1809 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Abraham Cowley

Anonymous, "Literary Opinions: Cowley" The Cabinet NS 1 (May 1809) 410.



One thing that astonished the reader of Cowley is his frequent and ardent admiration of Virgil, whom he neither resembles nor imitates, and whose correct dignity is the most distant thing in the world from Cowley's puerile conceits. Even in the Davideis, he has only in some measure borrowed Virgil's plan; but the language and sentiments are most widely different. I suppose Virgil's love of retirement bribed Cowley's similarly-disposed mind to admiration. Yet Cowley, with all his faults, will not fail to enjoy the attention of the reader. We may condemn his puerilities, but we must esteem his learning deep and various. His conceits may disgust us; but his amiable disposition and virtuous heart, so conspicuous throughout his work, must ensure our affection. Nor is it too much to say, that there are occasional sublimities in his poems, equal to the boldest flights of ancient or modern genius. We need not therefore wonder that Johnson admired, and that Hurd and Cowper loved him.