the ceremonial parts of the embassy, where he delivers speeches in both languages, both in Sweden and in Copenhagen. When conferences began in earnest, Henry Coventry attests how soon the Swedes reverted to Swedish and thus the English to English, with translation then needed to bridge between the two.25 The notes of the two preliminary conferences between the Swedes and Carlisle show the use of Latin and French as linguae francae and in those exchanges Marvell must have been fully engaged. But those notes also show the only provisional quality of Carlisle’s business in fostering Swedish and English cooperation in commanding Baltic trade, with reference to closing Archangel (or retrieving those privileges despite ‘l’orgueil du Moschovite’) and also what advantages the English might then enjoy in the Baltic.26
If the larger success of English geopolitical aims was not likely to be soon achieved, Carlisle could make something of Swedish good will in already pleading the cases of ‘several English Merchants and others, that either had there some business of concernment, or that desire some favour or other.’27 This allowed some continuation of diplomatic welcome before the real negotiations began. By Miège’s perhaps rosy account, ‘in this respect also my Lord Ambassador found this Court so favourable, that he was sooner weary of asking, than they were of gratifying his Lordship.’ Such favor in these less crucial matters invited use of Latin as a lingua franca after all. Where less hung in the balance, Marvell could have more of a hand in the process. And so it was that, away from the high politics of Scanian and European geopolitical contests, we find Marvell’s italic script in these Latin documents pleading some 16 cases chiefly of English and Scots merchants, and then more especially the rights of a Scots soldier of fortune to some Livonian estates.28 Though Carlisle signs the letters, it is his secretary’s writing we meet with here.
Carlisle was greeted with enthusiasm by the English and Scottish merchants in Stockholm, who celebrated the embassy’s arrival even as they petitioned the ambassador to act on behalf of English trade. He already enjoyed the blessing of the Russia Company and needed little encouragement, especially as the English redoubled their efforts to limit Dutch commercial power in the Baltic.29 But the ambassador also addressed particular grievances raised by such ‘Native subjects to his sacred Majestie of England’ living in Sweden, in the main concerning trade, with Carlisle urging the Swedish crown to offer them redress.30 The first letter (1 October 1664), which commends case after case to ‘Serenissimæ suæ Maiestati Suecicæ’, is a curiosity too in having been duplicated nearly verbatim by Marvell in a document that seems to have been left with Coventry for his reference.31
In one case (‘Causam Dni Kranstonii de hæreditate Levinii’) Carlisle’s close relation to this Scots diaspora becomes clearer. Here he was enlisting the Lord Cranston to serve also the interest of Carlisle’s sister Margaret and her heirs, with Margaret newly widowed by the death of her husband Alexander Leslie, second Earl of Leven (d. 15 July 1664).32 The Leven family, distinguished in Swedish military service, was owed arrears, which the Lord Cranston, a prominent Scot who had himself married into that family, had arrived in Stockholm to collect, if possible; Cranston’s own military service to the Swedes gave him further reason to seek present recompense.33 Beyond their relation through marriage, Cranston had been commended to Carlisle by the Earl of Lauderdale, and then to Coventry by the Duke of Albemarle.34 A Latin plea on this score had been submitted at the Swedish court with provision for Coventry handling the business after Carlisle’s departure, with an English draught in Marvell’s hand preserved in the Coventry papers.35 Later, when Carlisle from Denmark urges Coventry anew ‘to contribute all that may be towards the advantages of the English traffic’, he includes ‘a letter in Latin’ so that the Lord Cranston’s ‘businesse might be quickened by showing it upon occasion to the Ministers in that Court’ of Sweden.36 This cover-letter is in Marvell’s hand and the now missing Latin enclosure seems to have been of his penning too.
If listing these cases afforded Marvell small room for literary maneuver, he likely had still less room with the associated letter dated the next day (2 October 1664) on behalf of John Orchartoun, which ‘Causam Orchartoni … literas nostras’ had been promised the day before. Here Carlisle was following up on a previous letter on Orchartoun’s behalf from Charles II to the King of Sweden. How nearly a copy? To vary such a petition was likely unhelpful. But the letter suggests there is more detail in the present document as Orchartoun renews his claim, explaining the issue still more exactly for present purposes (‘mihi enucleavit’, as Carlisle discloses in Marvell’s Latin). Orchartoun, a Scots soldier (Aberdeenshire) had enlisted in a regiment of Scots volunteers for Swedish service in 1655, where he found eventual promotion to major (by 1658) and ennoblement (1664).37 He married into his mother’s family, the Robertsons, one of whom had been royal doctor to the King of Sweden (Gustav II Adolf) and Queen Kristina; that doctor’s daughter had inherited her father’s Livonian estates.38 Orchartoun’s plea having already met with royal support in a letter from the English to the Swedish crown a year before (11 April 1663), Carlisle through Marvell now at length, presumably with reference to that earlier version, addresses ‘Serenissime Potentissimeque Rex’ and asks that the Swedish crown now help restore to Ochertoun the legacy in his wife’s family for which ‘Heroem illum Regem Gustavum Adolphum beatissimæ memoriæ’ was to be thanked. The crown had in 1626 bestowed on Robertson the estates of Kustmoysa and Aya Korba in Livonia, which gift of lands was then confirmed by the regents in 1634 and Queen Christina in 1645 and 1646. The condition that if the lands were passed on to a daughter she be married to a loyal servant of the Swedish crown had been fulfilled, more newly in that daughter’s second marriage now to Orchartoun. There is more besides as Orchartoun’s long and largely unpaid service to the Swedish crown is attested in the letter. It began with a Scots regiment (the Cranston company) that had in 1657 helped defend the Duchy of Bremen when Orchartoun then for seven years performed the service of captain and major under the Swedish standard and fought almost without pay (‘ferme sine stipendio militaverit’) until that peace with Poland, when he and the others were discharged. The properties having been appropriated by an interloper in the absences owing to their duties of Schletzer and then of Orchartoun, the time is now long overdue for their restitution to their rightful owner, the loyal Orchartoun. The mercy, munificence, and justice of the Swedish King are again emphasized in the close, as Orchartoun’s case is commended to royal consideration.39
I dwell on such particulars because Marvell dwells on them in supplying the Latin requests on Orchartoun and on Cranston’s behalf, but also in serving Carlisle in his diplomatic role representing Charles II. Perhaps Marvell pondered how far his Latin had come in this quarter since his soaring verses for Queen Kristina a decade before.40 The concerted plea on behalf of this ‘Loyall Scot’ is an earlier and of course much more prosaic memorial than the baroque eulogy of Archibald Douglas in ‘Last Instructions’, though in both cases Marvell was writing on behalf of Scots whose military service in the Thirty Years War and since had resulted in such far-flung careers. Marvell’s deployment of his sophistications as a Latinist in such pleadings prepares for the variation in register that will become his stock in trade as a satirist in the Restoration. His humanist training was now devoted to business in ways that seem to have strengthened his hand where it came to social, legal, and political negotiation thereafter. Often satire too makes much of specifics, and Marvell’s present training in specificity came to stand him in good stead.
With the arrival of the envoys in Sweden (Coventry) and Denmark (Talbot), Carlisle’s English correspondence suddenly expanded. Now Marvell could further serve as secretary, for reasons geographical and also cultural. The relative nearness of those European capitals to England, and to each other, and the triangular diplomacy of which Carlisle was part, invited the production of much more correspondence in Marvell’s hand, whether to ministers at home or other diplomats engaged on related missions. Culturally, as has long been understood, the Russians’ uneven regard for Western norms of diplomacy told against Marvell as secretary, whereas in Sweden and Denmark he and Carlisle might hope the role envisaged for him could now be better fulfilled.
In many of these documents, Marvell is taking the younger Carlisle’s dictation, or giving Carlisle a Latin voice Carlisle did not otherwise possess. The new documents shed light on this ventriloquial function. In some cases Marvell is speaking for Carlisle who speaks for Charles II. Elsewhere he writes or speaks for Carlisle only, whether in English or in Latin. In Latin Marvell can come to speak more nearly in his own voice. And at some points, as we shall see, it becomes much less clear even in the English letters whether it is Carlisle speaking in Marvell’s writing or whether the secretary more nearly writes in his own person. But this Marvellian persona might in turn become more Carlislean under the influence of the forceful ambassador. Marvell may have learned much from hearing Carlisle speak and from speaking for Carlisle.
There is some fascination in watching Marvell’s more menial work as scribe: his skillful copying over his own documents, his deploying his round hand in vernacular languages and his italic in Latin, his enabling Carlisle’s lively voice to be communicated more clearly than when Carlisle writes for himself. To these the ‘new’ documents in the Coventry papers afford ample witness. One index of how Marvell enables Carlisle is how briefly Carlisle writes when in his own hand, and at what length when in Marvell’s. Carlisle’s scrawl suggests little fluency in his penmanship, and that met with most often in postscripts or other briefer missives. His self-consciousness on this score also appears, as when later, no longer served by Marvell, he apologizes, ‘pardon this hasty scribling.’41 His erratic spellings also betray Carlisle’s lack of learning, notably where English words of Latin derivation reveal no familiarity with the Latin orthography that should inform their vernacular counterparts.42
With his secretary’s help, Carlisle’s paperwork takes on a very different aspect. Marvell was a medium on which Carlisle had come to rely. Carlisle was a witty man – Miège attests credibly to Carlisle’s ‘peculiar grace and vivacity in his discourse’ – and examples of that wit surface that seem very likely his own.43 Carlisle’s own voice seems to be heard where in writing Clarendon (in Marvell’s hand) he seeks in complex circumstances to ‘find out the nearest medium betwixt chance and certainty’; or where to Charles II (again in Marvell’s hand) he characterizes the Muscovites as ‘a people that neither know to manage affairs nor practise courtesy and as for truth or honour they would thinke it a disreputation to be guilty of them. Hence it is that to give the ly is here accounted no affront and to professe themselves slaues is their onely ingenuity’; or where to Secretary Bennet (also in Marvell’s hand) he can begin by pretending to write a begging letter only for that to prove an excuse for his delay in corresponding: ‘I am exceedingly run in debt this Embassage, and am undone unlesse you befriend me to helpe me out of it. Two letters from your selfe & those sent by two Envoyez Extraordinary and the daily Interest for want of answering in time….’44 Marvell, we agree, was witty too. It is where their wits converge that these materials may most interest us. And when at the very end of the embassy Carlisle, shipped with his secretary but then at anchor off Elsinore for a week (December, contrary winds), comes to write almost for the sake of writing, and curvets rhetorically and learnedly as never before, there seems to be something nearer minds melding at the end of their 18 months abroad together.
A humbler example supplies a basis for comparison with that later, much more elaborate letter. For Marvell also had occasion to take Carlisle’s dictation in the more domestic business of the embassy. The ambassador had much to contend with, in part owing to the high stakes of the diplomacy on which he and his fellow diplomats were engaged, but also owing to the workaday challenges of managing his entourage as it proceeded from one capital to the next. Hence even as Carlisle was embarking from Sweden, he had to write back to Coventry in Stockholm, troubled by an offending absconder:
My French Cook a hot-headed & light-footed knaue has conceald himselfe at Stockholme and beside as much inconvenience as such a fellow could thereby do me he has borrowed euen from the Scullion so much as now is equivalent to theft or robbery. I would giue you as litle trouble as may be in so undecent an occasion & therefore haue giuen orders to Mr Cutler and only desire that as farre as you please or may be necessary you would assist to the sending of him down if the wind keep me here or otherwise if he be discoverd, to the imprisoning of him & such punishment as he deserves.45
A fortnight later Carlisle had relented in his severity against the errant cook, when he uses Marvell to write Coventry again on this matter: ‘I troubled you too much about my cook. If he were taken and punisht pray let him goe.’46 But the challenges of diplomacy might be aggravated by any irregularities in his household. Trouble might also arise from those who sought to join Carlisle’s retinue – as had been the problem with Caspar Calthof in Moscow, when Carlisle had with Marvell written two long Latin letters from Tver and from Pskov seeking Calthov’s release.47 And Carlisle had newly to contend with a fatal duel between members of his retinue.48
The ‘intimacy and sociability’ that might be so prized in Renaissance diplomacy made such breaches especially unwelcome.49 There were others who might abscond: this letter begins with the news of one such, by the name of Prat, who had now returned after all.50 Carlisle’s exasperation in such cases might boil over, as with the miscreant cook; he plainly feared falling to ‘the inconvenience’ against which Hotman’s treatise cautions, of those who owing to ‘indiscreete and uncivil servants, have themselves payed for their folly.’51 What may look to us a peculiarity, that Lady Carlisle was part of the embassy, may be explained by Hotman’s recommendation that the ambassador’s wife could play an important role in regulating the household: ‘It shalbe the best way, if he can, to bring his wife with him, whose eie wil stoppe infinite abuses amongst his people, and disorders in his house….’52 But beyond her domestic rule, Lady Carlisle also offered her husband other solace; she had thus conceived and was nearing term, with provision for her ‘to lay downe her belly’ now a priority.53 When she was delivered of a son in Copenhagen (4 Nov.), it gave the Lord Carlisle the chance to include the Danish royal family as sponsors in the christening, with the baby named Frederick Christian in honor of the Danish crown and thus made ‘a perfect Dane’.54 Here Carlisle went far with the ‘codes of sociability and personal affect’ that might so color diplomacy in the period, gaining royal cooperation as he thus publicized his eminence as ambassador, in person and in representation of his own king.55 By contrast, Coventry had a sticky start in Sweden, with Swedish senators refusing him precedence in an episode that attracted much comment; here Carlisle perhaps too eagerly sympathized in writing to Coventry (in Marvell’s round hand), curious ‘how that ill accident betwixt you & their Senators at the Chancelors is repaired there or resented in England.’56 Bitter battles over privilege were common in the period: here jaw-jaw, in Churchill’s phrase, might approach war-war, with losses of standing widely reported.
Much of this one-sided correspondence shows Carlisle both welcoming Coventry in his diplomatic service and reluctant to let go of his own role in the embassy thus far. He had a comparable relation with Sir Gilbert Talbot, the extraordinary envoy to Denmark who was also supplanting Carlisle. Sociability might here vie with a more competitive relationship between diplomats, even (or especially) those representing the same nation. The result in the present letters proves a series of compensatory variations in Marvell’s hand on the theme of affectionate greeting, with Carlisle at one point even conceding ‘I should write more at large to you but that I haue litle businesse.’ This allowed chiefly for flourishing affirmations along the lines of ‘Therefore I write to you as one who imagins himself past all the constraint & initiation of friendship securely & familiarly as I hope you the same to me.’57 Some of the letters might be also filled with second-hand news, lest it have escaped Coventry’s attention, as if just to remain in correspondence. But placating Coventry with assurances that Carlisle needs no placating lies at the heart of these salutations in Marvell’s hand and their expanding velleities. Hence near the end of his embassy, Carlisle can again write Coventry: ‘I heartily wish you first an happy successe of your negotiation such as your great abilityes promise and then an happy arrivall in England’,58 only for that then to swell to ‘I pray God giue you an happy and speedy successe of all the businesse in your management and let me intreat you that you and I may not breake of here but that while you are abroad you will command me freely in England in any thing tending either to the publicke or your private service. For though as to both I am something superfluous to you yet I haue a very reall desire to approue my selfe upon all occasions.’59 Carlisle’s own jottings are briefer and more to the point but he luxuriates in these stylish good wishes when he has his secretary to write them for him.
The most extravagant variation on this theme comes at the end of the correspondence, when Carlisle and Marvell are long at anchor off Elsinore. Now they write to Henry Coventry again, with Carlisle elaborately invoking his friendship with Coventry before turning to news. It is worth fuller quotation:
I received yours of 7th Dec: I writ to you of the 15th. And having bin euer since on board lying for the most part before Elsinore for a faire wind I haue no other avocation or solace in this dead Sea then to find out friends on shore that I may write to. And when I come to that I need not look over my register You are none of those friends upon Index. But you are one of those that are the same thing with my memory. ‘Tis I hope too late for me now to make loue to you and those that are once past that ceremony & the storyes of their own passion are fain to intertain the time with news & forain accidents Do not you thinke that many a galant brings in the Moore of France to consume his leisure with his Mistresse. Did not Penelope trow you beside all love Storyes write Ulysses how all stood in Ithaca and the Neighbouring Islands. Nay euen Scipio and Lælius after they had discourst friendship thorow were faine for want of imployment to make ducks and drakes on the next Sea Side. But I belieue you haue the same news as early as I can haue it here that the Dutch are begging on all hands for a peace with England. That we haue lately taken their French fleet of 160 shipps That those of Algier haue hangd up the breakers of the peace with us & intend henceforward to keep their faith. You see what a King of England can do too when he looks grim. I hope to see as faire a Pyramid raisd one day in the Hague as the French haue in Rome.60 But all that troubles me is lest they should humble themselues too fast before we haue cut them out of their interest here in the Baltick & with Muscovy wch therefore I am sure you will strike home at in your Station & I shall at my return do my uttermost …61
Carlisle has become strangely literary here, and his rapid improvisation on such a range of cultural references bears noting. It is a habit to be associated more with Marvell, who loves thus to assert his wide reading, especially in the Rehearsal Transprosed and its Second Part, with his detractors then accusing him of only commonplace-book learning. Here in quick succession he plays with Mme de Scudéry (‘the Moore of France’),62 Homer, and Cicero: this looks more like Marvell’s commonplacing than Carlisle’s, much as the earlier Latin disquisition offered to the unimpressed Muscovites on ‘Serenissimus’ could not have been of Carlisle’s penning.63
But there is an especially Marvellian aspect to the application of the Laelius and Scipio story, where the present writer jests that when the work of celebrating their friendship was behind them, they might turn to lesser pursuits, such as idling by the seaside, skipping stones. Even without Latin, Carlisle might himself have known of Laelius as a byword for loyal friendship; he probably did not need Marvell to know that Cicero made Laelius the speaker of much of [Laelius] de Amicitia. In that extended prosopopoeia, Cicero presents a Laelius who would rather be known for his friendship with Scipio than his wisdom (De Amicitia 15); in the Renaissance their legendary friendship might be the more admired as thus attested by the proverbially ‘wise Laelius’ (De Amicitia 6–9).64 But it does seem very much Marvell’s addition that the letter then turns to the relatively unknown anecdote of Laelius and Scipio diverting themselves with visits to the seaside, where they played with pebbles and shells (Cicero, De Oratore II.6.22).65 He may have been helped to that by Erasmus, who in his Adages lingers on this moment, but Carlisle seems as unlikely to have read the Erasmus as De Oratore.66 (Marvell’s may have been a natural inference to draw about such boyish pastimes on the shore, but I do not find an earlier reference for it, though it had a later life. It may prove Marvell’s own conflation of Cicero’s story of Laelius and Scipio at the seaside with Minucius Felix, Octavius, chapter three, which describes the game of boys skipping stones or shells.)67
It does not seem Carlisle who thus deploys Cicero, but rather Marvell himself. Very Carlisle, however, is the ambassador’s reversion to the topic later in the letter. He finally breaks off from sharing news with Coventry, who may well have that news already:
But therefore if news be repetition let us play the Scipio & Lælius with copper plates. You know they gaue me at leaveing an 100 ship pound of copper as I hope they will giue you 200 when you haue made the league. I haue giuen Shuttleworth order to receiue it & dispose of it for my best advantage. But he is my merchant, you as my selfe. Therefore pray Sir hauing read & afterwards seald the inclosed be pleased to keep an hand upon Shuttleworth & order him what you think best. Haue you anything for me to do in England command me with more liberty. Tis too liberally proferrd by one who knows how much you subsist & deserve to subsist by your own forces and who hath use enough of being/Sir/Your most affectionat friend and Servant/Carlisle/Aboard the Centurion before Elsinore Dec: 21. 1664.68
Reveling in the copper plates that have been bestowed upon him by the Swedes – this was an impressive gift, since 100 ship pounds amounts to around 15 tons of copper, which proves to be more than 50 cubic feet – Carlisle reports his instructions to his Stockholm agent Shuttleworth to sell it to ‘best advantage’.69 This provides fresh opportunity to declare his solidarity with Coventry: Shuttleworth ‘is my merchant, you as my selfe.’ But the incongruous idea that he and Coventry might come to play at skipping these copper plates on the sea ingeniously revisits the friendship of Scipio and Laelius, even as Carlisle delights in his new-found wealth and hopes Coventry may enjoy the same in double measure.
Upon their return to England, Marvell and Carlisle were to be parted as secretary and ambassador. There is some likelihood that Marvell may have had a part in the extended ‘Apology’ with which Carlisle answered Muscovite complaints about his handling of his diplomatic mission, and which Miège appends to his Relation.70 As secretary, he might be expected ‘to hold a good register’ of what had occurred and in particular what documents the embassy generated, as Hotman’s Ambassador recommends, and the ‘Apology’ plainly drew on such a narrative record.71 For his part, Miège writes of having put his own ‘Memoires in order, and framed them into a continued discourse’ to create his Relation (A4v). But comparison of Carlisle’s letter to Clarendon (in Marvell’s hand) from Archangel with Miège’s account of the embassy’s arrival there suggests the influence of the former on the latter, or at least a common narrative source.72 Through reports in Marvell’s hand, Carlisle much prepared Charles II for the failure to regain privileges in the White Sea trade, again in keeping with Hotman’s advice, since ‘most commonly it is not knowne what an Ambassador doeth in his charge, but by that which himselfe writeth.’73 Charles II seems to have accepted the ‘Apology’ readily enough and Carlisle again visited Sweden as ambassador in 1668–69.
If Marvell altered Carlisle’s style, the question remains how much Carlisle altered Marvell’s. With Fairfax and others, Marvell had been exposed to aristocratic grandeur before. But now he had had 18 months of close company with a commanding young man whose readiness of wit might well make an impression even on the older Marvell. Carlisle was a very different figure from Fairfax, if for a time his co-religionist. The Laelius and Scipio letter is unlike Marvell’s voice in any of the 50 or so letters we have from his hand to this date. But it is more like some of what will come from his hand in years to come. Insofar as Carlisle’s manner informs that and other of these letters – a warm and ingenuous affect, the well-born jest, and amour propre in service to the crown – this was a manner that Marvell might seek to adopt when occasion allowed; he might observe in Carlisle a voice and stance that he could deploy hereafter. Especially on paper he could be more a Carlisle, after having so long helped Carlisle with his paper work. In person not so much, of course, and we recall the widening gap between Marvell’s literary authority and relative lack of personal authority on any more public stage, notably the House of Commons, in the remaining years of his life. But to write for such a master might gain one a more masterly voice. In the Restoration Marvell develops a literary register of gentlemanly poise, what it is to be candid, ingenuous, and generous.74 Impersonating Carlisle gave him more assurance with this note. It became a literary resource on which Marvell could then draw in his verse and prose satires alike.
At times the legacy of this embassy to Marvell’s later writings can seem very immediate. The 1665 publication of his Character of Holland has more newly been understood to follow from the hostility to the Dutch to which Marvell contributed in his work for Carlisle’s embassy.75 But English diplomatic correspondence further reveals it would have been stranger had he not turned his old poem to new account upon his return to England, especially with ‘Our freind Sr G. Downing … cruelly lashed by a print which the Hollanders haue published in reply to him.’ In Copenhagen, Talbot hoped ‘Engd would employ a better pen to take up the cudgells’ – this might have been a role for Marvell – and reported his own ‘dabbling in the defence of our brother Envoyé.’76
Elsewhere the influence is more local. Take, for example, the lines in ‘Last Instructions’ where Marvell mocks Clarendon’s reluctance to summon parliament:
… when he came the odious clause to pen
That summons up the Parliament again,
His writing master many a time he banned
And wished himself the gout to seize his hand.
Just a few years before (from Moscow) Marvell had written to Clarendon on Carlisle’s behalf in a more kindly vein: ‘I was sory for my happynesse in receiving a letter from your Lordship … when I read in it your Indisposition and saw the paine you had taken to write to me.’77 Clarendon’s handwriting, never that legible, is especially bad at this date owing to his gout; he himself might admit the following winter to suffering ‘all the torment imaginable.’78 Marvell knew all about it and his satire revels in Clarendon’s pains, political and physical.
There too, in ‘The Second Advice to a Painter’ and ‘Last Instructions’ we meet with a Marvell quick to scorn those who had contributed to Carlisle’s and his own displacement: Clifford (with whom he had an older grievance), Arlington (Henry Bennet as yet), and Henry Coventry (even when his brother William was more Marvell’s present subject). Their venality and cowardice he loves to denounce. Whatever his wider grievance against the troop of Clarendon in or out of Parliament, his resentment sharpens and his eyes narrow around these rivals in particular. And there is that dark note in his Account of the Growth of Popery and Arbitrary Government where he marvels at the speed of the subsequent Triple Alliance in 1668, when the threatened French conquest of the Spanish Netherlands brought the English, Swedes and Dutch into temporary union. Again he knows all about it – what the Swedish interest and what the Dutch – but he can also suggest his own frustration with the limits on Carlisle’s errands of yesteryear. ‘So easy a thing is it for Princes’, Marvell remarks caustically of the diplomacy behind the Triple Alliance, ‘when they have a mind to it, to be well served.’79 This may even recall Carlisle’s dark comment in the letter to Henry Coventry from Elsinore: ‘You see what a King of England can do too when he looks grim.’80 In The Rehearsall Transprosed: The Second Part as well as in the Account, Marvell also recalls the protocol-mad Czar’s resentment of Polish mockery, which might have given Carlisle and Marvell pause in yesteryear.81 Marvell long remembered his reading in preparation for the embassy. He and his ambassador found the going slow in Olearius’s Voyages & Travels of the Ambassadors Sent by Frederick Duke of Holstein, to the Great Duke of Muscovy, and the King of Persia (1662) – ‘I haue writ you of such litle things that you might almost thinke I had torn a leafe out of Olearius’ – but that work furnished him with a piece of wit in the Account.82
Then there are those less calculable moments, such as Marvell’s returning in ‘Last Instructions’ to Henry Coventry, or ‘Hector Harry’, ‘the second Coventry the Cavalier’, on diplomatic mission to Breda in 1667. He knows about a letter sent in cipher to ‘Harry excellent’ and scoffs at the diplomatic fumbling that ensued. But Marvell memorably observes of the diplomatic instructions in question that they are directed to ‘our (verse the name abhors)/Plenipotentiary ambassadors.’83 There is of course no abhorrence here: Marvell, even more than his readers, takes pleasure in the rare feat of using but two words to fill the iambic pentameter line. And to my mind, he here in this master-stroke of versification retrieves as a poet some of the status he had failed to maintain in his short career as a diplomat, when it had been exactly plenipotentiary powers that Carlisle had been unable to deploy in 1664 when in Moscow and Stockholm.
Less calculable still is how far Marvell as secretary in venerating Charles II on Carlisle’s behalf bred within himself some reaction to that exaltation. The contending psychological impulses that might lead Marvell deep into the ‘toils of patriarchy’, so termed, have invited some shrewd analysis of the ‘fraught dialectic of idealization and subversion’ that can characterize his work.84 We may wonder whether Marvell then compensated in his satires after having repeatedly written for Carlisle with the utmost courtesy to Charles II and to his ministers Clarendon, Bennet, and Morice. For example, we may take Carlisle’s report to Clarendon on the adoration that the ambassador enjoys on his royal master’s behalf and his satisfaction ‘to observe how all persons are discomposed with officiousnesse least they should displease me, and bow to my feet as the image, though unworthy, of his Majesty with no lesse veneration then to the pictures of their Saints.’85 (In view of how intense Russian piety was with icons, there is some added insolence here in thus reporting the devotion to Charles II.) That this veneration seemed to come to naught may have brought into question the embassy’s exhausting defense of the king in long battles over protocol. As poet Marvell had every reason to make hay with the high style of panegyric, especially after the dubious victories early in the Second Anglo-Dutch War. But having expressed Carlisle’s reverence so eloquently in their correspondence may have helped Marvell when he then brought such reverence into question in his subsequent satires.
It has long been understood that Marvell’s work as MP contributed to the political engagements we meet with in his Restoration satires in verse and in prose. His constituency letters especially seem to show his schooling in the particular, the mastery of close detail that transforms the satiric note of ‘Last Instructions’ most of all and that prepares for the Account. Marvell’s paper work in diplomacy helped that transformation too. His flair as a humanist had met with obdurate reaction in Moscow. But even in the much politer capitals of Stockholm and Copenhagen, he met with real setbacks. In Stockholm, his Latin and French played only an introductory part in the weighty diplomacy then underway there. In Copenhagen, he was cut out of the most serious diplomacy altogether. (No wonder his frustrations boiled over when he sought to master that refractory wagoneer in Buxtehude, during Carlisle’s final fugitive return, in what may be the most cited episode from Marvell’s 18 months of service).86 In enlisting such a Latin secretary, the ambassador had enough to learn about how diplomacy might really work. Nor was Marvell enlisted anew when Carlisle was sent to Sweden again in 1668. For his part, Marvell learned to redeploy his skills as a humanist in corporate service closer to home.87 Those skills, as further trained in Carlisle’s embassy, came to equip him also for the renewed literary engagements of the last dozen years of his life. When Marvell then served as his own secretary, his experience with Carlisle made his writing more formidable still.