1842 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Abraham Cowley

C. H. Timperley, in Encyclopaedia of Literary and Typographical Anecdote (1842) 2:545.



1667, July 28. Died, ABRAHAM COWLEY, a writer of considerable note, whom Dr. Johnson places at the head of our metaphysical poets. Cowley is sometimes sublime, always moral, and frequently witty; his poems possess great shrewdness, ingenuity, and learning; yet, though they frequently excite our admiration, they seldom convey pleasure. The Anacreontics (gay trifles in the manlier of the Greek poet Anacreon) are reckoned the best. He wrote a comedy called the Cutter of Coleman Street. His prose works extend but to sixty folio pages, and consist of a Discourse on the government of Cromwell, and a Proposition for the advancement of Experimental Philosophy. In these essays it is allowed that he writes with more natural ease, and is therefore more successful in prose than in verse. He was born in London in 1618, where his father was an apothecary, and received his education first at Westminster school, and afterwards at Trinity college, Cambridge, from whence he was ejected for his loyalty, and then went to Oxford, where he materially served the royal cause. He afterwards went to France, and on his return, in 1656, he was committed to prison, from whence he was bailed by Dr. Scarborough. In 1657 he obtained the degree of M.D. from the university of Oxford. At the restoration he obtained a lease of a farm at Chertsey, valued at 300 a-year, where he died. His remains were deposited in Westminster abbey, and a monument erected to his memory.