1844 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Charles Cotton

Robert Chambers, in Cyclopaedia of English Literature (1844; 1850) 1:353.



The name of CHARLES COTTON (1630-1687) calls up a number of agreeable associations. It is best known from its piscatory and affectionate union with that of good old Izaak Walton; but Cotton was a cheerful, witty, accomplished man, and only wanted wealth and prudence to have made him one of the leading characters of his day. His father, Sir George Cotton, died in 1658, leaving the poet an estate at Ashbourne. in Derbyshire, near the river Dove, so celebrated in the annals of trout-fishing. The property was much encumbered, and the poet soon added to its burdens. As a means of pecuniary relief, as well as recreation, Cotton translated several works from the French and Italian, including Montaigne's Essays. In his fortieth year he obtained a captain's commission in the army; and afterwards made a fortunate second marriage with the Countess Dowager of Ardglass, who possessed a jointure of £1500 a-year. It does not appear, however, that Cotton ever got out of his difficulties. The lady's fortune was secured from his mismanagement, and the poet died insolvent. His happy, careless disposition, seems to have enabled him to study, angle, and delight his friends, amidst all his embarrassments. He published several burlesques and travesties, some of them grossly indelicate; but he wrote, also, some copies of verses full of genuine poetry. One of his humorous pieces, a journey to Ireland, seems to have anticipated, as Mr. Campbell remarks, the manner of Anstey in the "New Bath Guide." As a poet, Cotton may be ranked with Andrew Marvell.