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Name: Steph Coster

PhD: English Literature

Thesis Title: Andrew Marvell and the Puritan Whigs

Thesis Description:

My thesis  examines the extent to which Marvell can be seen as a ‘puritan Whig’. That is, I am investigating how, during the Restoration, Marvell engaged with political groups who were more invested in parliament than in the crown, and whose religious and political values remained strongly influenced by the English Civil War. When Marvell’s Miscellaneous Poems were posthumously published in 1681, the publisher, Robert Boulter, intended to trade on Marvell’s Cromwellian credentials, marketing Marvell as a Whig. My thesis works backwards from 1681, considering Marvell’s published writings, and how far the religio-political contents and the circulation of those works actually fed that reputation, and how far the archives can confirm Marvell’s connections with other puritan Whigs.

These lines of enquiry will necessarily consider questions of religious comprehension, toleration, and the nature of religious dissent in the Restoration. If few Whigs identified as dissenters, their policies were geared towards the civil and religious freedoms that allowed for Protestant pluralism. It is the case that puritanism often displayed contiguity with Anglican doctrine. The fine line between those that did not – and those that did – conform to the Anglican Church was dictated by scruples about adiaphora. The civil imposition of adiaphora, forcing nonconformists’ separation from the established Church, was often blamed on clerics, and the episcopacy in particular; Whig policy, then, was often anticlerical, seeking to limit clerical influence on politics. How Marvell’s writing reacts to, and reflects, these issues is a key concern.


Supervisors and Institution(s): 

Prof. John Coffey (University of Leicester);

Dr. Kate Loveman (University of Leicester)


Publications (please include full details with page nos. or web links):

‘Sending “them beyond the sea”: Andrew Marvell, the earl of Clare and tutoring in the Restoration’, in Marvell Studies [Open Library of Humanities] (forthcoming, March 2017)

‘Robert Boulter and Andrew Marvell’s Miscellaneous Poems’, Review of English Studies (forthcoming) Shortlisted for the RES Essay Prize 2016

‘“privat schools under fanaticks”: educating Restoration nonconformists’ in Teaching and Learning in Early Modern England eds. Jennifer Bishop and John Gallagher (Manchester University Press, forthcoming)


Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:


‘“he would have the Earl of Shaftesbury’s head off”: Robert Boulter and the Popish Plot trials’, Turning Points in Britain and Ireland, 1658-1714: Bangor University Conference on the Restoration, 28-30 July 2017.

‘Captain Edward Thompson and the textual transmission of Marvell’s “An Horatian Ode”’, South-Central Renaissance Conference, Austin, TX, 20-22 April 2017.

‘Marvell the puritan freethinker or deist?’, Renaissance Society of America, Chicago, IL, March 30-1 April 2017.

‘Robert Boulter, Andrew Marvell’s Miscellaneous Poems and Whig politics in the 1680s’, Early Modern Seminar Series, University of Leicester, 30 January 2017.

‘“Conventicling schools”: educating nonconformists in the Restoration’, Teaching & Learning in Early Modern England: Skills & Knowledge in Practice, Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge, 1-2 September 2016.

‘Marvell and European education’, Andrew Marvell and Europe: An International Interdisciplinary Conference, Université de Haute Alsace Mulhouse & Université de Strasbourg, 23-25 June 2016.

‘Andrew Marvell and dissenting education’, Renaissance Society of America Conference, Boston, MA, 1-3 April 2016.

Plenary paper, ‘Andrew Marvell, Miscellaneous Poems and Robert Boulter’, South-Central Renaissance Conference, St. Louis, MO, 24-26 March 2016 – awarded the John Wallace Prize for the best paper given by a postgraduate or early career scholar.

'Sir Edward Harley and his "New Trading Combinations"', Britain Ireland and the overseas world, 1660-1714: Bangor University Conference on the Restoration, 28-30 July 2015.

‘Andrew Marvell, Mr. Smirke and Sir Edward Harley’, South-Central Renaissance Conference, Raleigh, NC, 12-14 March 2015.


Other Research Interests: Book history (especially mapping London book sites in the restoration); editing and textual culture.


SDF Grants:

My SDF application (2016) provided me with funding to give papers at the South-Central Renaissance Conference (SCRC) in St. Louis (March 24-26, 2016) and the Renaissance Society of America Annual Conference (RSA) in Boston (March 31-April 3, 2016) and for study visits to the Butler Library and Union Theological Seminary, Columbia University, NYC; the Burke Library (New York Public Library), NYC; the Pierpont Morgan Library, NYC; the Houghton Library (Harvard University), Boston. The results (and benefits) of that research were as follows:

  • My plenary paper at the SCRC won the John M. Wallace award, given to the best paper presented by a graduate or early career scholar. From discussion of this paper, I have received an invitation from Dr. Tom Roebuck at the University of East Anglia to speak at their Medieval and Early Modern Research Seminar.
  • The Morgan Library, NY, holds Henry Thoreau’s notebooks, which contain notes made by Thoreau on Marvell. Research suggests these writings are unknown to Marvell scholars and should therefore enable me to publish these findings. The Morgan Library also holds a copy of Andrew Marvell’s editio princeps, Miscellaneous Poems (1681). The circumstances of its publication and printing have never been fully established. Most existing volumes have redacted contents; the two remaining halves of the volume being spatch-cocked together resulting in non-numerical pagination. Declan Kiely (Robert H. Taylor Curator and Department Head of Literary and Historical Manuscripts) and John Bidwell, (Astor Curator and Department Head of Printed Books and Bindings), agreed to a collaborative project, working with the Morgan’s book conservationist, Justine Provino, to disbind their copy and assess the page gatherings and pagination. The results have contributed to ground-breaking research on Marvell's publication history, and an article to be published in Review of English Studies in 2017. 
  • My paper at the RSA resulted in an invitation from Dr. John Gallagher to speak the Teaching and Education in Early Modern England conference at Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge in September 2016. I am now contributing a chapter to his forthcoming edition on teaching in the early modern period for Manchester University Press.
  • My research at the Houghton also proved useful. The Houghton holds Alfred Tennyson’s copy of Miscellaneous Poems, including his annotations. I have noticed that their cataloguing of these annotations is incomplete. I have now drafted an article based on this research, that will be submitted for publication shortly.

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