In April 1674, Gilbert Holles, the third Earl of Clare, was in want of a tutor for his eldest son. In a newly discovered letter, Clare wrote to his close friend, the politician, Sir Edward Harley:

Mr. Marvel did bring one to mee, but it was a person that had been only in France, which was my exception to him, I had heard of one Mr. Ray who was a fellow of Trinity College & designed to bee a Minister, but for the change of times, who had travailed in France, Italy & Spaine with Mr. Skipton & Mr. Willoughby of Wollenton, and was in great hopes to have had him but that hee is lately married, by relation hee had fitted mee in all respects could I have been so fortunate. Sr. James Langham hath from Dctr. Tillotson recommended one Dr Mapletoft to mee that went over with ye last Earle of Northumberland but I somewhat doubt, hee is not principled like Mr. Ray, though of him I know little, only of a Deane of that name which some do not greatly recommend & for my young blade’s sake, I would chuse the best.1

Finding an appropriate tutor was no easy task, especially with Clare’s highly specialized set of criteria. Clare’s concern that a potential tutor be suitably ‘principled’ (unlike Dr. Mapletoft; see below) stemmed from his puritan beliefs; equally, Clare was interested in an already well-traveled candidate, not merely one ‘who had been only in France’. Enlisting the help of Andrew Marvell in the search had obvious benefits. Marvell had experience of a variety of pedagogic roles: as the household tutor of Mary Fairfax and William Dutton; overseeing a tutee’s progress at an institution as Marvell had at Eton College with Dutton; and the period he spent ‘travelling abroad with Noblemens Sonnes’ in the 1640s and in France with Dutton in 1655–6.2

Marvell’s career as a tutor has received a good deal of attention from modern scholars. Thanks to Nigel Smith’s recent biography and Nicholas von Maltzahn’s chronology of Marvell’s life, we have a detailed account of the years Marvell was employed in this type of service. To Smith, tutoring meant mixed fortunes for Marvell. Living in the Fairfax household was an ‘opportunity to sharpen literary endeavour’, whereas years later, the appointment as Dutton’s tutor represented an initial failure to achieve government office.3 Other scholars have commented on the political significance of his employers: in David Norbrook’s opinion, working in the employ of Thomas Fairfax and then Oliver Cromwell situates Marvell in resolutely republican circles.4 Yet existing commentary on Marvell and tutoring covers only a brief period in the 1640s and 1650s, up until the point Marvell entered the secretariat in 1657. Clare’s letter is the first documentary evidence we have of Marvell’s continued involvement in the education of the nobility after the Restoration – indeed, it is the first evidence of Marvell’s association with Clare himself.

The letter’s importance is two-fold. Firstly, there is what the letter tells us about the value accorded to European travel in education of the nobility and gentry; secondly, there is what it says about Marvell’s circle of acquaintances in the Restoration. The newfound link between Clare and Marvell is especially noteworthy, for it expands the network of puritan politicians with whom we know Marvell associated.5 At the time Clare was writing, Marvell had known Harley for at least two years. Harley and Clare also shared a long-term friendship with Marvell’s patron, the politician, Philip, Lord Wharton. Through their correspondence we catch a glimpse of these three men’s common interests. At times these are wholly domestic – gardening tips, family gossip, each other’s gout – but they were also united by political and religious concerns. This comes to matter when considering the education of their children. Offering service to the puritan Clare in these circumstances is revealing of Marvell’s attitude to nonconformity, and how this manifests itself in the prose pamphlets of the 1670s.

Clare told Harley that John Ray (1627–1705) would have ‘fitted mee in all respects could I have been so fortunate’. What Clare saw as the benefits of employing someone like Ray provides a template for the kind of person Marvell had been tasked with finding. Ray had been, as Clare suggests, a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, since his election in 1649, and then a tutor in Greek, mathematics and humanities. Ray was fluent in Greek, Latin and Hebrew. If modern readers know Ray at all, it is chiefly as a botanist and ornithologist. This interest began at Trinity, where he enlisted the help of his students, Phillip Skippon (‘Mr. Skipton’) and Francis Willughby (‘Mr. Willoughby’) in his observations and specimen gathering. To Clare, it was worth pointing out to Harley the extent to which Ray had traveled – ‘in France, Italy & Spaine’ – though Ray had spent more time in Europe than Clare realized. In 1663, Ray, along with Willughby and Skippon, embarked on a three-year botanizing itinerary, progressing from England to the Netherlands, to Germany, on to Austria, then Switzerland, to Italy, then Malta, back to Italy, on to France, then Spain, back to France, returning to England in 1666.6 This was made possible by Ray’s ejection from Trinity College in 1662. Clare was able to say that Ray was ‘principled’ because Ray was a puritan and a partial conformist. Ray had not merely ‘designed to bee a Minister’, but had actually been ordained by Robert Sanderson, Bishop of Lincoln in 1660. The Act of Uniformity (1662) however proved too severe for Ray, who had hopes of a more comprehensive church settlement.7 Since he was ‘so nicely scrupulous about oaths’ according to one friend, Ray was unable to accept the terms of the abjuration of the Solemn League and Covenant required by the Act of Uniformity, thus forfeiting his fellowship on 24 June 1662.8 In the intervening year between leaving Cambridge and traveling to Europe, Ray was employed as a tutor in the household of Thomas Bacon, a Presbyterian politician and friend of Wharton. His tutee, Nathaniel Bacon, accompanied Ray to Europe, traveling with Ray for the three-year period.9

Clare’s notion of the ideal tutor’s résumé placed a premium on European travel; but his concern to provide the most rounded education possible for his child was bound up with religious questions, made all the more prominent by the events of the Restoration. Clare’s will of 1687 bespeaks a staunch Calvinist.10 In 1682, he was ‘convicted of wilfully and wittingly permitting sixteen several conventicles to be held in his house’, yet there is no evidence of Clare refusing to attend church services.11 These pieces of evidence – Clare’s letter, his will, his fine for allowing conventicling, and indirect evidence of church attendance – make it likely that Clare was partially conformable. From his ascension to the House of Lords in 1666, Clare voted consistently with the Country party. He was sufficiently outspoken on the Catholic succession to be accused of factionalism, siding with the Earl of Shaftesbury and a group of Country MPs in the Commons, and therefore, to the mind of Sir Gilbert Talbot, MP, was partly responsible for Charles II’s prorogation of Parliament in November 1673.12 When Parliament reconvened in January 1673/4, Clare was forced to apologize for publicly criticizing Charles II’s interference in the Lords’ debates on religion; he supported the bill for the comprehension of nonconformists in the same session.13

Clare’s religious views shaped the choices he made about his children’s education. His eldest son, John, Lord Haughton (later Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne) was then thirteen years old. Employing a staunchly Anglican tutor in a puritan household was unacceptable, nor was Clare minded to send his son to university. Universities required oaths to be taken at the matriculation and graduation stages of degrees – and this meant subscribing to the Thirty-Nine Articles. Clause 17 required a declaration of ‘unfeigned assent and consent’ to the Book of Common Prayer, including the rites and ceremonies partial conformists and nonconformists found objectionable. Clare’s eschewal of the Holles tradition of sending his sons to Christ’s College, Cambridge – as Harley’s of sending his children to Magdalen Hall, Oxford – was enough to earn him a place among the categories of ‘papists, fanatics, travail’d fops, witts, virtuosi, and atheists’ who, according to John Fell, the vice chancellor of Oxford, ‘disparage and decry university education, and afraight all persons from sending their children hither’.14

John Mapletoft (1631–1721) the second tutor Clare considered, presents a less clear-cut confessional affiliation. A contemporary of Ray’s at Trinity College, Cambridge, Mapletoft swore the necessary oaths to remain at the college until he was incorporated MD at Oxford in 1669. It is not necessarily the case that Mapletoft was entirely enthusiastic about subscribing to the Thirty-Nine Articles. His own much later ordination in 1683 gave him pause. He was eventually persuaded to take orders by the vocal apologist for Anglicanism, Simon Patrick, who counseled, ‘I remember well that Bp. Sanderson, when the King was first restored, received the subscription of an acquaintance of mine, which, he declared, was not to them as articles of Faith, but Peace’.15 If Mapletoft had misgivings about oaths, Patrick thought he ‘need make no scruple of that matter’.16 The recommendation of Mapletoft to Clare had come second-hand from Clare’s brother-in-law, Sir James Langham (1621–99), passing on a suggestion by John Tillotson (1630–94), then Dean of Canterbury. It seems Tillotson and Langham were less fixed on a candidate with scruples about the oaths associated with uniformity than Clare, yet neither was attempting to smuggle a resolute conformist into Clare’s household. Langham was known to attend Richard Baxter’s conventicles in London.17 Although Tillotson would become the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1691, he consistently offered encouragement to nonconformists. As Clare was writing to Harley in April 1674 in the wake of the aborted comprehension bill, Tillotson met with Baxter and Stillingfleet to draw up alternative plans for comprehension. While Tillotson suspected the new bill would be defeated by the bishops, he insisted to Baxter that he did ‘most heartily desire an Accommodation, and shall always endeavour it’.18 Tillotson was also a member of the same trust as Harley, set up by the ejected minister, Thomas Gouge, to oversee a scheme for issuing Welsh-language bibles to the poor.19

Marvell understood the importance of instilling the right kind of godliness in one’s charge in alignment with a parent’s wishes. Dutton, Marvell’s pupil in the 1650s, was under the guardianship of Oliver Cromwell. Marvell and Dutton were sent to lodge in the household of John Oxenbridge at Eton College. Oxenbridge was a staunch puritan, expelled from his fellowship at Magdalen Hall by William Laud in 1634 for imposing a severe disciplinary system on his students that required a personal oath of obedience.20 Seemingly this was the right kind of moral environment for Dutton to be educated in, as Marvell was keen to underline in a letter to Cromwell. He offered assurances that ‘above all I shall labour to make him [Dutton] sensible of his Duty to God. For then we begin to serve faithfully, when we consider that he is our Master’, continuing that ‘I ow [sic] infinitely to your Lordship, for having placed us in so godly a family as that of Mr Oxenbridge’.21

Since Clare was interested in sending his son abroad, employing a tutor with appropriate scruples became especially important. The author of the guide Of Education (1673) made plain that he

WOULD not advise any young man to go abroad without an Assistant or Governor, a Scholar: one able to instruct him in such ingenious Arts, as are fitting for him to know; to chuse his companions (else a young man left to himself, not having to employ his time, must of necessity fall to debauchery, and evil company, who are alwaies ready to seize upon young straies;) to assist him in sicknes, or any other necessity; to advertise him of his failures; to exact the performance of his studies, exercises, and emploiments; to husband his allowance; to keep him company, and furnish him good discourse, and good example.22

Wharton knew to his cost what it meant to send one’s son abroad with an ineffectual tutor. In 1662, Wharton appointed Theophilus Gale, a puritan minister ejected from his position at Winchester Cathedral.23 Letters between Wharton and Gale attest to the care that was taken to find a suitable place where to relocate the children. They settled on Caen in northern France, principally because it was a center of French Protestantism. Gale, sent ahead to survey the town, reported that in Caen there were ‘numerous’ Huguenots among the local population and that the Huguenot ministers were ‘learned and able’.24 He noted too that Protestants were free to attend the public university in Caen and that there were numerous Protestant academies in which the children could be enrolled. Yet a safe Protestant environment was not enough to prevent Thomas Wharton from going off the rails, defying Gale by choosing to associate with ungodly classmates, refusing to study and attending masques without permission, which in Gale’s mind amounted to ‘open wickedness’.25 Similarly, Clare’s skepticism about Mapletoft would make sense if the story of Mapletoft’s abortive trip to Rome with Joceline Percy (1644–1670) ‘ye last earl of Northumberland’ had reached Clare. Because of the Percys’ Catholic heritage, Joceline had attracted a good deal of attention in Rome from those hoping for an English aristocratic convert, prompting Mapletoft to withdraw his pupil to The Hague.26

An obvious question might be, with such potential risks abroad, why send your children to Europe? Clare’s correspondence is never explicit about the apparent advantages of travel, but we can turn to other contemporary related accounts. The grandfather of Joceline Percy left an instruction manual for future generations on running a household, which was circulated in manuscript amongst the nobility. Henry Percy’s Advice to His Son (c. 1609) devoted thirteen pages to the proper education of children. While ‘attaining to the Latin is of most use’, the Earl thought that other languages ‘were good and profitable’ and that these ought to be learned from a child’s ‘first travels’ abroad.27 The diarist John Evelyn also had an opinion on the education of the Percy children. Writing to his friend, Edward Thurland, he expressed concern about the Earl’s plans to send Joceline abroad because experientially he warned ‘the education of most of our nobility abroad’ left them ‘insolent and ignorant, debauched’.28 He did concede that with an appropriately ‘sober’ tutor, a boy could ‘be taught to daunc, and to ride, to speake Languages and weare his clothes with a good grace (which are the shells of Travail), but, besides all these, that he know mens customes, courts and disciplines, and whatsoever superior excellencies the Places afford’.29

Caen was favored by Wharton because it had numerous academies offering tutelage in fencing, dancing, music, and, as Gale put it ‘riding the great horse’.30 It seems that European destinations were superior places to gain these skills. Immersion in a different culture also mattered. European expertise could of course be bought in England: Clare could have employed Europeans in his household. Wharton did so. Jacques Le Fevre, a Huguenot, taught the children French; Gale likewise records the short-term appointment of a French tutor to instruct the children in the new and fashionable ‘Italian hand’.31 Nevertheless, it was important that children had exposure to other customs – this was a marked concern for Wharton and for Gale. Sending the children to France allowed them to acclimatize to what Gale termed the ‘French humour and spirit’.32

This was Marvell’s experience of traveling with Dutton. Dutton was ‘for his better accomplishment to travel beyond the sea’.33 Yet where Marvell had traveled widely with ‘noblemens sonnes’ in France, Italy, Spain and Holland in the 1640s, he was based only in Saumur in the west of France with Dutton.34 Saumur was home to a Protestant academy viewed as one of the principal centers of learning among the international Protestant community. It housed, among other notable theologians, Moïse Amyraut, a controversial scholar widely recognized for teaching hypothetical universalism, in opposition to the Calvinist doctrine of predestination.35 Until recently, Marvell scholars have assumed that the academy at Saumur was the primary reason Marvell was sent there with Dutton. For Smith, ‘it makes sense to suppose that Dutton attended lectures by the eminent faculty of the academy while Marvell continued to function as his tutor and governor’.36 Yet research by Jean-Paul Pittion suggests that this was not the case. Attending the academy at Saumur was reserved for pupils intended for the ministry only, not visiting scholars. Access to Amyraut would have been limited to the sermons he gave at Saumur’s church. What had developed in Saumur instead was a thriving local economy of tutors and schools teaching languages, music, horse riding and fencing, drawn to the area because of its Protestant population.37 We should assume that Dutton’s ‘better accomplishment’ was gained by this type of tuition, rather than studying divinity. Marvell’s experience of traveling in the 1640s had involved similar training: in a letter written in 1671, Marvell recalls his ‘Fencing-master in Spain’.38 And by the time Harley’s sons had reached an appropriate age these kinds of academies had begun to appear in London. Rather than send his eldest son, Robert (the future Earl of Oxford and prime minister) abroad, he was enrolled in a French Protestant academy in Sherwood Street, Piccadilly, after a period of eight years in a dissenting academy. ‘Ye French Academy’ was founded by the Huguenot fencing expert, Henri Foubert and taught exclusively military arts.39

Whether academy-based learning was what Clare had in mind for his son is not clear. Clare’s rejection of Marvell’s unnamed candidate on the grounds that he ‘had been only in France’ implies that something approaching a Grand Tour was planned – what happened next gives no further clues. In the event, Clare accompanied his son abroad. On 4 September 1674, Henry Coventry, Secretary of State, logged confirmation of a license granted to ‘Gilbert, Earl of Clare, with his sons, John, Lord Haughton, and William Holles, to travel beyond the sea for his health and their education, taking a governor and a tutor, four servants and four horses and 50l. in money’.40 Frustratingly there is no further evidence to identify either the tutor or governor. Clare’s sons disappear from the records beyond this point. Clare returned alone six months later, having sailed from The Hague to Harwich. Clare’s arrival was considered noteworthy only because all boats in Harwich were being watched by Silas Taylor, a government informer.41 It is therefore impossible on the available evidence to establish if Clare’s children were resident in Holland, visiting there, or if The Hague was simply a convenient port of departure for Clare.

The identity of Marvell’s ‘person who had been only in France’ also remains a puzzle. That Clare did not object to this man’s principles implies that he was a nonconformist. Marvell, we might assume then, had sufficient contacts among nonconformist tutors to suggest suitable candidates; possibly contacts made while at Cambridge as an undergraduate, men who had since joined the ranks of ejected fellows.

Beyond what the letter tells us about Marvell’s nonconformist acquaintances in the Restoration, is the issue of how to reconcile Marvell’s apparent conformity with the assistance he was offering Clare. Helping Clare to sidestep established church practices by employing a nonconformist to teach his children, or avoiding the oaths required by the universities, was helping to inculcate puritan beliefs in Clare’s children. Yet what we know about Marvell’s position in 1674–5, at least as far as it is described in his writing, points towards moderation. Mr. Smirke; or, The divine in mode (1675) is the closest dateable publication we have to Clare’s letter. Smirke was a consequence of the failure of the plans made by Tillotson, Baxter and Stillingfleet for comprehension first made in 1674, supported by Clare. As the bill fell flat in the House of Lords, bishop Herbert Croft published The Naked Truth (1676) in the hope his argument for comprehension might change opinions. When Croft’s pamphlet came under attack from Anglicans, Marvell wrote Smirke in Croft’s defense.

In Smirke, Marvell echoed Croft’s tougher stance on nonconformity. Croft, he tells his readers ‘does not spare neither the Non-conformists but gives them too their just charge; for neither then certainly, nor now, are they to be excused’.42 Nor was there enough ‘place or leisure’ in Smirke for Marvell ‘to particularize their [nonconformists’] failings’.43 This was not a new position. Rehearsall Transpros’d: The Second Part (1673) written three years earlier, expresses concern that nonconformists should be reunited with ‘the Discipline of our Church’.44 His earlier poetry expresses disdain towards sectarian groups.45 As a public servant Marvell would have sworn the oath giving ‘unfeigned assent and consent’ to the Book of Common Prayer, and as a MP would have taken communion at Westminster. There is no evidence to suggest Marvell attended conventicles, yet for Clare to have entrusted Marvell with seeking out a nonconformist tutor raises questions about what fundamentally Marvell’s attitude to nonconformity was.

Clare was an orthodox Calvinist. The lengthy preamble to his will shows that he held with the doctrine of predestination, and the belief that it was not possible to purchase salvation. Clare despised any teaching that claimed human moral effort had a salvific role. Morality to Clare was not efficacious, and he saw the church’s insistence on ceremony as a form of moralism as well as a relic of Laudian Arminianism.46 It was a constant source of ‘vexation of spirit [sic]’ to Clare that there were continued disagreements over confessional affiliations.47 Marvell had sympathy with Clare’s inability to comply with ceremony. In Smirke, he argued that what constituted faith and salvation was laid down in scripture, without ‘any Chicanrey [sic] and Conveyancing of Humane Extensions’ – that is, church practices.48 In the same way, readers of Rehearsall Transpros’d are told that ‘inessential’ religious observances were ‘things indifferent in their own nature’ and ‘have no antecedent necessity, but only bind as they are commanded’.49 Ceremonies were authoritatively prescribed by Church government and arbitrarily applied. Communion with the Church, then, was a Christian entitlement, a ‘Right […] so undoubted and ancient’, that it could not be curbed by any ‘humane restrictions and capitulations’ of the church or clergy.50

While apparently opting for partial conformity, Clare had little interest in separating from the church. Clare’s support for comprehension in 1674 suggests that Clare was more interested in engineering circumstances in which nonconformists could worship within the church, rather than outside it. His scruples over ‘inessentials’ of worship and the Thirty-Nine Articles, did alienate him from the Restoration Church – and more broadly such a position created a paradox, as Mark Goldie frames it, of puritans holding to ‘church-type’ theory, ‘but, by opting for ejection’ observing ‘“sect-type” practice’.51 Yet, in objecting to oaths and the ‘inessentials’ of the English church, not the existence of the church itself, Clare was far from the unacceptable face of sectarianism that Marvell scorned. And if Marvell’s own piety (attending church services, swearing oaths and taking part in ceremonies) seems utterly conventional, it appears as though he thought the ‘discipline of our Church’ was broad enough to include partial- or nonconformists like Clare.

Clare only mentions Marvell in passing, yet as a named associate of Clare’s, as well as enmeshed in the same religious and educational concerns as Clare, the letter provides valuable information about Marvell in the Restoration. Being entrusted to find a tutor for Clare’s eldest child suggests that Marvell was a client of Clare’s: sharing his knowledge of tutoring and foreign travel was one way for Marvell to provide Clare with assistance, and, presumably, of establishing trust. Clare should, in future, be noted alongside Harley and Wharton as one of Marvell’s patrons. Clare’s beliefs and his politics are also significant. At a point when Marvell was writing impassioned defenses of religious comprehension and the views of nonconformists, how far contact with puritan politicians like Clare may have influenced what he wrote should give us pause. Marvell’s faith can be difficult to pin down. What, then, the letter implies about Marvell’s attitude to nonconformity offers a helpful gauge with which to measure any difference between what we are told in the pamphlets, and Marvell’s own conduct. Here, at least, Marvell’s actions tally with what he says in print.

Equally, the letter gives us a sense of the importance afforded to European travel, before the grand tour had become commonplace. Plainly, educating children abroad was a preoccupation for those in elite circles in the seventeenth century – from Clare, to the Percy family, to guides written dedicated to foreign travel, or John Evelyn’s opinions on the subject. Whatever Clare’s concerns about sending his son to religiously acceptable destinations with a religiously acceptable tutor, it is clear that the cultural and linguistic benefits of going ‘beyond the sea’ remained desirable – seemingly educational ‘accomplishment’ came from overseas. And the letter survives as evidence of how Marvell’s experiences in the 1640s and 1650s could still be of use decades later.