1782 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Hannah Cowley

Anonymous, "Anecdotes of the Author" European Magazine 1 (April 1782) 292.



Mrs. Cowley is the daughter of M. Parkhouse, of Tiverton, in Devonshire. Upon inquiry, we find that this gentleman is descended in the female line from the family of Mr. Gay. He was originally designed for the church; but on the death of patrons or some other disappointments, he commenced bookseller in the place of his nativity. It was in this situation probably, and from a father so qualified, that Miss Parkhouse had an opportunity of receiving, like her great namesake, as recorded by Mr. Johnson, the kernel without the husk of learning. It was not however till after her marriage with Mr. Cowley, that she shewed the disposition to turn author. Her pen however has been exceedingly fruitful since, as well as various; and in her several productions she has most happily united delicacy with force, and facility and correctness of stile. Mrs. Cowley's productions are, The Maid of Arragon, a poem — Who's the Dupe, a farce — The Runnaway, a comedy — The Albina, a tragedy — The Belle's Stratagem, a comedy — The World as it goes, a comedy — and lastly the comedy of Which is the Man. In bringing forward her tragedy of Albina, she met with considerable difficulties, and in her preface, she complains of the treatment she received. Her comedy of the World as it Goes was not successful; she withdrew it, and with considerable alterations brought it forward under the title of Second Thoughts are Best; but its success was still unequal to her former pieces, and she judiciously removed it altogether. It would not however be either just or reasonable to censure her talents for one failure. In the warmth and fervor of a female imagination conceptions may be formed, and hastily executed, of which judgment cannot deliberately approve. Her only error was in suffering its appearance.