Hearts Through History Romance Writers

To His Coy Mistress

Andrew Marvell--some called him the British Aristides

Andrew Marvell–some called him the British Aristides

A brilliant poem, “To His Coy Mistress,” was written in the seventeenth century by Andrew Marvell. A friend and supporter of John Milton, Marvell was a deadly fencer and could speak a variety of foreign languages.

Some thought he might be a double agent.

His father was a Calvinist preacher, who drowned while crossing the Humber estuary. Accounts of this tragedy vary exceedingly, as it seems the reverend was accompanied by a young woman who was not his wife. In any case, after the untimely death of his father young Marvell abandoned his studies that were to prepare him for the ministry, and travelled for years on the Continent. Then he began to write poetry, becoming famous for both his brilliant satire and strong disgust of public corruption.

Today he is known for producing forty-six lines of “seductive words with the wit of a courtier and the passion of a lusty lover:”

Had we but world enough, and time/This coyness, Lady, were no crime

An hundred years should go to praise/Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze; 
Two hundred to adore each breast/But thirty thousand to the rest;

In the Renaissance, a man could happily love the woman over centuries, her delays no obstacles, if time and space allowed. The recipient of such fulsome complimenting is not to be insulted, but charmed by the wit that accompanies it.

Beginning with the stanza that was to later haunt T. S. Eliot, the tone of the poem turns ominous as the lover would hurry his beloved to capitulation. Just think, he writes, of what lies ahead, what will someday embrace you, yea, even down there:

A detail of the Rape of Proserpina sculpture by Bernini in the Galleria Borghese (Licensed under the GFDL by the author Int3gr4te; Released under the GNU Free Documentation License)

A detail of the Rape of Proserpina sculpture by Bernini in the Galleria Borghese (Licensed under the GFDL by the author Int3gr4te; Released under the GNU Free Documentation License)

But at my back I always hear/Time’s winged chariot hurrying near; 
And yonder all before us lie /Deserts of vast eternity
Thy beauty shall no more be found/Nor, in thy marble vault shall sound
My echoing song: then worms shall try/That long preserved virginity,

And your quaint honour to dust,/And into ashes all my lust
The grave’s a fine and private place,/But none, I think, do there embrace.

Better to seize the day and make love now — “sporting,” he implores, like “birds of prey:”

Let us roll all our strength and all/Our sweetness up into one ball, 
And tear our pleasures with rough strife/Thorough the iron gates of life.

Andrew Marvell died a poor man in 1678, essentially having lived a life of mystery. A few years after his death his poems were published by an equally mysterious Mary Palmer, a woman who claimed to have been his housekeeper–and his wife. Litigation filed in chancery court attempted to discover the true nature of her marriage but it seems no one could be found answering to her name.

Modern scholars believe Mary Palmer to be a fiction, created by either the publisher or the Marvell’s creditor, to collect on his estate.

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Desiderius Erasmus

Erasmus HallI’ve been getting messages about my upcoming high school reunion. Are you scratching your head? What does my high school reunion have to do with Desi? I am proud to say I went to Erasmus Hall High School, in Brooklyn. So, who was Desiderius Erasmus and why name a school for him?

Born Gerard Gerards, October 27, 1466 in Holland. Gerards was known as Erasmus of Rotterdam, or simply Erasmus. He was a Dutch Renaissance humanist, Catholic priest, social critic, teacher and theologian. He was the most famous and influential humanist of the Northern Renaissance, a man of great talent and industriousness who rose from obscure beginnings to become the leading intellectual figure of the early sixteenth century. He was courted by rulers and prelates who wanted to enhance their own reputations by associating with the greatest scholar of the age. (more…)

The Renaissance and Women

It has long been held that the Renaissance began in Florence, Italy in the 14th century mostly because of the social and civic uniqueness of the city at that time.  The Renaissance was a cultural movement that saw the rise of literature, science, art, religion, and politics. It was an intellectual transformation that bridged the Middle Ages and Modern era.

Women in the Renaissance were primarily the domestic caretakers of the children and the household. They were subordinate inferiors of men. Only a few wealthy women escaped the tasks of making clothes from scratch, the overall maintenance of the home, and production of food. In the Middle Ages master craftsmen worked out of the family home. The women of the house not only did their womanly chores but also took on responsibilities in the family business. In the 13th century, the family business was removed from the home to larger shops in a different location.  It’s during this time period that crafts became individual male trades thus removing the women in the household from participating while she kept house. However, fathers and husbands who stood to profit from the careers of their daughters and wives were not likely to oppose their participation. However, this was not a very common situation. Historians believe women filled a greater variety of professional roles, had more responsibilities, and had more economic contribution during the Middle Ages rather than the Renaissance.

Like the Middle Ages, women of the Renaissance were denied all political rights and considered legally subject to their husbands. A woman was controlled by her parents throughout her childhood, and then handed directly into the hands of a husband, whom she most likely had not chosen herself, and who would exercise control over her until her death or his. Unmarried women were not emancipated but lived under the subjugation of a male relative or in a convent where she could become a nun, the only profession allowed to women.

The heroine in my book, Knight or Runes, is a 21st century renowned Renaissance scholar. She is an independent take control person. She has a black belt in martial arts and is a survival and rescue expert. When she’s tossed back into 17th century England she’s challenged by the repressive attitudes about women. You’ll have to read the book to see how she fares but how would you cope and survive? What would be your biggest challenge?