1910 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Judith Cowper Madan

William Prideaux Courtney, in Dodsley's Collection of Poetry, its Contents and Contributors (1910) 80-83.



Judith Cowper, afterwards Madan, wrote verses "in her brother's [Ashley Cowper's] Coke upon Littleton," which were inserted in vol. iv. 228-9, and were inscribed by Dyce in his Specimens of British Poetesses, p. 195.

She was the only daughter of Spencer Cowper (Justice of the Common Pleas, and brother of Lord Chancellor Cowper), who died Dec., 1728, by his first Wife, Pennington, daughter of John Goodere, who was buried at Hertingfordbury on 19 Oct., 1727. Judith was born in 1702, and married on 7 Dec., 1723, Lieut.-Col. Martin Madan, groom of the bedchamber to Frederick, Prince of Wales, and M.P. for Wootton Basset in 1747. He died at Bath 4 March, 1756, aged fifty-three. A drawing of his tomb at Bath Abbey is among Buckler's architectural drawings at the British Museum (Add. MSS. 36376, f. 100). She died at Stafford Row, Westminster, on 7 Dec. 1781, and was buried in St. George's burying-ground, Mount Street. They had seven sons and two daughters. Two of their sons were the Rev. Martin Madan, author of Thelyphthora, and the Right Rev. Spencer Madan, bishop successively of Bristol and Peterborough. Their elder daughter, Maria Frances Cecilia, married William Cowper of Hertingfordbury, her first cousin; the younger became the wife of General Maitland.

Her will, dated 1 June, 1776, was in the form of a letter addressed to her daughter Maria Frances, Mrs. Cowper. She left to her son Frederick, now abroad, her house in Bond Street on his return. Her son Martin had a mortgage on the same, and was to possess the house if Frederick did not return. She wished Frederick's debts at Hertford to be paid, and she gave "blessings to my brother Spencer, lady Charlotte and his family and my father's picture the ... miniature Lady Nortclift gave me, and my daughter Maitland's picture. To Miss Maitland my sable tippet and lace scarf." If too expensive she was not to be buried at Hertingfordbury, "where my brother Cowper bought a place." Her daughter Maria was the executrix. A codicil 12 May, 1780, left to her daughter Maria "two flower pieces given by mother in law (sic) Mrs. Theodora Cowper." A second codicil of 26 May directed that as Frederick was now dead all should go to Maria; "also the drawings of her children. My father's picture was left to me by his widow Mrs. Theodora Cowper." A third codicil was dated 30 October in the same year of 1780. It said "that Frederick's debts in New York are being settled by Col. Hall. All my money is to be divided between my two daughters, Maria Frances Cecilia Cowper and Penelope, wife of General Alexander Maitland."

Mrs. Madan was aunt of the poet Cowper, and letters from him to her are printed in Wright's edition of Cowper's letters, i. 103-4, 117-18. Seven letters by her are the property of her descendant Mr. Falconer Madan, of the Bodlelan Library, but they are devoid of literary interest. Prof. J. E. B. Mayor printed at N. & Q. 10 S ii. 1 and in later numbers the contents of several notebooks by Mrs. Maria F. C. Cowper, one of which was "copied from a manuscript book by her mother, Mrs. Judith Madan." They contained several letters from the poet Cowper.

Add. MS. 28101 at the British Museum, entitled "The Family Miscellany," is a collection of pieces in prose and verse which were formed by her brother Ashley Cowper, Clerk of the Parliaments. At fol. 42 are fourteen lines on "Mrs. J—d—th C—p—r's Birthday, by Mr. Pope" (see Courthope's Pope, ix. 427-8.) Pope's letters to her are printed by Courthope, ix, 416-34. They were published for the first time by J. Dodsley in 1769 as Letters of the late Alexander Pope, Esq., to a lady, but in a different arrangement. This little volume when published was priced at 2s., but recently 63s. has been asked for a copy. The originals of these letters from Pope and Cowper were on sale at Sotheby's on 6 July, 1910, and fetched £155. Some further letters which passed between Mrs. Madan and Pope came to her friend Mrs. Caesar of Bennington, Hertfordshire, and are now at Rousham, the seat of Captain Cottrell Dormer. Extracts from them are in The Life of Pope which was published under the name of "George Paston" i. 275 &c., 286 &c., ii. 452-3. In Pope's letter, 18 Oct. 1722, are seven lines addressed by him to her as Erinna, the last four of which are ll. 253-6 in his "Moral Essays" (the epistle to Martha Blount); but Pope did not shrink from inditing the same compliments to more than one lady. In Leslie Stephen's language, Miss Cowper was as a famous beauty "the object of some of his artificial gallantry." She is said to have been remarkable for the loveliness of her neck.

Two sets of verses on Mrs. Madan are on fol. 146a of Add. MSS. 28101. The verses in it that I can identify as by her are:—

Fol. 34. Answer to the question what is religion, 1720 [reinserted on fol. 152].
35. The receipt [on an ill-mannered. illiterate country parson].
36. Prologue to the Royal Convert [spoken by her brother, who acted the part of Aribert at Lord Cowper's. The play is by Nicholas Rowel.
40. Ode.
106. Satyr upon Mr. Ambrose Phillips, occasion'd by one of his Tragedies.
144. Mahmut, the slave of the Grand Seignor, to the Captain Bashaw, in imitation of the Turkish Spy.
146. Proteus, an epigram.
147. Occasion'd by the death of Mr. John Hughes, 1720.
147. Cuckold's caps, a ballad.
149. To Mr. Pope, written in his works, 1720.
150. Abelard to Eloisa, 1720.
152. Written extempore in Mr. A. C.'s Coke upon Littleton. 1721.
153. Written in the Fair Circassian [by Samuel Croxall], 1720.
153. To the Honourable Lady Sarah Cowper, 1721
154. The progress of poesy, 1721 [this contains some poetic compliments to Pope].
157. To the author of the Letters publish'd under the name of Cato, 1722 [collected in 1723 in 4 vols.].
158. The story of Narcissus, 1722.
158. [To a lady born that day] 1723, August 26.
159. On the Bower at Bennington [Mr. Caesar's seat in Herts.], 1723. [Pope was at Bennington in this year.]
159. Sept. 20, 1723 ["When first Lysander's killing form I view'd "].
160. July 1, 1724 [referring to Lysander].
160. The thefts of Lysander, 1724.
161. Oct. 3, 1726, to Lysander.
161. To Lysander; Bretby, Derbyshire, Aug. 23, 1728.
162. Occasion'd by reading a scandalous satire, call'd Sarah the Quaker to Lothario upon meeting him in the Shades, 10 Jan., 1728.
175. A song, to the tune of Colin's complaint.

There are other pieces in the collection with the signature of J. C. which may be by her.

The verses to John Hughes were prefixed to numerous editions of his works, and inserted in James Ralph's Miscellaneous Poems by Several Hands, 1729, pp. 107-11 and in the Flower Piece, 1731, pp. 21-4. The poem of "Abelard to Eloisa" (1720) was included as by her in many collections of letters and poems relating to the unhappy pair, such as those printed in 1788, 1805 (two sets: one published in London, another at Newcastle-on-Tyne), 1806, 1807, and 1818; and (with the lines in her brother's Coke upon Littleton) in Barber's Poems by Eminent Ladies, 1755, vol. ii., pp. 135-44. It was, however, inserted in the first volume of the poems of William Pattison, of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge (1728), and was assigned to him in the Poetical Calendar of Fawkes and Woty, iv. 27-33. "The Progress of Poesy" is in the Flower Piece, 1731, pp. 130-40 (where it is followed by a poem addressed to her), and in the Poetical Calendar, 1763, iii. 17-28 (followed by her poem on Hughes). It was also printed separately by J. Dodsley in 1783, and is reviewed in Gent. May., 1783, pt. i., p. 152.