Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 12.djvu/388

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positions undoubtedly the best of his poems. From Dryden's preface to the ‘State of Innocence’ (1674) it seems that the odes were already condemned for their ‘fustian’ by some critics, and in the preface to his ‘Fables’ (1700) he remarks that Cowley is so sunk in reputation that now only a hundred copies are sold in a twelvemonth instead of ten editions in ten years. Addison, in his ‘Epistle to Sacheverell’ (1694), is enthusiastic over the odes, but hints that Cowley's ‘only fault is wit in its excess.’ Congreve, in the preface to his ‘Ode upon Blenheim,’ complains, while professing the highest admiration for Cowley, of the irregularity of his stanzas in the so-called ‘Pindaric Ode.’ The precedent set by Cowley of formless versification has found many imitations in spite of Congreve's protests and the later influence of Collins and Gray. Cowley's odes themselves have followed most of his poetry into oblivion. Pope's often-quoted phrase, epistle to Augustus (75–78), gives the opinion which was orthodox in 1737:—

Who now reads Cowley? If he pleases yet,
His moral pleases, not his pointed wit;
Forgot his epic, nay Pindaric art,
But still I love the language of his heart.

Cowley was still mentioned with high respect during the eighteenth century, and was the first poet in the collection to which Johnson contributed prefaces. Johnson's life in that collection was famous for its criticism of the ‘metaphysical’ poets, the hint of which is given in Dryden's ‘Essay on Satire.’ It assigns the obvious cause for the decline of Cowley's fame. The ‘metaphysical poets’ are courtier pedants. They represent the intrusion into poetry of the love of dialectical subtlety encouraged by the still prevalent system of scholastic disputation. In Cowley's poems, as in Donne's, there are many examples of the technical language of the schools, and the habit of thought is perceptible throughout. In the next generation the method became obsolete and then offensive. Cowley can only be said to survive in the few pieces where he condescends to be unaffected, and especially in the prose of his essays, which are among the earliest examples in the language of simple and graceful prose, with some charming poetry interspersed.

The first collection of his works, in one volume folio, appeared in 1668, and in this, for the first time, were included ‘Several Discourses by way of Essays in Prose and Verse.’ Eight editions appeared before 1700, a ninth in 1700, and many more later. Hurd's ‘Selections’ appeared in 1772, and ‘Works’ by Aikin, 3 vols., 1802.

Two portraits of Cowley are in the Bodleian. A portrait by Lely was bought by the nation in Peel's collection. In Trinity College there is a crayon drawing in the master's lodge, presented in 1824 by R. Clarke, chamberlain of the city of London, and a portrait in the hall, probably a copy from an earlier picture. Engravings by Faithorne are prefixed to his ‘Latin Poems’ (1668) and to his ‘Works’ (1668). An engraving of him at the age of thirteen is prefixed to the ‘Poetical Blossoms,’ but is missing in most copies.

[Sprat's Life of Cowley (first published in Works, 1668. Sprat's life has been praised, at least as much as it deserves, for its elegance, but is provokingly wanting in detail, and Sprat thought it wrong to publish Cowley's letters, while assuring us that they were charming); Johnson's Lives of the Poets; Wood's Fasti, ii. 209–14; Langbaine, pp. 77–88; Gosse's Seventeenth Century Studies, pp. 169–203; Stebbing's Verdicts of History Reviewed, pp. 47–82; Genest's History of the Stage, i. 41, x. 62; Aubrey's Letters (1813), ii. 295–6; Miscellanea Aulica (1702), pp. 130–60 (Cowley's letters from Paris to H. Bennet, afterwards lord Arlington). A complete edition of Cowley, edited by Grosart (1880–1), forms part of the Chertsey Worthies Library. A ‘memorial introduction’ collects most of the information about Cowley. Nichols's Illustrations, iv. 398.]

L. S.

COWLEY, HANNAH (1743–1809), dramatist and poet, was born in 1743 in Tiverton, Devonshire. She was the daughter of Philip Parkhouse, a bookseller of that town, a man of some attainments, her paternal grandmother being a cousin of Gay, who was accustomed to stay with her in Barnstaple. When about twenty-five years of age, Hannah Parkhouse married Mr. Cowley, who died in 1797, a captain in the East India Company's service. She had been some years married before the idea of writing presented itself to her. When witnessing a performance she said to her husband, in disparagement of the play, ‘Why, I could write as well.’ Her answer to his laugh of incredulity consisted in writing the first act of

  1. ‘The Runaway.’ The entire play was finished in a fortnight, and sent to Garrick, by whom it was produced at Drury Lane 15 Feb. 1776. Its success was complete. It was printed in 1776, and was the precursor of
  2. ‘Who's the Dupe?’ farce, 8vo, 1779; Drury Lane, 10 May 1779.
  3. ‘Albina, Countess Raimond,’ a tragedy, 8vo, 1779; Haymarket, 31 July 1779.
  4. ‘The Belle's Stratagem,’ comedy, 8vo, 1782; Covent Garden, 22 Feb. 1780.
  5. ‘The School for Eloquence,’ interlude, not included in her printed works, Drury Lane, 4 April 1780.
  6. ‘The World as it goes, or a Party at Montpellier,’