1809 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Hannah Cowley

Anonymous, Obituary in European Magazine 55 (May 1809) 363-64.



In the Magazine for June, 1789, we have given some sketches of the biography of this lady, together with a Portrait, which is considered as being a very considerable likeness of her, by those who best knew her.

Since that time, following a natural bias of the human mind, she selected the place of her birth as a pleasing and proper place in which to pass the closing years of her life — and there, on the eleventh of last March, she died, sincerely esteemed and lamented, in a very large circle, amidst those who had longest and best known her.

When her fancy had prompted her to the amusement of writing, so little sanguine was she in her expectation that her comedy would be accepted by GARRICK, to whom it was sent, that it was not until about twelve months afterwards that he was informed who had sent it to him, or was asked what his opinion was. It is an extraordinary fact, that in no part of her life did she take any pleasure in viewing, or was accustomed, if she could avoid it, to be present at, theatrical entertainments. The comedy alluded to was THE RUNAWAY; it was written in a fortnight; its remarkable success many recollect. It was followed by WHO'S THE DUPE and THE BELLE'S STRATEGEM. The latter, on the express permission of the queen, was dedicated to her, and was performed before the royal family, once every season, as long as they attended the theatres.

She has long desisted from publishing. However anxious at the moment of editing, her work was no sooner out than she became regardless of it. It was to domestic life her mind was given; fame appeared not at all to be essential to her happiness. THE SIEGE OF ACRE would never have appeared, had it not been heard of, asked for, and made a present of, to one who was a stranger to her. In the course of the last ten years she wrote a few slight poems, in friendship with the families of LADY CAREW, LADY DUNTZE, MRS. WOOD, and other ladies in her neighbourhood — which probably are yet extant. In the latter years of her life, on account of her dislike of cards, and the dress and trouble of evening amusements, she declined all invitations, but received very large parties at her own house. She established a singular custom, of throwing open her house, one morning a week, for ladies only, and was on those occasions attended by a crowd.

She looked forward to the close of her life with a peculiar degree of religious cheerfulness.

Her works are—

Tragedies — Albina, and the Fate of Sparta.

Comedies — The Runaway, The Belle's Stratagem, Which is the Man, A Bold Stroke for a Husband, More Ways than One, The School for Greybeards, A Day in Turkey, and The Town before You.

Farce — Who's the Dupe?

Poems — The Maid of Arragon, The Scottish Village, and The Siege of Acre.

The last time her pen was thus employed, was on a slight poem, given to a man who was distressed by the loss of his property in the late floods, and which was restored to him by the douceurs of those to whom he shewed the poem for perusal.