Renaissance Quarterly, Winter 1996 v49 n4 p824(16)

Preserving Property: History, Genealogy, and Inheritance in "Upon Appleton House." Patton, Brian.

Abstract: Andrew Marvell's 'Upon Appleton House' traces the origins of the house owned by the Fairfax family. The poem affirms the natural connection between the family name and the estate, and narrates the family records of the Fairfaxes, from the union of William Fairfax and Isabel Thwaites to the romance of Thomas Fairfax and Anne Vere. It narrates the connections between William, Thomas and the Nun Appleton, and accounts for the weakness of the female link in the Fairfax dynastic chain.

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 1996 Renaissance Society of America

"I hope that they may live to see the power of the King and the Lords thrown down, that yet may live to see property preserved."

- Colonel Petty at Putney, 28 October 1647 ((Woodhouse, 61)

The famous army debates held at Putney in 1647 provide us with some remarkable insights into the misgivings of the men who were soon to bring about the trial and execution of their king. Their very practical need to placate the then powerful "Leveller" faction within the army drew the "Grandees" into talks which clearly reveal the limits of their revolutionary aspirations. The principal objection of both Oliver Cromwell and Henry Ireton to the proposals of the Levellers is also the most telling: both men saw in the proposed Leveller constitution, The Agreement of the People, a threat to the current economic order, an order based upon the ownership of property by a relatively small number of men. Ireton declared, "All the main thing that I speak for, is because I would have an eye to property" (Woodhouse, 57), and his constant harping upon the point underscores his sense of its importance. The denial of "all property" - which was what he took to be the Leveller program - would be an affront to both natural and divine law (ibid., 58, 60). Cromwell, complementing Ireton's invocation of God and nature with the more mundane promptings of necessity, added that "the consequence of this rule tends to anarchy, must end in anarchy" (ibid., 59).

Neither Cromwell nor Ireton was the first to express concern over the future of an economic system with which they were well pleased. Lawrence Stone records that from the early years of the 1640s the propertied classes watched the growing rural and urban disturbances with an increasing uneasiness that transformed many a moderate reformer into a reluctant royalist (Stone, 1972, 141). Owners of land were, after all, the bearers of considerable political and economic power. And the urgency with which property holders on both sides of the revolutionary divide sought to defend their rights becomes more comprehensible still in light of the centrality of property to one's sense of identity in seventeenth-century England. As James Turner has observed, "'land' and 'place'" were "equivalent to 'propriety' - meaning . . . both property and knowing one's place" (Turner, 5). One's "estate" was not merely a geographical entity - this modern sense of the word does not appear before the latter half of the eighteenth century (OED 13a) - nor was its meaning limited to "possessions, fortune," or "capital" (ibid., 12a). In early modern England, one's "estate" referred also to one's position in the social world (ibid., 3a). So the repeated claim by hostile propagandists that activists like the Leveller John Lilburne or the Digger Gerrard Winstanley were "subverters of well-settled States" (Faerie Leveller, 3) is not merely an accusation of public mischief, of threatening to level enclosures or otherwise infringe upon another's property rights, but one of attempting to dismantle the social order by unnaturally removing all distinctions between men. As even the most casual reader of sixteenth- or seventeenth-century literature will be aware, conventional wisdom held that the preservation of those distinctions guaranteed an harmonious and organic society, while the failure to maintain them would - as Cromwell feared - inevitably plunge the world into a state of anarchy. Of course, conventional wisdom is frequently at odds with the circumstances that nonetheless manage to produce and sustain it, and with the rise of the Digger movement in the months after the regicide, claims that the current economic order was conducive to social harmony appeared very dubious indeed.

The desire of the wealthy to assert an intrinsic connection between their identities and their properties is perhaps nowhere more obvious than in the country-house poems that began to appear in the first half of the seventeenth century, when possession of a country seat was, in Stone's words, "a sine qua non of elite membership" (Stone, 1984, 11). The country house - as celebrated in poems like Jonson's "To Penshurst," Carew's "To Saxham," and Herrick's "A Panegerick to Sir Lewis Pemberton" - is not only a nexus of social relations, but a visible emblem of the benevolent authority of the nobility, a showplace for spectacular displays of well-managed wealth.

However, during the civil wars and their aftermath, questions regarding the legitimating bases of English society were raised with a new intensity. At Putney the Leveller Thomas Rainborough expressed an interest in determining "how it comes about that there is such a propriety in some freeborn Englishmen, and not [in] others" (Woodhouse, 65). A few years later, in A Watch-Word to the City of London, a typically spirited response to his arrest and those of two fellow Diggers on a charge of trespassing, Gerrard Winstanley clarified the potentially radical implications of Rainborough's query. Drawing upon the characteristic idiom of Digger writings, Winstanley marvelled that the "Norman tyrants" and their descendants had managed to maintain their "usurped" power for so long. "We wonder," he remarked, "where you had your power to rule over us by will, more then we to rule over you by our will" (ibid., 338). The implication of Winstanley's statement is as clear as it is fundamentally opposed to the ideology underlying all of the country-house poems of the period: what separates rich from poor, ruler from ruled, landlord from tenant, is a barrier neither natural nor divine. Rather, it is merely human - the "will" of the covetous that has overcome the will of the poor and oppressed. For Winstanley, the origin of property lies in common human greed, and the approaching demise of property brings with it a promise of universal human peace (Winstanley, 262).

More than any other example of its genre, Marvell's "Upon Appleton House" delves into the origins of the house it celebrates. He traces "the progress of this house's fate" from its beginnings as a Catholic convent in the years prior to the English Reformation up to the present moment. Raymond Williams has rightly noted an "advance in candour" (Williams, 56) in Marvell's poem as compared with its predecessors, but his supposition that the poet's wit is employed exclusively in the service of candor - that "the origin of the house is no longer mystified, but is openly and wittily stated and justified" (ibid., 55) - is itself unjustified. Rather, Marvell's account of "the progress of this house's fate" represents an attempt to balance the demands of the historical record with those of a desirable notion of history as a process that is both teleological and comprehensible, and that has, in accordance with destiny, produced a world in which the Fairfaxes's comfortable position is and always has been assured. Although his account is hardly offered in support of Winstanley's thesis on the origins of property, that thesis provides a very helpful point of entry into a poem that actually works to distract its audience from the mundane economic factors underlying the Fairfax acquisition and maintenance of its property. What I will argue in the pages that follow, though, is that both preserving that property and appearing to do so, prove difficult, if not impossible, tasks.

All aristocratic families scrupulously preserved the genealogical records that supported their claims to antiquity and its consequent privileges. According to at least one account, though, the Fairfaxes may have been even more scrupulous than most. George Johnson remarks that "the care with which the family records of the Fairfaxes were preserved is almost without parallel. In no other collection are there to be discovered such a mass of letters and documents, public and private; pedigrees, not only of the different branches of their own family, but of all the families with whom they were connected by intermarriage" (Johnson, 1:lviii). Apparently, the lord general not only shared his family's fascination with its own history, but also showed an interest in the history of England's convents and monasteries (Hodge, 137, 145). It would seem unlikely, then, that Fairfax would not already have been familiar with the material that Maryell shapes into the historical narrative of "Upon Appleton House."

Nor is it surprising that, in a poem he addresses "to my Lord Fairfax," Marvell should place a great deal of emphasis on the genealogy of the family, and particularly upon the principal male line that he calls "the great race" (Marvell, 1972, 31). The poet affirms the nobility of his patrons' respective families in a manner in which they would no doubt be well pleased. In accordance with contemporary convention, Nun Appleton is portrayed as a physical manifestation of the familial "house," inhabiting it generation after generation. An immutable monument to the house of Fairfax, it stands firm amid the flux of history, preserving the names and reputations of its inhabitants for future ages who "Shall hither come in pilgrimage / These sacred places to adore, / By Vere and Fairfax trod before" (ibid., 5).

The poet also affirms - as did Jonson, celebrating the Sidney estate in "To Penshurst" - the natural connection between the family name and the estate. The very woods surrounding Nun Appleton are emblematic of the two pure and well-established lines that have merged through the marriage of Marvell's patrons, Thomas Fairfax and Anne Vere: "The double wood of ancient stocks / Linked in so thick, an union locks, / It like two pedigrees appears, / On one hand Fairfax, th' other Vere's" (ibid., 62). The trees suggest to Marvell the pedigrees, the genealogical trees of Fairfax and Vere, two "ancient stocks" united by marriage. His use of the Fairfax/Vere marriage as a metaphor suggests that it was, by seventeenth-century standards, a good one. The union extends well beyond Thomas and Anne to encompass all of their kin. Furthermore, both families are established and secure in their social positions, so it appears to the poet "As if their neighbourhood so old / To one great trunk them all did mould" (ibid., 63). The alliance is of the sort that consolidates both families' power and shores up the barriers separating the true nobility from the surrounding swarm of arrivistes, the inhabitants of "those proud, ambitious heaps" condemned by Jonson in the final lines of "To Penshurst." The forest that symbolizes the marriage of Fairfax and Vere, then ("Dark all without it knits; within / It opens passable and thin" [ibid., 64]), might also be read as an emblem of the social conservatism in evidence in the poet's earlier assertion that while the great may occasionally stoop "with a certain grace," "Low things" only "clownishly ascend" (ibid., 8). This marriage is good because it not only maintains, but reinforces the status quo.

Marvell's historical narrative extends to the very origin of the house itself, to its acquisition by a member of the Fairfax family at the time of the dissolution. And while he colors the incident with elements of romance coupled with those of anti-Catholic satire, Marvell's account also indicates that the seizure and redistribution of monastic lands in the sixteenth century made manifest precisely the sort of acquisitiveness that Winstanley perceived and condemned.(1) The poet's romantic tale of William Fairfax and Isabel Thwaites and the seductive nuns who would stand between them is an allegorical celebration of the triumph of virtuous Protestantism over decadent Catholicism, but it is also an account of a hard-fought property dispute in which Nun Appleton is the prize. "'Tis thy 'state, / Not thee, that they would consecrate," William warns Isabel of the designing nuns (ibid., 28). Yet his own motives in pursuing Isabel are not as unsullied as the conventions of romance might demand. Although she is, of course, "Fair beyond measure," Isabel is also "an heir / Which might deformity make fair" (ibid., 12). William's victory over the nuns brings her valuable "'state" under his control; to her former companions, Isabel "bequeaths her tears" (ibid., 34).

The marriage of William Fairfax and Isabel Thwaites is held up as an original moment - the simultaneous founding of a dynasty and acquisition of a country estate. But the simultaneity of the two happenings is of Marvell's own making: the dissolution of the monasteries and the family's acquisition of Nun Appleton probably occurred about twenty years after the marriage (Wilson, 5). Marvell telescopes time, bringing the two events together, and the result is the creation of a dramatic and providential moment of founding: "At the demolishing, this seat / To Fairfax fell as by escheat. / And what both nuns and founders willed / 'Tis likely better thus fulfilled" (Marvell, 1972, 35). The teleological thrust of the poet's narrative is obvious. Marvell emphasises the link between Nun Appleton and the house of Fairfax by tracing an apparently continuous genealogical line that begins with the marriage of William Fairfax with Isabel Thwaites and culminates in the emergence of his patron. The poet asks the "Ill-counselled" nuns who would frustrate William's marriage plans,

Is not this he whose offspring fierce Shall fight through all the universe; And with successive valour try France, Poland, either Germany; Till one, as long since prophesied, His horse through conquered Britain ride? (ibid., 31)

William Fairfax is held up as the founder of a dynasty that will ultimately produce the great Thomas Fairfax.

The connection between Thomas Fairfax and his ancestor is underscored in two ways: the fact that Thomas appears to spring immediately from the marriage bed of William and Isabel has led at least one critic to assume mistakenly that Thomas is their son, rather than their great-grandson (Gilliland, 1916); further confusion results from the poet's use of the family name to designate both William and Thomas, leaving the reader uncertain as to which Fairfax the poet refers to at any given moment. Obviously, what Marvell implies is that in spite of their separation in time, there is far more sameness than difference between these two figures named "Fairfax." Past and present are deliberately conflated, creating the appearance of a Fairfax essence that remains unchanged from generation to generation.

However, an examination of Fairfax history reveals the extent to which that appearance is misleading, and we must wonder how much of Marvell's account Fairfax himself could have believed. The historical connections between William, Thomas, and Nun Appleton, while still shrouded in some mystery, are certainly not as Marvell has portrayed them. According to George Johnson's "Historical and Biographical Memoir of the Fairfax Family" (1848), William Fairfax and Isabel Thwaites's eldest son died without issue,(2) leaving their second son, Thomas - the ancestor of Marvell's patron - in position to inherit his father's properties, including the family estate of Steeton. But he did not. Thomas was in fact disinherited by his father of an estate that Thomas's grandson Charles later valued at two thousand pounds per annum (Johnson, 1:xvi-xviii). Thomas, the rightful heir, is not even mentioned in his father's will. According to the will - in what must have been for Thomas a terrible note of finality - the properties were inherited by a younger son, Gabriel, and "the heirs males of the body of the said Gabriel for ever" (ibid., 1:xvii).

This disinheritance, so clearly an obstacle in the poet's path, is an event of importance to readers of "Upon Appleton House," but its force has been diminished owing to the murkiness of the historical accounts. Johnson attributed William's disinheritance of his son to Thomas's participation in the Sack of Rome (although Marvell renders William and Isabel's marriage as an allegory of the English Reformation, William was Catholic). But this account was disputed by C.R. Markham, who pointed out in his 1870 biography of Fairfax that Thomas would have been six years old in 1527 when that event took place. Unfortunately, Markham went on to dismiss altogether the disinheritance claim with some highly unsatisfactory speculation: "The simple truth no doubt is that his son Thomas is not mentioned in William's will because he had been already amply provided for as the heir of his mother, through whom he inherited Denton, Askwith, Acaster, Nunappleton, and property in York" (Markham, 5). A violation of the rules governing primogeniture is a remarkable occurrence, and despite the lack of supporting evidence, Markham's casual dismissal of the disinheritance has proved tempting to writers even to the present day. In his 1979 account of "Marvell's 'Upon Appleton House' and the Fairfax Family," Lee Erickson offers Markham's conjecture as one possible explanation for the failure of Thomas to inherit his father's estates, although Erickson acknowledges that "whatever the explanation, the story of Thomas fighting at the sack of Rome appears to be an attempt to gloss an embarrassing irregularity in the line of descent" (Erickson, 160).

Yet while the reason for the disinheritance of Thomas remains mysterious, the fact of this unusual occurrence can be established with certainty. William's determination that his son should not inherit is very clearly revealed by William's 1557 covenant granting the family estates to "himself for life, then as he should appoint to any person, other than Thomas Fairfax of Bilbroughe, one of his sons, and subject thereto to his sons Gabriel and Henry for 57 years; rems. in tail male to Guy, his eldest son, 'yf God of his grace call him vnto such good and perfecte witte, memorie and discrecion, as he may take and haue by the lawes of this realme the rule, order and disposition theirof himselfe'" (Brown, 127, emphasis mine). Contrary to Markham's speculation, Thomas clearly did not deem himself "amply provided for" and his younger brothers knew it. Subsequent documents among the Yorkshire Deeds contain clear evidence of a dispute over the family properties. The evidence includes a covenant between Gabriel and Henry "to help one another in case of any suit being brought against them by Guye Fairfax or Thomas Fairfax, esquires, concerning the title to the premises [awarded them by William]" (ibid., 129). Thomas did launch such a suit but was unsuccessful. In 1563, arbitrators chosen by himself and Gabriel awarded the family estates to Gabriel, while Thomas was awarded "the manor-site, etc., in Nun Appleton and tenements in Appleton and Harwood, and the tithes from Bilbroughe and certain cottages in Bilbroughe" (ibid., 130).

Although his father left Thomas nothing, Isabel apparently left her son the Denton, Bilbrough, and Nun Appleton estates, which became the properties of the line to which Marvell's Fairfax belonged.(3) Nun Appleton, then, is not the family seat handed down from William through successive generations of male Fairfaxes to the current Lord Fairfax, Thomas. Rather, its beginnings as a Fairfax estate are probably sullied, and its source is likely not the father, but the mother. Marvell's tale of William and Isabel is one of dynastic origins, but the line to which his Thomas Fairfax belongs is the disinherited line, the line that William cut off "for ever" when he chose Gabriel as his heir. What is missing from his account is any acknowledgement of this major rupture, as the all-important legitimizing connection between the principal male line and the family estate is severed. Michael Wilding detects, behind Marvell's "burlesque account" of William and Isabel, "an anxious need to defend the land-grab" that followed Henry VIII's break with Rome (Wilding, 148). I would argue that Marvell's elision of these inconvenient incidents - the disinheritance of Fairfax's ancestor and the subsequent legal wrangling among family members over control of the estate - indicates a related need to accompany the appearance of legitimate possession with one of natural and easy succession. Yet given Fairfax's likely familiarity with a less flattering version of his family's history, one must wonder how truly convincing such a story could have been.

If the history of Nun Appleton and its former residents presents the poet with material that makes it difficult to discern the workings of providence amid the currents that brought such grand estates into existence, the present moment offers material that is more awkward still. At the time of Marvell's writing, the issue of succession was a pressing one in the Fairfax household. Toward the end of the poem Marvell lavishes praise upon his pupil, Thomas and Anne's only child Mary. Mythologized as "Maria," she becomes an emblem of hope who brings order to a chaotic world, transforming Nun Appleton into a map of paradise:

'Tis she that to these gardens gave That wondrous beauty which they have; She straightness on the woods bestows; To her the meadow sweetness owes; Nothing could make the river be So crystal-pure but only she; She yet more pure, sweet, straight, and fair, Then gardens, woods, meads, rivers are. (Marvell, 1972, 87)

Lee Erickson has observed that "Marvell is not merely complimenting his patron indirectly by praising his daughter, but, more than that, is underlining the Fairfaxes' dynastic hopes, by arguing that just as Isabel Thwaites founded a great line, so would Mary Fairfax" (Erickson, 162-63). The poem itself occurs in the "Meantime" preceding Mary's marriage to an as yet unknown husband. When the poet concludes his celebration of "Maria," he leaves us waiting "Till fate her worthily translates, / And find a Fairfax for our Thwaites" (Marvell, 1972, 94). Marvell's equation of Mary Fairfax with Isabel Thwaites is a witty one, but it is also subtly misleading: if there is to be a "Fairfax" involved in the impending marriage, surely it would have to be Mary herself. She is like Isabel Thwaites only in that her property will, upon her marriage, become her husband's - but unlike Isabel's, Mary's husband cannot be a Fairfax.

In the present moment of the poem, then, the house of Fairfax is facing a dynastic crisis. Mary's father had chosen to break off the entail on his estates in order that they could descend through his daughter. As Erickson has noted, the poet's assertion that "goodness doth itself entail / On females, if there want a male" clearly alludes to this circumstance (Marvell, 1972, 91; quoted in Erickson, 161). Fairfax's motives for taking this unusual step are not absolutely certain, but it seems likely that the former commander of Parliament's army was hoping to match his daughter with the man whom she did eventually wed, the prominent royalist George Villiers, second duke of Buckingham. The "goodness" that Mary Fairfax inherited from her parents and was cultivated by her tutor Marvell ultimately allowed her to play a pawn's role in what was almost certainly a property union between two powerful families whose interests were not, apparently, as opposed as the recent wars might first have led one to believe (Wilding, 154). Upon his retirement, Fairfax had been awarded part of Buckingham's sequestered property; however, Fairfax held that property in trust, and Buckingham regained it when he married Mary in 1657 (Markham, 364-65; Wilson, xxx). What Buckingham brought to the match was the potential for a royal connection in the event of the restoration of Charles II, which occurred within three years of the marriage, and in which Fairfax himself played a significant role.(4) Certainly one member of the Fairfax family saw excessive ambition in Thomas's action. His decision to break off the entail in favor of Mary prompted Thomas's uncle, Charles Fairfax, to bring to his attention the prophetic warning of the first Lord Fairfax that "such is Tom's pride, led much by his wife, that he, not contented to live in our rank, will destroy his house" (Johnson, 1:cviii). Thomas's unusual decision had the effect of making his daughter an attractive match, but passing estates through an heiress was a risky business. The signs of stress that begin to appear in Marvell's Fairfax myth at this point indicate his awareness of the present fragility of the dynasty founded at Nun Appleton by Mary's great-great-grandfather.

The apparent weakness of the female link in the dynastic chain stems from the belief that the role of women in a patrilineal order is to serve as the medium through which that order replicates itself; it is the father's essence, not the mother's that is passed on from one generation to the next. When Jonson includes the mistress of Penshurst in his catalogue of that house's glories he is praising her, indirectly, for fulfilling an ideal of woman deriving from such a belief: "These, Penshurst, are thy praise, and yet not all. / Thy lady's noble, fruitfull, chaste withall. / His children thy great lord may call his owne: / A fortune, in this age, but rarely knowne" ("To Penshurst," lines 89-92). Fruitful, and chaste, Barbara Gamage enables the Sidney line to maintain its integrity as it extends itself into another generation. "Upon Appleton House" assigns a similar role to women in the procreative process. We are told, for instance, that Sir William Fairfax was "First from a judge, then soldier bred" (Marvell, 1972, 29) - the former phrase referring to his own father, the latter to his mother's father;(5) his mother leaves no trace of herself on her son. Nor does Isabel Thwaites, apparently; "he whose offspring fierce / Shall fight through all the universe" (ibid., 31) must have Isabel if he is to generate that offspring, yet they are nonetheless unquestionably his. The only children who merit inclusion in the genealogical line, moreover, are (fiercely) male.

Yet this very assumption, so confidently implied in Marvell's account of the "great race," is at the heart of the anxious and muted celebration of the present moment in the family's history. The continuance of Thomas's line depended upon Mary's ability to produce a son who would inherit her father's estates. In a letter dated 29 October 1700 arising from the dispute over Mary Buckingham's (Mary Fairfax's) right to sell the Nun Appleton estate in order to satisfy her deceased husband's creditors, Brian Fairfax, second son of the fourth Lord Fairfax, describes "the deed of settlement of the late Lord Thomas Fairfax, wherein Bolton and Appleton are given to the duke and duchess [Mary and her husband, the duke of Buckingham] for life, and to the heirs of her body; but if she have none, to the heirs of the Lord Fairfax the grandfather" (Bell, 259). It is not without good reason, then, that the poet assigns such importance to "Maria" at the conclusion of the work. Mary was to do the extraordinary, to perform "beyond her sex," bridging the gap in the line and restoring a semblance of continuity while enabling her father's estate to pass to a hoped-for grandson: "Hence she with graces more divine / Supplies beyond her sex the line; / And, like a sprig of mistletoe, / On the Fairfacian oak does grow" (Marvell, 1972, 93). Significantly, the poet figures her as "a sprig of mistletoe," a plant that the antiquarian John Selden believed to have been used in Druidic rituals as in part "a remedy against Barrennes" (Drayton, 194).

Marvell clearly wishes to foster the hope of Mary's parents, yet he cannot entirely submerge the discomfort connected with their uncertain situation. She is not, after all, a branch on the great "Fairfacian oak," but a sprig of mistletoe with only a tenuous connection to the genealogical tree. Furthermore, even that connection must be severed for Thomas and Anne's hopes to be realized. Mary must wed and surrender the Fairfax name if she is to bear the desired offspring. Thus, "for some universal good, / The priest shall cut the sacred Bud" (Marvell, 1972, 93). The marriage is described not as a union, as was the Fairfax/Vere marriage, but rather as the smaller severance that the heirless Fairfaxes must endure in the hope of staving off a greater one.

Marvell's description of Thomas and Anne's response to the severing of the sacred bud indicates a desire to mask their understandable concern. "Her glad parents most rejoice, / And make their destiny their choice" (ibid., 93), the poet says, reassuring Thomas and Anne of their ultimate control over events. But does their uncertain solution to this uncomfortable circumstance offer cause for rejoicing, or does the biological failure of the line, coupled with the machinations necessitated by that failure, evince the Fairfaxes' incomplete command of their own destiny, their susceptibility to random forces they cannot ultimately control, and, most important, their tenuous grasp on their estate?

The proffered emblem of hope, the sprig of mistletoe, clings to the mighty Fairfacian oak. But we have already seen - during the poet's retreat into the woods, where he came upon an oak felled by a "hewel" (ibid., 69) - that even the mighty oak itself is not invulnerable. That "the tallest oak / Should fall by such a feeble stroke" inevitably calls into question the security of all such lesser oaks as the "Fairfacian" (ibid., 69). Moreover, that earlier incident takes on a significance that extends well beyond the confines of Nun Appleton if we recall that the oak has long symbolized the British monarchy, and that this particular oak was felled with a metaphorical "axe" (ibid., 69).

At the very heart of country-house poetry lies an inescapable incommensurability: the idealization of the house as an embodiment of tradition and social stability masks, or at least attempts to mask, the fact of perpetual social and economic change. As Williams puts the matter, "A moral order is abstracted from the feudal inheritance and break up, and seeks to impose itself ideally on conditions which are inherently unstable" (Williams, 8). That the genre's inherent contradictions should be most in evidence in Marvell's poem is appropriate given the circumstances under which it was produced. Marvell invokes conventions associated with the celebration of a timeless, idealized, organic world, yet the world he must confront is England in the wake of the wars that culminated in the trial and execution of its monarch, King Charles I. Not only is "Upon Appleton House" the first non-Cavalier/royalist country-house poem, but the patron to whom it is addressed is none other than the lord general who had recently led the New Model Army to victory over the armies of the king and whose resignation and premature retirement signaled his own unease with the events in which he had played such a major part.

Some of Fairfax's more radical officers hoped, in Colonel Petty's words, to "see the power of the King and the Lords thrown down . . . yet live to see property preserved" (Woodhouse, 61). But the "throwing down" of the king and lords left some conspicuous holes in the ideology cloaking contemporary notions of property and so created opportunities for more radical thinkers like Winstanley to advance less flattering accounts of the origins of wealth, put their own rival social programs into action, and argue convincingly for the legitimacy of those programs. When Winstanley was summoned before Fairfax and the Council of War on 9 June 1649 to justify the Diggers' cultivation of waste lands near St. George's Hill, Surrey, he informed his audience that "we improve that victory which you have gotten in the name of the Commons over King Charles . . . In doing whereof, we rather expect protection from you then destruction" (Winstanley, 285). In other words, the army - Fairfax's army - had, at least in Winstanley's view, provided the Diggers with some ground on which to stand. And their hope was that St. George's Hill was the starting point of a campaign that would eventually transform all England (ibid., 412). So while Marvell would reassure his patrons that their estate was an eternally safe haven conferred upon them and sustained by God himself, circumstances both within and without Nun Appleton's walls prevented him from making the point entirely convincingly. Nor could he disregard entirely the reasonable possibility that "this house's fate" might not in the end be as happy as he prophesied.

As things turned out, it was not. Mary's marriage to Buckingham was by all accounts extremely unhappy for her. A series of letters exchanged between Mary and the fourth Lord Fairfax detail her desperate but unsuccessful attempt to sell Nun Appleton in order to settle her dead husband's debts (Bell, 2:256-65). Poised to sell the property for twenty-five hundred pounds, Mary was politely reminded by the current Lord Fairfax of her tenuous claim and of his intention "to secure the title of these lands to the heirs males of the family, as they were expressly given, by all the deeds and settlements that were ever made" (ibid., 2:264). When Mary died childless in 1704, Nun Appleton and the other Yorkshire properties passed, in accordance with the deeds and settlements, from her hands into his.


I would like to thank Elizabeth Harvey and Paul Werstine for the typically insightful suggestions they offered in response to earlier drafts of this essay.

1 In his 1677 Account of the Growth of Popery and Arbitrary Government in England (a response to the threat of a Catholic Succession), Marvell included the disruptive effects of a restoration of Roman Catholic properties among the reasons to avoid an "alteration of Religion," acknowledging the great gains property-holders had made in the wake of the Henrician Reformation: "It would make a general Earth-quake over the Nation, and even now the Romish Clergy on the other side of the Water snuff up the savoury Odour of so many rich Abbies and Monasteries that belonged to their Predecessors. Hereby no considerable Estate in England but must have a piece torn out of it upon the Title of Piety, and the rest subject to be wholly forefeited upon the Account of Heresie" (State Tracts [1693], 73; quoted in Wilding, 148; italics mine).

2 "Guy, Sir William Fairfax's eldest son, died a lunatic, unmarried. The family was carried on through Sir Thomas, the second son" (Brown, 127, note 1).

3 Markham (5, note 1), Johnson (1:xix) and Wilson (5) all name Isabel Thwaites as the source of Thomas's inheritance. As Lee Erickson points out, though, the question of ownership of Nun Appleton from the time of the dissolution to Thomas's time is a vexed one (Erickson, 16, note 10). Sir William Dugdale's Monasticon Anglicanum (1655-73), for instance, lists two separate grants: one by Henry VIII to a Robert Darkenall, and another by Edward VI to William Fairfax and a Humphry Shelley. To complicate matters further, "among the Abstracts of the Rolls called Originalia the homages of Guido and Thomas Fayrfax are recorded for the House and Site" (Dugdale, 5:562).

4 Shortly after Richard Cromwell was forced aside by Generals Fleetwood, Lambert, and Desborough in the spring of 1659, George Monk, the army commander in Scotland, began to maneuver against his fellow generals in favor of the recently recalled Rump of the Long Parliament. According to Wilson, Fairfax's "great personal prestige, above all in the army, offered him a crucial role. He alone could propose an honourable alternative to doubting troops" (Wilson, 175). Monk's campaign, in which Fairfax chose to participate, led to the recall and final dissolution of the Long Parliament on 16 March 1660, the election of a new Parliament, and shortly thereafter the restoration of the monarchy. See Wilson, 174-83.

5 Respectively, William Fairfax, a judge of Common Pleas, and George Manners, whom Margoliouth identifies as "a distinguished soldier who died at the siege of Tournay in 1513" (Marvell, 1971, 1:283, note to line 232).


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