1783 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Judith Cowper Madan

Anonymous, in Review of Madan, Progress of Poetry; Gentleman's Magazine 53 (February 1783) 152.



Miss Judith Cowper was born in 1702. She was oldest daughter of Spencer Cowper, Esq. (one of the judges of the court of Common Pleas in the reign of K. George I.) and niece to the Lord Chancellor of that name. She had a sister, who was married to William De Grey, Esq. since Lord Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and Lord Walsingham. Her brothers were, William Cowper, Esq. of Hertingfordbury, the Rev. John Cowper, D.D. rector of Berkhamsted, Herts, one of the late king's chaplains, and patentee for making out commissions of bankruptcy, who died in 1756; and Ashley Cowper, Esq. (now living) clerk of the House of Lords, and Chafe-wax in Chancery. Miss Cowper distinguished herself in the literary world at the age of 18, by writing some Verses to the Memory of Mr. Hughes, in 1720, and others to Mr. Pope, which are prefixed to their Poems (Engl. Poets, vols. XXII. and XXXII), and were justly admired. Her Epistle from Abelard to Eloisa is also well known, having been frequently published. And her Progress of Poetry (as has been said) first appeared in 1730. She married Col. Martin Madan, by whom she had the author of Thelyphthora, Spencer, D.D. prebendary of Peterborough, &c. and two daughters, the elder married to her cousin William Cowper, Esq. of Hertingfordbury, and the younger to the hon. Lieut. Gen. Maitland. On the former the late Samuel Cox, Esq. wrote the famous song, "When first by fond Damon Flavella was seen," &c. Several smaller pieces, by Mrs. Madan, have been handed about in manuscript; among them, a few lines written in the first leaf of an invidious Epistle from Sarah the Quaker to Lothario in the Elysian Shades, stigmatising her father, after his death, with a crime for which he had long before been tried by the laws of his country and acquitted. The filial piety that inspired them speaks for itself.

And lives there one, by canker'd malice led,
T' arraign the innocent, defenceless dead?
The lion, gentler savage, through the wood
Wild though he roars, adust and dry for blood,
Yet if he chance where Death, with friendly care,
Has just reliev'd some painful traveller,
With rough compassion sternly stalks away,
And scorns to tear the unresisting prey.

Some verses which she wrote in her brother's "Coke upon Littleton" are in Dodsley's Poems, vol. IV.