Nigel Smith’s ‘Andrew Marvell: The Chameleon’ makes the shortlist for Best First Biography Prize

Andrew Marvell: The Chameleon

Andrew Marvell: The Chameleon

Andrew Marvell: The Chameleon, Nigel Smith’s definitive account of the British poet’s elusive life, has made the shortlist for the £5,000 HW Fisher Best First Biography Prize.

Nigel Smith’s impressive portrait of Andrew Marvell has already received wide acclaim, having been dubbed a TLS ‘Book of the Year’ in 2010. Now, Yale is pleased to announce that Andrew Marvell: The Chameleon has been nominated for the HW Fisher Best First Biography Prize, organised by the Biographers Club.

The seventeenth-century poet Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) is one of the most intriguing figures in English literature. A noted civil servant under Cromwell’s Protectorate, he has been variously identified as a patriot, spy, conspirator, concealed homosexual, father to the liberal tradition, and incendiary satirical pamphleteer and freethinker. But while Marvell’s poetry and prose has attracted a wide modern following, his prose is known only to specialists, and much of his personal life remains shrouded in mystery.

Nigel Smith’s pivotal biography provides an unparalleled look into Marvell’s life, from his early employment as a tutor and gentleman’s companion to his suspicious death, reputedly a politically fueled poisoning. Drawing on exhaustive archival research, the voluminous corpus of Marvell’s previously little known writing, and recent scholarship across several disciplines, Smith’s portrait becomes the definitive account of this elusive life.

The Biographers’ Club announced the 2011 shortlist for £5,000 biography prize this morning. The shortlist was picked from a record entry of 68 titles by this year’s judges: Anne Sebba (That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor), Nicholas Clee (joint-editor of Bookbrunch and the author of Eclipse) and Michael Prodger (former literary editor of the Sunday Telegraph).

The winner will be announced at an event on 25 October, 6.30pm at the Oriental Club, Stratford Place, London.

More about the author

Nigel Smith

Nigel Smith

Nigel Smith is William and Annie S. Paton Foundation Professor of Ancient and Modern Literature at Princeton University, to which he came from the University of Oxford, England, in 1999. He has published widely on seventeenth century and history, and his interests included poetry, poetic theory; literature, politics and religion; heresy and heterodoxy; radical literature; early prose fiction; women’s writing; journalism; censorship.

He has published two books with Yale University Press, Andrew Marvell: The Chameleon (2010), a TLS ‘Book of the Year’ for 2010, and Literature and Revolution in England, 1640-1660 (1994).

Andrew Marvell: The Chameleon is available now from Yale University Press and will be available in paperback in Spring 2012.

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